Meditative Monday: Everything I’d Do Differently, If I Had To Start My Writing Journey All Over (Part 2)

Grab yo coffee! Grab yo tea! Grab your mouth-holes folks because it’s time for another Meditative Monday and we’re going to continue from where we left off last post, so sit back and do whatever you do whenever you read these posts.

5.) Dem Fiction Writing Classes…

I have very mixed feelings about writing classes. And about the education system in general, but that’s beside the point.

On one hand, I feel my fiction writing classes did not teach me jack-doodoo. This is not to say that they were bad or unpleasant. But I’m looking at this from a ‘bang-for-your-buck’ perspective. And these classes are ten weeks a pop.

I took two so that’s 20 weeks. Almost half a year. That’s too-long of a time to not learn jack-doodoo.

Or learn very vague jack-doodoo.

Now, you may have taken fiction writing classes yourself and think, “But I learned plenty in mine!” That might be true, and that’s great for you.

You see I went to UCI and our creative writing workshops consisted of reading books by obscure writers you’d probably never hear of outside of a college setting and probably could care less about outside of a college setting.

Most of our time was spent reading and critiquing passages, rather than learning any actual writing. Yes, I understand why my instructors taught this way. Yes, we were taught some fancy terms that I have never used or cared for since. Yes, I can see how some find a feedback structure safe and helpful for them.

But the problem I had with this style of teaching is that I had no freaking clue why the instructor was jumping around to all these disconnected tidbits. It didn’t seem like it had any purpose. No ‘why’ factor, or main idea. Now that could just be a matter of my instructors and not the classes themselves, but if I could, I’d tell myself to not take fiction classes to learn about writing as I’d just be wasting 20 weeks of my life to be angry and confused.

Now, you might be thinking, ‘Okay, so you wouldn’t do fiction classes then?’

Here’s the thing…

The fiction classes are still important to me.

Not to learn anything per say, but actually to fail and feel humiliated. I know that sounds crazy. Who would ever go out of their way to feel humiliated?

This girl right here! 😀

But here’s the context… In school we have different levels of writing courses for undergrads. Naturally, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I took the beginner one, then the intermediate one, but the advanced workshop required submissions, so naturally my friends and I were submitting to get in. So me with my hopes and dreams, put my submission together and sent it in.

And then the list came back.

Nope. Wasn’t on it.

Friends and other classmates got on it. Some I understood exactly why they got it, some I was confused as all hell.

So you could imagine how high my salt-levels rose that day. But feeling like the Great Salt Lake City is the actually the good part! Because if it weren’t for that split between my friends getting in and me not getting in, I would’ve never taken my writing skills into my own hands and improved on my own.

This is why I started reading so many books and doing everything I could to get better. And because I did this, I learned that being tenacious is a hundred times more important than being smart or “talented”.

That of course, as ya’ll probably know, got me through my first novel. It got me through that horrifying formatting fiasco I had with my novel, which rose to over 100 tries since I last touched it, (and I wish I could say that’s an exaggeration). Now tenacity is getting me through the next book I’m writing. And it will get me through any other challenge I set for myself.

Though it’s probably not going to be the most popular opinion that I have, I do think that everyone should have their beliefs and expectations thrown back in their faces at least once in their lives. Because something I’ve observed time and time again is that when a person sits in their cushy comfort zone and never do anything different, they stagnate or stay in the ‘just okay’ zone.

Now some people do want to be ‘just okay’ and that’s fine, but they shouldn’t complain when that’s exactly what they get!

6.) Adopt A ‘No Excuses’ Mentality Sooner

Another thing that came out I also learned that if you’re failing or not where you want to be in your writing career, it is one hundred percent your fault.

You might think, “Wait a minute! What about the stuff I can’t control? What if I get sick or go through a crisis? Or go through a depression? I can’t write all the time!”

And to that I say…

Life will be life. And for the record, no one needs to write all the time to achieve success (depending on what your idea of success is.)

Now that I’ve shifted my schedule to practice drawing 5+ hours a day, there’s no time to write ‘all the time’. But you can bet your butt cheeks that I don’t use that as an excuse not to write at all. Because writing is my work.

You certainly don’t blow your supervisor or manager and tell them that you don’t feel like working today. That’s the kind of seriousness I approach writing with now.

I’m very much a ‘do it or don’t’ kind of person. And every excuse, reasonable or not, is still an excuse and still means that something didn’t get done.

If I get sick, yeah I’m sick. I often get spells of dizziness and nausea that sometimes leave me unable to get up from either the bed or the floor. Obviously that’s not the time for writing, even if I could manage it.

But this is not what the ‘No Excuses’ mentality is for. It’s also not for when a burglar breaks into your house, if you have a family emergency, or if you’re going to be mauled by hula-dancing bears.

I developed a ‘No Excuses’ mentality so I would not point at things like Facebook, other writers, my instructors, the way the world works, tv, family and say that they are somehow the reason why I’m not successful.

Even when I was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety, the idea that I should not write because this happened was not valid to me at all. Don’t get me wrong. I understood perfectly fine that the reason why I could barely write anything was because of being depressed.

But one of the things my therapists stressed was routine and to keep writing. Because as I spoke to her about writing, she saw that it was something that made me happy. And journaling is a more healthy way of getting all those negative feelings out and managing them safely.

Writing is the biggest act of self-care I do every day and this is why I’m very ‘No Excuses, No Exceptions’ about it. Even now, if I don’t write, I do not feel okay. There was a time when my mac cable broke and I remember how angry and out of control I felt immediately afterward because I couldn’t write for six whole days. It actually led to me purging a bunch of my clothes to feel better.

Some people might scoff and say that’s nothing and that they’d like the break, but writing means a lot to me. This was the single thing that dug me out of depression. If I can’t write, I’d much rather just check into my tombstone. Because if six days were awful, the rest of a life would not be worth it to me.

And this is why if I’m going through a rough time, I write more not less because it’s that important to me. Not more of my manuscript necessarily.

I feel like there’s the tendency to treat writing as if it’s this ball and chain or a monster that we make every excuse to avoid so we can feel validated when we don’t do the work.

Personally, I’m more prone to dumping and ignoring things in favor of more writing rather than the other way around. I’ve been guilty of procrastinating on essays to write my novel, even when it’s 3 am. I’ve been guilty of ignoring engagements with friends and family in favor of writing. (Don’t be me! Unless they’ll forgive you!)

But if you love writing and are super passionate about it, it boggles my mind why you’d would need some kind of external push or stick-whack to feel compelled to do it. Wouldn’t you just do it on your own? If you really find writing a chore and it’s not required for you, why are you doing it?

Now going back to the bit about emergencies. We can’t stop those, but at the end of the day, no one is buying our empty word documents or reading the empty space between our lines. I’ve learned to just roll with the punches and get back up when I get knocked down.

The emergency part I find is not the part that matters, the part that makes the real difference is your reaction to it. If I constantly pointed to my depression as an excuse to not live up to my potential, I wouldn’t have pushed through and taken my first steps as a author.

Now, when excuses make me some money or get me some fame, I’ll make every excuse under the rainbow.

But until then, I’m writing.

7.) Hell Yeah To Poetry Classes!

Ironically, my poetry classes succeeded everywhere my fiction classes failed.

Concepts were laid out clearly first, and then we nit-picked about related poems. There was a clear link between subject matter and applying our practice.

Also, I got a real treat in the year I took them!

The Advanced course was taught by Michael Ryan, who originally taught and studied at the University of Iowa in that oh-so coveted Writer’s Workshop I always dreamed about. So when I got accepted into the Advanced class, I bounced off the walls.

Also, the poetry classes was around the time I got tired of craft books started to embrace the idea that I should learn about writing from different sources. This was also when I started to care more about writing being fun and enjoyable.

But Michael Ryan hype aside, taking his class made me understand why Iowa has its shiny reputation. A lot of resources tend to be geared toward how to do a certain thing. How to make characters, settings, horror stories, granny pantaloons , blah, blah, blah. And this stuff can be helpful for some.

But the issue is that sometimes this can border into a paint-by-numbers type of deal where you’re just checking things off the list. Where Michael Ryan’s class really shined was in teaching us how to learn from the works that we loved.

But also, we didn’t learn from dry, obscure writers that we’ve never heard of. We learned from writers with actual appeal, some well-known, some unknown.

He also liked to bash us over the head by always saying, “Write what you love”.

I always thought it was funny, but it’s actually scary how much that simple advice gets ignored! Sure we might take a job or something for money and have to lay this aside, but for personal projects? Some people out there genuinely do believe that they aren’t supposed to enjoy themselves when they’re doing a job. To me, that just doesn’t make any sense. But I’m of the mental camp that thinks a) there’s something interesting about everything and b) doing things you hate just results in monkey-doodoo quality.

More…?

I have to split this here, guys. Otherwise, this might end up 3000 words. But until then, keep writing!

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