Write of Way #7 – Encouraging Young Artists
Prepare yourself, for something wicked this way comes.
Something most foul.
Something best left forgotten.
An angsty high school poem! *cue scream.mp3*
Now hold up. Before you run away (though I wouldn’t blame you), I promise there’s a reason I’m sharing this with you. And no, the reason isn’t my own sadistic pleasure.
Brace yourself, and here we go:
at first glance,
that a star was an entire galaxy?
at first glance,
that a flower consists of millions of cells?
We see these examples,
and understand them.
So why do we still look at a person,
and judge them,
at first glance?
Okay, did you make it safely? Sanity still intact?
I’m not in the habit of regaling my friends with my cringey high school poetry, and I don’t intend to do it again anytime soon. But I shared that to make a point.
That poem was barely a poem and more a drawn-out thought. But it was one of the first poems I ever wrote.
From that poem I learned and practiced and grew until my poetry was well received in class. Next, I won my high school’s Poetry Jam and went on to compete at the county level. And then, in college, my poems were published in several different print and digital publications.
So all this to say
I’m an amazing poet and you should be jealous what started as crappy poetry eventually grew into something greater: less crappy poetry!
But it never would have if not for one pivotal moment. In the last few days of eighth grade we were asked to pick our classes for our first year of high school.
I took the required classes, but we were also allowed two electives. Orchestra was already a given, so really, I only had one elective. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was luck, or maybe it was a crippling desire to be a starving artist, but either way I chose “Creative Writing 1.”
And what a choice it was.
The class wasn’t taught by a Poet Laureate or a Pulitzer prize-winner.
It wasn’t a ground-breaking, border-redefining study in creativity.
It wasn’t much more than an elective, really.
But it didn’t need to be any more than that.
Creative Writing 1 provided me, as a young writer, with a safe space to explore this crazy notion in my head that I could do more than just read stories, I could write them.
It didn’t need to teach me about rhyme and meter, about sentence length variance or the best ways to use inner monologue.
It didn’t need to teach me to write like Hemingway, or Rowling, or Crichton.
It needed to encourage me to explore the act of writing. At that stage of my development as a writer, that was more important than anything else.
Encourage me it did, and because of that I grew from an awkward, pimply teenager vaguely considering writing into a confident, pimply teenager creating my own fictional worlds on a weekly basis.
Creative Writing 1 turned me into a writer.
From there I went on to learn the finer points of grammar and story structure and character arcs, but it all started with that one class, that one safe space.
Since my high school years I’ve gone on to write several award-winning short stories and published poems, and now ghostwrite as a career.
But none of that would have happened without Creative Writing 1. This is why I believe it is so important to encourage young artists.
Programs that inspire creativity in any form are hugely important. The Poet Laureate of tomorrow might today be an eighth grader just starting to consider penning his or her thoughts. If we don’t provide the young artists of today with the encouragement to explore their creativity, who knows what we’ll lose.
Support your local creative programs. Be they in schools, or the local library, or what have you. Wherever they are, they need your support.
The Greeks said: “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit.” I’d say they were on to something.
As always, I love to hear your thoughts. What encouraged you to pursue writing? Do you remember a formative class or moment that helped you become a writer? Do you know of any local creative programs in your area?