Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Looking Back and Laughing

For most of my short writing career, I've been surrounded by people who are supportive and encouraging about my work. Recently, I was thinking about the classes I took when I was an undergraduate and graduate.

The first class I took as an undergraduate was an introduction to fiction writing. I was very excited about it, and it was set up like a workshop. The students were incredibly encouraging, but the professor was less than supportive. She completely shook my confidence. I thought maybe I was wrong, that maybe I wasn't as good as I thought I was. It took a long time for me to write again. (I actually found out years later that I wasn't the only person who this professor tore down. Apparently, she viewed students as competition, so to get rid of us, she made sure we didn't want to write anymore. Nice way to abuse your power, huh?).

I did take another class as a graduate. By that point in time, the university didn't have a fiction writing program (that was started after I left), but you could petition the professor for special permission for a Fine Art's Degree. I asked, and the piece I wanted to write was a traditional fantasy story. We work shopped it in the class, and she eventually said she wasn't comfortable judging the story.

I remember she specifically asked me, "How do you want me to judge your writing?"

And I told her, "The same way you judge other books. Good writing is good writing no matter the genre."

She also pointed out that my story was going to have to have a huge dragon/human battle scene. I knew this, it was more story. Indirectly, she told me she didn't think I was capable of writing said scene. That story has been put away for a loooong time.

She eventually denied my petition, so I got my degree in literature. She was a literary writer, so she didn't feel like she could judge genre work. Either way, I got my Master's, so who cares?

Again, my confidence was shaken, and I thought maybe I wasn't as good as I thought I was. I stopped writing for a long time, focusing on editing and helping other writers. Eventually, my friend Tamara talked me back into writing, and the rest is history.

I chuckle to myself because of where I'm at now. I think about those teachers from time to time and resist the urge to rub things in their faces. I don't begrudge them, I can't. Karma doesn't like those who hold a grudge. And I think they're both successful in their own ways. I know one is, but I haven't heard anything about the other. All I can do is look at the lessons they taught me, the obstacles they put in my way, and be thankful I learned something.

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