Yesterday on The Missouri Review blog, I wrote an essay called “10 Things Emerging Writers Should Learn.” These types of lists, usually dressed up as general advice, are ubiquitous and easy to find online, but I hope that this is found to be a little playful, a bit fun, while also making some good, simple points about what an emerging writer should do, both as a writer and as a literary citizen. It may be a small distinct, but my first inclination was not to use the word Learn but the word Know.
Learn is better. Too often, we assume that simply because we know something, and that knowledge is so ingrained in how we behave on a daily basis, everyone else should know it, too. It’s far too easy to forget that there was a time when we didn’t know anything. We knew less than nothing. If we even knew we knew nothing, that would be something. But we didn’t. So! Learn, however, is a word that suggest process and progress, that all of these things take time, and that we are, always, striving to discover more about the fine art of storytelling. No one has ever mastered it. No one ever sits in front of the page and fails to struggle.
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Once I took my first creative writing workshop in college, I was pretty much hooked. Ohio State is on a quarter system, so I had time to fulfill the requirements that Ohio State had towards having an English degree with a specialty in creative writing: five workshops, and the Advanced Fiction Writing class could be repeated three times for full credit. I had an aversion to poetry—which I thankfully grew out of—and determined that after Mary’s class, I could take four more creative writing classes: three in fiction, and one in nonfiction. This seemed like a good plan, and one that I stuck with until it was time to leave Columbus.
Junior year of college, in my memory, seems magical. Maybe not magical, that might be a bit of a reach, a bit sentimental and melodramatic. But junior year is when I hit my stride as a college student. I spent my freshman year not really sure what I was doing in college. I ate a lot of hamburgers and watched a lot of basketball. I was shy, a bit dorky, and liked to spend lots of my time by myself. It also probably didn’t help to have kept up my relationship with my high school girlfriend (note to incoming college freshman: go to college single!). (more…)