Feeling very self-indulgent, as I am just back from the first day of a two-day writing course, with Alan Spence and Iain Banks as tutors – their tutorial skills may not be great, but their writing is! It turns out several of the members of the group are Iain M Banks groupies (he adds the M when he is writing science fiction). They’re a good bunch; a stimulating and successful first day. Will I transfer my thinking from prosaic analytical expository academic writing to stimulating narrative fictional writing? We were given two ten minute exercises as part of the day:
1. write continuously for 10 minutes starting with the words ‘I remember’ and
2. write for 10 minutes about what is happening right now.
I surprised myself by being able to write – sitting on my own at home, I never would have. Contributions from the others were very good, and in a couple of cases very amusing. Here are mine, unedited, just as they were written:
I remember how it was to be a smoker.
I remember the satisfaction of that first drag, deep down into my blackening tarry lungs.
I suddenly remember that I did not fidget when I smoked -hands were too busy. The cigarette was rolled (always rolled, not pre-packed, with Old Holborn, a real tobacco), each one a little art form in itself. It could be swopped about from hand to hand, observed, tasted, lit, cooly posing, cigarette in hand and blowing the out the hot smoky sigh that signified contentment.
I remember planning my journeys to ensure I could buy tobacco, or papers, or matches, planning my days around my fag breaks, the increasing frequency of the breaks, looking for someone else to share the time with.
I remember how grown up it felt, to be smoking, part of a new adult world, a badge, an identity.
I remember scrabbling about in ashtrays at the end of a student party, pulling out the douts to make up a new roll-up as I had to have a fag at 2am before walking home.
I remember coughing, hacking, wheezing on cold winter mornings upstairs in a number 17 bus, heaving its way up Orchard Brae with a cargo of smokers – every one of us filling the air with a dry fug, setting ourselves up for our working day. It was a bad morning when you needed two fags on the bus. It was a worse one when you got upstairs and realised that you didn’t have any tobacco.
I remember addiction.
I remember pleasure.
Even now, as I walk past the smokers outside the pub I breathe in the smoke and remember just how good it felt.
I quit smoking in 1977.
#2 (with apologies to the Haiku form) – here in this moment:
Fifteen pens furiously writing So much aspiration In one room. Nervous laughter Hesitant speech Friendly Support The Writers Finely cut hair Unruly hair No hair Nike and Reebok Hotter and Hush Puppy Russell and Bromley Converse on the floor Worthy and wise Willing and wishful Writing and writing Legs crossed Hair scratched Thoughts thought
Maybe I should always pretend someone is telling me to write something in ten minutes. What do you think?