On Tuesday, before my Writing Creative Nonfiction class, I overheard a classmate talking about the writing that they’d done this semester. The words were something to the effect of, “I’ve been writing out of my ass all semester. I don’t know where any of you are getting inspiration from, because I’m not.”
And, over the course of the semester, I have heard other complaints about the format of the class and the work that we do in it. That the in-class work is boring; that they don’t understand how to respond to the short pieces; that the online work can’t be done. And I commiserate without agreeing.
My circumstances are different than theirs. I never took a class like this when I got my first degree. At St. John’s, every class involved writing, but no class really taught it. And creative writing was not a part of the curriculum. Perhaps, if I went to a more traditional college and took this kind of class when I was younger, then I’d have the same issues that some of my classmates do.
I know that my writing has matured as I’ve gained more life experience (and as I’ve practiced). I don’t have a problem analyzing excerpts as short as two paragraphs in two free-writing sessions of five minutes each. The pieces are layered, and there are many aspects which can be teased out and analyzed: the language, the use of research, imagery, turns of phrase, repetition, rhetorical devices, format choice, word choice, Biblical references, pop culture references, mythological references, punctuation, sound, personal reactions… I could go on.
But, for whatever reason, my classmates have trouble. They may lack focus, drive, interest or energy for a class that they might have hoped would be easier. I don’t mind, much. I mean, I mind that my writing group has trouble sending out their drafts 48, or even 24, hours in advance of our meeting. But I don’t mind that my classmates aren’t enjoying the class as much as I am.
Because I do enjoy this class. I’m learning from it and developing a greater awareness of how research can enhance not just nonfiction but fiction as well. As a kind of brain break, I recently reread The Metaconcert, by Julian May. It is a part of a series of science fiction books involving telepathic powers and aliens. And from it, I have conceived a desire to visit Mount Washington in New Hampshire, because the descriptions from this book, and others in the series, are so vivid, so real. Small aspects of research are all over those books, and form a part of why I can read them over and over again.
If I were a different kind of person, maybe I would have replied to that classmate complaining of a lack of inspiration. Maybe I would have said, “No one is going to give you inspiration, so there’s no use waiting for it. You have to dig for it, hunt for it, hammer it out on a keyboard. And you have to want it.”
But I didn’t say that, or even a less thought out variation. I sat and watched, seeing others nod or not. And then I took it and used it to make my own inspiration.