Training Wheels

I did not believe in creative writing courses. That is, until I signed up for one. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it helped me evolve and how many perspectives it opened for me. But I’ll try.

I used to believe that writers are born the way they are, and that no course in the world can teach you how to write. Now, I think that writers have a special innate feature, very hard to define. I see it as a mixture of creativity, an unique vision of the world, a particular sensibility, and the drive to express these thoughts and ideas. Where do the creative writing courses come in, then? Well, they teach you to give a shape to these ideas, a form which would evoke feelings of pleasure to your readers, when confronted with your work. Too abstract for you? Let me explain. I’ll give you an example-my little Novel.

 

 

 

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Every mommy thinks that her baby is perfect. At first. Then comes the disenchantment – well, the Smiths’ kid is doing the Tour de France already, why can’t mine even ride a bike? Where’s the problem? I can’t possibly judge my child objectively , I already know too much about it. Mommy knows that something’s wrong, but she can’t put her finger on it. So she takes Novel to the physiotherapist . In the waiting room, you can see a dozen of other parents with their children, wearing the same anxious faces as you do. The room is overcrowded , the atmosphere is stifling. Suspicious faces. ‘What am I doing here?’, you ask yourself. You can tell that the others have the same problem, but everybody is too frightened to talk about it. What will the others think?
Finally, the therapist comes in. After throwing a fugitive glance around the room, she says

 

“Well, folks, it’s easy, actually. Y’all need a pair of training wheels.”

 

The parents are stupefied.
“Yes, yes, let’s get to it! I’ll give you a couple of tips and tricks, but you’ll have to do all the training yourselves. Don’t worry, I’m here, I can tell you if you’re doing well or if you need to change anything in the way you’re doing it.”
Increased stupefaction, raised eyebrows . In the end, everybody does as they are told.

Then you discover that you are enjoying the little exercises that you are doing with your little Novel. The atmosphere relaxes, you begin to talk to the other parents.
“Hey, you know what, I really like your kid, but, if you want my advice , listen to this…”
Half-way through the course, you discover that new perspectives have been opened for you. You finally see Novel in a completely different light. You get and you give feedback, and it gives you a feeling of what works and what doesn’t . Of what is too much and too little detail. Whether if the rhythm is too slow and you have too many pages filled with irrelevant scenes, or if you should rather pace little Novel.

You have ups and downs, sometimes you’re so pleased with your homework, that you could kiss the computer screen. At other times, you’re in awe after having read something one of your classmates has posted.

You doubt yourself. You say to yourself, ‘I wish I could write like that’( or was it merely a huge coincidence that all my fellow students are so talented? Are all courses like this?) . But you know that next time you’ll strive to improve your work.

In the end, you finally understand what went wrong , and you know how to do better. You train, and train, and train, until Novel rides the bike by herself. And then, you can finally take those extra wheels off.

My private epiphany? I thought that I couldn’t describe settings, so I just rushed through them and concentrated on other characters , dialogue or actions. Wrong. The reader craves to be oriented, or so I’ve now learned. He can’t picture for himself the scene you have in your head until you describe it to him. I thought I couldn’t do it, until I had to , for an exercise. Settings, settings, settings. And it worked, and I was pleased with the result. But do you know how much rewriting that entails? Ouch! Training wheels are almost off, but there’s a long way until I can enlist in the Tour de France.

What I’m trying to say is that I am eternally grateful to my fellow students and to my tutor, Bridget Holding ( http://www.wildwords.org ). I have evolved so much , in so many ways, that I didn’t even deem possible in the beginning.

However, I find that Novel needs a little rest now. Nothing against Novel, but some things simply have to sink in first, before I figure out how to apply them.

Now, I have conceived another baby , which I am trying to raise. Her name is Novella. But this one-this one will learn how to fly.

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