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Dawn Chorus Writing Club - A Retrospective

I'm writing this on the eve of New Years Eve Eve, the 30th December 2020, and tomorrow morning I will rise once again at 6:49ish, hurriedly grab my laptop, pray that it doesn't suddenly need a half-hour Windows update, plug it in to stop its unreliable battery going kaput, wire it up to the router because, for some reason, our supposedly superfast broadband can't transmit wireless internet for more than two hours without some scuzzy little whoopsies, and broadcast the final session of the December 2020 Dawn Chorus Writing Club. It was promised and it is done: daily writing sessions for one month from 7am-8:30am, where I live broadcast my word processor as a story tumbles chaotically from my brain. Hey, it's been proper fun though.

I really wasn't sure if I'd take to the medium of Twitch. I'm neither a user nor much of a viewer of the thing, so I must admit to a spot of nerves at the top of the month, as well as a whole lot of uncertainty about what I was setting myself up for. But, yeah, I've rather fallen for the platform, this stranger and cooler half-sister of YouTube. Sitting there chatting at yourself and your mostly invisible audience turns out to be an oddly comforting thing to do at the tail end of a manic year. Of course, it massively helped that I've been joined by some dear, dear friends, many of whom I've not been able to see at all this year. Particular shout outs needed for bestest writing comrade Fat Roland and my eternally supportive nephew Leo, both of whom have attended every single session, including the weekends and the festive days. But also big thanks to Bean, Nici, Tom, Abi, Dan, Rick, and new pals Sara and Mikey, for bobbing along and getting stuck in.

It was a curious way to write. Knowing that somebody, anybody could be sitting there and watching your words come tumbling out pretty much as soon as you've thought them is quite the experience. Writing, of course, is normally a deeply private and personal endeavour - so much so that it can take quite some mental effort and courage to expose those words to other people. When you've got the possibility (and sometimes, I noted, the reality) of someone actually watching over your virtual shoulder, it is rather exposing but it also makes you work extra hard. I was performing, in a sense; I could just slope off-stage for a bit and mope, the show had to go on. So the words churned on and on, the pauses were rare and brief, and I found myself occasionally breaking off into caps-lock asides to explain my reasoning, or to reflect on a particularly tough session.

This was one of the things that intrigued me, actually. Actively lifting the veil and showing what creative writing is really like; tough, unfocused, wayward, but also, just occasionally, electrifying and wild when ideas suddenly start coming together and the prose begins to sing. There were a handful of moments in this process when my brain did shift a gear and the stuff flowing out quite suddenly felt delicious, like molten caramel spewing from a ruby. The idea that there was someone on the other side of those moments, sharing in it, was really quite thrilling. If I'd had a more coherent and cohesive story to tell - one that was in the late stages of development rather than a first draft - it could well have been something worthwhile to watch with dedication.

I was clear from the beginning, however, that the story I was writing on was extremely first drafty and was not likely to make a whole lot of sense or, indeed, be in any way properly readable. That turned out to be true. The story/novel I've been writing, which is a tale about a haunted charity shop provisionally called Bric-a-Brac, very quickly became wayward and riddled with all manner of plot holes and extraneous characters. But that's OK. The discipline of the whole thing, and the informal almost louche approach to storytelling, made the haunted charity shop narrative a playground for experimentation, a strange hinterland for throwing around random characters and seeing which ones of them fizzed. And I now have 45K words as an extremely excellent bedrock. I'll be parking Bric-a-brac for a month or so, and then coming back to it (in a more traditionally private writing enclave).

But I will Twitch again, I'm sure. Across the three Xmas days, I changed up the proceedings a little and hosted some mini writing sessions where I got the chatters to generate some random prompts towards an hour of creative creating. And people actually did it; we had new short stories, new cartoons, new bits of music, all generated in a 60 minute blitz of brilliance, and then I got to share them live to the world. I reckon that's the future of my Twitch channel - indeed the future of Twitch itself. Watch this damn space. Before then, you can still watch the old damn space: for now, the latter half of the Dawn Chorus month will continue to be available for about fourteen days on the channel, at which point the whole place will become eerily silent for a while. But I'll be back, twitchy and twitching and thoroughly betwitched. See you there? Hot damn, its fun.


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