[If you just tuned in, I’m publishing a book I wrote a few years ago called Surviving a Graduate Writing Program in this blog. If you’ve ever attended an MFA or MA writing program or an undergraduate writing program, I would love to hear from you. Do you think it helped your writing? One of the questions I’m posing to you is whether or not writing can be taught. Back to the book!]
Later in my last noncredit course on novel writing, my teacher talked about how imitation was a good way to learn how to write a novel and I knew that looking at Agatha Christie’s books had been a good idea. By this time I was back to my Chicago book again but as much as I searched, I couldn’t find any book that was similar to the one I wanted to write. The closest that I could come was to find a couple of books that had the same kind of tone. I don’t remember ever thinking about tone before and it made me realize once again how much I had to learn.
A day came when I went to the Summer Writing Festival in Iowa City. I’d receive my Masters degree there (not in writing) and was feeling nostalgic. Going to the festival was a good excuse to wander around the campus and remember what it was like when I was a kid. Then it happened, somebody at the Festival, a teacher, said nice things about my writing and I thought, yeah, it’s possible.
Other students were giving me those intense looks that made me wonder if they knew something that I didn’t. Were they thinking that I was a sap, that I was a fool to think that I had that special something? Or maybe they were thinking that nobody would want to read what I was writing.
They might have actually been thinking that I did have talent but I was too busy feeling inadequate and excited all at the same time to know. There are times when you just have to put yourself out there and see what happens. All the great things in my life, my kids, my career, my music have resulted from those times. When a teacher suggested that I apply to a graduate writing program, I decided to give it a try.
Everybody starts with something, an idea, a character, the ability to write a lyrical sentence, or just a desire to express who they are. It was only when I was over halfway through my graduate writing program that I understood that it didn’t matter where you start. Everyone I’ve known has struggled to improve their writing. I saw people around me who had great basic writing skills but didn’t know how to develop a character and people with great stories wondering how to get them down paper. Starting was the important thing and then, working at the craft.