What feels like a long time ago, I was a 17-year old college freshman who didn’t want to get a degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing. I wanted writing classes, tips, tricks, and the know-how, but I didn’t want my stories anywhere near academia. I didn’t want them to be tainted or changed or turned into creative pieces that weren’t me. I didn’t want to write for the man, as the saying goes.
But after my disastrous novel-publishing experience (with a company that will remain unnamed), I caved and went to a writing class. I loved it and took more and more until I realized that I needed to major in English if I wanted to keep writing. So I did. I rocketed on to get honors, make the Dean’s list every year, get published in 3 college magazines, and get some scholarships. Now here I am in grad school, pulling B-s on my 25-page academic papers and failing miserably. All because I didn’t go for creative writing.
I understand with this academic and scholarly, pedagogy-centered writing I am a fish out of water (or a reverse centaur, which is very awkward for me to think of). I need to realize this and conform to the writing style if I want to succeed. Ew, there’s that word I hate. Conform. It means taking your spark out; that spark that Donald Maas encouraged writers to hold on to. I know there are ways to still have a unique, fun tone in academia, but really there’s not either. Academic writing is like the science-math person among creative writers. It’s for a different people. I am a chameleon though, so I should be able to pick it up. I just can’t make myself do it.
This is why I (and others like me) have to work even harder than others who are in love academic writing. I read all the text books and required reading so I can participate in discussion. I write all the papers I’m told. In grad school, this is already 6 or so hours of work. Then I do 2 assistantships worth of work as well. We’re up to about 8 hours of work. I also hold a job outside of school and the assistantships. Then, finally, I get to come home and work on the one thing I care about: creative writing. I may be lame and narrow-minded for only loving one thing this much, but that’s who I am. There are enough people on the planet to do other things. So now, I have to squeeze in creative writing time around working out and staying healthy.
What I, and others like me, have to do is crazy. Time management is my new major. I am so organized and together that I can come home to write. I have to be, because I want to write creatively more than anything else. So I have to work harder and put out thousands of more words than the regular grad student. But I will do it because I want to pay bills in the future, and because I want to be a story-teller. And I will. One day.