On the Curtis Brown 30-Day Writing Bootcamp

Tank Green/ June 11, 2023/ Reviews

I started the novel I am currently writing, Tools Down,  in 2019 when I was bored out of my mind at my job. I would wake up at 6am and write an hour before work; however, I was derailed by a sexual assault which my wanker boss found hilarious. So I downed tools in real life, walked out, and then the pandemic struck.

During the pandemic, I wrote a memoir which I finished on New Years Eve, 2022. I then attempted to come back to Tools Down this year, in between the second and third edits of the memoir and the agent submission package creation. Unfortunately, this proved a very unproductive toing and froing of my attention. As such, I have struggled to get into Tools Down at all.

This struggle turned into full-blown procrastination after I submitted my memoir to agents. I could tell that the anxiety from that—one rejection down, seven to go!—would mean no more writing for at least the next couple of months. Just as that realisation hit me, I got an email from Curtis Brown Creative advertising their 30-Day Writing Bootcamp. For a mere £35, it seemed just the distraction from my anxiety that I needed.

I am only a week in, but, as usual, my enthusiasm is spilling over and I feel the need to tell the world that if you ever need help, inspiration, distraction, or a generalised anti-procrastination tool for your creative writing, then you could do no better than sign up for this online bootcamp. It has been absolutely brilliant so far and, aside from Scrivener, has to be the best writing aide I have ever bought. (Well, aside from pens and notepads, and a MacBook Pro… oh—you get the point!)

The prompts are wide open, and surprisingly, I have found each of them to be a door or a window back into Tools Down. I did not expect that, and just looked forward to being prompted into using my imagination and creativity however it occurred. But, and I hope I don’t jinx it by writing this post, I have written an additional 4,000 words for Tools Down in a week, not to mention the overall structure, storyline, and character development the bootcamp is more generally helping with.

Whilst I do not know if I will use everything I have written during the bootcamp in the final manuscript, what I value enormously is the way the bootcamp has breathed life back into the Tools Down world. It has become real again to me and there is space for me to walk around in it, meet the people who live there, and bring some of them back to the page with me. For most of this year, it has seemed flat and I have found it difficult to see where the story is going. Now I feel like I can pop over there, and tell you the most important parts you need to know.

Curtis Brown encourage you to share your writing most days. This was difficult for me as I have never really shared anything I am super invested in until it is finished and, to my mind at least, perfect or, at the very least, ‘good enough’. However, I broke a habit of a lifetime and have been sharing parts of my work. The only thing I will say about this element is that I feel the bootcamp group is too large: it is difficult to find the time to read through everyone’s submission and give considered feedback. My feedback to others is often rushed because of this. But still, it’s so interesting to see the utterly different directions everyone goes in response to the same prompt or task.

To be honest, I have enjoyed writing from prompts so much that I might give myself a for-fun weekly prompt once this bootcamp is over. It reminds me of how much I loved making collages from the weekend papers (until the journalism got empty and shit). Somehow, beginning from something outside of myself liberates me and gives me a freedom that overrides my internal control freak. It gives me a fixed origin point from which I can travel in any direction. I like that.

This morning we had to write from a picture of someone cracking some eggs. This one didn’t lead to Tools Down but took me back to my inner five-year old and I laughed my way through a story from the perspective of the eggs. I may share it here in a bit, for shits and giggles.

I look forward to the next three weeks of this bootcamp and will update this post, or write a second one, at the end of the bootcamp summing up my experience. But even if the rest of the bootcamp goes flat, it will have all been worth it for this first week.

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