Clarion, or a six week course in sleep deprivation.

So, I’m now settled into the routine at Clarion, which goes a little something like this – get up, eat breakfast, 3 -4 hours group critique of stories submitted the day before. Have lunch. Afternoon lecture, followed by tech session / other essential life maintenance chores, write, dinner, read stories for next morning, write critique notes for next morning, write more. Choose between 4 hours sleep or more writing. Choose between 2 hours sleep or more writing. Wake-up / leave bed. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

This is a barely manageable schedule on a good day. Add in any of the following variables (jet-lag, desire to talk / socialise with fellow Clarionites, critique rage, collapse of internet connection to girlfriend, symptons of cold and flu, laziness or general lack of self-discipline (all of which I have been afflicted with)) and the Clarion schedule becomes a punishing one. Today is the first day I have managed to write anything meaning ful…and I have so much more ahead of me!

But the there is reason behind this madness. Clarion is all about challenging your assumptions about writing and about genre, and expanding your experiece of writing short fiction. If there are fundamental problems with a story – as there were with my first critiqued story – the workshop process will nail them. Reading in detail 3-4 stories an evening makes you really examine the approaches other writers in your peer group are using. Discussions in crit group and elsewhere dig down into some of the issues that animate fiction writing. Most of all going through this experience with other writers who are all absolutely committed takes the act of writing, which can seem mad and obscure amongst the hurly burly of everyday life, and puts it at the absolute centre of your experience. Two days in I’ve already found it inspiring, infuriating, intimidating and intellectualy challenging beyond my expectations. What the hell happens in the next six weeks I have no idea, but I am determined to find out.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

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