Years ago, I took a creative writing course at a local college – it was an intensive one week course in the summer – and I hated it.
I was not ready for it. A huge part of writing is having a sense of your own voice and, at that time, I didn’t. My voice was a weird conglomeration of other writers voices, and not a good mix at that.
The teacher had us do an exercise every morning of ‘free thinking’ – we were to write whatever came to mind, freely and without editing. If I was asked to do this now, I think I would be okay. Then? Disaster. I was the self-editing queen. I couldn’t put a verbal sentence together without questioning how it ‘appeared’ to others. I was just a bundle of self-confidence (not).
The worst part of the exercise was that right after we wrote them, we had to read them out loud, in front of the entire class. As a classic introvert, this was beyond painful but even worse because I was convinced everyone else in the class was Hemingway personified and I was just this bumbling word freak. I was psyching myself out of finding any use for this class at all.
The first morning, I waxed lyrically about the dew drops I had seen that morning and the circle of life. It was SO bad. So very, very bad. When I read it out loud, everyone looked at me and then almost simultaneously, their gazes shifted to the next victim.
The second morning was worse.
By the third morning, I was sick of looking stupid. So I wrote something to this effect: “I’m sitting here trying to think of something to write and nothing is coming to mind. Blank. I keep saying to myself: I think I can, I think I can. I sound like a fucking Jenny Craig commercial.”
When I read that out loud, the class burst out laughing. I had an epiphany about my voice.
So, in the end, the course was worth it if for no other reason than I was able to finally get a sense of ‘Chantal the Writer’.
Lately, life has been a bit of quagmire and I feel myself losing my focus, losing my voice. Creativity is so hard to achieve when your brain is whirling with a hundred other worries. I considered signing up for another course — at the Humber School of Writing — but I think this time, it really would be too soon.
So I went to Chapters for inspiration (because what else do you do when you need inspiration of a word geek variety?) and I found it.
It’s 642 off the wall, slightly inane in some cases, topics. But it’s forcing me to think outside the box, literally. Instead of searching for what to write about, I’m given the topic. It’s up to me to rediscover my voice.
Today’s exercise? “The worst Thanksgiving dish you’ve ever had”.
Off to work!