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Rachel Knightley blog posts

10 Writing Touchstones: Identity

‘Just be yourself’ is about the worst advice anyone can give. It’s the “just” that does it. The perceived thing changes: if you’re self-conscious, you’re not the same as when you’re unobserved. You’re also different with every friend, pet and family member in your life. Every personality has facets, every life has eras and everybody has good and bad days. Still, these sides and eras are united in an essential self. When feeling confident, engaged and safe, that self can be accessed more fully. That’s the goal, on the page or off. It’s difficult to eliminate stress factors, self-doubt and self-consciousness. Being yourself is anything but a “just”.

Writing to please yourself is the best way to learn about your own identity as a writer. Your voice and ideas aren’t compromised; you’re free to experiment and explore. Each Green Ink Writers’ Gym warm-up begins with one rule: no editing or self-criticism. This licensed self-exploration makes the blank page …

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10 Writing Touchstones: Observation

‘Can you teach Creative Writing?’

There have been and will continue to be well-publicised arguments about whether something so individual can or should be taught. The answer, though, should depend on what we mean by “taught”. Creative ability can’t be learned by rote, or recited like a times table. However, good habits and stimulus from a good teacher will provide an introduction to key techniques that encourage the student to move forward towards their own discoveries. 

‘Can you learn Creative Writing?’

You can always become more fluent in your own voice. If you are a writer, at any stage in your career, you should never stop learning. The longer and more successful the career the more true that is, so if you’re a relative beginner you have no excuse not to be learning creative writing. 

Perception drives reality. So pay attention.

You can also teach yourself to think and live like a writer. The rest is passion and hard work and don’t kid yourself it’s always …

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10 Writing Touchstones: Levels

Just over a decade ago, I saw Alan Ayckbourn’s Improbable Fiction at the Theatre Royal, Bath. I was doing my creative writing MA and, of all the valuable things I gained in that year, the fundamental life lesson was that play. Act One is a writing group’s meeting. We hear about their genres, lives, personalities and how great their writing would have been – had any of them actually got around to doing any.

I’m not going to tell you what happens in Act Two of Improbable Fiction because I’d like you to come and see it at the Questors Theatre next month. It’s the last play I direct before I take a sabbatical, having just gone full-time on my creative writing PhD. The life decision is clear, but very hard. I love theatre, I love directing, I love the immediacy and the risk and the edge that film has the time to perfect yet we must conjure from the shadows every night. But it too starts with writing, and writing is what I love most. Love doesn’t mean much if it’s just …

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10 Writing Touchstones: Place

A Sense of Place – Or why floating dialogue always sinks

Many good writing habits are about avoiding seasickness. Just as securing the reader in the reality of your point of view means not jumping from head to head whenever you feel like it, so creating a sense of place for the reader is about keeping their feet on the ground. A convincing physical reality to your story allows the reader to invest in its emotional reality. Not to provide one creates a nebulous feel that stops the reader believing in the characters and world. For those of us who love dialogue and build our fictional world around it, that’s not as much fun as it is for those whose comfort zone is description, putting the solid ground down before peopling it. It doesn't matter where you start, though: a sense of reality balances people and place.

In real life, our conversations are most deeply invested in when we are physically comfortable. If we’re hungry or in pain or being rained on, we aren't involved in the same …

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10 Writing Touchstones: Perspective

This blog is late because of next Tuesday as 18th October is Green Ink Theatre’s literary salon at Waterstones Piccadilly. The material is all from our recent Sponsored Write for Macmillan Cancer Support. I produce one of these every year in memory of my friend Sophie Porter (1982-2007). A few things slipped this week for the sake of this very important one. So, sorry for the delay but not all that sorry: I used to berate myself rather too much for any slips like this. To be honest, I still do. But I try to catch myself doing it, and remind myself it’s better to be late with something that can take it, focus on what’s most important and get enough relaxation to enjoy the journey. That sense of perspective can be difficult to hold on to, when everything seems important to include. That’s as big a worry on the page as in everyday life. 

In art as in life:

1) You Can’t Do Everything. Keeping perspective doesn't end with not having a go at yourself for a late blog post. Just …

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