I’m an aspiring fiction author, and I am lousy at what people traditionally think of as “creative writing.”
There, I said it.
I’ve always enjoyed coming up with stories. As a child, I cast my Barbies, ponies, trolls, and other toys as players in many a dramatic quest or romance. I even wrote a few little books, complete with dreadful illustrations (if you think I’m bad at creative writing, you should see me attempt to draw!).
But when grade school hit and we were given creative writing assignments, suddenly my stream of fictional narratives hit an impasse. Sometimes I came up with a storyline that was way too complex to complete within the given time frame, leaving me disappointed when I had to close with an abrupt, unsatisfying ending. Worse, I often heard the writing prompt or looked at the picture meant to give inspiration and came up with nothing. I completed the assignments, of course, but they never felt like my best work. Based on the scores I received, my teachers agreed.
So I wrote myself off as bad at creative writing and moved on to pursue other interests. The stories still came to me, but I kept them confined to my head, never even considering writing any of them down. Since my love of reading had never wavered, I majored in English in college. And when it came time to figure out what I was going to do with my life, I solved the “What do you do with an English major?” dilemma by going to law school.
At this point, you’re probably asking, “How did a lawyer who’s lousy at creative writing end up as an aspiring author?” Life can be funny that way.
After practicing as an attorney for several years, my first son was born and I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. As much as I loved the time with my son, I soon found I would go crazy without a project. A soul-searching autumn walk produced the thought, “What if I were to write a book?” I quickly shut it down. “You tried the creative writing thing and stunk at it. You could never write an entire book.” But another, quieter voice popped up, too. “Yeah, but this time I’d get to write one of my stories.” (Yes, I conduct many conversations in my head. Don’t judge.)
Eventually I convinced myself to give it a try, assuming I would lose interest in a week or two. Instead, I fell in love. This was nothing like the painful stretching of my imagination in which I struggled to come up with something, anything, to fulfill a certain assignment. The words flowed freely; at times I could hardly type fast enough to keep up with my ideas. This felt like what I was supposed to be doing, like my very best work. Work that needed plenty of editing and revision, of course, but something that came from my very heart and soul, not from a desire to impress a teacher or a desperate attempt to fit a certain mold.
Now, I do realize that many writers enjoy and benefit from creative writing classes, writing exercises and prompts, etc. I’m just not one of them. Even though my grade school experiences were a long time ago, I doubt I will ever sign myself up for a writing workshop. At writing conferences, I will probably always shy away from courses that are advertised as “hands on.” When I get caught in a writing exercise I haven’t managed to escape, I will not be the one who eagerly raises my hand to share what I’ve written with the class.
And I will be okay with that. I will embrace my identity as a fiction writer who doesn’t do creative writing. Because for me, that’s exactly what keeps my creative juices flowing, and I’m determined to never let them get stifled again.
How do you feel about creative writing exercises? Do you fit the mold for your career path, or have you needed to find ways to make it work for you?
An avid reader since birth (her parents claim she often kept them up until nearly midnight begging to hear just one more story), Laurie Lucking discovered her passion for writing after leaving her career as a lawyer to become a stay-at-home mom. She is an aspiring author of young adult romantic fantasy and co-founder of www.landsuncharted.com, a blog for fans of clean YA speculative fiction. A Midwestern girl through and through, she currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and two young sons. Find out more about Laurie and her writing by visiting www.laurielucking.com.