When I was a child, I was on top of the world in the writing field. I was the only writer 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 they came from, but they still liked them. For the most part, they encouraged me. They never said to stop writing or that I couldn’t get published.
College hit after that.
In writing classes, we turned our desks to face each other in a circle. We sat there exposed and discussed different works. For the first few days, we were awkward about it like the weird writers we were. We avoided eye contact and pretended something interesting sat on our desks.
I didn’t belong there. I glanced around at all the juniors and seniors around the room with shaking eyes. Some were sophomores, but I was about two years younger than them. I was so nervous that my feet didn’t touch the floor until the first class was almost over. They hung onto each other to stop myself from shaking.
“Since y’all didn’t write over the break, let’s do a short writing exercise,” my college professor said in a loud voice. 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.”
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 did. One boy, who slouched in his chair except when he leaned over his desk to read his work, stuttered his poetry out. Another poet read her lyrical story. One or two read the beginning of their fiction adventures. My shoulders relaxed a bit when I realized no one wrote non-fiction even though we were sitting in a non-fiction classroom.
But their works made me feel as if I was the dirt to their flowers. I was happy for them, but there was no competition. Of course, they were better than me. They had years of experience. Some had workshops before whereas I had never had another dedicated writer to share my work with.
I bit my lower lip when the class dismissed. Some students bolted out the door, but I took my time. I stayed, half listening to some students introduce themselves to our professor. I made mental notes of who each were.
My favorite word had been ‘courage’ for a while, but I always felt that I didn’t have any. I always shut down and ran from new experiences. I froze up every time. But, somehow, I unfroze when my professor asked if I was okay.
“Yeah.” My writing exercise was still in my hands. “I’m a freshman actually. 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 wasn’t sure where her smile went.
I wasn’t good with spoken words though. They always tripped me up in my speech. I could’ve said that better to 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. But it didn’t take long to put my backpack up or my headphones half in. I finished those tasks too fast. I had nothing else to do but look out the dark windows or watch my professor’s reaction.
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 because of her motivation. She still stayed 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 was grateful for that.