A while back, I had written a post in defense of being schooled in creative writing. Of course, this was early in my college career and I lacked a certain level of maturity. Now, I realize that all of you who are not trained, who do not go to school for it, who just sit back and write, you are blessed.
You do not have to be surrounded by people who tell you that you’re wrong for doing something a little differently. I write linearly. I find it easier to think and plan and know where I have come from and where I am going with a particular piece of writing (whether it’s a short story or a novel). However, at my school, they are vehement supporters of the “write whatever is pulling at your heartstrings this moment and piece it back together later.” I struggle with this and, as a result, end up writing almost three times as much as my classmates since I have to write the whole of a piece, not just segments to turn in (unless I’m letting myself be in the mindset that I call, “play time,” in which case, I can do whatever they want but what I produce doesn’t matter, it’s just practice).
I know that, once I’m in the professional sphere, it won’t matter how I go about writing, just that I produce quality work within the given deadline. Yet, for some unknown reason, when I happen to mention the way I write, my instructors look at me, aghast, and I feel ostracized from a community in which I should feel welcome.
You are also not surrounded by people who make petty judgments about you because you’ve identified yourself as this sort of writer or that sort of writer. True, when you enter into the publishing sphere, there’s judgment, but at that point, you can basically say, “Well, such-and-such editor thought my work was good enough to fight for its publication, so *stick tongue out* nyah.” Okay, you’ll probably be a little more mature about it than that, but you get my point.
At school, I am very much the outsider, the unwanted, because I happen to identify my work as genre. Honestly, I don’t give a flying toot anymore what it gets classified as, I just find the shorthand term easier than trying to explain what it is that I write. Unfortunately, the vast majority of my instructors have never read a “genre” book in their lives and so think that, for example, fantasy means scantily clad barbarians killing monsters or that science fiction is laser gun battles on Mars when anyone who’s ever read any “genre” can tell you that it’s more than just that, it’s a complicated field of books that have sub-fields and sub-sub-fields, each catering to a different kind of reader and, within that, an individual book catering to the personality of the writer seeking their audience with a story they must tell.
And while you may have fellow writers around you who are immature and rather cruel at times, you don’t get a whole frickin’ department of insecure, cruel young adults who see everyone around them as potential competition and so therefore must rip their neighbor to shreds in order to make them feel good about themselves and remove their fellow writers from the field of combat even when, for the love of all that’s holy and unholy, you’re not even in the same field! Hell, you’re not even in the same country.
I envy you, self-trained writer working in solitude with maybe a writing group and an online forum. I want to be you again and not have to put up with all this shit anymore. I miss not feeling endless anxiety and fear, not being terrified to read my work aloud lest it get pissed on by my instructors, not constantly questioning my worth as a writer and as a human being. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of this stress. I want to love writing again.
Oh self-taught writer, teach me how? I fear I have forgotten.