A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I write what I write because that's who I am as a writer

Hannah Moskowitz has an amazing blog post on this topic.
So does Shayda Bakhshi.

I figured it wouldn't hurt to put my .02 in on this topic, since I'm actually aiming to get a double Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and Creative Writing when I go back to school next fall, and then go on to get my MFA in Creative Writing and a Masters in Anthropology with an emphasis on linguistics.

I took my first creative writing class as a senior in high school.  I needed a filler and my mum suggested that one.  "You want to be a writer, don't you?" she'd asked me.  "You should take it to see if you can learn something you don't already know."

I took it.  And Mr. D was the biggest waste of space for a teacher you could get when it came to creative writing.  I had double trouble with him because he was also my English teacher.  The bell would ring ending English and I'd just sit there and wait for creative writing to begin.  After a few weeks I started dreading that bell because as an English teacher he was brilliant.  As a creative writing teacher, he sucked.

He was insistent on us writing essays, doing daily writing exercises, and keeping a writing journal.  All of those things I wouldn't have had issues with if he hadn't kept failing my writing exercises and marking me off on my journal.  Why?  Because I write speculative fiction, not literary fiction.  I write science fiction and fantasy.  I turned my writing exercises into exercises in description of Aleran or character development for one of my sci fi stories.  My writing journal was full of poetry and short stories tied into my worlds.  He told me that he wasn't interested in someone who wanted to write "trashy novels".

Now, at that time, "trashy novels" were the bodice ripper romances my grandma read.  The ones with the explicit sex scenes.  I told him, quite horrified, that I didn't write trashy novels.  He told me I wrote something other than literary fiction, so what I wrote was "trashy".  He relegated the whole of the science fiction and the fantasy genres with a wave of his hand as "trashy".  He told me I lacked talent and should instead consider looking at becoming a teacher since I didn't have it in me to be a writer.

I was crushed.  At the time I didn't have much in the way of a strong sense of who I was.  So I stopped writing.  I wrote poetry still, but nothing at all in Aleran or any of my other worlds.  That persisted for two years as I struggled to get myself through college.  I decided to pursue a teaching degree, since it at least would let me teach children about "good" literature and that's what I wanted...wasn't it?

It wasn't.  And when the opportunity came to take English 111 and 112 (honors English), I jumped at the chance.  It was a writing intensive program, and once it was done I could brave the spec fic creative writing class.  Even though I didn't think I was good enough I was rediscovering myself as a writer.

Once again, my love of fantasy and science fiction got me ostracized by my teacher.  She told me that the books I loved weren't real literature.  She said that mythology and the early works of fantastical fiction (faerie tales, mythology, the arabian tales, etc.) were just exercises in describing a world primitive minds couldn't understand or to teach virtues to children.  I was told that, once again, my dreams were as nothing compared to the realities of my teacher's world.

I stopped writing at that point.  Completely.  I did the assignments and had my portfolio all neatly lined up for the creative writing class.  But I didn't go forward with it.  I didn't see the need.  I wasn't a writer, just a talentless woman with delusions of grandeur.

My mum had different ideas.  My mum wrote most of her life, and she knew what I was going through.  She went through it herself at one point.  It took her a decade, and a lot of encouragement from my dad, to get her back into writing.  Mum wasn't going to let me suffer for that long.  She walked up to me about a year after I took that class and she quite literally smacked me upside the head.  "Sit down, pick up that pen, and write."

I did.  Bouts of writer's block aside, I haven't stopped since.  That was around 12 or 13 years ago.  I've finally gotten to a point in my writing where I'm getting ready to brave the world of publishing for my first novel that I feel is good enough to reflect me as a writer, and the world I've been laboring over for 20+ years.

I also intend on going back to school and getting my multiple degrees because it's something I love.  If I get a teacher who doesn't love it, I know how to get around that now.  I'll look at anything I learn from those classes as a way to apply a different view to my writing but I won't ever let another teacher dissuade me from writing what I love.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you've gotten past that "absolutely crushed" stage. You had some absolutely horrible teachers. If I ran the world, nobody would say those things to aspiring SF writers, ever. We don't write trash!

    I've been leery of taking creative writing classes for fear of ostracism. It's never turned out well when I've tried to fit people's expectations in other areas, and I don't want to go through the battle of exerting my Self again. (Possibly this makes me a bit wimpy, but I hope not.)