Milestones


 


   Above are some snapshots I took last night, before my final writing class began. The downtown writer's center where I have been taking classes has a really beautiful waiting room, equipped with comfy chairs and lined with bookshelves full of not just books, but literature. Every week I found myself noticing a new title, but it wasn't until last night that I noticed this one. I know they say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but just LOOK AT IT. It's beautiful! Anyway, now to the real point of this blog post.

  I look for signs everywhere. Signs that I’m doing the right thing, signs that I’m not, signs that this is the path I should take over that one. Sometimes, they’re obvious. A beautiful, brightly colored leaf lying on the floor by my seat, where I had been sitting with a friend debating making the trip to Rochester. That was my sign that I should figure out a way to go. But sometimes they’re more subtle than that. For instance, I didn’t really get a clear sign that I should sign up for this writing class downtown. But once I did, I had this amazing, overwhelming feeling that I had chosen right.


  When I arrived on the first night of the 8 week fiction writing course back in January, I didn’t really know what to expect. I am much more sure of myself as a writer than I am as a human being. In group environments, I’m pretty quiet at first, until I figure out the vibe of the group, and then I let my true nature shine through. I knew that we’d be doing fiction writing exercises, and that there would be some critique, but that was about it. What I loved about this class was how it pushed me to look at my story differently. Every time we did an exercise, I came away from it having learned something new about my character, my story, or myself as a writer. Each exercise challenged me, and helped me in some way. 

  So when that class ended and it came time to sign up for the next class, fittingly titled Novel Boot Camp, I did what most people would do. I waited until the last minute. Then, after I learned that the friends I had made during the coarse of the first class were also taking it, signed up at the last possible second and caused myself a ton of anxiety about changing my work schedule. 

  But honestly, all that anxiety was worth it. Last night was the last class of this session, and probably my last class for a while, and I’m so glad that I did it. First and foremost, it got me working on my story again. And not only working on it, but working on it and thinking about it critically. For once, it felt like all my hard work and hours spent writing paid off, because at the end of each week people actually read what I wrote, and had things to say about it. So that was thrilling, terrifying, and rewarding all at once. And you know what? It made me more confident. Every week people would tell me that I have a strong voice, that they love my characters, that this or that is extremely relatable. Someone even wrote, “Your writing style strikes a nice balance between entertaining and thought provoking.” I mean, what more can a girl ask for? But they also pushed me to be better. When something wasn’t working, they didn’t just tear me down. They gave suggestions as to how I could make it really fantastic, which was so helpful and instrumental. 

  So that brings me to the second aspect of this class that I loved: the people. I’ve always wanted to be in a writing group, a book club, or some place where I could have intellectual discussions and really pick apart a piece of writing. And I know some of you may be thinking, "But Fran! School has exactly that! You should go to college!" And while you may be a tiny bit right, because I did love the English course I took in my senior year of high school, I would argue that college really isn’t the best forum for this. So many people are just there for the credit. In and out. No one, not even me, wants to linger in the classroom any longer than they have to. But this little 8 week course was such a great alternative to that, because we all wanted to be there. There was no homework, just the desire to help each other make our work better. And that really showed through. The passion that sometimes erupted in the room when we all got fired up about a certain passage or idea— that’s what I’m after. At the end of these 8 weeks, I really feel like I got to know these people through their work. And I've come to like them. I think they feel the same way as well, because we’re organizing our own little outside get-togethers between now and when the next class starts. That makes me so happy, because this is something I’ve always wanted. I’ve always longed to be a part of a group that really cares about writing. Now that I finally am, I wouldn’t trade it for any degree program out there.

  This class also marks a momentous milestone for me. A year ago, I had no desire to write, no desire to be in the classroom, no desire to interact socially, and no desire to drive. A year ago, there was no way I would have driven myself downtown every week, parked my car on the sketchy streets, and gone into a room full of adults and shared my writing. But now look at me. I did exactly that! For 8 whole weeks, I did that! Through panic attacks and not feeling well; through not being able to find parking and being afraid of people on the streets. Even when my mom said, "It's okay for you to come home," I did it. I faced my fears, and I’m so proud of myself for that right now. I know that my path is different. I’m not your typical 19 year old, (and not in that cliche YA novel protagonist way) but that’s okay. Because I’m figuring it out, one tiny baby step at a time. 

I hope you all have an awesome weekend,

 -Fran