In meatspace

Though not a particularly appealing term, the mention of meatspace as the opposite of virtual space did make me laugh today. I attended a Writers’ Toolkit event in Birmingham, which is probably the most assertive step I’ve taken in relation to writing in a while.

The event was organised as part of Birmingham Book Festival (as ever, can’t link, but do find the website on my blogroll), which has had a spectacularly varied and high profile programme this year. The event was the first of its kind, and I hope it will continue, as it’s the most valuable writers’ event I’ve been to. Ever.

My elected day consisted of discussions about: emerging writers and progressing careers; non-formal training for writers; the value of formal training for writers; and a look inside the world of book publishing. Together, the sessions formed a provocation, and I’ve come home with a head brimming full of ideas, and a notebook full of questions and things to look up, which is exactly what happened when I met Jonathan Davidson, who organised the event alongside Sarah Beale.

I’ll write more about the ideas and questions when I’ve had time to digest and reflect, but in the meantime, and as this blog is about observations if nothing else, I’d like to report on a few things that I noticed.

One is that there’s a real divide between people who come along with an agenda and people who come along with a more open idea of what will happen – the former, generally, engage with the stimulus in terms of how it relates to them, and seem to have a hard time talking abstractly. I’ve noticed this kind of split at every single conference type event that I’ve attended, and it is especially noticeable at events centred on creative activity, which is totally understandable (if a tad annoying).

Two is that I was far too nervous about speaking up, which is possibly an indication of my confidence about writing. Today I felt like a writer, which was a curious feeling. In the session about emerging writers, we talked about writers groups and the developmental benefits they can have. The writers group I’m part of is beneficial not in terms of development (perhaps because I’m not at that stage, or haven’t quite found the right group) but because it’s a real pleasure to meet people socially who are aware of the sometimes galling task of writing and the solitary nature of the activity – there’s a heck of a lot to be said for moral support and understanding!

Three is that it’s very easy to find something that you have in common with another person. This event was absolutely the best environment for networking I’ve experienced so far. Maybe this has a lot to do with the fact that I love talking about writing, about the unique nature of putting pen to paper, or finger to key to make words and sentences and paragraphs.

Finally (for today) I realised that the reading voice inside my head is male. I’ve never noticed that before. I was reading Travels in the scriptorium by Paul Auster, and though I’ve always liked his books because they make you aware of your position as a reader, I’ve never felt it so acutely as today.


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