I have come to the conclusion that decision making is an art. And decision making about 'The Arts' must be a fine art. I've always been a fairly practical person, able to weigh up pro's and con's, and given that I don't see the point in wasting time and emotion on regret I've bumbled through life quite happy with my decisions and their consequences. Mostly. But what a struggle I've had in trying to sort out what to study with The Open College of the Arts.
Way back last June I enrolled with OCA with the intention of studying photography and following the degree pathway. At around the same time I completed my Creative Writing studies with the Open University. During the latter part of last year life was, as it is, beset with the trials of illness and bereavement and I found that while my writing wasn't affected negatively my photography was. I felt even less well disposed towards photography due to this;
A substantial and very kind Christmas gift voucher from my Dearly Beloved. He was advised that the item he intended to buy would need to be ordered in and would be in the January sales. So the helpful sales assistant suggested a gift voucher. We all know what happened next. Nothing to show for it but a bad taste.
In addition to this I was really missing the structure of a creative writing course.
The OCA Academic Support Team were great and after many discussions we mutually decided to transfer to a Creative Arts degree pathway so that I could incorporate my writing and my photography. Perfect. But there's always a 'but'. I was able to apply for accreditation for my Creative Writing Diploma. This gives credit for previous certified study and means a student can start at a higher level of study, thereby reducing the time and cost of degree study. If I thought too much about the costs I'd never do it. So I don't.
Forms were duly sent out, filled in and returned along with an alarmingly large fee that I also opted not to think about. After a while I heard that my application was successful but it transpired that I wasn't allowed to study Creative Writing at Level 2 until I'd completed all of the Level 1 Photography modules. As this would take months if not years I was still left with an itchy Creative Writing gap to scratch. Hmmm. Back to square one. Decision time. Writing or photography. Photography or writing. Ponder. Ponder.
After lots of uhmming and ahhing I decided that I wanted to focus on the writing. So my degree pathway was changed to a BA(Hons) Creative Writing which meant that my photography was not allowed to be formally assessed and could only be studied as 'personal development'.
Disappointing but sometimes we have to be honest with ourselves and when I really thought about it I realised that I was far more enthusiastic and interested in the practice, history and theory of writing than that of photography. And who knows, maybe one day I'll come back to the photography degree. Being a life-long student and all that.
The problem is that the OCA offer so many fabulous courses that I'd love to do. It's like Fred's sweetie shop on the walk to school. Jars and jars of choice. I'll have a quarter of Illustration please, two ounces of drawing, and a bag of mixed painting and photography. How does one decide? Ultimately for me it turned out to be an instinct thing. Seeds of imagination planted from day one and nurtured throughout childhood and right through to today. Dad reciting 'Hiawatha' and mum folding precious lines of poetry into her purse were bound to have an effect.
Anyway the outcome is that I'm just starting a level 2 poetry module which looks fantastic. I think writing and the wide reading that accompanies it are an integral part of my make-up. As a small child I have clear and happy memories of my mum reading me bed-time stories and my dad making up his own. As a seven year old I won a copy of Hillaire Belloc's 'Cautionary Tales for Children' in a competition I didn't know I'd entered after a teacher submitted a poem I had written. My dad still has a copy of it somewhere. The poem that is, not 'Cautionary Tales'. Unfortunately the book was lost over the years but I remember that it gave the seven year old me nightmares - poor Jim was eaten by a lion and Matilda burned to death! Who on earth thought that was a good prize for a child with a vivid imagination?
Later an acutely embarrassed teenage me won a Jane Austen book as a school prize for English. I remember the agonizing horror of being singled out in front of the school assembly vying with a shy pride.
Battered and neglected for many years, stored in sheds and garages along the way the book is much more appreciated and cared for now.
So overall I think Creative Writing is the right course for me. Reading and writing. Absorbing and creating. And learning and sharing. Right up my street. With a bit of photography on the side.