Online Wanderings

Graduation

I was thrilled about a week ago to officially graduate from my Creative Writing with English Literature degree course at Kingston University, attaining a not-to-be-sniffed at Upper Second Class degree. I wasn’t the only one – definitely check out my friend Charlotte’s similar blogpost about graduation!

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Freshly graduated! 😎🎓 #KingstonUniversity

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Overall, I was thrilled by the day and it’s a moment to cherish and be proud of as it’s the culmination of three years hard work. Yes university for me has been a mixed bag, especially at Kingston, and it’s something I want to explore in depth later as I feel it could be an important learning point for future students. But ultimately… I don’t regret the choice I made as I made some excellent friends who all share a core passion – and I do believe I did the right thing in the end by pursuing with University a subject and field I genuinely enjoy and have an interest in (as opposed to a degree just to get a job). Despite all that I feel about the misgivings and inadequacies of the Kingston Creative Writing course from a purely academic standpoint… I’ve had the privilege to meet some great people and that has made the experience a net positive, and I can actually say that my writing is markedly better than what it was.

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I do look back at the time a few years ago when I was mulling over this big decision – was it the right one? Time will tell. Right now, I don’t regret it fundamentally; again I have a lot of mixed feelings about Kingston as an institution… but I’m actually thrilled and proud of myself for this achievement, considering my road to University was a meandering and winding one.

But, as Charlotte said in her post, the answer to the inevitable questions of “what now?” are prominent. For the time being it’s relaxing to be able to work on my personal projects again but I’m determined not to rest on my laurels. I’ve started working on something new while I let The Thaw sit between edits, but I’m also taking a long look at where I stand here, at 28, and where it is I want to go. And you know what, I’m finally challenging the comfort zone mentality.

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Do I feel different after graduating? I’d say yes – it’s the end of one chapter of my life and the beginning of something new and exciting – and although I mention it frequently, my age is ultimately irrelevant to this. Despite my constant concerns about the academic quality of my course… it’s an achievement nonetheless and that shouldn’t be sniffed at!

Once again, and because I am a terrible procrastinator, I would like to sincerely thank all that supported me through University – to Charlotte, Rosie, Tom and many others (some of whom I won’t link to as a courtesy) for being excellent classmates and friends; to all those who know me who supported me through good times and bad; and lastly to my longstanding friend Sam for being a wise counsel about his own experience studying Creative Writing at Portsmouth that was the genesis of all this – let’s just say, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

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Reconsidering Ender’s Game

I’ve pretty much finished the first year of my degree in Creative Writing and English Literature at Kingston University. I’ve mainly been concerning myself with the creative writing aspect but one aspect of the literature side of my studies has gotten me thinking.

About three years ago I wrote about how I would not be reading the sci-fi novel Ender’s Game because its author, Orson Scott Card, was extremely homophobic and espoused personal views I found quite disgusting. I didn’t want to be seen to endorse those views by reading his work or support him by purchasing it.

Early on in my degree I read a literary essay published in the 1960s, The Death of the Author; this was before 4PM Friday lectures sapped my enthusiasm for dry literary theory, and, considering the essay, I began to rethink my approach to Ender’s Game.

The gist of the essay is that the “author” is merely a conduit for “work” to be created from, and that we must not consider a work as a vehicle for the author’s views and political standpoints but in the context of other contemporary works that existed at the time of writing; a work is not a singular piece isolated from the rest of the world. The responsibility is on the reader more to take their own message from a work than to try to decode the author’s intentions.

This, on first glance, does not seem to bode well for creative writers but I would argue that it allows a lot more freedom for writers to not worry about being psychoanalysed after the fact through their work and, on a personal level for me, anyway, means that the author does not become one with their work, and both cannot really be judged by the merits (or otherwise) of the other. One of the main reservations I have about my writing is being judged by what the fictional characters I create do, as if they’re always a representation or reflection on some part of my own personality.

What does this mean for Ender’s Game? For all intents and purposes, I have heard it’s a stellar piece of military science fiction. The book tackles themes such as inclusiveness, friendship and identity. Whether Orson Scott Card believed in this personally is, in hindsight, irrelevant; he however brought together this piece of work and, putting my reservations aside – I feel I’m being unfair on the book if I shun it wholly due to its author being a d*ck – I look forward to objectively taking Ender’s Game for its own merits.

I feel I was almost there when, in 2013, I wrote:

A book should be criticised separately from the personality of its author, though the personality of its author should be instilled throughout its pages. But with Ender’s Game this whole issue the proverbial elephant in the room and the scale of it means it really can’t be ignored. 

I’m happy to have finally found a personal, tangible use for all the dry literary theory I’ve been studying. Oh, and to circumvent supporting Mr. Card? I borrowed it from my local library, which is probably a far better cause!