Wednesday, March 20, 2013
On Becoming a Writer
I have been doing a lot of writing lately. A type of writing that extends my skills beyond the, "Hey, this is what I made..." or "Here is what we did..." kind of writing I do for this here little blog. But I am finding myself frustrated and in need of a little course in creative non-fiction to develop my ability to express what I see taking shape in my mind.
I don't come from a strong academic background. It would be safe to say that I squeaked by in high school and really, honesty my 18 year-old self had no idea why I was even going on to college. Most at the time said I was just there for my "Mrs." degree. The idea that I would find a husband at University was the last thing on my mind... as I look back I think I was hoping I would find myself.
After a series of major changes and failing grades, as a Jr. I decided to quit and join the Coast Guard. Seeing as I was extremely athletic, the only thing that had kept me in school up to that point, this would have been a great career choice. With my background in swimming and life guarding I set my sites on becoming a rescue swimmer. I was two weeks away from heading down to San Francisco to sign up when I met him. Yes. The man who would make all the naysayers happy by fulfilling the "Mrs." part of my "education." But it was more than that... He encouraged me to stay in school, he taught me study skills, and gave me "permission" to focus on building knowledge instead of just muscle. It was a turning point. I stayed in school and turned my failing grades into a spot on the Presidents List in the course of one semester. It was a whirlwind Senior year filled with writing and studying but I was still in survival mode. I was trying to learn everything I should have learned in high school and those first years of college in the course of a few semesters, while maintaining my course load. I did it but not much stuck.
After graduation I worked a series of jobs that did not require much writing. Even as a high school teacher the writing was minimal and "elementary" in terms of creativity and depth. So here I am knocking on 40's door craving direction and focus in my writing.
Last week on twitter I asked about resources for creative nonfiction and the resounding response from Amanda and Patricia was to read authors who write what you want to write. All kinds of suggestions where offered. I was writing them down, building a list. I felt like I was creating my very own class in creative nonfiction. I headed to the library online catalog and started requesting whatever I could find. Yesterday I came home with Dillard, Berry, and Pollan. My reading ticket filled with inspiration.
I started reading last night and as Patricia suggested, I am taking notes. I jot down the phrases, words or symbolism that I like, trying to tease out the things that make it all come together in a way that resonates with me, the reader. I am looking forward to this little course. And I am thankful to Patricia and Amanda for their contribution and direction.
I am also reading through Patricia's posts about her year of excellent essayists. It is an inspiring series not only about essayists but also about creating your own course of study designed to be exactly what you want it to be!
Beginning this process has, of course, made me reflect on our homeschooling. The kids gave me a laugh a little while back when after I told them about yet another class my mom was taking they responded, "Grandma is a homeschooler too!" I love that at almost seventy years old my mom is still learning and designing her own "education" around her interests. I love even more than the kids acknowledge that it is life learning... at seven or seventy.
When you want to learn something new or develop a skill where do you turn?