I admit that over the past few weeks I’ve had trouble feeling creative at all. I’ve been so doubtful of my ability and empty of ideas that I’ve contemplated throwing in the towel permanently and have even been looking for a ‘real’ job. I felt depressed and disheartened, my inspiration and spark gone without a trace.
In a final last-ditch attempt to break my soul-destroying writer’s block I googled ‘how to write like Margaret Atwood’. I was sent to her resource page where she listed her recommendations for those called to the writing life. It was there I found a link to the lovely Sarah Selecky’s online writing program Story is a State of Mind*. (Update: now called The Story Course)
Story is a State of Mind – Review
Let me start off my saying that this course is more expensive than a book but less expensive that a Masters’ writing subject. Having read a million books and completed two writing degrees I can safely say that this program has done more for me than either of those two things. Let me explain why.
1. You can listen to the classes as well as read them. As I’m not a very good non-fiction reader (I skim too fast and miss half the information) being forced to slow down and listen was good for me. Sarah’s voice is warm, encouraging and confident. I felt as though we were having a conversation.
2. The writing exercises and assignments are brilliant and I have filled almost half of a new notebook. She encourages you to let the story come to you, rather than search for the story, with an emphasis on accessing the unconscious mind instead of writing from your head. I love this.
3. She provides an anthology of short stories to read and digest. If I would try to find these stories on my own it would take weeks as well as cost a great deal of money to buy collections in order to read a single story.
4. There is no requirement to complete the course within a set time (you have lifetime access), you don’t have to share your work or submit assessments. Although this might be problematic for some people who need firm deadlines and concrete feedback, this is perfect for introverted me who is happy to beadle away on my own. (She does offer a full interactive course called The Story Intensive* if that’s what you’re after.)
5. The writing style quiz at the end is possibly the best part. By answering a series of questions about things as diverse as clothing style and favourite cities, Sarah provided a personalised reading list of authors who have a similar style to me. Knowing who to read for inspiration is almost on its own worth the money I paid.
6. Although the course focuses on short-stories, it would be equally inspirational to memoir and blog writers. Sarah advocates using life experience as the building blocks of any story.
There is an equal emphasis on process and technique and even though I’m pretty knowledgeable about scene, dialogue, point of view, I was challenged to see things from a new perspective.
You can not know your story until it is written.
Art happens when you go off track. ~ Sarah Selecky
Quality – 5/5
Value for Money – 5/5
Smashing Writer’s Block – 5/5