Guest blog by Lucy
As we move into Spring, another season of groundhog day, just with more daffodils, I’ve been thinking about the future. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but everything is a bit uncertain at the moment and, being in the metaphorical Spring of my life, I’m worried about my social buds getting stunted by the bitter Covid winds. If my fantastic analogy wasn’t clear – I’m worried about making friends. I will soon be finished with that purgatory my teachers call High School and be moving on to some leafy stone building that half looks like the one on the prospectus front cover, and half like a disused prison. And of course I’m going to need to grease my social wheels or I’ll be forced to buddy up with a girl called Rebecca who won’t stop moaning about how the pandemic completely ruined her gap year plans and still refers to her mother as mummy. If another requirement for university is to incorporate ‘pervicacious’, ‘fastidious’ and every other adjective from Mrs Dalloway into your everyday vocabulary, then what better way to improve my social skills and really get into sesquipedalianism than with a creative writing course!
I first clicked the Citizen Collective zoom link back in October after my 4:30 writing thang reminder pinged onto my phone screen. Filled with a sense of scepticism, I wondered how it would work, and if I truly would become the next Carol Ann Duffy. I hoped that I would get on with the others because everyone was attending of their own free will. There was a common love of literature and an interest in creative writing that I was eager to be a part of after spending years imprisoned by those blue plastic chairs, looking forlorn as the classmate on my left was beaten with a 1986 copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. My hopes proved correct, I was met with a mosaic of zoom tiles, filled with incredibly interesting and supportive people who over the last few months have amazed me and subsequently filled me with literary envy.
Whilst I did find my cheeks turning green after hearing a strangely profound haiku or two, I have come to understand the value of failure. With fun and creativity at the heart of the group, it’s inevitable that not everything I scrawl during our free-writing tasks will be the next Sunset Song. The Citizen Collective inspires me to write. Anything. In. The. Moment. Whether it be about ‘what home means to you’, ‘a time you were embarrassed’ or as Leyla, our poetic sage, would suggest: ‘the light coming through your window’. There’s an atmosphere of openness and ease that’s usually difficult to cultivate through a screen, and I know that even if all I can muster one week is some spraff on what’s cluttering my desk, everything is going to be alright. The point is that I’m sharing, I’m engaging and I’m enjoying myself.
The Citizen Collective has been something of permanence and reliability in my life at the moment when, as a young person, I feel my future and even my present to be set in sand. Don’t get me wrong there are still awkward silences, technical issues and the distant bark of a dog cutting someone’s poem short. But at least I’m doing more these days than waking up only to take a nap. Every session I’m permanently one bar away from losing WiFi. Your connection is unstable – don’t worry Zoom, darling, I am too. But strangely this unpredictability and temperamental state makes it all the more enjoyable. I look forward to and savour my scheduled weekly hour and a half with these blurry people on my screen. If I have gained anything, it’s the realisation that if I can make friends with floating heads, I’ll be okay when I finally meet people IRL again.
The Citizen Collective was set up in collaboration with schools across Edinburgh and Musselburgh as part of Citizen, a project which explores place, identity and community. The project is part of Edinburgh International Book Festival On The Road, and is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and through the PLACE Programme (funded by the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, and the Edinburgh Festivals, and supported and administered by Creative Scotland).
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