When I started my college journey, I was one of the few who knew without a doubt what they wanted to do for a living. I had the privilege of feeling secure in my choice and was ready to dedicate the next four years to learn as much as I could about the ins and outs of journalism. This confidence helped me push through the tedious and hard courses, but it also had a downside.
In spring of my sophomore year, I sat down to write a standard MLA paper for a general education course. Within 10 minutes, I was frustrated to find that my academic writing skills were rusty. After the intense practice of the Associated Press (AP) style, which is solely used in print journalism, the lines between writing styles began to blur.
I wasn’t even adding in Oxford commas instinctively (and I am a huge fan of the Oxford comma which, unfortunately, is not used in AP style).
I’ve always enjoyed writing and thought I could write a solid academic paper on the fly. Yet there I was, having created a Frankenstein of a paper. I was intent on figuring out why my skills seemed to suddenly dull. Then, it occurred to me that the paper lacked passion.
My studies brought me closer to my goal of becoming a journalist, yet I felt devoid of creativity. As a child, I wanted to be the author of fantastic tales. My once limitless imagination had become tamed.
Honestly, it scared me. I thought I would have to choose between two areas for which I had a great passion. Did working in the news world mean I couldn’t pursue the wondrous and fantastic side of creative writing in my adult life?
A few days later, I shared my writing dilemma with a friend at The Slate. They encouraged me to take a creative writing class. I was skeptical at first because I rarely had the confidence to share my creative work with others.
Well, I couldn’t have made a better decision when I signed up for a creative writing class. It was like taking a breath of fresh air. To my delight, I wasn’t horrible at it and began to look forward to each class. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the flutter of anxiety and excitement when sharing my work. Would my class like it? Would they hate it? Would someone make a comment that could give me a new idea?
I found that the more creative writing I did, the more life I brought to my news writing. I began to finally develop my own voice in my writing. Adding an extra line of description here or an unusual detail there, I felt my news stories come to life. The class I had felt so unsure about had instead strengthened my news writing skills and my ability to connect with my readers.
This semester, I am in a fiction writing class — the kind of writing at which I’m weakest. Am I nervous? Absolutely. I’ll probably want to melt into a puddle when my peers critique my stories. But, the challenge, the possibility of failing spectacularly is exhilarating. Because when I fail, I learn.
College is the perfect time to experience failure. We get to learn skills and fail at them, without it resulting in a bad performance review or loss of a job. If you feel like your skills are getting stagnant, I implore you to take a class that is not just out of your comfort level, but one in which you are interested. No matter your major, if there is something that intrigues you, now is the time to explore it. Make sure it will count toward graduation but take a risk.
Maybe you’re in the college of business, but you loved a ceramics class you took in high school. You might be pleasantly surprised to find how the skills of tested patience and attention to the smallest of details from ceramics will translate into your future career.
There are plenty of risks in life that may not be worth taking. But right now, as students, we have the unique chance to take risks simply because the reward, in turn, lights a fire in us. Signing up for college means signing up for a long journey, so you might as well have some fun along the way.