Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sharpening the Saw

"There are things you do because they feel right & they make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other's cooking & say it was good." --Brian Andreas

You may remember that one of my goals for 2013 is to do more for myself.  Even though January was not the greatest month for us here in Spahnville, I've managed to keep busy doing things that I really enjoy.  I've scrapbooked a lot, I've done some more knitting (thanks to those of you baby producers who keep my fingers busy!), I've done a lot of reading, I've done some writing, and I've done some thinking about creative things to do with Charlie.  And while I've enjoyed doing these things, I've had this nagging thought in the back of my mind that keeps asking me why I keep wasting my time with this stuff.  It's not making me any money and some of the things (like the hats) aren't even for me to keep. Shouldn't I be pouring my energy into something more productive?  Something more lucrative? Shouldn't I be doing more for our family?

I supposed I could be spending what has become my "creative time" doing things like organizing or cleaning, but I don't feel any better when that is accomplished.  And something about that creative outlet seems to keep me balanced.  When I ran across the above quote, I instantly felt like it explained my current feelings.  Maybe hanging out with my family and doing crafts is okay.  Maybe taking care of myself right now is what I need to be doing.  It's no secret that I enjoy being outdoorsy and artsy and crafty, but perhaps a little more unknown is how much I love writing and have always had a secret desire to become "a writer".  In a way, this blog has become such a great outlet for my ramblings.  It's a place for me to write, and also a place for others to keep an eye on Spahnville-- however entertaining or tedious that may be.  Although several people know that I enjoy writing, I've only admitted to two friends that I'm actually interested in "doing it". But honestly, I don't even really know what that means.

When I was a child, I thought my love for writing meant that I was going to be an author.  (Aside from a veterinarian)  I dreamt about living in Vermont (or was it Maine?) in a log cabin with three Golden Retrievers (who were apparently going to serve as my muses?) As I grew older, I continued to keep this dream deeply hidden but very still very much alive.  Although it was intriguing, creative writing turned into something that always seemed unlikely, too far-fetched, and never seemed possible.

For these and other reasons, I ended up choosing a different career path, and it has been one that I enjoy very much.  But as I just mentioned, the idea of writing is never far from my mind.  Everything I do, every situation I'm in, every funny experience I have, every little quote from Charlie becomes something that I think, "This would be great in a book!". When I see crazy people at Wal-Mart or meet an interesting person while standing in a line, I think about the character they could become in a book.  When I stop and think about it,  I'm constantly thinking of writing.  My head is a never-ending banter of sentences I could string together in a story.  Sometimes, I string these thoughts together in a blog post, but that's about it.  

And lately, I've wanted more than just my blog.  I've wanted to write something. The problem, is that I don't really know what to write or even how to write.  I don't have a story.  I don't have any ideas.  I don't have a voice.  Or do I?  People have commented on my writing, but honestly, it's something in which I have very little confidence.  In fact, just writing and publishing this post, admitting that I love the act of writing is a little daunting to me.  But I feel like it's time for me to move, time to quit saying "someday", and perhaps actually try to do it.

And isn't it funny how the Universe works?  How it just seems to steer you onto the path you need to be at this moment.... even though the path may be windy and longer and more scenic than you would like?  Lately, I have had so many "writer things" fall into my lap.  There have been articles in magazines, news stories on TV, mail flyers, and conversations that all focus on becoming a better writer.  So finally, rather than ignoring these little "nudges" from the Universe, I decided to follow them.  I found an online creative writing class offered by a local community college with a class description that sounded perfect:

If you've always wanted to write but have no idea where to start, this course will demystify the process for you. You'll get a taste of the writing life, improve your writing skills, and develop new ways to stretch your creative muscles. 

This exciting, hands-on course for the creative writing novice is filled with challenging exercises, expert advice, and plenty of direct support and encouragement. As you work your way through the lessons, you'll develop your own short, creative fiction or nonfiction piece. 

Our emphasis in this course is on developing your skills through practice, so you’ll spend more time writing than reading. You'll master important concepts by completing enjoyable writing exercises and assignments, and you'll discover a variety of strategies and techniques the pros use to develop characters, create a compelling point of view, build interest through dialogue, and add meaning to your stories.

It just so happens that the course started yesterday.  (Again, thank you Universe)  So, I plopped down the $99.00 fee and am now enrolled in an online Creative Writing class. The online part means that it's entirely conducted through email and website discussion boards.  There is no class time, there is nothing to watch or technologically hook up.  There is no requirement for special internet browsers or plug ins.  It's just a web page with the lessons, assignments, and class discussions online.  This means I can participate from the comfort of my own home at nap time, after suppertime, or even bedtime.  I get to stay in my comfy's and don't need to move from my couch.  Throughout the class, I'm hoping to figure out what I could write about, get lots of practice, receive some feedback, and maybe gain a little confidence.

Our class is very diverse; composed of people ages 18-72, from every possible background and occupation, with interests in every possible writing genre.   We have total anonymity online-- and are encouraged to read the writing of others' and provide feedback as the course continues.  This, in itself, terrifies me.  I don't mind people reading my blog, but the thought of people reading my..... writing... scares me to death.

What if everything I write is stupid?  What if it's the dumbest idea ever? What if it's super cliche?  What if that, in turn, means everyone thinks I'm stupid and dumb and cliche?  These are my very real fears but I'm going to go ahead and jump into this.  Writing is something I love to do and want to become better at-- I need to "sharpen the saw" so to speak.  It feels right, it makes no sense, and will probably not make any money.  But perhaps that is why I'm here.  And hopefully, in 6 weeks I'll be able to say that I learned something, improved a bit, and had a little fun in the process.

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