Friday, July 18, 2008

What did you learn?

Please post a comment here telling us what you learned from this class. Thanks!


Hyacinth Girl said...

What didn't I learn?

1) This was an amazing experience
2) Adverbs are - or can be - BAD
3) Annie Dillard is a snob
4) Stephen King would be a great neighbor
5) Writing - and revising - is hard work
6) I really enjoy that work
7) I need to spend time on my writing, because it's worthwhile
8) Amy and Mary Alice are fantastic teachers
9) We all have stories to tell
10) I am blessed to share this world with such an amazing group of classmates

P.S. I like blue nail polish!

Ronnie said...

When I first heard about this class, I knew I had to take it. I needed an infusion of the arts to revive me for the coming school year. I would also have said then that I love to write. Since I have learned how to be a good editor and “tell the truth” as Steven King taught us in On Writing, I would have to change that last sentence to I need to write.
I have always had words, lines, snippets of conversations, and even whole scenes dancing themselves across the stage of my mind. I’ve kept them pretty bottled up even though they nagged at me to be siphoned off, if for no other reason, to relieve the tension and quiet my brain for a little while. But this class has increased the tension, the need to write it down. The memories have bubbled up and spilled over. So much so that today I actually had to pull over on the way home to jot down the words flowing through my head. I would like to be able to say that the tightness in my chest eased after that and I was able to breathe a little better, but it didn’t. I knew that eventually I would have to edit the damned thing and sweat over the sound and placement of each word and image as we have done over and over these past two weeks.
Before now, I have never agonized like this over my writing. In the past, I wrote it and put it away or turned it in for a grade if needed. This class has taught me to dig deeper, analyze, choose the best words, paint a more vivid picture, and yes, it has frustrated me. But it has also stretched me and challenged me to become a better writer and a better editor.
I have dreamed of being a writer since before I knew how to form letters. Long before I knew how to write my ABCs, I practiced loopy curls across the page and then read my stories to my mom. I know now that it takes more than dreaming; it takes guts and hard work to be a writer—especially a writer of memoir (although I suspect that all writers inject a little memoir even into their fictional pieces).
Though I won’t miss the daily commute to Charleston, I will miss the “approved/sanctioned” time to write, the camaraderie, encouragement, advice and support of my fellow writers, and the very practical and challenging instruction this class has offered.

P.S. I’m glad I learned to blog in “polite company.”

Julie said...

The last time I was this excited about reading and writing I was an undergraduate in the 80's. Being surrounded by people who love words as much as I do has been wonderfully invigorating. Of course, coming to class without shoulder pads or a hangover has been pretty nice as well!

Having Amy and Mary Alice as teachers, models, and mentors has been nothing less than a blessing. Putting my words on paper for them and my classmates has been terrifying at times, but more worthwhile than I ever could have imagined. One of the biggest lessons I have learned involves sensory detail. Before this class, my writing always sounded as though I had gone back to previously written sentences and added adjectives and adverbs. With good reason! Something else I will take with me is the understanding that I have to provide myself with time and permission to write. Often.

I thank you all.

NYC and Savannah Gal said...

The experience of taking this class has been as enchanting as it has been enlightening. During these two transforming weeks, my writing has evolved from fair to good, but I’m still working toward great. Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned include allowing myself permission to write “with the door closed” as King’s memoir taught so that I can evolve toward allowing myself to consider writing also with it open for an audience. My private struggle is the challenge of learning to write with the door closed and still not harshly judge it before it even has the chance to make it out of the door. Reading the King book helped me to learn to let go of that stronghold a bit.

Another important lesson I learned: avoid adverbs. This has been a huge revelation, as I had not realized what dead weight they are to a piece of writing. I’ve come to realize that they are excuses to avoid dialogue or use of stronger verbs and adjectives in my writing, and how much more effective it is to let other parts of speech and language devices carry me. It was interesting and challenging to learn to rely on these adverb-alternatives more.

This class helped me to meet a goal I came here hoping to achieve: narrowing down my writing focus. I’ve written decades of journal entries, but never knew how to authentically craft a real story from them, and certainly not a story that could have qualities worthy of publication. The result of not knowing how to narrow my focus was the feeling of an assembly-line mentality with my diary, frantic sometimes to capture every single day’s tiny detail. Ughhh, this makes writing exhausting!

This perception ultimately drove me to stop writing all together, using work and motherhood as the excuses. The lessons in this class taught me to give permission to myself to set writing boundaries; that it’s ok to focus on only a “snapshot” of my life, or of the day or moment, without having to cover the entire journey.

From this class I was reminded of the importance of minimizing, and that sometimes writing a simple sentence is the best choice.
First draft – 10% = second draft as King wrote…or something like that?

I know my writing muscles have strengthened simply because I've used them rigorously while I've been here, and my writing has benefitted from the most involved creative writing revisions I have ever made. Prior to this class, the only writing that I gave this much correction and attention to included cover letters for jobs; I would pour hours over those, but never gave my own creative writing this much necessary and worthwhile attention. I feel proud of not giving up on a piece of writing simply because it frustrated me and needed a million changes!

From this class I learned how to be a more effective writer – and I hope (I’ll let my reader be the judge) – a more entertaining and interesting one, too. It has indeed been a rare and wonderful experience to participate in both the Low Country Writing Project and to live in a barrack among the cadets at the Citadel! The memoir on that experience is next!

I appreciate the instruction and gentle encouragement of my teachers, Amy and Mary Alice, and the insight, knowledge and humor of my fellow writing "cadets."
Experiencing the charm of Charleston along with your guidance and warmth made this a memorable time in my life. I look forward to a LWP Summer 2008 reunion!

JoAnne said...

I am sending my comments telepathically!

This class and the LWP in general are an important reason I am now claiming Charleston my home vs. Chicago. Where else could I have the privilege of vacationing among such a delightful and talented group of new friends?

Through everyone's writing and the suggested readings, I finally understand "voice." I think I am once step farther away from being just clever and one closer to being real.

My desire to teach composition has been revived. Lots of the info has been very useful and I will miss y'all even more than Tehruen.

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