Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Problem with Talent

One update this year. Shocking behaviour! But I've had a busy year. Honest. Super busy.

I ended up with loads of teaching this year, which regular readers will guess made me extremely happy. I had first and second years in class, did a bit with some postgrads and got to see the first students I had in their first year finish at uni. Wow, where did that time go?

It was a privilege to see them grow and develop both as people and as writers. They are an impressive bunch. Some of them are throwing themselves into the professional writing community and are being recognised for their considerable talents. But the most satisfying thing for me has been to see how their work ethics and confidence have developed. Students who lacked confidence and didn't start at the top of the class have ended up there because they put in the work.

This seems to be the overlooked element of creative writing. There's a debate about whether universities and adult ed centres are just making money off aspiring writers without giving them anything in return. Big name writers often go prancing about declaring that writing cannot be taught. One once rubbed his fingers in the air like I was a flightless Tinkerbell and he was sprinkling pixie dust on me, saying, "We'll have to see if you have...have that something special." Dramatic and makes for an interesting aside in this blog post, but it's utter rubbish. At least I think it's rubbish, but even if I'm wrong, talent isn't enough. You have to work. Malcolm Gladwell would say 10,000 hours of work. And if 10,000 hours sounds like a lot, like too much, you might want to find another job, one you want to spend that much time at, because I'm not convinced 10,000 hours is enough.

If you ask me, talent is wildly overrated. In fact, I think we do students a disservice by focusing on their talent. There have been studies (which I do not have to hand - refer to Google. I'm busy, remember? Super busy.) about praising kids for their cleverness vs their hard work and experts have found that kids who are told their work ethic is their strong suit are more likely to be successful in life. They are less afraid to try and less discouraged by failure. Sounds like the perfect writer. Because there's a lot of failing and then failing better in writing.

And if you're talented? Well, bully for you, but you'd better be prepared to work your little tail off because the one thing I've learned in three years of teaching is that there are most certainly people a lot more and a lot less talented than you who are willing to put in 20,000 hours of writing. And that much practice will make anyone's writing better than that novel you're still dreaming you'll write tomorrow.

And on that note, the ending of my novel is calling me...

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

SWF Competition Time Again!

I'm delighted to announce that the Stories of SW1 Writing Competition is running again! We have an all start judging panel and are accepting scripts this year. It's a big year for SouthWestFest!

Writers from around the world are invited to submit their representations of South Westminster. Think past, present, future and alternate. What is the South Westminster you know or can envision? We're looking forward to seeing your creative interpretations of the theme!

There are also some amazing workshops running including script writing with the Royal Court and creative writing with yours truly. Other partners include the National Portrait Gallery and their a pop-up portrait stall if you want to learn how to take amazing photos of your friends and families.

Visit the SouthWestFest website to enter the writing competition!

Our judges are:

 Hannah Vincent began her writing life as a playwright after studying drama at the University of East Anglia. Her plays include The Burrow, Throwing Stones (Royal Court Theatre) and Hang (National) working on classic adaptations as well as original drama serials from 1996 – 2001.
She now teaches Creative Writing for the Open University. Her debut novel, Alarm Girl, was published by Myriad Editions in 2014 and was shortlisted for the 2013 Hookline Novel Competition. Her first radio play, Come to Grief, won the Best Drama (Adaptation) category at the 2015 BBC Audio Drama Awards.

Martin Daws is a performance poet and spoken word artist. He is the Young People’s Laureate for Wales. He was declared Farrago Slam Champ twice, was runner-up for both theJohn Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry in 2007 and the Glastonbury Festival Slam in 2008. His 2008 debut at the Edinburgh Festical earned a five star review. He has been published in numerous international journals and is the author of Skin Tight the Sidewalk, a book/CD. 
He regularly performs around the UK and Ireland and has worked with organizations including Literature Wales, National Opera Wales, The British Council, Apples and Snakes and Urban word NYC.

The Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square is the writers’ theatre. It is the leading force in world theatre for energetically cultivating writers – undiscovered, new and established. Over 120,000 people visit the Royal Court in Sloane Square, London, each year and many thousands more see its work elsewhere through transfers to the West End and New York, national and international tours, residencies across London and site-specific work.