The last writing class I was in was so much fun, I thought I'd do it again. This time with a different approach. I enrolled in a ten week writing class held in the upstairs of a local book store, blocks from my house. I don’t know what I enjoyed more, the fact that I was in another class or the fact that I got to walk there every week.
Sitting in a circle of faded, mismatched living room chairs, we focused on developing skills like writing dialogue, details, character profiles and short stories.
Writing fiction doesn't come naturally to me. Each time we did a free-write exercise I would struggle to begin. But once my pen started writing it just kept on going. My handwriting was a combination of cursive and print. I was trying to get out one idea and move onto the next one before I had the chance to critique the words I was putting down. When I was done I would read it back to myself with slight amazement and think, “Where on earth did this come from?” Sometimes I could see obvious parallels with real life experiences, but there were also times where it seemed like someone else was writing.
Unlike my other writing class which was workshop style, this class didn’t encourage sharing or critique. We rarely read anything aloud. It had a closed door approach to writing, at least to first drafts, which is where the seven of us found ourselves. We were encouraged to write like no one was ever going to read it in order to get past self doubt and actually produce work.
The book for the class was On Writing by Stephen King. I was skeptical at first. Was this the same Stephen King who wrote Carrie and It? It is, and you guys, it's wonderful. If you're interested in reading about the craft of writing while also being entertained with the author's own experiences, I highly recommend it.
One of our assignments was to write a short story about a photograph. I've always been interested in old photographs in second-hand shops. Who are these people and what’s their story? Having a reason to finally purchase some of these photos, I had my writing inspiration. I don’t think writing fiction is going to be a new hobby of mine, but that won’t stop me from sharing my short story if you feel like being amused by some amateur writing.
“Jimmy, let’s take a photo!”
“Really quick. You look so nice in your suit. I spent hours pressing the thing. Why don’t you grab your flute? We need to remember this.”
“What? The day you made me pose next to a big overgrown bush at the end of the driveway before we went to church?”
“Stop being funny. Hurry up. We’re running late.”
Jimmy gave up his fight pretty quickly. He knew it wasn’t worth the energy. After all, he still had to make it through Easter service. He knew he would need all the energy he had to force a smile when friends of his parents would look down at him, pat his head and comment on how fast he was growing. As long as they didn’t ask him how many girlfriends he had. That one was the worst. The only positive thing that could come from this would be his hair falling out of the giant tuft his mother insisted on brushing it into. She even used hair spray. As if looking girly wasn’t bad enough. Now he smelled like it too.
Just as Jimmy didn’t choose his hair style that day, he didn’t choose to play the flute. The instrument was passed down from his older sister, Brenda. She never lived up to her initial aspirations with the instrument. Jimmy would never forget how she whined and pouted until their parents gave in and bought a used one from the shop downtown. After joining the school band, she quickly discovered that boys weren’t interested in the girls in the band. They were interested in the cheerleaders bouncing around in their short skirts in front of the band. Brenda soon had a new interest.
And so did Jimmy. If he played an instrument, he could go practice in the band room after school instead of going to the gym until one of his parents picked him up on their way home from work. This worked out well with his plan of avoiding being the target for all the larger boys in his class in an ongoing game of dodgeball.
He liked music, and he liked being part of a group of kids who has similar interests like avoiding activities where balls were thrown at their head or between their legs. He didn’t mind playing the flute. Sure, some might think it was a little sissy, but he was ok with it as long as the band kept playing songs like the theme to Jurassic Park and Star Wars.
“Ok. I’ll pose for your photo,” Jimmy thought to himself, grabbing the flute from its hard leather case which stayed next to the front door so he wouldn’t forget it in the morning rush.
After all, he saw this an an opportunity to secretly scope out hidden Easter eggs in the front yard. After church he and Brenda would race to find the most eggs. And while she was inside, spending too much time looking at herself in the mirror, Jimmy would “act natural” in his pressed, brown wool suite and hold his flute to his lips at the end of the driveway.
“Oh terrific! You look so cute. Bruce, doesn’t your son look cute? Now, smile!”
“There’s a yellow one…”
“And a green one…”