Renovations and Writing

By Brian Francis

Right now, my coffee maker is in the bedroom, there’s a toilet in my kitchen and I’m washing dishes in my bathroom sink. In other words, I’m living through a home renovation.

It’s been going on for two weeks and, judging by the mess, dust and tools, it seems like it’s never going to get done. But it’s been a rewarding process, to watch my house get stripped down to the bare essentials: the drywall, the particleboard, the screws and bolts hidden from daily life. It’s given me an appreciation for the stages that go into this type of work, the process and patience, the tearing down and building up again.Brian - reno

Writing is no different.

If you’re like me, you probably have a clear picture in your mind when you sit down to write. Then you start building. And tearing it down. And building. And tearing that down. It may seem, at times, that it’ll never get done. The words aren’t coming together. The characters too clichéd. You might fear you’re losing your grasp on the end product.

But writing, just like renovations, happens in stages. You can’t get to the final picture without dealing with the mess in between. There’s dust, mud and yes, even a toilet in the kitchen. But the mess is temporary. And while your work may not come together as fast as you’d like, it’ll get done, provided you keep the big picture in mind. And you remain patient.

In my Intro to Creative Writing course, one of my goals is to teach you how to tear down your creative houses and rebuild them. To approach your writing with a fresh set of eyes. To show you how to optimize what you have and what you may need to seek out.

I’m open to helping you build something. Are you ready to get to work?

Brian Francis’ most recent novel, Natural Order, was selected by the Toronto Star, Kobo and Georgia Straight as a Best Book of 2011. His first novel, Fruit, was a 2009 Canada Reads finalist. Brian will be teaching Intro to Creative Writing here at Harbourfront Centre from October 14 to November 18.

The Why of Creative Writing

Brian Francis (c) Paula Wilson

(c) Paula Wilson

By: Brian Francis

Full confession: I can’t teach you how to write.

That might not be something you’d expect a creative writing instructor to say, but it’s the truth. And, in spite of whatever the reality TV shows may lead you to believe, the vocal coach can’t teach you how to sing. The dance instructor can’t teach you how to cha-cha.

And while you can learn the steps, the chords or the adjectives, the role of any instructor should be to show you the “why” of your creativity, rather than the “how.”

Writing, like any art form, is about expression. It’s about carefully selecting words to articulate the things and feelings you can’t easily describe. It’s about mood and undercurrents and the unspoken of our daily lives. Writing is about giving shape to your experiences and observations. It’s about making sense—or, at the very least, an attempt to make sense—of the complicated lives we lead.

What I try to do in my Intro to Creative course is show you why your writing is important. I want you to reconsider your experiences. To discover doorways you might not have noticed. To see the familiar in a way that feels unfamiliar. Above all, I want to help you understand the importance of your creativity and encourage the ways your writing will surprise, mystify and delight you.

What I hope you walk away with is a sense of possibility. There are ideas and characters you carry around every day that need to find their place on the page. Even if you never publish anything, it’s the journey of your writing, the value you place on your own creative expression, that will hopefully prove to be the most rewarding—and lasting—part of the process.

Intro to Creative Writing, in partnership with IFOA, runs for six weeks, starting September 17.