I had the awesome opportunity this past Saturday to put on my big girl pants and head into the city.
It was finally time for a much-anticipated writing class I signed up for.
I enrolled in a Gotham Writer’s workshop fiction writing class, a one-day intensive kick-your-butt-into-writing-gear kind of class.
I got up early, drove an hour to the train, missed the first one, waited for the second one, strapped on my iPod and headed to Grand Central. Then I hopped the subway to Union Square and rushed through the streets of New York trying to make it by the 11 a.m. check-in. With a few minutes to spare, I checked in and plopped myself down in the student chair. I was tired from foolishly not eating a good enough breakfast, but I was raring to go.
All that rushing around, well, it was a good thing. I didn’t have time to feel what I was really feeling about the whole thing.
I admit, this old-er writer mom was a wee bit nervous.
First, it’s been a looong while since I set foot in a classroom — at least one that doesn’t have miniature chairs and a teacher telling me how my own kid is doing or involve sitting on the floor, all fat and pregnant learning about how to birth your baby without drugs.
Second, although I do enjoy a big city, they tend to make me a little anxious. They are so big. And New York, well it is HUGE.
Riding the subway is a little nerve-wracking too because even after I finally bit the bullet and began riding underground years ago, I still find myself asking the first person I see whether this particular train will take me to my destination. Can you say TOURIST? Here’s my purse too! (That’s stereotypical. New Yorkers are nice. When they look at you.)
And third, I was sure that I would be the oldest one there. I would be the older lady among the young’uns who are more tech savvy than me, have less gray hair than me and can sit through a marathon class without having to readjust their old bones. Or pee every half hour or so.
Alas, I was not the oldest one there.
Just the second oldest. Me and one man in his 50s amongst a bunch of youngsters all trying to master the craft.
But in reality, age didn’t matter at all.
We were all aspiring writers wanting to get something a little different from Gotham.
I was hoping that this class would somehow be my jumpstart to getting all my garbled thoughts and ideas and starts and stops into some organized manner so I could sit down and boom! Write that book.
Okay, so I obviously didn’t come home and immediately write the next Hunger Games or anything like that. Surely it can’t be that easy right?
But it sure was a good start.
I learned more than I thought I needed to know.
The thing that stayed with me was the lecture on creativity. Keep a journal in your purse, by your bed side, on your person. And you never know, some guy smelling melons in Whole Foods, the couple arguing on 5th Avenue or the dream you had last night about Britney Spears just might be the basis for a story.
Another great exercise: think of a number and weave it into your story. It was amazing the things that people came up with. With just a number as a prompt. Amazingly creative people.
I actually challenged my son with this the other day as we sat in the waiting area while my daughter was at dance class.
He picked five and came up with a beautiful story about camping in Yosemite and how quiet it was and within five minutes of laying his head down, he heard the pack of wolves — the Druid pack — the sound of their pad pishing outside his tent. The details were great.
I was thoroughly impressed! All around a number. He was so proud of himself, he brought it to class and shared it with his 4th grade teacher.
Sorry to digress.. this mom is proud.
Anyway, back to class. We followed each lecture with a writing exercise or two and shared our stories with the class.
That part was a little scary at first, but I figured I had age on my side. Those literary little whippersnappers wouldn’t dare disrespect me or poke fun at my prose. I am their elder after all and one knows that one must respect one’s elders. Right?
The professor, a 30ish woman from Tel Aviv who had her MFA from Sarah Lawrence was in a word — inspiring.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of teaching a seven-hour class is daunting to say the least. I once went in to my son’s preschool class just to talk for a few minutes about newspaper reporting on Career Day. Those little four-year-olds made me sweat. Long stares. Silence. And a few trying to throw me off my game by picking their noses.
Oh the memory makes me shudder.
My writing teacher, however, did not miss a beat. Everything was fresh and spirited and presented in a way that was encouraging and provoking and fun.
I wrote a lot and found out some things about myself as a writer in the class:
- I am a slow writer. Some of the students had three pages long hand in the time it took me to get that one. I revised as I went along. Not sure if this is good or bad, but something to work on.
- I also learned that if I just take the time to put them down on paper, some of my ideas are actually pretty good.
- There is nothing to fear but fear itself. (Although we learned to avoid these kind of stock phrases and cliches, this particular one is sooo true.) If you are a scaredy cat, afraid of trying, afraid of failing then you can kiss your dream of being a published author good-bye.
I am excited and want to sign up for another class. I may do the online thing, a 10-week class more focused on the genre I want to try.
In any case, this experience enlightened and uplifted me.
And since I don’t really have anything else pressing, I might as well get a move on.
Wish me luck.
(If you want. I hate telling people what to do. If you are my sisters, you are laughing now.)
Well, off I go.