Eating People

My OU work is really stacking up now with two assignments and the crucial end-of-course assessment to complete in less than ten weeks. I suppose the reason I’m feeling under pressure is because I want to do well. I’ve worked far harder at this than I ever did during my BA (the usual distractions) and I’ve been really chuffed with my results. Since I’d established some writing credentials before embarking on this course, a few people looked at me askance when I told them I was studying for a Diploma in Creative Writing, but I wanted to try new areas and push myself outside my comfort zone and that’s exactly what I’ve done. The poetry section was especially rewarding and even if my poetry never sees the light of day, I know it’s something I’ll continue with.

As for writing outside my comfort zone, well, the current module, life writing, certainly takes care of that. The furore over Julie Myerson’s, ‘The Lost Child’, which blew up just as I started the module, was a timely reminder of how easy it is to eat your own life. I think I’ve come perilously close to invading my daughters’ privacy in the past. They say not, and I’m grateful for that, but even so it’s made me think very carefully about the price of a good story.

The ingredients of my writing are inevitably taken from my own life and my own interactions, but, with fiction, they’ve been blended, filtered and left to develop into something that is not about me. The life writing module has felt very raw; Virginia Woolf writes about life being a bowl that ‘one fills and fills and fills’. With some of the exercises mine’s felt more like a leaky plastic bag full of water; every time I press it some horrid or painful memory gushes out! For the sake of my tutor, who has to read this stuff, I’ve been trying to find something a little more upbeat to write about for my next assignment, but so far it’s all very dark. The last time I looked I thought I’d had a very happy life, so why do I keep poking around in the depressing bits?

And finally...
Whilst my blog is a form of life writing, I do try not to devour everyone around me but here are some real-life achievements worth marking.

• Tom is now exhibiting with Real Artists, an online gallery who work with a small group of carefully selected artists.

• A friend, G, came to stay with us last week. Well, nothing unusual about that, except that G, who was put up for adoption shortly after his birth, has learning difficulties and made the long journey here by himself, as far as he could, on public transport. G has no family of his own, but, through Mil and Dil, has become one of Tom’s extended family. G has fewer people than most to praise or console him, but has just celebrated twenty-five years working for the same large supermarket. The occasion was marked with a posh award and a ceremony. No mean achievement for someone who started off so alone – well done, G, we’re proud of you.

• I’m also bursting with pride for my lovely Rose, who, after a bit of administrative to-ing and fro-ing after her original assessment centre disappeared, has finally received her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. Working through the awards took Rose to all kinds of places with challenging and demanding tasks and I know how much effort and determination it took for her to reach her goal. Rose has very kindly invited me to attend the award ceremony with her, we don’t know when it is but I do know I shall be a very proud mummy that day!

Image is 'Half a Mile Off' by Tom Tomos


liz fenwick said…
I'll work backwards - well done Rose, G and Tom.......good luck on the writing and I look forward to hearing how this works into your fiction....
JJ Beattie said…
Ooh some lovely news there. My son (not quite 15) has just done his bronze award. I know how hard the gold is so she's done supremely well.
Pipany said…
Oh well done Rose. Such a great achievement as are the others here Chris. Well done all of you for taking on new challenges. Writing by necessity seems to pull on the darker parts of the psyche. Scarier often than we realise. x

(ooh that sounds all deep and like I am hinting at something doesn't it????)
Expat mum said…
Well done everyone!
Talking about BA distractions, I worked far harder for my Masters (in my 30s) than I did at uni. I think everyone should be forced to go straight out into the working world for a few years, then come back to do the degree. There'd be far less faffing around wouldn't there?
Flowerpot said…
Sounds like some good news all round there Chris and well done you. As for the asssignments - sounds like you;re doing so well which is brilliant. And dark stuff always seeps into fiction doesnt it?
elizabethm said…
Well done all of you, what a great catalogue of achievements! I think you never devour your life Chris. It is always a tricky line to walk, to be truthful but to respect the privacy of those who matter in your life but you seem to me to do it with care and proper respect. I really don't approve of Julie Myerson's latest book - gosh I sound prissy, but I truly think she has crossed the line where, as your blog title says, the writing becomes "eating people".
I worked far harder doing my post grad stuff in my thirties too. Was far too busy having a good time when I was twenty!
mountainear said…
Well done everyone on those achievements - how refreshing to read good news.

My son is considering going to university, having worked since leaving 6th form college apart from 2 terms at Uni on a course he was ill advised to join. I wish he'd shown the enthusiasm he's showing now.
LittleBrownDog said…
Gosh - some interesting thoughts about eating one's own life. something I know I have come perilously close to at times... But I can't think you've ever crossed that line with your daughters - your love and respect for them always shines through whenever they're mentioned. Well done to Rose, by the way - gold award is no mean achievement.
muddyboots said…
well done, well done & well done! xx
Frances said…
Congratulations to all around your house!

Once again, your home thoughts have provides us with the starting point for doing some of our own thinking.

Thank you Chris.

Lane said…
Some wonderful achievements from your nearest and dearest. Congratulations all round.

ChrisH said…
Liz, thank you.
JJ, Well done your son. Rose gots loads out of it so it's worth doing.
Pip, I simply refuse to believe that you have a dark side!
EPM, quite right. End the faffing about! No, you're right, it does make a huge difference when you want to study something.
FP, it's weird though - I keep planning to write something happy and another dark memory pops up.
Elizabeth, thank you - I hope so but there are times when it's easy to get carried away with your own 'craft' at which point you have to take a step back.
Mountainear, thanks. I'm sure your son will do very well on his chosen course; it's too easy at 18ish to go through the sausage machine when you're not really sure of what you want to do.
LBD, thank you, that makes me feel much better since you have read some of my life writing. Phew!
Muddyboots, thank you, thank you, thank you!
Frances, how kind of you to say that.
Lane, hello dear heart, good to hear from you, you sound v.busy at the moment so thanks for dropping by.
Preseli Mags said…
I'm delighted to hear the OU course has been so rewarding. Good luck with the assessment! I really identified with the bit about being a 'leaky plastic bag' gushing out painful memories. Sometimes a little creative writing can turn out to be a dangerous thing. Well done to Tom, G and Rose. xx
Edward said…
Top stuff here Chris - well done to Rose on her Gold award. That's no mean achievement. And I'm in awe of your writing in general, not to mention that you're studying too. Don't worry about eating your family - I'm sure you'll do a better job than Myerson!
Calico Kate said…
Great uplifting and postively inspiring post Chris - am off to have a look at a Dip in CW.
Well done to those clever folks.
Fennie said…
Couldn't resist the title: half-expected to learn about an outbreak of cannibalism in Pembrokeshire. You know: 'I do so like children, but I don't think I could eat a whole one just now.' Ignorant me had never come across the interpretation of consuming people by writing. So I have learnt something today. Anyway congrats to Rose, G and Tom and to you, too.
Pondside said…
Always a bit behind here in the colonies, so the controversy over Myerson's new book just arrived here last week. No way you've ever come even close to that sort of thing, Chris.
Congrats to your Rose and G - way to go!!!! You are both stars!
Cheryl said…
It's definitely difficult trying to determine how much of one's life to include in a story. That's where inspiration comes from and yet I don't want others to feel I've exposed them to undue scrutiny. Sounds like you've struck a good balance.
Amanda said…
Glad you are doing so well with your OU Chris - I loved the life writing TMA x
Tam said…
Plenty of good news in that post - well done everyone :-)

It is hard to know where to draw the line. I wonder whether readers assume even the non-autobiographical bits are real?
ChrisH said…
Mags, this part of the course has been quite uncomfortable - I hope it's worth it!
Edward, wow! Thank you.
Kate, yes, I think you would find it interesting.
Fennie, ah, but you don't know what we're roasting for Sunday lunch today.
Pondside, actually it's a bit like that here too! Thanks for the
Cheryl, welcome. I see from your blog that you've had some life writing matters to consider too.
Amanda, thank you; it's interesting to hear that... I'm finding this the toughest TMA so far so it's good to hear from someone who's been there.
Tam, thanks for popping by when you've got so much going on... eek! I hope my readers don't think my fiction is autobiographical!!
well done - all of you!
So gld the OU course is working well for you!
Jude said…
Congratulations to all your family,they've done so well in a variety of subjects.
Having seen life as a single mum, trying to include uni and staying focused for 2 children, I know it is hard, but I think we all gained positively from it. I can say that now...
And the gut wrenching pain and sorrow that gave me sleepless nights and nightmares has passed into distant memories.From that has emerged my 2, who are much more grounded and forgiving of other people's problems than many people twice their age.
You see, that's why I don't write, 'leaky bag syndrome'
ChrisH said…
SBS! Very kind of you to visit when you are Proper Poorly. Keep taking the choccy.
Jude, it sounds as if you have worked really hard to get it together... as for not writing, ahem, I think you have just given us a beautifully succint snapshot of life writing!

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