Something Pretentious (a day in the life of a creative writing student)

You step into October, onto the leaves and into the thin air. All of a sudden, you’re glad you brought your jacket. Hitting play on your music, you set off at a brisk march, mind musing over what mess you’ll be made to write today. Think something pretentious. It’s your only creative writing class of the week, and granted, it’s four hours long but you didn’t sign up for English and Creative Writing for twelve classes the whole year. A bus rattles past and whips up some leaves around your ankles. It starts to get a little hot. Why is it hot in October? You curse global warming and think something pretentious.

It is just your luck that within moments of reaching class your favourite song has come on, so you doddle the last few steps, dwindle in the corridor. It’s worth being fashionably late if only for this brief gear-up session. Tune fresh in your mind, you push into the class room and immediately regret your choice of aesthetically pleasing autumn clothing when a wall of hot air hits you head on and you’re left sweating like a horse before you’ve even taken your seat. Think something pretentious. Bitter, but pretentious.

You teeter on the brink of four hours as the tutor takes their time shuffling papers, and gazing around the room person. By person. By person. They tick some names off; they forget yours. And it begins. It starts much like any other creative writing class: the tutor fixes you with her beady-eyed stare and asks each student what they’ve been reading this week. You give them a title from the reading list, and try to sound as interested as possible. Her eyes know you’re lying.

You’re set a writing task. Some prompts and guidelines are given to you perfectly wrapped, which you accept like a giddy child at Christmas, only to tear the paper off and find no inspiration inside. No ideas. Nothing. Fifteen minutes. You can feel the time ticking away under your skin, and the scribbling of your peers is almost deafening; you put pen to paper and pray it’s not too late, not too rubbish.

The tutor calls time. You sit back and gaze forlornly at the mess of scrap paper, burst boxes and tangled ribbons under your own little disaster of a Christmas tree. Oh god, you hope you’re not first to read aloud.

But you are. Of course you are. You stumble over the words that pass like sandpaper over your tongue. Your own handwriting becomes a set of ancient runes to be deciphered, and you are certain you are mumbling. The silence that follows your choked voice stretches on into eternity, deep into the crevasses of all writing rejected and awful and you can hear every twisting piece of critique in the minds of those around you, as though they were surrendered plainly into the air.

But the tutor smiles. She smiles and tells you very well done. She praises your use of alliteration, your flow and voice. She adds that your structure could do with some tweaking, but your dialogue was nicely done so what does that matter? As quickly they came to you, her searching eyes move to the next person, and the next, until words and confidence flow so seamlessly through the air that all the classroom is a tiny pocket of colour and inspiration. Perhaps, after all, you are a writer.

You start to realise that your fears were for naught. Years of hunching in your bedroom, typing, and backspacing, and typing, and backspacing, comparing yourself to people who you have never met and never will melt away, fading for a newfound sense of self confidence. You understand that as you stumble over those words, no one is really judging you; they are either waiting with numbing fear for their turn to read, or are doing just as you did just seconds ago – comparing themselves to you. You left the house this morning dreading the sound of your own voice speaking words that you wove together on paper. You return to the house with faith in those words, faith in your ability as a writer.

You think something reflective and uplifting; but of course, pretentious.

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