Things I Learned In College Writing Classes

About six months ago I decided to take a few college writing courses to gauge my skill as an untested writer. Having never had my work evaluated and graded in any professional manner, I took the classes to see if I really had the chops to make it as a writer or if I was just delusional in thinking I had any business in the realm of writing. 

These two courses, Creative Writing and Fiction Writing, were the first courses I had ever taken that focused exclusively on the craft of writing. I was nervous because despite my outward confidence level being high, the inner me whispers, "Everyone else was just being nice, these professors will laugh at the crapfest you call writing! BAHAHAHAHA!" 

Although I learned much about the things I was doing right or wrong when it comes to grammar, structure, and the art of writing fiction, that is not what this post is about.

Before I started these classes, I hadn't ever been tied to a deadline. Never had someone said, "You must sit down and write X number of words about X topic and you must submit it by X time." No, up until that point in time, writing for me was a thing that I had to feel "inspired" to do. It was an endeavor in which if I didn't "feel" the words flowing through my mind and hands, it just wan't meant to be. In effect, I'd give myself an out if I wanted to dink around on Twitter, play games, or Netflix the night away because I just wasn't inspired to write. 

My thought when I turned in these pieces on a deadline was that they were going to be terrible. The low marks would prove that inspired and quality writing couldn't be held to any arbitrary time frame! I needed the proper drink, the proper snack, the proper lighting! I needed to be seated at my desk, with the right music on, and wearing my writing sweatpants to create these worlds! Without all of those elements in place, writing... would simply be sub-par if not impossible. Expecting confirmation of my belief, I waited for my papers to be graded.

The grades came back. With instructor comments.

When the first grades were in the 95 percentile and up. I wrote them off as flukes. The instructors' notes were complimentary, but what does that even mean on an introductory paper? Surely they were just playing nice to keep students enrolled long enough to get past the drop/add deadline so their class size would remain large. 

So I turned in more papers, sure they were garbage and would be graded accordingly. Because deadlines

They came back with similar scores, with comments much more enthusiastic in addition to being helpful. 

As it turns out I am not delusional with regards to my writing ability. I have a strong skill set that I can now verify with scrutinized and graded coursework that says as much. The professors (one of whom has a masters degree in Creative Non-Fiction, a field I did not even know existed until I saw her credentials) are now friends who are active in encouraging me to get out there and write all of the things. They have had no problem telling me where I need to improve and where I excel, but enjoy my work on an academic as well as a personal level and that's a good feeling. After finishing the course, I now consider one of them a friend, and am unsuccessfully attempting to convince her to start up on Twitter.

As I wrote under soft deadlines each week, I found that the idea that I needed the proper time, place, and inspiration to write was obliterated. When the deadlines came, I had to turn these pieces in, come hell or high water. (Though to be fair, I did turn in a couple of things a day or two after deadlines.) 

So what does that mean to me now? Well, it means that I need to change my mindset. I can absolutely write whether I'm in my suit or in my jeans. I can most certainly write when I don't have my refrigerated Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups and ice water. I can definitely write when I'm having a bad day. I can write whenever and wherever I choose.

If I can crank out 16,000+ words on a schedule and deadline in a matter of weeks as I did with these classes, I need to stop making excuses and as my good friend Debi would say, "finish that shit!"