When I was a teenager my parents and uncle delighted in calling me Gunna. Gunna Martin. At first, I thought this was kind of cool, because as a kid I’d loved a book called Drummer Hoff, but apparently it was Not A Good Thing.
It was Not A Good Thing because it referred to my inability to do things in a timely fashion. Mowing. Picking up the dog shit. Cleaning my room. Homework. Anything that didn’t involve pissing time away, most likely. And so whenever anyone reached the point of extremity, out it came: Gunna Martin, that’s you.
I will admit to some level of procrastination. A supremely high level. I’ve always been able to make deadlines, to get the work done and in in the time required – but a time and motion study would indicate that my process consists largely of fucking about, followed by highly productive periods of mind-obliterating panic. Zoomp! Robot writes. Bzzt. Job done. Fneh, time for more farting about.
But! But. Over the past year I’ve been working on that. I’ve found I work best with some kind of stricture. A ruleset. A checklist. There’s something about having to Do A Thing that works with me, probably to the chagrin of my younger self. And I’ve been trying to utilise that more in an effort to assuage feelings that I’m wasting my time. Step by step. And a big part of this has involved trying to increase the amount I write. Getting anything on the page in the hope I can draw the dots later and make stuff make sense at that point rather than in the WTF of now.
Today I took another step in that direction by going to one of Catherine Deveny’s Gunnas Masterclasses. I didn’t actually know they existed until two days ago when I saw the ad on Facebook, did a bit of reading and thought bugger it, let’s give it a go.
The setup is pretty simple: over the course of six hours, Catherine patrols the zone between stand-up, motivational speaker and whip-cracker, with more fucks than you’d likely hear in other writing classes. There’s advice. There’s videos. There’s people with some much more interesting lives than mine or yours. There’s writing exercises. And there’s food and coffee in between – Surry Hills’s Bishop Sessa for this sesh. And bugger me but if I didn’t write some stuff with no real clue of where it came from.
The day was funny and honest, and I took a bunch of notes. And yes, a lot of it is stuff you’ll likely have heard before if you’ve trawled writing resources or – poor you – looked for inspiration in the arms of the internet to help you get over the whole BUT FUCKING WHY CAN’T I WRITE IT feeling. But it feels fresh because it’s resolutely no-bullshit, and because the group setting reminds you that you’re not the only one who feels this way, and that your problems aren’t unique. I was not the only editor in the room, nor was I the only English grad who can’t get their shit together to Just Write The Bloody Thing. Hearing that similarity, that connection, is important. While writing is essentially solitary, it’s good to know that some things are common to most – if not all – writers.
Just as important is the acknowledgement given today that writing is shit, feedback is so biased as to be useless, and that you have to just put on the hi-vis and do the work even though it sucks – that there’s no such thing as the garret-dweller, touched by the hand of God Almighty who just jizzes forth life-changing verbiage.
(Well, you could live in a garret, but you’ll still have to do the work, unless you can hire a holy ghostwriter.)
Whether the course (and Use Your Words, a book on writing) makes me churn out the work remains to be seen. I hope it does. At the very least I’ve been given licence to wear a fez while I type stuff that’s not work-related. So we’ll see.
Will I do it? Maybe. Could do. Gunna.
(Check back in a bit.)
Update: one of the prompted-writing pieces I did in the class is now online. This is, bar one or two tweaks, what came out. There were a number of things I had to fit in there, so see if you can guess what they are.