The class continued in the manner described in the last blog entry. The “writing prompts” became less frequent, and the time devoted to having each student reading what they wrote the past week was increased. The members of the class did a lot of writing and found it valuable to listen to each other’s writing. There were a lot of good writers in the class and they were willing to share a lot of interesting stories.
Examples included a kind of love story set in Key West, a story about dealing with a parent with Alzheimer’s Disease, humorous stories about raising children, a story about a pharmaceutical sales representative dealing with sexual harassment, a funny but slightly disturbing short story about an office worker setting fire to his desk as a kind of protest, as well as my own primitive attempts at a first draft of a novel. If time permitted, Bill Lyon read some of his own pieces, which were always welcome. The class was very polite with one another and everyone including myself seemed to enjoy listening to the other stories. I was struck by how people bared their souls in the class, and I was impressed with the quality as well as the quantity of what was written. I really looked forward to attending this class each week.
I wound up taking this class for two semesters. There was some change in the membership of the class, but largely it was the same group of people. The class became very comfortable with one another and seemed to have a lot of fun each week, even though some of the writing involved very serious topics that included a good bit of personal sadness. For some, writing was a kind of therapy.
At the conclusion of the class, I had to ask myself exactly what I took from it. I did not feel I “learned to write” in that class. There was no roadmap, no set of rules, no negative feedback. For me, this was a very positive experience, however.
I did write during the class. The chance to have other writers listen to your work is an experience not to be missed. There was self-imposed pressure to take advantage of that opportunity. Even though there was a “no piling on rule” which precluded a lot of negative feedback, there were some valuable positive comments. I also did a lot of self-correction before the class so that I wouldn’t embarrass myself. I learned that simply reading your work aloud was a valuable addition to my usual visual proofreading. I caught mistakes while reading aloud that I did not catch visually. I caught sentences that didn’t work. There was a lot of value to be gained from the class, even though there was none of the brutal but valuable feedback I still feel is necessary. Honestly speaking, I probably wasn’t quite ready for the brutal negative feedback I know I need to improve as a writer.
I gained a healthy respect for the local community college, in this case Delaware County Community College. The classroom facilities were excellent, perfect for a small class like this one with much interaction. The instructor, Bill Lyon, was a treasure, and the community college gave me the opportunity to interact with this man. As a university professor, we sometimes are guilty of looking down on community colleges. I won’t ever make that mistake again. I have had a lot of education myself, but the community college gave me, at this late stage of my life, a chance to learn even more. The learning possibilities that this place, and others like it, provide to students who may not have the opportunity or desire to attend a four-year college, are Immense and immeasurable.
For me, this class gave me a jump start at writing, exposed me to a really great instructor, and gave me the opportunity to read my work to a group of friendly and talented students. It didn’t provide me with everything I needed, but I would highly recommend it for an aspiring and inexperienced writer.