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Entries in masters in creative writing (1)


Three great reasons to write creatively

Exactly six years ago, also in the thick of springtime, I began writing fiction. Since then I've spent an incalculable amount of time with my fingers attached to a computer keyboard, trying my hand at stories, essays, and several novels. I haven't done any house painting or furniture redecorating, things I did before I began writing. About the only hobby I've pursued with nearly the same intensity as writing creatively is gardening.

I never pledged to devote a singular amount of life focus to fiction writing, to the goal of becoming a published author. It's just something that happened along the way as I discerned the quality gap between what I was producing and needed to produce to be published.

Luckily, I have a supportive husband, who has encouraged my writing career in every conceivable way, including my choice to earn a master's degree in creative writing from Wilkes University.

Does writing involve sacrifice? It certainly can. It must. There are only so many hours in a day. I can't write every day and do all of the other activities I used to. Something's gotta give. I don't cook, bake, clean, shop, or hang out with friends as much as I used to. I don't do as many things with my husband either--writing is a solitary activity after all. Though my husband will occasionally serve as a first responder. By that I mean the first person to respond to new work I've written or stories I've rewritten.

In this quest to excel at writing and someday publish a novel, what then have I gained?

I'm more observant.

Over the weekend I was lying on the hammock on a gloriously sunny day and found myself examining the color of the sky behind scads of new green leaves on maple branches. A cloudless blue sky, with too much blue in it to be called robin-egg blue.

While it might not be difficult to identify the shade that comes from an HTML color chart  such as #045FB4, the writer's job is to link the shade of blue with which something the reader can identify--a sensory detail. It was uniformly cornflower blue. I also really notice the heat stream from the dishwasher when I open it. And spend more time than ever watching blue jays contort their large bodies. With claws clutching the metal perch, they tuck their heads almost to their breast to be able to eat from the cylindrical feeder.

I learned volumes about classic opera
researching a novel about an opera guild.

I have a better general education.

Writers have to do incredible amounts of research in order to complete stories and books--fiction writers, too. In efforts to realistically create settings, effective plot points, and interests/quirks of characters, I have studied classic opera, Jamaican patois, contemporary hate crimes in the United States and around the world, calorie-restrictionist organizations, perfume makers, Shaker culture, Amish culture, activism in South America, Tom Jones impersonators, and the list goes on and on. I'm lucky I have a pronounced love of learning. At least that's what a University of Pennsylvania strengths-finder survey identified as my top strength. Does one's avocation pursued over time hone one's strengths or do certain strengths steer one a person toward certain pursuits? Perhaps a little of both.

I've learned to take rejection better, almost in stride.

Rejection hurts. No, Cymbalta can't help.
 When you begin submitting your work with regularity, you are bound to face more rejection than you ever imagined you could or would. And unless you intend to stop writing, you learn to absorb what you can from the experience, put aside the rejection, and keep moving forward. Do I consider myself a loser because my work is being constantly rejected? Absolutely not. Rejection means I'm in the game.

I've not always handled rejection well. That's because a lot of things in life come easily to me. Writing not so much. If I have any success in the creative writing universe, it's because I earned it. Yes, rejection stings, sometimes it hurts like hell, especially when you've come close to publication, and by publication, I mean a book deal--that's what I'm working toward. But like Margaret Atwood said, "Don't complain. No one's putting a gun to your head--forcing you to be a writer." Or something like that. Being rejected offers me the chance to learn lessons critical to my development as a writer and as a person.

Why do you write creatively? What reasons can you add to this short list?