The first creative writing class I took in college was a disaster.
Me, the girl who scribbled stories furiously in her notebooks between classes, got an F. The professor was a stellar example of how NOT to be a writing teacher. She’d missed the memo that criticism, especially directed at young writer, should be constructive not caustic. After several assignments in which she made me feel like something she’d scraped off her shoe I quit going.
I was a young woman who desperately wanted to be a writer, and had no idea how to do it. I needed a mentor, a guide, or at the very least someone to actually teach me how to get better – and the only thing that class taught me was that choosing to be a writer can sometimes be extremely painful.
Luckily, since then I’ve had better experiences. While pursuing graduate work in another field I was able to sneak in a couple of writing classes. And they were great. I learned a lot, had teachers who actually taught, and even better, heartily encouraged me to keep writing and gave me every hope that I might be writing things other people would want to read.
Even that was a long time ago though. These days I’m the professor not the student. I’ve pondered an MFA – but when you have a PhD in another field more school seems a little crazy, a little too extravagant.
But thanks to a tuition reduction from the college where I work, tonight I walked into “Intro. to Novel Writing.” Just an undergrad class, of course, but I was so excited, like five-year-old on Christmas Eve excited, to be back learning about writing again. Granted the ghost of that first infamous disaster class is always there, but n0w I have enough experience to have walked out if I caught a whiff of that kind of garbage.
Tonight was everything I wish that first class had been. Fun, exciting, communal, inspiring – with just enough challenge to make it interesting. I admit, it’s hard sometimes not to look back and wonder what might have happened if I’d had a decent teacher in that first college class. But I know it’s better to focus on the present, and on the good things in life – and I think my new writing class is definitely one of them.