In my last post I wrote about how I fell in love with writing as a child and continued to write, but didn't consider it more than a hobby until college. Now I'm going to continue that story and talk about my experience as a creative writing major, my personal writing community, and writer insecurities.
In my previous post I mentioned that I was originally an English Education major and then switched to creative writing. I was excited. I was gonna hang out with other writers, and I would sit in coffee shops and write and bounce ideas off of my new artsy friends, and I was gonna have professors who would wax poetic and I’d be inspired.
But that didn’t happen.
At least not like that.
I had a hard time fitting in. Maybe its because I was an older transfer student, maybe it was because I had a home life, work life, AND school life, but I didn’t seem “cool” enough to hang with the writers in my class. I wasn’t vegan enough, or poetic enough, or edgy enough, or literary enough, or skinny enough, or pretty enough, or hipster enough. I didn’t smoke weed. I didn’t hang out at dive bars. (I’m aware now that this was most likely just my anxiety wreaking havoc, but still it was how I felt).
The first creative writing class I ever had at that school had me tears because NOBODY had anything positive to say about my piece (to be fair, it was bad...but still really hard to hear).
I had to hide what I really wanted to write because genre fiction was SO frowned upon. We focused on literary fiction, and if you were brave enough to say that you wanted to write fantasy, or sci-fi, or horror - you had to work extra hard to prove yourself.
For my senior project I wrote, illustrated, and self-published a children’s book (at the time - although I wrote spooky short stories, I really wanted to publish children's books) and my peers talked about how I took the “easy route” (So I wrote a 15 page essay too.)
Needless to say, my experience wasn’t….great. I attended some open mic poetry nights which were okay, and I’m social media friends with a few people I went to school with, but I definitely didn’t make any long lasting friendships (I did in college as a whole, just not in the creative writing department. Most of my closest friends now were once theater majors).
It made me retreat back into my shell. Writing is inherently lonely. But it doesn’t have to be. It's just really hard to find your group.
My closest friend (Rin from the Long Story Short blog) is also a writer and although we write completely different types of things, when we write together or even just brainstorm and vent about our projects, it feels invigorating - but we don't live close to each other.
I tried to get social in the NaNoWriMo world, but I didn’t really feel like I fit there. I feel like an out of touch mom.
I am part of the Horror Writers Association, but haven’t talked to anyone, because I also don’t feel like I fit in with the “traditional” horror folks.
There are local writing groups in my area, but they are literary fiction or memoir heavy.
I just haven’t found the place where I feel the most comfortable...and I'm starting to be okay with that. I don't have the peer pressure around which is nice. I can take inspiration from what I want, I can write what I want, and I can be whatever kind of writer I want to be.
Oddly enough, Grad School was what helped me the most with this. I didn't go to Grad School for writing, I went to Grad School for Library Science - in order to be a librarian. I figured it would be a day job I would enjoy enough to allow me also to have the energy to write. It was in Grad School that I realized that although yes, there were genres, more so - there was just a plethora of things out there to read. There is a book for every type of reader, and a reader for every type of book. This helped me A LOT. I think back on that when I get stuck in a "who would ever read my stuff?" though spiral.
It was also with this in mind that I gained the confidence to start writing novels again - and eventually with this new found confidence and understanding, I found the project that has stuck - and just this past April, I finished Act 1 of my novel. The furthest I've ever gotten in a piece, and I'm excited to continue.
It's a constant learning process. Sometimes I wish I could go meet up with a local writing group at a fun coffee shop every week or month or whatever (not now because of the pandemic, but you know what I mean) - and other days I'm happy just shooting messages to my BFF about what I'm doing - and other other days I'm happy just keeping my writing to myself. It's a constant cycle.
And that's okay. :)
Until next time,
B. Strong &;