I’m absolutely loving my university Creative Writing class this fall. My professor has taught me so much that I didn’t know or had never considered about writing.
Every writer has bad habits and weak areas. I knew this going in. Anyone who has had a professional editor look over their work will be familiar with the red marks on a page or Google Doc, highlighting for all the world to see the words you tend to overuse and abuse (mine are “all” – used in the previous sentence for shit’s sake – and “too” and for some unknown reason I use “tiny” way too often…sigh).
But in this class my mind has been blown wide open by imagery. I’ve knowingly underused imagery in my work, justifying it by telling anyone who would listen that “I’m interested in the inner landscape so I don’t waste time describing setting and characters.”
Such horseshit. Now I see what I’ve been missing out on. It’s like a giant puzzle piece, sliding into place, informing every area of my writing by upping my game when it comes to descriptive imagery. Particularly in poetry and the art of the short story.
From grade five through second-year university, I attended small evangelical Christian schools. It’s possible I’ve simply blocked it out, but I honestly don’t recall learning anything about poetry in my school years. I grew up with a certain disdain for poems, believing them to be inscrutable and pretentious.
And now I’m studying poetry at the ripe old age of forty-four, twenty-five years after I left university, and I’m blown away by how much I love it and how naturally it comes to me (now that I’ve been challenged to use concrete words and images instead of the abstract ones I’ve been fond of for so long). It’s like a whole new world and I wonder why I waited so long to dive in.
I’m reading poetry, and I’m writing poetry, and I’m knee-deep in the joys of juxtaposition, wordplay and double meanings. It’s fun. And with every word I write, and each new contest I enter, I’m feeling stronger and more confident as a writer.
This is where the good stuff is. It’s in the learning curve, the challenge, the messiest parts of our lives. Approaching writing as if I’m new to it has given me a fresh interpretation of the craft and the process. I feel like I’m in Oz, peeking behind the curtain, and marvelling at the nuts and bolts of building stories, worlds and emotions on the page.
I can’t wait to see what’s next. Bring it on.