Sometime after attending Broadcasting School, but before I found a place in Technical Support, I fancied myself a burgeoning writer. I knew I was years behind in instruction, practice, and discipline. I thought, ok well I can wallow in that fact or I can try to do some catch-up. So, I looked into the local community colleges course catalog for a beginning writers course, found one and enrolled.
Day one of class I picked a seat in the back. I was committed to the idea of attending the writing course but I didn’t want to be noticed yet. I don’t recall the particulars of how I was introduced to the course syllabus, but I do remember the instructor. She had the appearance of a career instructor and carried herself with the same airs as she spoke. She mentioned quite at length how long and industrious her newspaper career had been. I remember thinking, ok we get it you got the chops to teach, can we get on with the lesson???
Please remember I’m in my twenties in this story and I don’t have anyone else’s interests but mine in focus.
By the end of that first day, I had a clear picture of what the expectations of the course were going to be and it was as rigorous as I had hoped. For at least the duration of this course, I was to make Writing my number one preoccupation. We even had our first exercise that session which was to use the time productively beginning our course journal. But no topic or subject was given to write about. Just write. So I had.
With no other prompt, I just started taking in my surroundings and describing them. I described the room, the other students, and the instructor. I conveyed my thoughts and feelings with my only drive to make sure I paint the picture through my own lens. I wanted to capture the moment I was having in those words. And at the end of the session, I turned in the journal entry for review and went home. The idea was I would have time with the instructor to review my work after she had time to look it over.
Well, apparently I made a very memorable first impression. At the next session, I was the first to be pulled aside. Outside the classroom. In short, I was told in no uncertain terms I was not welcome back into her classroom. She was offended and protective of the current class. She indicated that my application into the course had somehow bumped one of her prized students and I showed nowhere near the potential that the other unfortunate student had.
I was shocked. I’d never been singled out in this way. And the feedback was so negative and so focused I didn’t think twice about not returning. Not then, anyway. Clearly, this memory has stayed with me. But I often think about how it all went down and I’ve wondered if what really happened wasn’t some kind of test.
Because in my heart, I know that what I wrote wasn’t particularly complimentary, but it was vivid. I don’t know how anyone could not have found themselves experiencing what I had seen and felt from those words. And I often think maybe the instructor had not enjoyed that experience but was still affected by it. That may be, technically, I had written a very good piece.
I do wish I could go back in time and whisper to my younger self and say, “Stand fast. Ask questions. Find clarity.” It may have been possible that I could have spun that initial reaction into some appreciation. Did I have ‘Raw Talent’ that just needed some guidance? Could some candor and apologies smooth out any ruffled feathers? At this point, I’ll never know. But I will never forget being kicked out of a writers course for the effect my writing had.
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