Having been away from Devon for six weeks, I went back on the train to see my family and go to an A363 tutorial on the Saturday. The intense tutorial was held in a room with barely enough room for all the students from two groups. The tutor was full of energy and enthusiasm, if lots of sweeping judgements about the books we enjoyed. She has been very generous with ideas about how she intends to mark the assignments and what she is looking for. She was rather scathing about some of the mistakes people can (and do) make, especially those students in the less able/experienced half of the group. All of whom are improving and learning, just the same, and she was open about the point of the course being for academic excellence rather than creativity. She also thought writing exercises had no real value but I thought my previous tutor's exercises were amazingly helpful. I've got a 'writing marathon' coming up - six hours of writing exercises. Excellent - we should have a lot of good ideas and starting points out of all that. I'm just about ready to do a final check on TMA01.
We're critiquing people's work - some of which is a challenge. The two 'big pieces' we've been asked to critique are of a very high quality, totally different. I'm trying not to panic because my 4000 words has already gone in (gulp).
Going back to Devon made me realise something about how I write. At home I'm full of creative ideas, but can't edit very well. It's as if my creative side is free but my critic lives in Winchester. One thing the A363 tutor suggested was being creative and critical in different places or clothes or making some physical difference as well as time difference. I may have to work on that. On the plus side, I have written about 1000 words on the rewrite of the novel today as well as all the reading.
We've been looking at Walter Benjamin's essay in Theories. That's been interesting but I found it dense, and possibly not all relevant now. It did make me think about art though, in terms of is it reduced by reproduction? A very intense discussion that has left me even more unsure about what art is, what beauty in art or writing or music really is. It seems strange to link it to Fascism, or as a tool to protest Fascism, anyway! Something another student said - and an exercise in surrealism - sent my mind down another poetical path...
In the Writer's Toolkit we had to do some research into other theories of beauty, and I started reading St. Thomas Aquinas (and Umberto Eco's thoughts on him) which led me back to Plotinus and onwards to Immanuel Kant. But it wasn't until I got out of the car on our drive, and looked up at the house and the nature reserve opposite that I was hit by the beauty of nature. I ended up almost stifled by words and images and movement. I kept wandering around the rooms, which seem huge, the windows framing the view. I ended up sketching out poetry.
For fiction we had to read more John Gardner, chapter 5, 'Common Errors'. It as it says on the tin, all very helpful. I moved onto Chapter 6 as well (it was a very long train journey) which is all about technique. I'm looking forward to a bit of spare time to read chapter 7 and maybe summarise all the useful stuff that I highlighted. (The book is rainbow coloured now. So much useful stuff.)
Anyway, it's all very helpful and I can't believe how liberating it is to have time set aside to really think about writing.