So, exploring the idea that I need to learn to enjoy writing again, and not solely focus on it as a means to forward my career and all the pressures and disappointments that come with that, I decided to start with one of the best of them all; Shakespeare.
During the celebrations following the 400th anniversary of his death last month, Shakespeare is in fact everywhere at the moment- Shakespeare’s Tomb on Channel 4, The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses – Richard III and Shakespeare Live in from the RSC on BBC iPlayer. This is great news for me as you all know I love Shakespeare. I remember being the only one who was secretly excited when we were told we would study Romeo and Juliet for GCSE English.
What is it about Shakespeare?
This is an excellent question and one I’ve tried to pin down an answer for many times. I think for me it splits into two categories, the language and the stories themselves. The language is pure poetry for me and whether understanding is there for a particular piece or not, the lyricism and the beauty is enough for me; often I find myself just wanting to listen. Then combine this is with the subject matter of his plays- the intrigue, the shipwrecks, sword fights, family feuds and love that conquers all. In my reading experience there is little else that is as exciting as Shakespeare, or as moving. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sobbed listening to/reading the ‘To be or not to be…’ soliloquy. One of the things I’ve always liked about Murakami for example is his ability to articulate emotions perfectly; Shakespeare’s been there, done that and bought that doublet.
You didn’t study Shakespeare at uni?!
That’s right. There are few negative things I would say about the University of Warwick (my blood definitely runs blue) but one of the things I found troubling studying English there (as opposed to the Film side of my degree) was that the interpretations of the texts we were reading were always so rigid, so fixed, they were almost lifeless. Some beautiful writings by Donne for example were left ruined for me because I didn’t feel I was in an environment where challenging the interpretation was allowed, even for fun. The Film studies department however, as a contrast, gave the material and the context and let us run with it, even if we were finding things that weren’t there, we were exploring, right or wrong.
So when the option to study a Shakespeare module came up (with or without chairs- Problem number one, I’m not pretentious or an actor!) with a heavy heart, I declined and chose something else. I just didn’t want Shakespeare ruined for me. And it’s this type of protection and care I need to apply in my own writing discipline.
My own worst critic
I need to rework a chapter three to match with my reworked chapter’s one and two of Latest Mistake to send out to more agents. I was re-reading some material and started deleting huge sections (don’t worry I have many backup copies!). Why was I doing this? Because I just couldn’t pick out anything positive, or more accurately, I wouldn’t allow myself to pick out anything positive. I think these days I’m confusing my lack of success with agents with poor writing skills. The more I am rejected, the more I convince myself I’m a poor writer, despite any other evidence to the contrary. I need to stop this.
I need to trust in my skills and my enthusiasm once more or else I’ll never rediscover what it was like simply to write for fun and not for agents, or for the possibility of achieving my dream, or even writing something meaningful or significant. Appreciating Shakespeare has definitely helped to remind me what it is actually all about.
Here’s something for fun!
Funny talking about being my own worst critic, check these guys out!