According to Nicole, I give up on writing periodically. It’s a vicious cycle. Something happens that sets me back, and I see no way out of it, so I tell anyone who’ll listen that I, Isis, am no longer a writer. I give up on all of my writing projects for a while, until I finally return to them. Then I realize I was wrong in giving up writing and start off once again with a positive outlook.
So, I wanted to really get to the bottom of this issue. Right now, I’m in the middle of my “Giving Up Writing” period. It’s the toughest one I’ve faced yet, and I want to talk about it.
Currently, I have one semester left at the university where I’m studying. My major is English, with a focus in Creative Writing. I never really had any doubts about my major because writing has been my greatest passion most of my life. I’ve been writing stories for so many years now. It’s something I love doing, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a fan of my own writing. Throughout the years I’ve received harsh, constructive, and passive criticism. I’ve also received a lot of praise. Can you guess which of the two I’ve dwelt on the longest?
In December 2016, I finished my semester. It was the first time I took 5 classes instead of 4, but I worked extra hard, slept less hours, and sacrificed a lot of leisure activities for the sake of school. On top of college, I kept up with my part-time job, so I had my hands full. Anyway, one of my classes was Advanced Creative Fiction Writing. It was my fourth fiction class in my entire college journey, so I was pretty confident about it.
However, I had the worst professor. He was an old, British man, duller than gray. He walked every day into class completely silent, never bothering to greet us. He made our workshops unbalanced, and he rarely noticed the students willing to share their opinions. I disliked him, but I pushed my judgment aside because I wanted to take something from the class.
The first week of school, he gave the class a writing assignment, telling us to write about one of our parents, describing the sensory details of the moment. Since we only had ten minutes to write, I wrote the first the first thought in my mind. I wrote about my mom, dying at the hospital less than a year prior. I immediately regretted it, but the scene was crystal clear in my head, so I wrote and wrote until he said to stop. Then, he did something unexpected. He called on people to read what they’d written. Many people hesitated, but we all relented. There was only five minutes left of class, but the professor picked on me at the end. I read my story with my voice trembling and my hands shaking. He had nothing to say to me after that, but then, neither did I.
There were many instances when this man made me extremely uncomfortable. But I could go on and on complaining about this dull man and it would get me nowhere. I wrote two fiction stories for workshop, neither of which he seemed to like. My final grade was based on my revisions. I was working on serious deadlines, and this might just be an excuse, but I revised my stories based entirely on his criticism. I made all of the changes he demanded, taking my essence out of them. It was the end of my semester and I just needed the grade. Real writing doesn’t happen that way. You don’t shape your writing based on twenty different people telling you how to fix it to each of their liking.
I got a B in the class. This professor felt my writing was only worth a B. The stories that I revised specifically to his suggestions. The stories he hated from the beginning because they had fantastical elements. The B stung bad. It felt like a slap in the face. Maybe there’s a lesson somewhere in there that you can’t please your critics, so just write for yourself, but I don’t think anything I could have written would have earned me an A.
The thing is, I let myself feel the same way Rory Gilmore did when Mitchum Huntzberger told her she was not good enough to be a journalist. I let an old, sleazy man dictate my future because he thought I wasn’t good enough. I gave up on my stories, my characters, myself, because a man, who wasn’t kind enough to create a safe environment in the class, did not approve of me.
This is why I’m so angry right now. I’m angry at myself for allowing this to happen. I cannot let anyone, let alone an old man, tell me I’m not good enough. I need to teach myself self-confidence and self-love so that I can be stronger next time this happens. I know it won’t be the last time someone makes me feel inadequate and inferior about my writing or anything else. I can’t keep giving up.
I won’t lie and say that I’m going to get back to all of my novels right away and write like the world is on fire (it sort of feels that way nowadays). I won’t sit here and say that I’m confident in my skills again. I’m not. I have so many doubts and fears. I’m deeply uncertain about my writing. But I want to change that. I want to write again. I don’t need to have anyone’s approval to do whatever the hell I want to do.