One Sunday, twenty-plus years ago, my eye caught an ad for autobiographical and creative writing classes offered at Baptist Hospital. They were for anyone in the community, except for one hitch. The students had to be seniors, fifty-five years or more. I didn’t qualify, but the class description had peaked my interest. I called to inquire. The answer was no, I couldn’t come. I called again and again. Finally, I tried one more time. The same lady answered, and after a long sigh, said, “Well, ok, I guess it will be alright. But you can’t tell anyone you’re not old enough.” I was in.
These classes offered solid instruction and weekly assignments, but their most valuable asset was a place for students to share their writings without critical feedback. The beginning of a writer’s journey is a fragile time. Every writer needs a safe place to practice, where he or she can create without fear until a true voice emerges out of what is sometimes a mess.
The writing instructor, Trish, and I became close friends. She edited my work before I submitted anything. She rejoiced with me when an article found a home, and when I faced the inevitable rejections she would not let me give up.
I joined writer’s groups, like the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop. We met at a local library around long tables pushed together. People could share their work, if they chose. Those who did received constructive criticism, though not always in a kindly manner. For months I only listened. The first time I read a short story to my fellow writers, I was thankful it was our custom to remain seated. I pressed my knees into the bottom of the table to keep from shaking. I don’t remember the name of the story, but I survived and hopefully learned from the experience.
Did I ever get discouraged? Yes indeed. And there was a time I gave up on writing all together.
For any writer: How did you keep going? Did you ever quit, or want to?