I feel slightly tricked into it, a bit sick and also exhilarated: I have just pressed send and submitted my homework.
I’ve not done any creative writing ever (can’t even remember having done any at school though I must have done), and unlike ‘everyone’, do not have any reason to suppose that I have a novel inside me. But now that (a) work is getting a little more manageable, (b) I have been forced to drop one of my evening therapy sessions, (c) I have no children at home to keep company or cook for, and (d) I have essentially no social life, I have signed up for a creative writing course. ‘Give it a go’ I thought. ‘See how you feel about making stuff up.’
Last week, we were asked to get into pairs for a number of exercises. We had to answer questions in the manner of a character. In character we had to describe the events leading up to an act that was out of character. We had to describe, again in character, our feelings after the out of character act. I felt somewhat at a disadvantage. Not only had I missed class while on a trip to Florence, I also (unlike the others, it seems) have no particular piece of writing I had already started working on prior to the course. My mind went blank; in a panic I seized on something a friend had described doing, which had struck me as unlike her: the revenge fuck. It was bad enough when I had to do the ‘leading up to’ and the ‘feelings afterwards’ privately with my neighbour, a fiery Brazilian woman.
So it’s late at night and we are wrapping up the lesson when the teacher gives us our homework: describe the out of character act. No judgement, neither ours nor the character’s. Just a factual description of events. Which is how I came to be spending the day crafting a page of rather graphic sex. I could not refer to feelings or thoughts. Just facts. Who put what where and what it looked or sounded like. Blimey. 500 words begins to feel an impossible amount. The example the teacher had given was of someone who loves animals kicking a cat. Many times over the course of the day I wished I had chosen something else, but I persevered. And I began to think of how such an episode could form part of a short story or novel or play that had occurred to me vaguely in the past.
Now I have sent it in just before the deadline and am starting to palpitate at the prospect that I might be chosen to read it out in front of 16 aspiring writers. Please bear in mind that I have not had a sexual partner for years now and am the sort of person who actually did feel embarrassed when visibly pregnant because people would know I had done it. How much worse now that I look like Giant Haystacks and am red faced and perspiring at the best of times. Wish me luck.
Image: these condom vending machines were all over the place in Florence. In the UK I don’t think I have ever seen them outside of a public convenience, and never offering such a choice!