Learning to Write

Tonight, I’ll be attending a NaNoWriMo kick starter event at a local library.  A friend of mine is presenting and the event is open to anyone who is thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo, as well as those who have participated in the past.  As y’all know, Boy Band started out as a NaNoWriMo project and has received such positive feedback that I’m planning on releasing the sequel in just a few short months.  It goes without saying that I am a big supporter of NaNoWriMo.

But you know, all this talk about writing seminars reminds has started taking me back to my own days in college, when I was just figuring out that I wanted to write.  Really write.  I remember Meg Cabot (one of my writing idols) advising young aspiring authors NOT to take any writing classes.  She claimed that studying something would instantly kill any and all love you once held for it.  To an extent, I found this to be true.

I took a few writing classes throughout my six years of higher education.  Some of which I enjoyed.  Some of which I hated so much I had to block them out.

I won’t waste too much time talking about the classes I didn’t enjoy.  One of them was screenplay writing. I think I would have really enjoyed it had it not been for my instructor.  He was a bitter, failed novelist and he made it no secret that he did not give two flying flips what we learned in that class, if anything.  The other was a short story class.  My final story was nothing exceptional, although I can’t help but remember it was about ghosts and demons and things that went bump in the night.  It seems I’ve always harbored that dark fascination.

The writing class that I really, truly enjoyed was a poetry class, which is funny, because I am a truly terrible poet.  That’s probably why I enjoyed the class, though.  Because I was learning something new.  I’ve written a grand total of three poems that I’m actually proud of.  Two of which are here.  The third is about killing a cockroach in New Braunfels.

Perhaps my favorite class of all, however, was children’s literature.  Even though it technically wasn’t a writing class, we all had to come up with our own final project to present at the end of the semester.  I decided to write and illustrate my own children’s book.  I’m actually quite tempted to upload it and share it with you here.  I’m pretty proud of it, even though the illustrations and the book itself leave much to be desired.  Still, I’ll never forget standing up in front of the class to show off the book.  My classmates were bewildered that I’d gone with writing a children’s book over writing a paper. One girl actually asked me, “Why would you do that?!” I guess to them, writing a paper was a lot less work, and it probably was.  But to me, writing a book was a lot more fun.  And it still is.

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Mainstream

I had a conversation with my friend last night that really got me thinking back on my college days.  I realize that, in the almost two years I’ve been keeping this blog, I’ve never really talked about my days as a student at the University of Texas at Dallas.  I’ve touched on Grad School here and there, but for the most part, I keep my college days in my past.

There are a few reasons for that.  For one thing, I was a very different person back then.  Not so different that I would hate myself or that you wouldn’t recognize me, but I definitely had an attitude.  I was still bitter about a lot of things that had happened to my family and to people I love.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do or how I was going to get to wherever I was going.

In spite of my personal issues, UTD was a great school.  I learned a lot and for the most part, had a pretty great time.  There was one class there, though, that really rubbed me the wrong way.

I won’t name names or reveal the exact class because I don’t want to be the person who trash talks others online.  I can tell you one was a study of the arts class and I took nothing away from it except that I wanted to do the exact opposite of everything that instructor told me.  I saw no value in what was taught and I found a lot of the material weird, inappropriate, and to be honest, a little gross.  I was genuinely disturbed by what that professor considered “art” and truly resented the way he looked down on “mainstream” artists.  For him, an artist or a writer or a filmmaker only had value if what they produced was “outside the box,” in other words “weird and creepy.”

Do you want to know my dirty little secret?

I want to be mainstream.  I want my books and my photographs to appeal to a lot of different people.  I don’t want to be a part of his stupid, snobby, elitist group of “artists” who “think outside the box.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I think genuinely thinking outside the box is a good thing.  I think it’s a very good thing.  But what this guy called “thinking outside the box,” I call “being weird for the sake of shock value.”  And some of it was really shocking, let me tell you.  I won’t go into detail, but one of his “projects” involved really disgusting puppets.  It still gives me nightmares.

I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about my education at UTD.  My academic experience was, overall, very, very positive.  But our discussion last night really got me thinking about this one class.  To be honest, I’m not even sure that professor is still there or if that class is still being taught.  All I can tell you is that if he ever contacts me and tells me that he likes my books, I’ll know I’ve done something wrong.