You Define Your Writing

It’s late. Nearly 1 am here. I’ve been home from work for about 30 minutes, and I’m trying to wind down. Also, I’m trying really hard to ignore the existence of the left over pizza in the refrigerator downstairs.

Anyway, the wee wakeful hours find me scanning the interwebs in an attempt to satiate this restlessness. So much happens tomorrow.

Sure, sure. All the same old stuff. Sleep, shower, eat, work. But tomorrow my short story will be released by Torrid Literature, which has me beyond pumped. And of course, tomorrow is the start of the Write About Dragons summer course.

I’ve been snooping around the site, critiquing chapters here and there to get a feel for the format and community. But tomorrow I watch my first lecture. I know that it’s all available on YouTube now, that I could watch it at any time, but there’s something about class actually starting tomorrow that has me way too excited. It really is just like the first day of any class. Excited to meet new people, get to know their work, and to get new feedback on my own work. To learn something new from someone so incredibly talented, and be able to utilize it.

It’s made me think about my past instructors, and how much I’ve learned.

Patrick, who is so unbelievably patient. I will always remember his kindness and his genuine enthusiasm. He honestly thinks that everyone can, and should, write. Or at least he’s damn good at sounding like it. The first short story I ever wrote was for his intro to creative writing class, and it was baaaaaaad. But not to Patrick. To Patrick it showed attention to detail and great description and tastefulness. Now, five years later, that short story is a scene waiting to be reborn in a fantasy trilogy I’m outlining.

And Patrick taught me that too. That not every scene or moment or story will end up like you thought. That maybe what you’re writing now doesn’t make sense once the piece is done. Don’t throw it away. Don’t discard it as some failed attempt. Store it. Save it. Keep it in the back of your mind, waiting for its moment. You’ll be surprised to find that, usually, with a few tweaks, that discarded scene will find a home later down the road.

Which brings us back to patience. Patrick is synonymous with patience, and calm, in my mind.

And just a touch of lovable dorkiness. You’d think so too if you’d seen him walk around campus in his bright green-striped shoes.

Then there’s Malik.

Malik took the lofty literary aspirations engraved in me by Patrick, and showed me that they could find a home in more popular fiction. All the concepts and skills involved with the craft of writing didn’t exclude me from the world of science fiction or fantasy. Malik showed me that I’m not constrained to just literary journals and small presses. I don’t have to spend all my future free time at pretentious Writing Conferences. I can write the books that I would want to read, and write them well.

If that’s what I want.

Malik taught me that I can be a normal person and write books too. Who shops at WalMart at 2 in the morning because nothing else is open. Who drinks too much and rarely cooks at home. Who listens to her music too loud and simply doesn’t care. My image of what “good” writers are, was unattainable for me. I was starting to feel as if I didn’t fit into the world I thought I belonged in. But Malik showed me that you don’t let writing define you, you define your writing.

I’m not sure if he knows all this, seeing as I didn’t until about 30 seconds ago, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Also, Malik can teach the shit out of that 3 Act Structure and Hero’s Journey!

Now, I’m not saying one is better than the other. That’s not what it’s about. They are both great teachers, men, and fathers. What makes them so great is their juxtaposition. Patrick woos you in with his calm tone and overall friendliness. He shows you that writing isn’t the scary thing your high school English teacher taught you. And he sets you loose. A year or so later, you find yourself far more invested than you thought you’d ever be, and a much better writer for it.

And then you take Malik’s class. And if you’re me, you miss the first day.

Suddenly “Planning and Structuring the Novel” has turned into “You’re Writing  a Novel This Term” and you’re in over your head. But Malik is laid back, non-pressuring, and horrible at returning papers. So as the course continues it becomes less about actually completing a novel, and more about learning how to complete a novel. And about making some great friends along the way.

And so I wonder what I’ll come away with this time. I won’t actually be communicating with Sanderson, and let’s be honest, that’s for the best. I’d be liable to drool myself stupid. I will learn amazing things from him nonetheless, and I will learn even more from the 1,000+ peers in the Write About Dragons community. That’s why I’m so excited.

And who wouldn’t be?


And now, for that pizza!



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