Category Archives: Careers

Creative writing courses… why bother?

Library BooksI was inspired by an article I read in The Conversation about why the teaching of creative writing matters by Simon Holloway, Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Bolton, who says that very few students will earn a living as a writer. But writing is about more than that, and the ability to communicate effectively is a rare and precious thing’.

There is mixed opinion about the benefits of undertaking a course in creative writing; Hanif Kureishi, author of The Buddha of Suburbia, famously said that creative writing courses are a ‘waste of time’.

By coincidence, I was recently invited back to my university to talk to the MA Writing students about my experience of the course and what I have gained. It is only a year since I graduated, so it is still fresh in my mind, but talking it through with a group of engaging peers at various stages of their careers helped me to reflect on and consolidate my own experience.

I thought it might be useful to share some of my reflections in the hope of reaching out to anyone out there who is at a cross roads and trying to decide the best route to take.

It is unfortunately true to say that few creative writing students will earn a living as a writer, but even as I sat in front of this year’s cohort and asked them what they most wanted to learn from me, many said it was how to earn a living from writing. Although I have a full time day job as well as being a writer, this is perhaps one area in which I can add some valuable insight. I work in graduate careers and employability, and much of the advice that I offer students in preparing for the jobs market is transferable to writers preparing their work for publication. In fact this is the one area where my day job and my writing work find a happy coexistence. Here are my top tips for getting a job and/or getting published. Read the rest of this entry

What does your personality reveal about you?

I delivered a session last week on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is based on Jung’s personality type theory.

I just love seeing that moment of understanding when a participant realises that something they have been doing all along and not had the confidence to voice is really grounded in psychological type theory. As an MBTI practitioner, it sometimes feels like I am giving people permission to be themselves. It is powerful and it is liberating. It gives the clients I work with confidence in their strengths and a framework in which to describe what they are good at. Not to mention, the understanding of how and why other people behave in certain ways – perfect for demonstrating teamwork scenarios.

This tool has so many other advantages, one of which is applying it to characters in my stories and books. It helps me to keep characters behaving in a way that is consistent and believable, without the need to even reveal how or why. It just is. And it works, as you have a theory in the sub-text of the work, invisible to the reader, but underpinning the elements that make a believable plot. It helps the reader to suspend disbelief without you having to signpost what you are doing. It is a powerful gift; check it out.

Footprints in the Digisphere

Should you be concerned about your digital footprint?

I came across this hilarious video clip whilst researching content for a presentation I was invited to give recently about managing your online identity. The presentation was primarily pitched at university students but it occurred to me that this is something of interest to anyone who is active online. After showing the clip, several people in the audience whipped out their tablets and starting searching for their privacy settings!

Enjoy! (And beware…) Read the rest of this entry

The Power of Words

I found this video clip when researching for a lecture I have been asked to give on effective communication. I think this just says it all!

How do you create rounded characters?

I’ve just returned from the first part of a qualifying course for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). For anyone unfamiliar with MBTI, it is personality type indicator that is used as a self-development tool; very useful in the work that I do as a Careers Consultant. However, it occurred to me that it might also be a very useful framework for developing fictional characters. In fact, as the course progressed, I found myself regularly reflecting on the characters in my current book and how they might behave in certain situations.

The MBTI inventory was developed by mother and daughter, Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers who took the theories of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung around personality and type, then through over 50 years of research and development produced this indicator. Today, it is the most widely used instrument for understanding personality differences.

Naysayers amongst us might argue that it is restrictive and like putting characters in boxes. But as I have discovered, the amount of research underpinning the tool is so massive, I can’t even begin to do it justice here. If you believe in creating rounded characters that interact with each other and behave in a believable way, then you wouldn’t go too far wrong by taking a look at some of the theory behind the tool.

When I got home from the course, I googled MBTI for character development and came up with some interesting web sites:

Character creation made easy – pick a personality. (From: learntowritefiction.com)

A bit of fun for Simpsons fans: – the Simpsons MBTI

If you want to undertake the test yourself, I’d highly recommend getting feedback from a qualified professional. This would give you a rich insight into your own natural strengths and potential areas for growth. Enhancing an understanding of yourself and your own motivations will undeniably help you to understand what motivates others. And… as a writer, I am fully aware that an understanding of the rich complexity of human relationships is at the heart of character development.

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