Saturday, 14 February 2015

Virtually Delayed

So there’s me, popping up my head after my writing winter of discontent.  It wasn’t writer’s block.  It was writer doesn’t give a fuck, heels dragged through my last draft of the novel about characters and themes I loved, absolutely loved.  And I didn’t give a fuck.  Emotively, I did.  Cognitively, I didn’t.

Once the novel was done and sent away to be slaughtered, deadlines for two plays waited my attention.  One play, an old friend who needed cosmetic surgery.  The other, only an idea.  Deadlines don’t understand winters of discontent.  I needed a kick in the ass, so decided to take a writing course.  Bit of structure, the fizz that comes from being around other writers, copacetic.

We have universities to the left of us, universities to the right, here I am, spoiled for choice of where to go.  On the home front, various things are being juggled (none of which understand winters of discontent, either, needless to say), so I opted for an online course.

This is a pretty funny idea because  2015 was going to be the Year of the Real.  Besides that, I’m not terribly visual.  In fact, I probably have a visual processing delay.  (When it’s going to arrive, is anyone’s guess.)  Which means that my photographer son and resident hooligan spent a lot of his childhood amusing himself by playing visual tricks on me.  Why I thought learning visually without the very necessary 3D contact with my classmates would work . . . well I wasn’t thinking, was I?  But I am nothing if not a slow learner, non-attendant of the obvious.  Off the money goes and I wait to be inspired to greatness.

It didn’t occur to me that I was in trouble when feedback for my first submission honed in on my use of accents in the dialogue.  (What accents?  thinks me.)  Some feel it courageous I’ve attempted accents.  Some, that I shouldn’t be taking on airs, using accents without a DRAMATIC REASON.  Oh, and did I know that certain (low brow) Dubliners might use the word ‘feck’ but certainly never ‘wee’.  That’s Northern Irish.

Oh.  The ‘accent’ is my husband’s speech pattern.  Oh.  Okay.  Light bulb moment.  They don’t know I’m not British.  Telling them once, doesn’t make much difference.  Telling them three times does.  And this isn’t a reflection on them.  It’s a reflection on virtual learning.  In a 3D classroom, they’d hear my voice week after week.  Online, I’m letters on a screen.  They aren’t here to get to know me.  They’re here to learn scriptwriting.

I did, however, understand immediately the difficulty from most of the course examples being culturally embedded.  (I may be slow, but I've been an ex-pat for a while now.)  We read this script, watch that film, my classmates are in stitches or deeply moved and I’m all WTF?????  Without the cultural context, my learning skimmed across the top, no  conversations where the Brits explained things to me about their home grown drama, heard my reflections as an outsider.  

My visual son says he doesn’t think creative coursework can be taught virtually.  Indeed, it would take a lot of online chatting for this group of dispersed learners to become a real writing group.  To be honest, there hasn’t been a week yet when everyone gets in the written assignment for the rest of us to give feedback on.  If life intrudes too emphatically for them to get their work done, they most likely don’t have time to chat either. 

It’s not been a total loss.  We’re covering ground that I’ve not covered before and my two plays show the results of this.  But it’s feckin hard work.  (Yes, I’m low brow.  No, I’m not from Dublin.)  If I’m lucky, I may get a small paragraph of feedback from one or two of my classmates, an equal offering from my tutor.  There’s no discussion.  There’s no listening to discussions of the other plays.  There’s me.  Squiggles on a screen.  And waiting.  Waiting for their assignments.  Waiting for feedback.  Some of which never come, followed by more waiting.

So never again, unless I’m too frail to venture forth and annoy the Brits.  Hats off to those of you who can learn virtually, but for this anachronistic speaker of crass dialects, 3D is where I stay.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Dear Friends

2015 is my year of the real in friendships.  So here’s goodbye to friends I didn’t want to let go, but who went anyway.

Dear Friend, the rambler who plotted out gentle slopes in deference to my decaying hip then took my hands when I wouldn’t let these old bones stop me from seeing what grew under the bridge.  You introduced me to the disconcerting call of stags.  When inexplicable dread and grief chased me off a Scottish mountain, you told me the history of where we’d been, the lives lost at Glencoe.

You imposed celibacy on yourself to protect women because innately, you felt you were selfish.  It became a joke between us, you the flirt who always wanted to hear stories of my sexual conquests.  I secretly believed that you could care for someone more than you did for yourself.  When I met someone whose most intimate moments I kept private, there were no more gentle slopes with you. 

Dear Friends, the gregarious who slept in my beds, drank my grog, soaked in my Lush baths, cooked so I wouldn’t and wore fancy dress with abandon, decorated for parties and helped in the garden, slept in the hammock and sat round the long table, talking and laughing, brought out the fiddle, shared your writing, bolstered my off-key voice with your own.  We shook the trees and ate all their plums, trespassed on Lord Muck’s land, sat in the dark, nibbled by midgies as we waited for owls.

When the Butler deployed, you filled my rooms with your children.  I felt myself uniquely blessed by each and everyone one of you.  When that house and that garden were gone, you couldn’t answer an email or meet me for dinner or lunch or a drink or even wave from the window as my train went past your home. 

The Liffey
Dear Friend whom I’d see in the halls at work, all tall and thin and beautiful.  I didn’t know you.  I only knew all the men wanted to fuck you.  Some of the women, too.  Then the boss sent us to Dublin.  We stayed too late over dinner, ran under street lamps by the Liffey, laughing and running and missing the train, talking all the way home in the back of the bus.  Our birth of friendship.

When you hanged yourself on the back of a door, they never forgave me, you know.  I never forgave me either.

Dear Friends, is it a wonder that now I hesitate to risk, and conclude that it’s me?