When I told you that John’s Christmas present to me was a ticket to the Gunnas Masterclass in Writing, several of you asked me to share how the day went. I just got back to the hotel and I’ve got so many words spinning around in my head.
Catherine Deveny is an author, stand-up comedian, speaker, mum and lover and all of those talents and abilities were on show today. She’s probably good at a whole lot more things but she doesn’t blow her own horn much. What I do know is that she’s the most confident woman in her body that I’ve ever met. I wish I could say the same thing. I grew up with my mother telling me not to eat this or that or I’d get fat and nobody would like me. To say my mother was often unkind is the nicest thing I can say.
The writing class was held at Bishop Sessa in Surry Hills in Sydney and upstairs is a lovely room with a huge window giving lots of daylight. In the center of the room was a big wooden table made up of lots of small tables. Everyone came in right at 10am and Catherine met us at the top of the stairs and asked our name. Even before we had our name tags on, she remembered all the names.
She gave a quick overview of the day and then went around the room pairing up one person with the person next to her (or him – there was one man in the group) and our job was to get to know this person, why they were there and what they wanted to get out of the class. Five minutes later, we each got to introduce this person to the group of 20 students.
Sarah sat next to me and she is a ghostwriter who has many stories of her own inside her head. She came along to the class to put away her procrastination and get on with choosing a title and getting her first book off the ground. This is the second time she’s attended this class and in the past year she’s started a blog and is moving forward with her stories. She’s started several books and hasn’t finished one yet. The “Gunnas” was written for her.
Catherine encouraged her to give it a go because she had a lot to offer. We went around the room. One woman wanted help getting her thesis done for her PhD and next to her was a woman who wanted to write My Life as a Whore and next to her was a marriage celebrant who wanted to write a book of poetry and nice things to say at weddings. Catherine, who hates marriage, thought she should write a manual on love ceremonies or weddings without religion or the state being involved.
Next to her was me. Gina introduced me and said I’d written blog articles for our dating site and my food blog and Catherine asked about that. I said I’d been quite successful but I’d never gotten my writing into a marketable stage. She told me with all the writing that I’d done and how much I wanted it, it was time to:
She stamped me!! It took about an hour to go around the room and hear all the stories about why people were there and what makes them want to write.
Over the six hours of the class we learned that we should just shut up and write. Turn off Facebook and Twitter and the TV and everything else we use as an excuse and start the Gunnas challenge. Write for one hour every day for 4 days a week for a month. We should write first thing in the morning, whenever that is for us. After the month, writing for an hour will become a habit. Stop the excuses and just write.
There are three reasons that keep most people from writing and they are:
- Procrastination – always finding something that needs doing rather than writing.
- “My words are shit” so why bother writing at all?
- “I worry about what people will say.”
Write anyway. Write as if none of that matters. One of the things she told us that really stuck in my mind was, “It’s not going to kill anyone if you tell your stories.” I do worry that my writing isn’t good enough and to that she said, “Even if you are the juiciest peach in the world, not everyone is going to like peaches. Let it go.”
According to Ann Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, there are three steps to writing. The down draft – just start writing. Get anything down by pencil, crayon or computer. It will be shit but that doesn’t matter, just write.
Second, is the up draft and that’s where you fix it up and remove all the crap that doesn’t tell your story. Finally, the third and final step is the editing. Catherine says get an editor to edit, a proofreader to find the spelling and grammar mistakes and a designer to get a kick-ass cover. It’s worth it, especially after all the time you’ve put into your work.
“Writing is horrible. I once met a well-known writer at a writers convention and I asked him which he liked better, reading or writing and he looked at me as if I was an idiot. ‘I would rather lick a pathway through a pile of shit than write.’ So it’s okay to think writing is hard,” Catherine told us. That image will stick with me til the day I die. I mustn’t be good enough because I still love writing. Maybe that’s because I only write for you and me and it doesn’t matter how anyone else feels. If you and I are happy, I’m okay with that.
We had great coffee, lunch was sandwiches, salads, pates, candied walnuts and apples, albacore tuna, lamb fillets and so many other things that it’s difficult to remember now. This was a writing class and not a food blogger day so I only took a few photos.
Would I take the advanced Gunnas writing masterclass? Absolutely. I have my fingers crossed that she’ll do one in Brisbane so I don’t have to travel so far to attend.
Now I’m off for dinner with Tania, Charlie Louie, Drew and Nagi. I can’t wait.