Shyness affects us all and I have written about confidence and shyness on Tusitala several times. There are lots of tools that we can all use to boost our self-belief, particularly when we are in new situations like University!
I have just finished a superb course on Creative Writing with Curtis Brown, called Write to the End of your Novel: http://www.curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/course/write-to-the-end-of-your-novel-4/ I would recommend to anyone who is interested in writing a novel to look at their Courses and submission criteria. I found the course material and their forum inspirational. And the Curtis Brown regular news letters are also fabulous too.
One of the exercises produced this piece of writing and it does relate to the feeling of reticence that many students have when speaking in groups. sometimes, it feels very difficult to speak up and out. This story is a fictionalised version of the truth!
Morrissey lied. Shyness was crap. The monster sat waiting every Tuesday morning at 11. For the final year English tutorial. Autumn term lasted 10 weeks. The sly calendar in Sydney’s head had ticked off five weeks already and she’d only managed two hellos and half a good bye which didn’t feel very good at all.
Sydney relied on the maths to prove that next time might be better. But Morrissey was still a traitor so she told her brother to burn all his records and show loyalty. He didn’t.
‘What are you like Sydney?’ said a friend. ‘Just practice speaking in a mirror. Go slowly. They’ll listen’.
Unfortunately, the tutorial was crammed full of single hons students who all spoke very quickly and drank together. Sydney noticed they all had names ending in ‘i’ which confirmed her worst fears. Red haired Toni and blonde Pauli teased their tutor too, ‘Oh Pete,’ they cried and wagged their fingers wickedly.
Sydney had belly flopped in hell.
Dr Peter Winstanley came from Birmingham and smoked Marlborough cigarettes one after another. He always needed a light followed by salt and vinegar crisps, which he then spilt down his suit. Sydney didn’t smoke and hated crisps. By week six, even her feet felt depressed.
George Eliot didn’t help much either. Two weeks on Middlemarch apparently. As luck didn’t have it, they all adored the maturity of her writing, the complexity of her moral insights, and Peter smoked more than ever. Sydney felt all dried up and bitter, and said absolutely nothing even when she made it to the door.
‘Conrad’s Heart of Darkness next week,’ drawled Peter reaching for Toni’s lighter.
‘Wonderful’ they cooed as one. . ‘Week seven already. Soon be Christmas’.
The following Tuesday, with gritted teeth, Sydney soaked herself in the only perfume she wore on Saturday nights. She counted her steps as she marched up the hill to the university and then took the stairs not the lift.
Two minutes in, a wide pause and Sydney took a breath. Grab that opening girl! But faltering at the fence, nothing came out. Gallantly, a smiling Pauli mentioned some fascinating background reading and everyone leapt in claiming secondary sources to die for.
Sydney might as well have been in a cage full of parrots.
Fifteen minutes left and Sydney’s buried rage boiled. Hungry as hell and tired of secrecy, Sydney knew why she got Marlow and that all that darkness. That bloody silence on that dismal river. She lifted her feet onto the seat. Crossed her legs. Forgot to breathe.
‘I disagree’ she said, from nowhere. I think Marlow needs Kurtz. Very much. The horror is himself It’s a lonely, heartless book. ‘
No one spoke. Not even Toni who looked out the window as if she was about to wave to a brand new friend.
Peter Winstanley brushed away some crisps and sighed. ‘ You know Sydney, I think you’ve a point there. It is a lonely book. Don’t suppose you fancy writing an essay about it? I’d like to read it, you know.’
How to write a good essay!
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