College Creative Writing 101: Don’t be creative, be realistic, even though realism is relative.

Before I started college, I’ve read many warnings by established and well-recognized authors concerning creative writing courses in universities and how they basically suck the creative part out of creative writing. Before I started college, I laughed off these warnings, thinking, “That might be true for other universities, but I’m sure my university won’t be like that.”

Well, after today’s Creative Writing class that’s mandatory for me since I’m an English major with Creative Writing and Literature concentration, turns out the established and well-recognized authors weren’t kidding.

For my Creative Writing class, we had to write a short story in the first person. Minimum number of pages was 3, the max was 4. You could write about your own experiences, but “remember that this is a creative writing class.” Oh yeah, and there was one other restriction: No fantasy. Which meant no Harry Potter or Hunger Games like stuff. This was a challenge for me because 99.99% of my short stories that I have written so far in my free time have been fantasy based. With fantasy out of the picture, I couldn’t come up with anything right away. So I went on my tumblr blog, searched through my “WRITING REFERENCE” (yes all caps) tag. After getting inspired for 12 hours by the memory loss prompt and trying to write something with it and that not working out and trying to look for a new one, I settled on the “Imagine your character waking up one morning and they had become famous almost overnight.”

I worked a lot on this story: making sure tenses were consistent, the main protagonist was interesting, all that jazz. It was also the first time I’ve written original fiction that was purely comical. Not dark and heavy with some light humor in the middle like the majority of my stories. I mean, it was only the first draft and I would have to revise it anyway after I read it out loud in class, but for the most part, I thought it was pretty good.

So, today, I read my story out loud after the guy sitting next to me read his and everyone commented on it, including the professor and teaching assistant. Afterwards, the professor told everyone to look it over and come up with something to say about the story. Meanwhile, having noticed some errors along the way, I was writing suggestions to myself on what could be revised. Being a perfectionist is such a struggle.

After that period of silence was up, most people had good and constructive things to say. “Voice was consistent.” “I wish you had told us what he was famous for sooner.” “Very engaging.” ‘Wait, did his mom really run over those reporters and the main protagonist REALLY not notice?!” “Nice foreshadowing in the beginning.” “The main protagonist is a bit passive. Try to make him more active with the plot.”

All of the comments I understood and took into consideration.

And then there was this one comment by this one kid who always wants say something in a not so constructive light and gets away with it because “well, that’s just how he is”.

“I was thrown off. The story wasn’t very realistic to me.”

And unfortunately, that was the one comment the professor decided to preach to me on. Well, maybe not preach. That’s a bit harsh sounding. I guess “advise me on” would be a better phrase. And as the professor was describing to me ways that I could make the story more “realistic” (which turned into a huge tantrum about the President of the United States, Russia, and Steven Spielberg), I was becoming quite irritable, and not because I really had to use the bathroom at that point.

Basically, the only way I can get away with not being “realistic” is to make the story a satire. Otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense.

And I thought to myself, “Woah woah woah. Realistic? We’re talking about realism in a creative writing class?”

Now, this isn’t an issue about whether I can handle criticism or not. I can handle criticism, especially when it comes to writing and speaking in public. Although, accepting such criticism from my peers is a different story because 99.999% of the time, they honestly don’t get it and I have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Oddly enough, though, people younger and older than me get it usually.Go figure.

But.

Realism. In a creative writing class.

Now, I do understand that there has to be some realistic elements when writing about humans. After all, if people can’t relate to their own species in novels, you’ve done something wrong. And when dealing with professions like acting or being a doctor, you definitely have to be realistic there.

But when it comes to becoming famous?

So many unrealistic things have happened made people famous. Keeping Up with the Kardashians is a prime example of this. And many writers have been made famous through unconventional, almost unrealistic means also.

Not to mention all those movies that exist where people are famous through unrealistic means.

Yet I’m expected to be realistic, even though many an individual has been made famous because of “unrealistic” means.

Huh.

Sure, I will definitely keep that comment in mind when I’m completing my rewrite, but will I actually make it more realistic instead of turning it into a satire? Probably not. Because it’s not a satire. And reality is relative.

Large Groups of “Close” Friends? Nah, Keep It Small Please – An Introvert’s Prospective

Ah yes. Second semester of my first year in college. With all the missed days because of snow storms (shout out to Snowstorm Juno) and icy pathways, professors loading up the work because of these missed days, and extracurriculars, it’s kind of hard to catch my breath sometimes.

Fortunately, even with the work load being 3x as much as last semester, I actually enjoy my classes more.

Now, if you think this is another “HERE’S WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY FIRST SEMESTER OF COLLEGE YAY” blog post, I hate to disappoint you, but it’s not. In fact, if anything, this is more of a “What I haven’t learned from my first semester in college”. Or, even more accurately, “What I haven’t learned in my 14 years of Catholic school nor in my first semester in a non-religious (although most likely Jewish influenced) private university”.

Allow me to explain.

Before I came back to Long Island, NY for the second semester, my mother issued this challenge to me: “I want you to find one friend. One friend, that’s it. One friend whom you’ll hang out with and go everywhere with, even into the city. I mean, it’s fine if you don’t find that person this semester, but it’d be nice.”

It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? I thought so too.

But then I got back to campus and realized how hard it will be. Hofstra University is the largest private university on Long Island. The bulk of the student body, most likely, is freshmen.

And then, I also noticed one thing about not only Hofstra freshmen but pretty much everyone that’s my age, thanks to facebook.

I noticed that:

  • Everyone’s pretty much buddy buddy with everyone else just in the course of one semester and
  • Almost everyone belongs to a really large group of friends. Like, I’m not talking two or three people. I’m talking about at least ten.

And that’s absolutely terrifying to me.

You see, from the advent of my academic career onwards, I never belonged to a “large” friend group. Heck, I never belonged to any group until I got to high school. I wasn’t exactly the kid everyone hated (although I got some pretty rude comments directed at me in elementary and middle school. There’s a reason I went to a high school almost nobody else bar one was going to), but if you’re looking to find me in photos of groups of friends, good luck with that because those don’t exist.

To put it simply, large friend groups are scary. They terrify me. “Why?” you ask. Because the larger the friend group, the more likely I’ll be ignored. And due to my quiet, contemplative nature, it’s just more obvious in a larger friend group. And then, who’s to say the more talkative people won’t just get up and leave the quiet one because “oh she doesn’t talk much she’s boring”?

Additionally, I can’t even begin to count how many times people have called me their best friend, but then abandoned me for “more social” people. Now, I will admit, some of that is my fault. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that one thing. Maybe I should have gone to that gathering. Maybe I should apologize to them. Maybe I should have talked with them more. Maybe this, maybe that.

Maybe I should take the initiative for once.

But then I see how happy they are with their “new best friend” and their “new friend group”, and having been taught to not “bring so much attention” to myself, I back off. Because if there’s one thing my generation absolutely hates, it’s “attention whores”, people who constantly pine for attention because they feel horrible about themselves. I wouldn’t go so far to say I’m one of those, but I get pretty freakin’ lonely sometimes, and it’s unbearable. Especially since I have a facebook and am constantly bombarded “BFFs since we were two xoxoxo :)”, “happy birthday, so-and-so, love youuuuuuu” (like shoot, I didn’t get a message like that for my birthday. except for my mom. Thanks, Mom.) and “so-and-so is now friends with so-and-so” almost every freaking day.

Now, I could deactivate my facebook, but I already did that once or twice throughout high school because I was so pissed at various “friends”, and my mom questioned my decision each time, so for her sake as well as the rest of my family’s, I stay on. Besides, now that I’m in college and my family is in so many parts of the US now, I have to keep up with them that way.

I could “unfriend” some of the people that make me uncomfortable with their hella large friend group pictures, but I’m far too lazy to do that actually. (Besides, some from my middle school and high school graduating classes have already taken the initiative lol)

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: If you want to be my friend, I’m cool with that. If you want to be my friend and involve me with your group of friends, I’m cool with that. If you want to be good friends with me, if you want to be my best friend, if you want me to be your friend for life, I’m cool with that too. But if you know for certain your other friends don’t take too kindly to introverts like me (trust me, there are ways you can find this out), don’t involve me with them. I’ve spent far too long being the ignored girl because interests and personalities weren’t compatible.

And while we’re at it, for the love of God, please communicate with me if you’re going to be my friend. I’m not saying have in-depth conversations with me every day because ain’t nobody got time for that. But if you feel I’ve done you wrong or anything of that sort, tell me. Don’t just flat out ignore me and expect me to completely understand what I did wrong. And occasionally, I might ask (almost too many times lol) if you still consider me your friend because I’ve lost touch with so many good ones over the years over stupid stuff. And I try to fix that, but by that time, it’s already too late. Ignoring me might fix things on your end, but it makes things worse on mine, even if I try to say, “Well, it’s for the best.”

I know I’m asking a lot, but I know I’m worth it. And I know you’re worth it too. And I will act like it. I promise.

“Find that one friend you can constantly hang out with in college,” my mom said. It’s gonna be hard, but I’m confident that by the end of this academic year, I’ll meet her expectation.