Years ago, I mentioned something to an acquaintance that I was thinking about possibly taking a writing course. At the time, she too wanted to be A Writer, a fact I had just found out. Thus, we were bonding over our writeriness, in a very early-20’s manner, talking about what it meant to be A Writer (though neither of us were published), how to be A Writer (and by this, I meant how to be published), and other seemingly profound thoughts on writing. It was all very Angela Chase, in hindsight.
But the thing that stuck with me about that conversation was that this acquaintance told me that she was done taking courses, she was just going to write. “Either you can write, or you can’t; I’m not sitting in a classroom waiting for someone to teach me,” she said.
I agreed on some level. What had I been thinking? The way in was by getting up early, logging hours at my craft before and after the regular, bill-paying life happened. I read that Sylvia Plath would rise at 5 a.m., write for an hour, then tend to her children and house.
The thing of it is though, I had no idea how to take these things I was producing, short stories mostly, and turn them into something published. I researched target markets, tried to note publishers who produced books that resembled my writing. But I was stuck. I didn’t know how to turn an idea into a full novel; I didn’t know how to sell my writing.
Around this time, I also was crazed for someone to read what I wrote. I started at home and asked the then Live-In Boyfriend to read some of my offerings — we had, after all, gotten together after a long talk about my writing, and our early days were based around his desire to read and critique my writing.
Somewhere, a shift had taken place. It was suddenly the very worst thing ever that I’d asked him: put down the PS2 controller, take a look at this thing I was so very proud of. He told me my vocabulary was too small (apparently, I used the word ‘presence’ endlessly). He told me that I didn’t write about anything that interested him (valid, I suppose, when what really interested him was The Legend of Zelda). He told me that I’d be better off putting my time into something that would actually make money.
Because, remember, at this point, I had no idea how to make money writing.
About 10 years later, the sting of his criticism has worn off. I’m sort of writing again, though nowhere near as prolifically as I was back then. I’m not all that keen on showing it yet, not all that keen on reaping the criticism all over again. Because maybe my vocabulary is too small, maybe I do write about boring things. Maybe I have no shot of becoming a published writer, ever. But here I go, baby steps, baby steps; we’ve all got to get over that shit from the past at one point or another.
So I try to write, and find I still have no idea how to turn something smallish (short story) into something biggish (novel). I have no idea how to market my writing, no matter the size. But I am older and wiser, and so I turn to a writing course. Not because I expect to be taught to write, but because I’m hoping to be taught how to write a query letter, how/when to send out submissions, and all of that logistical stuff that falls outside the realm of right-brained thinking*.
(*: apparently this whole right-brain/left-brain theory has been/is in the process of being debunked, but you understand what I’m saying, right?)
There’s the added bonus that this course also has weekly assignments to complete. It will force me to write consistently, it will force me to keep something once in a while (as I generally don’t, a phenomena that is explained in my earlier post Every word I write is crap.) These assignments are peer-evaluated, so there’s a dim hope that some of the critiques that come back will help me, if I truly am a tiny-vocabularied, boring amateur.
So. Here’s goes nothing. Or possibly, something?