In life, I’ve always had moments where I couldn’t believe I did something or others where I wish I had, and didn’t out of fear. One of those moments was when I had wanted to pick up more techniques when it came to writing. I knew how to create free-verse poetry or short stories; but I didn’t know the first thing when it came to pacing and planning a novel; or the realities of building a career as a writer. I’d never stepped out of my comfort zone, and I thought it was about time I did.
I’d thought about taking a course in creative writing to build up that expertise for around two years. I searched around for a while, but my heart wasn’t really committed. The doubt crept in, and I did wonder if I could stick the course. I had put the idea aside, until I had coffee with a friend to catch-up, and she had said she’d found a course she was thinking of studying. It happened to be a creative writing course at the place we worked. When she was describing it, it seemed like the perfect fit, I didn’t know why I hadn’t considered it before; and it was ideal, we could study together, so at least I wouldn’t be going through it alone.
The course ticked all the boxes, I could fit it around work (only four hours a week in class) and it was easy to get to, if anything it practically on my doorstep. The modules were also a big selling point as it balanced professional modules alongside those that focused on honing writing skills.
It couldn’t hurt to apply, so I did. I won’t lie, I was nervous, but I’d taken my leap of faith; and it wasn’t long before I had an offer to study. I was excited to say the least. This was my opportunity to become a better writer. That’s what I wanted. I didn’t just want to make things up as I went along, I wanted to understand how other forms of writing worked; so I didn’t doubt myself when I posted, and I could engage more with the writing community as a whole. I, also, wanted to learn how I could market myself professionally if I wanted to do freelance work. Of course, I enjoyed writing for myself, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there wasn’t a part of me that wanted to branch out. Test the waters, and write as a career; and to do that I needed to understand how I could do that and curate a portfolio of my work.
Apart front this, I don’t know what I expected at first with how the course would be taught, however, it wasn’t what I had imagined. The modules were more reading based and flexible, open to interpretation. We had amazing discussions on writer’s and topics surrounding our community – one I was enrolled into and quickly became more a part of. I learnt valuable lessons on how to get a novel published. That said, I felt we missed a few key things. How do we deal with rejection, as in what other possibilities we could explore or how to improve? As well as what we can do in terms of freelance work. We tended to focus more on publishing independently, or getting a novel published. What that the only career option available to a writer? I’d had other expectations and hopes of more variety.
I’ll admit my experience on the course was somewhat skewed, I suffered a lot with my health and I had to juggle my studies around work. I didn’t feel like I felt apart of the class, more of an outsider. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, just a symptom of my circumstances. I was either absent and ill or rushing to and from class to my job. That left me with little time to get to know anyone, besides my friend; but I was grateful to have someone to study with, and one who understood how busy I was as she was in the same boat as me.
I continued to struggle with the structure, pace and fluidity of the course. I’d previously studied on a course that had a lot more control and a routine; and after a year or so out of university, I needed that more than ever. I suppose I wanted what I’d had before, where discussions were more organised, content more career based and the marking criteria clearer. Yet, if the course has taught me one thing, it’s to ask questions, such as how do you mark art? It’s never as straight forward we’d like to assume, as everyone’s tastes differ, as does their viewpoint and experience.
At one point, I wasn’t sure I would stay and continue my studies. My expectations and my reality were two completely different things; and they were at constant war with each other. I’d end up feeling frustrated and stressed that I wasn’t understand the course, or the module I liked the sound of wasn’t what I’d hoped.
In hindsight I wish I’d grounded myself, been more realistic. I should have taken the course part-time, so it wasn’t constantly a balancing act. It would allow me more time to participate and perhaps get to know my peers more. My mum helped me see sense, and I did continue my studies. I’d come so far in my studies, it seemed wasteful to give up now (especially when I only had one assignment left to finish) till I’d completed it.
I did put in feedback about the course structure and feedback. How the modules could benefit from handbooks, with the marking criteria and outline, as well as clearer communication between lecturers and students. It may have been a tad late to help me, although they did take it on board and put more support in place for the final project. I do hope that it’ll benefit future students of the course, as well as allow the content of it to improve and perhaps better reflect the needs of future writers.
It give me some excellent highlights to take away from the course. My dissertation being one. It was my first realised novel, one that I’d planned from start to finish. That in itself was a huge step for me as a writer, and it taught me a lot about how to pace, write with flow and try and engage my readers. It was also the longest project I’d ever worked on, so it mixed emotions submitting it. I felt happy, sad, relieved and oddly at peace with myself.
I’d dedicated it to my late granddad too, as it was a piece showing how dementia impacts not just one person, but a whole family. I hope he’d like that I was raising awareness and that he’d understand that it was a way to help me grieve.
The biggest lesson I learnt from my course, however, came after my final result. It was to stop waiting for me to become this amazing writer. I need to stop doubting who I am, and just embrace it. My work, this place, everything I’ve created is proof of this. I’m a writer. As time goes on, I will always grow and be flexible to new ideas and changes, that doesn’t mean I have to dislike where I’ve come from or what I’ve created in the meantime. In fact, I should few it as more of a journey and be happy to simply make something.
It’s why I celebrated my graduation. I had my family, partner and friends close by to share in a great day. We laughed, after I stressed in the morning – I’ve always hated being late! It was a truly fantastic way to close a chapter, one that brought a few happy tears to my eyes. The course had allowed me to grow, albeit it in an unexpected way and in a way, I’m glad I took the leap of faith because it made me better; even made me realise I was a writer, and that I could do it, as well as reminding me to never doubt that.