Post-AGM Musings – aka – the less boring stuff – 4 May 2022

Back at the beginning of May, after the AGM formalities were concluded, Jeanette got us cogitating. I suspect it’s an activity that could be described as being synonymous with prevaricating but without the guilt attached from not actually doing something.

Anyway, during the last year, she asked us, did we achieve our writing hopes? Which sessions or speakers inspired us the most, or helped us move forward? What do we aspire to achieve in the year ahead? Might we do anything differently?

Oh dear.

Some of us didn’t meet targets of entering every competition. Our motivation was low. We lost the habit of being alert to new ideas. Words like “struggle,” “unfocussed” and “brain-fog” were heard.

But don’t despair. Ayr Writers had nevertheless provided the boost.

Some had re-joined for inspiration, others successfully rifled and rummaged through old files to improve long-lost drafts or competition failures. Some braved a competition for the first time, and many were encouraged by feedback from adjudicators. Some were inspired by the success of others, while others were grateful that their bums and butts were metaphorically kicked by fellow writers. Those requiring structure welcomed the variety on offer and the constant roll of deadlines. Those requiring a “frisson” did the scariest of things and “just got out there,” wrote outside their comfort zone, realised their reputation was at stake, or finally concluded, “what have I got to lose?”

And we were reminded that success has many facets.

Discovering what we really like to write about, or where our heart lies. Having the confidence to submit or sign-up. Successfully converting “vomit on the page.” Simply finishing something. And that was before the inevitable list of awards, shortlists, publications, second contracts, pitches and performances. We didn’t do badly, did we?

Who in this enriching environment of speakers and writers stood out?

Dramatist Lawrence Crawford challenged us with his take on the Rashomon monologues and radically different ways of telling a story. Nalini Paul’s poetry was lyrical and engaging. Carol McKay got us each to explore the story within ourselves. Paul Bristow’s passion for writing children’s fiction caught our imagination, as did his setting in a wee cupboard under the stairs. Song writer Scott Nicoll shared a skill we’ve rarely explored. That was an invidious and brief selection, because everyone who contributed to our programme over the year left us with something to ponder and that will help us improve.

So, what of the year ahead? What are the challenges we promise ourselves we’ll confront?

Goals and targets aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and not everyone wants to write for the sake of it. However, we may aim to create a fund of pieces, simply finish and submit, or purposefully set out to write every day. We may have a plethora of ideas and characters, and approaches we are going to deploy. With notebook in hand we’ll continue the search for the holy grail of inspiration and flow. And “brevity, clarity, variety,” may be a dictum against which we’ll challenge ourselves.

There’s no doubt that, in a year’s time, there’ll be ups and downs, successes and failures, lots of red pen, starts and re-starts, writes and re-writes, and time spent staring at a blank screen. We’ll cringe, then rage, then finally understand the feedback we get. We’ll squirm when noticing all the obvious typos we missed, and we’ll scratch our heads at words that floated out of reach just as we ere about to tap them on the keyboard.

But I hope that, at the end of another year, we’ll have enjoyed this marvellous craft.

Nigel Ward

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