Growing Writer's Roots
It’s an interesting task to think of how one has grown as a writer in a matter of a few months. As a writer for most of my life, I have tried to continually grow and challenge myself, but this is made a much easier task when college credit is on the line. In our society we don’t always support the growth of creative endeavors, and as a mother of two pubescent children and one bi-polar husband, I often have to seriously justify locking myself in my office for hours. Creative Writing classes are the perfect justification.
While I used to spend hours just writing in my journal, typing up poetry on my Brother electric typewriter and had the luxury of attending writing groups, that is no longer my reality. In the last fifteen years since I have become a mother I have consistently written, but never to the extent to which my soul desires. For a period of about five years I wrote astrology articles for magazines, websites and local papers, and this is where I learned the art of the 500 word article. I learned to say more with less words and I learned that I’d better make my point quickly while being witty and hopefully funny.
This is all well and fine; it worked for bringing me astrology clients and repeat gigs, but it really has never satisfied my need to write stories and poetry, which I believe is the fruit of the soul. I have appreciated this course for the opportunity to broaden my scope of writing. Who doesn’t love an excuse to write a love poem for the man you’ve loved for twenty years? In addition to rekindling my love of poetry I was thrilled for the opportunity to write multiple stories and read my classmate’s creative work. I had never written any sort of vampire story and while I have written children’s stories before, I had never ventured into the realm of mysteries R.L. Stine style. Those are not really even the kind of stories I want to write, I simply wanted to push myself in a different direction.
Ultimately the stories of love, suffering and redemption are ones that interest me the most. These are the stories that we all can relate with. These are the stories that can change our lives, both in the writing and reading. To capture humanity on a page as reassurance that we are all human is the reason I want to write fiction that melds with real life. I like the occasional sci-fi fantasy movie and who doesn’t love to escape? But really I feel that it’s the genuine connections that make writing and reading so worthwhile.
As far as growing as a writer, I feel like I pushed myself with the fiction unit and found that I do indeed enjoy writing within all sorts of genres. The poetry unit was more like finding an old friend and picking up right where we left off. The workshops for both units were far more helpful that I had imagined. Not only was it is great to get feedback on my own writing, but it was also quite useful for me to test my own feedback skills. I had to let go of my “people pleaser” tendency and give genuine feedback that I hoped would help each writer grow themselves. That is why we were all there, right? I had to recognize that I was not being mean, I was being honest. This type of honesty is what I will have to give to my students when I become a teacher.
The readings on craft were incredibly helpful and I was most struck by Annie Proulx’s take that “the digging is never done.” This is the kind of quip that can be related to just about anything in life that is important; whether is it writing, exploring the mountains, tending to a garden or even a relationship. Working with the little ones in elementary school we tell them, “When you think you are done, you’ve only just begun.” This simple concept reminds me that there is always another detail, another perspective and another idea that I can add to my writing.
Edward Hirsch also touched that writer’s cord when he wrote, “the speaker issues a concealed invitation through metaphor which the listener makes a special effort to accept and interpret.” This idea of connecting deeper with the reader and “acknowledgment of community” is why I love to write. It is also why I love to read. I usually don’t read about writing, but in many ways this course helped me to grow in that way as well. I found myself really jiving with the writers who were sharing their craft. Perhaps that shows maturity on my part. I no longer feel like I know it all and I recognize that I need feedback, support and new ideas to become a better writer.
Finally I found myself several times questioning my own writing. The poetry unit was interesting because the feedback that I received from peers on all the poems mirrored the concerns that I had had while writing them. The same is true for the short stories. Instinctively I knew what kind of feedback I was going to receive. But yet, I obviously did not pay attention to this inner writer’s voice and lo and behold, I got the feedback that I was expecting, maybe not even the feedback that I truly needed. It was as if I read all the feedback and said, “I knew it.” Rather than getting feedback and thinking, “Now there is something I hadn’t thought of…” I think that I ultimately short changed myself by not listening to my intuition and working from that point, rather than second guessing myself and getting answers to questions that I had really already figured out.
So, at age thirty-nine I am still growing as a person, a mother, a wife and a writer. I know that I need help, I need insights and I need to follow my intuition. I must continually strive to push myself in new directions, “digging deeper” each time, until I get to the root of what is true and beautiful, satisfying that lifelong itch to tell a story and write a poem that makes others want to tell a story or write a poem.
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