The Best Writer in the Room (Give or Take 30 English Students)

As many of you know, I just started my Junior year here at the University of Rochester, NY. I’m studying entrepreneurship but also creative writing, as a minor. I’m a transfer student which means I came from a community college.

In the first week of school, my playwright professor led the class in a writing “Impulse” exercise. Basically, it goes like this:

You close your eyes and relax. A detailed scene is spoken before you and after a few quiet moments, you write non-stop for fifteen-minutes.

I’ve done these exercises before but have never really appreciated them. Often, other writers tell me the importance of writing a first draft non-stop without editing. Personally, I hate doing that. I don’t know why. I stop and read and edit. I’m positive it’s why my blog posts take so damn long.

Regardless, I did the impulse-exercise and the results came out as expected: a jumbled mess of words and a decent start. Nothing to write home about.

I was ignorant because I assumed everyone around me had a similar situation. A complete mess. But I was wrong. The professor asked students to read their work. Out-loud. Yes. I was wrong.

I listened to my classmates read their work, and it was absolutely amazing. I’m surrounded by wonderful, talented writers. In the fifteen minutes of writing, most (if not all) managed wonderful characters, detailed settings, and accomplished word-usage. I looked down at my work:

The cat go meow. Dog chase it on park. Cow go moo. 

Crap. I have some work to do.

Chicken Scratch

For most of my academic career, I’ve been the best writer in the room. That reads kind of cocky, but it’s true. Students in community college just don’t care. I put actual effort into my papers and found it really easy to impress my instructors and fellow students. Scholarships, literary journals, 4.0, etc.

At Rochester, the tables have turned. I’m no longer the best writer in the room. It turns out, everybody in the room is a good writer and often better.

Wait. Don’t Go! I’m not fishing for compliments (I promise).

As tempted as I was to drop-out and reenroll in community-chicken-college to satisfy my comfort zone, I know it would do me no good. It hurts when you learn you’re not the best at what you thought you were. I’m a decent writer; I know that, but I need to grow. That’s okay. I can always get better.

Despite the gross sense of intimidation and inadequacy I’ve faced this last week, I’m absolutely positive I’m in the right place. Every writer needs a push, and I’ve been pushed. In fact, since that first class, I’ve been working on my writing more than I ever have. Thank God for that. 

(I know it’s healthy because it stings).

Ever find yourself in a similar situation? Any advice? How do you write a first draft?

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6 comments

  1. Personally, I’ve always been the best writer in the room. Of course, I’ve also been the most psychotically delusion, so I’m not sure you can trust my assessment.

    I appreciate that you have embraced this as a challenge. You will do well, my friend. Remember, no one can write like you. No one can tell your story better than you. You have a strong voice and a keen perspective. I look forward to seeing the fruits of your further training.

  2. I’ve complimented your writing before; it’s gonna be amazing on the other side of this minor. Your readers look forward to it! Until then, hang in there. Growth is exciting!

  3. I drifted through high school with little effort but when I got to my Scholarship Hall at KU, I had four dozen dorm mates who were as smart and in most cases harder-working than I. It took me a year or two to get up to speed with the academi

    On Xanga I participated in several writing Scavenger Hunts, and was amazed by the writing of many of my friends there. I pushed myself to write poetry, and found that it helped my prose because I became more careful about brevity and word choice and structure.

    I’m usually the best proofreader in the room but long ago gave up hope of being the best writer.

  4. Don’t be discouraged. Your thoughtful and slowly drawn out work is what makes your words intrinsically unique and worthwhile. This is your writing style; this is your mark. You’re an artist whose medium are words and the human spirit, and as with any other art, you can’t rightly judge one piece in comparison to another. Our writings are small pieces of ourselves that we offer up and release into the world.

    I’ve never been able to write in a classroom. Not even a stiff essay. It’s a lonely, quiet process, because when I write, I want to write with God. So yes, others can write beautifully detailed drafts in minutes, and that’s wonderful, but that isn’t me.

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