When I was a child, I was on top of the world in the writing field. That might be because, to me, I was the only writer that I knew. I edited my own work, which turned out to be me rewriting everything I already wrote. No one could beat me.
My friends and family all smiled at my written work. They may not have understood where the stories came from, but they loved them nevertheless. For the most part, they encouraged me. They never said to stop writing or that I couldn’t become published.
College hit after that.
In English classes, we turned our desks to face each other in a circle. We sat there, exposed while discussing different works from published writers and ourselves. For the first few days, we were awkward about it like the awkward writers we were. We avoided eye contact and pretended something interesting sat on top of our desks.
I didn’t belong there. I glanced around at all the juniors and seniors around the room with shaking eyes. Some of them were sophomores, sure, but I was at least about two years younger than all of them. I was so nervous that my feet didn’t even touch the floor until the class was almost over. They hanged onto each other to stop myself from shaking.
“Since this is a writing class and I’m sure not all of you wrote over the Christmas break, let’s do a short writing exercise,” my college professor said in a loud voice one time. Her voice echoed off the walls, leaving us no room to hide from her words. “It’s going to be a free write. Write about whatever you want for five minutes. I’ll let you get out your pens and paper first though.”
To this day, I couldn’t tell you what I wrote about. Fiction? Always. Fantasy? Maybe. Emotions were spinning inside of me, but I don’t remember which ones. Scared? Maybe. Intimidated? Always. I knew I could write well, but I wasn’t sure how well anymore with all these other writers around.
We got the choice of sharing our work after the exercise was over. A few of us did. One boy, who slouched in his chair except when he leaned over his desk to read his work, stuttered his poetry words out. Another poet read her lyrical story. One or two read the beginning of their fiction adventures. My shoulders relaxed a bit as I realized no one wrote non-fiction even though we were sitting in a non-fiction classroom.
But all their works made me feel as if I was the dirt to their flower. I was happy for them, but there was no competition. Of course, they had to be better than me. They had years of experience. Some had workshops before whereas I’ve never had another dedicated writer to share my work with.
I bit my lower lip as the class was dismissed. Some students bolted out the door, but I took my time. I stayed, half listening to some students introduce theirselves to our professor. I made mental notes of who each of them were. Next class, I’d learn more about them with more mental notes. I had to catch up.
My favorite word has been ‘courage’ for a while, but I always felt I didn’t have any. I always shut down with new experiences. I froze up every time. But, somehow, I unfroze when my professor asked if I was okay.
My writing exercise was still in my hands. “I’m actually a freshman. I noticed there was no other freshman here…” …in this junior level class… “I was wondering if you could read some of my work. See if I’m good enough.”
“Of course.” She took the paper without a smile. I’m not sure where her smile went. I wasn’t good with words. Words always tripped me up in my speech. I could’ve said that better for her and maybe she would’ve still smiled.
When people read my work, I was never sure what to do. Sometimes I tried to preoccupy myself with something around, which this time was my backpack. But it didn’t take long to put my backpack up or my headphones in. I finished those tasks too fast. I had nothing else to do but look out the dark windows or watch my professor’s reactions.
She nodded along a couple of times. Her face stayed blank for the most part, hidden.
“This is good,” she said, handing my paper back to me. “You don’t need to worry about being in this class. Obviously, you have the ambition to be here. You’ll do well here.”
My writing improved the most in that semester than in any other year I’ve ever written because of her motivation. She’s still the most encouraging teacher I’ve had ’til this day. In a world of subjective opinions to everything I create, she stood as my barrier. I’m grateful for that.