It was a few weeks ago when I blogged about the challenge of online seminars. I was, initially, frantic - how would I ever keep up with the waterfall of ideas. I was the old lady in the corner, thinking, while everyone else was typing away throwing ideas and witticisms into the ether.
No, I haven't given up. And I'm even beginning to learn. But it's been a challenge.
The first task was to give myself permission to 'say' nothing. So I only contribute to seminars if I have something I really need to say. That, at least, took care of the anxiety.
So, I'm surviving. But if I'm simply surviving, then there is little point to doing an MA. I want to learn. And I am. Though rarely in the seminar itself. My learning takes place afterwards, when I can wallow in thinking time, unravel the ideas that have swum around the internet-seminar for the past couple of hours. Constructs such as 'narrative tension' begin to make more sense when I've let them swim in my head for a while. I begin to see that setting can act as a container for a story, and is not simply the backcloth. (Frey, in his book 'How to Write a Damn Good Novel' talks about setting as a crucible. I like that idea; I want to live with it for a while and see how I can use it in my writing.)
Solitary thinking can be so productive. For a start, when having a conversation with myself I am always right. New ideas pop up from somewhere and I can claim them all for myself. New ideas, like feathers, float about somehow, until (sometimes) the sink into something coherent. And then I can risk feeling smug that I am so clever, what with my originality verbal dexterity.
You're right. Ideas need airing in company. And our seminars, with their flood of comments, are no place for unpicking complications, or even delving into ideas in any depth. I could use the course forum; but no-one else uses in this way, and I'm not brave enough to be the first to put my head above the internet parapet.
So how can I possibly know if my thoughts are original, or useful, or even right? I can't, of course, though I would argue that there are few rights and wrongs in writing. But the reading and talking has opened up different ways of looking at things. And that has to be a start, surely?
And you - do you have your best ideas when you are on your own, or do they grow in discussion with other people?