It was interesting to hear novelist, Fay Weldon, on the Radio Four programme With great pleasure this morning. As a writer, she’s very individual, and it was quite a surprise to hear some of her traditional choices. I was very cheered by her remark that her father paid her to learn poetry when she was a child, because we have so discarded ideas of learning poetry – in fact, anything by rote - and yet having something firmly filed in your brain, whether it be poetry, or times tables can be so useful. Decades ago, when I did GCE in English Literature, I learned by heart as much of the WW1 poetry as I could. When the exam came, it was like having the book in front of me; I was able to quote from whichever was appropriate and words simply streamed out. I got the top mark in my class, and that was despite my answers on Shakespeare and Dickens probably not being as good as the poetry question.
Fay Weldon also commented on the wealth of adjectives in one of her choice of poems. I think it was The Ancient Mariner – and then said that, at the creative writing class where she teaches, they normally discourage the use of adjectives. I got the impression she was saying that possibly it wasn’t such a good idea, after all. Well, I’ll go along with that. Creative writing groups do come out with a lot of rulings that change with fashion. Cut out the adverbs, adjectives. Why should we, I’d like to know. Why did we invent them, if we weren’t going to use them? And another rule was, ‘Write what you know,’ and Fay Weldon wasn’t an enthusiast of that one, either. Not when applied to Jane Austen, at any rate. Jane Austen, it seems, tried to do just that, when actually, she had a lot more adventurous ideas under her bonnet. And what’s more, said Fay Weldon, she read her work out to her family. Another bad idea. They’re bound to inhibit your writing.
Back to my short story, in a moment, which, if I manage to complete it, might be directed at Writers’ News. Or at least, I might be able to read it out, tonight, at the first 2010 meeting of Guildford Writers’ Circle.
On the non-writing front it looks as if I’m going to have to schedule in an operation in the next few months. The consultant would prefer to deal with me in the summer, so that during my six weeks’ recovery period, I can take strolls in the sunshine. The prospect does not fill me with joy.