Perspective: Writer’s odyssey

I first took a creative writing class almost 10 years ago when I was a young, melancholy poet in training.  Afraid of any form of criticism, I was insecure and quickly took any negative comments toward my precious creations as a personal affront.  I was so certain that any story worthy of being written would very simply have to change the world.  If I wasn’t capable of creating some grandiose philosophical piece of “literature” bearing my soul in the process, then I had no business making any attempts at being a real writer.   It’s apparent to me now why I could never develop characters that were unlike myself and engaged in some way in the same melodramatic dilemmas with no ending in sight.

Flash forward to the spring semester 2012 here at San Diego City College:  after years of just living, working, constant reading and not much writing, I decided to take my writing seriously and consider using it as an option for making a living.  I challenged myself to take a creative writing class once again, but this time I would follow through with it, to the end.

I jumped in and began to write.  No more self-sabotage or second-guessing.   I treated each assignment as a welcomed challenge and although my old friends, self-doubt and procrastination stopped by once in a while, I was able to work through them.  I was also given the opportunity to go back to pieces I had previously written, to reevaluate them and read them with maturity and an improved ability to critique and edit without the feeling that I was murdering a piece of myself.   I discovered a healthy detachment and a realization that simple, clear language is a much more effective approach at communication than convoluted metaphors and obscurity for obscurity’s sake.

I now see editing of creative work as important, if not more so, than the initial inspiration.  To finally let other writers read and offer criticism to your work is a frightening but rewarding experience.  It becomes less an evaluation of your work as it relates to your ego and more about how good you are at crafting a piece of work.  You can have an amazing idea for a story or poem but if it’s told unsuccessfully, what good is the idea behind it?

Part of the requirement for the creative writing class at SDCC is to submit work to be considered for the “City Works” journal, an annual journal published at City College.  The student work chosen for inclusion in the journal is selected solely by the creative writing students.  All of the entered pieces are evaluated by each member of the class in a blind reading (where the author’s/artist’s name is excluded) and given a score of 1-5, 5 being the highest.  Those with high scores are published in the journal while those with the highest scores receive publication and a prize.

The student winners for the 2012 edition of “City Works” each received $100 and are as follows:  for best poem: “Lessons of a Good Mija” by Marisa Davalos, a poem filled with the wisdom of a girl who grew up much too fast; best fiction: “Only One Son”  by Lisa E. Overton, the story of a family whose dog is much more than just a pet; best creative non-fiction: “Only I Remember Her Last Month” by Cassandra Jones, a reflection on her mother’s battle with cancer and for best artwork: “Ghost in the Machine” a painting of an eerily empty spacesuit floating in the void, by Joshua Wessling.

Brandy Lopez’s cover art of the Greek god Apollo was the winning entry for best cover design.  The journal contains forty-seven student pieces, as well as works by local writers Chris Baron, Heather Eudy, Cali Linfor and Sabrina Youman.  The national award winner, Megan Elliott, was selected by the “City Works” editorial board which is comprised of SDCC faculty and was awarded $100.

All of this semester’s efforts will culminate in a student reading that will take place on May 10 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in D-121 A/B.  Artwork will be displayed and the creative writing students will have the chance to read their work aloud in front of an audience.  The reading is free and open to anyone who would like to see and hear what SDCC students are doing in the world of creative arts.  The new 2012 “City Works” journal will sell for $6 and will be available for purchase at the reading and at the SDCC bookstore anytime thereafter.

I will be at that reading; reading a poem that I wrote, work-shopped and wrote again and again.  My goal as a writer is to communicate clearly with a reader, but to do so in a way that is unusual and unexpected.  I want to make the familiar seem unfamiliar, to inspire wonder and to use my imagination to share my experiences and thoughts in the most meaningful way possible.  To be selected for inclusion in a journal by a group of other creative individuals whose goals may be similar, if not the same as my own, is a humbling but invigorating experience.  I have communicated something that resonates with other people and that to me means a very great deal.

I still want to change the world, just on a smaller scale, one reader at a time.

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Perspective: Writer’s odyssey