Final essay from a participant in “Pen in Hand, Ink on Page”

“Why I Took This Course & What I Will Take From This Course”               

from a participant in the Winter writing course at Blue Heron Books

Let me begin by saying that this writing course has been most enjoyable even though I more or less ended up in this course by default.   I had originally enrolled in a “Learn To Draw” course.  My perception of that course outline was that it was suitable for a rank beginner like myself, who had not had any formal art instruction.   Basic, rudimentary drawing instructions were what I expected—a “How To” course.

Unfortunately, that course was cancelled due to a lack of enrollment so I decided to take a stab at the other drawing course. My expectations and the reality of that course were polar opposites—it was not for beginners!   I’ve read somewhere that drawing anatomy is the most difficult challenge for an artist.  The very first drawing the class had to attempt was that of the FACE of the person standing next to us!  To make matters worse, we were drawing BLIND!  A piece of landscape fabric was placed over each easel so we could not see what we were creating.

The instructor clearly sensed my feelings of fear and awkwardness.  To her credit, she did her best to make me relax and try to think outside the box.  Suffice it to say that the two hours of that class passed by painfully slow.   After each drawing, we examined each other’s work, which I found to quite embarrassing.

A few days later, I asked to transfer to another course.  The “finish what you started” part of my brain was trying to convince me to give it another go.  But the “this is not fun” part won out.  Since I have always enjoyed writing, I thought I should give the Pen In Hand, Ink On Page course a try.  It would be useful to brush up on grammar, sentence structure and when to use a semi colon, etc.   Just one point worried me – I was not sure if we would be required to read a book each week and compose an essay on it.  If a book captures my interest, no problem!  It’s when I struggle to get through a book, for whatever reason, that I would find writing the essay very challenging.  Another appealing fact was that this writing course was offered during the day, a time which I preferred versus evening.  So I signed up!

Although the course was not what I expected, I was actually relieved that it was not – no plowing through required reading.    I was surprised to learn on the first day that the other ladies in this course were actually working on either memoirs or a novel.   Wow!  This was way out of my league.  Fortunately, the instructor (Sue) made it crystal clear from day one that there was no right or wrong way to go about the in class prompts or the essay assignments.  Each time the thought entered my head, “I don’t know what to write”, I would remember Sue saying, “Just let your pen move.  Let your thoughts flow.  Get out of your own way”.   Furthermore, each time a doubt entered my head such as, “My writing will sound so faulty compared to the others”, I was pleasantly reassured by the positive feedback offered by the others and by Sue.  To be honest, a negative thought usually popped into my mind each time we were given an in class writing prompt.  So, here was another benefit to taking this course – it boosted my self-esteem!  That is one thing I will take away from this course and that is something you can’t buy in a pill.

A very fond memory I will take from this course and shall miss, is the time spent listening to the others read their work.  Some of the ladies have a delightful talent in storytelling.  Their intonations can be mesmerizing.  Their writing is often humorous but, in contrast, sometimes very sorrowful.  I have experienced tension and a range of emotions while listening to the readings.  The classes have also given me topics on which to reflect.

Over the past several years, any course I have taken has been something I need, for example, “Intro to Computers” or have an interest in, such as “Nutrition – How to Buy Locally”.  Another reason is for mental stimulation.  Pen In Hand, Ink On Page is a catchy phrase and was both interesting and stimulating.  I am most glad that I took the course.

I will also take away more confidence with regard to undertaking a task.   “Don’t doubt yourself.  Just get at it!”

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In the summer of 2013 I was invited to do a TEDtalk on “Shining the light on our Changing Communities”. I talked about the therapeutic writing program I do with incarcerated women. You can view the talk here.

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