I write this blog in the void between being a final year student and a graduate. It is a no man’s land of what next? Where next? I feel as though I should have more answers than I do. Some sort of plan developed over my four years of higher education, though, it remains: find a way to write and not starve to death – only with the minor alteration that I never want to make a cup of coffee for the general public ever again. However, reflecting on my time at NTU isn’t doom and gloom! There have been aspects of my final year, for example, that have changed my writing, and me, for the better.
This year I particularly loved a module called ‘Performance and Collaboration’: a writing workshop-style project where students create a piece of creative work collaboratively and perform it together. I chose this unit specifically for its group work hoping to balance out the solitary nature of my dissertation. The performance is unavoidable (!) but was made easier through the opportunity to make fun of some friendly faces, for example BA Creative Writing course leader Andrew Taylor.
However, it is the writing process that I am keen to talk about. ‘Performance and Collaboration’ is the first time I have created a piece from concept to completion as a collective. Through doing so we were able to pool together everyone’s ideas to create something none of us could have done alone. We decided to create a modern interpretation of a verse play that explored gender roles, masculinity, and pregnancy, providing an opportunity to elevate our group’s strengths in poetry and interest in feminist writing. Our play was particularly influenced by specific details related to members of the cohort: Polish law, for example, as one of the writers is Polish, and the news that another is a dad-to-be. This is an example of how our writing was shaped and elevated by working as a collective.
Perhaps in opposition to current inclinations to write about lockdown, our play, titled ‘Free Drinks’, involved a university reunion at a pub, in which old friends with drastically different beliefs sit down for a pint after years apart. We utilised the communal nature of a pub and (through acting, not immersion!) the inebriating effects of alcohol. The inspiration, certainly from my perspective, was to retaliate against backward political laws proscribing women’s rights – for example, the restrictive abortion laws of the Heartbeat Act of 2021 in certain American states and the 2020 Polish Constitutional Tribunal. To comment on these issues, we created characters that were slightly excessive caricatures, but based on our real experiences, and embraced the humorous possibilities of their interaction: something can be funny and tragic at once, after all. Our female characters embody distinctive reactions to how women are conditioned to respond to misogyny: ‘Lily’ submits to it, ‘Hannah’ ignores it, and ‘Ava’ aggressively fights it. ‘John’, the sole man, is a bore, but propelled into being one by his insecurity.
This collaborative process has been instrumental in developing my craft as a writer. I am no longer shy about contributing or joining group projects. As a quiet person, I was the type to listen and not always contribute. However, this process has given me confidence in showing my written work and I have since achieved my goal to perform at poetry open mic events. Before this unit, I did not have the confidence to take part in such things. I know that however uncertain the future is in my writing career, my time at NTU has elevated my ability as a writer as well as my confidence to try to achieve any goal I set for myself.
Sophie Hall recently completed her BA Creative Writing at NTU, and will graduate this month.