This semester, I decided to take a creative writing course in school. I hoped to discover and to improve my short story writing skills. Prior to this class, I had limited my writings to poetry and I desired to do something different.
By taking this class, I learned how to create inspirations and prompts to write. I learned the difference between revision and editing, I realized my strengths in writing, and most importantly, I became equipped to address the barriers that limit my discoveries in short story writing.
One barrier that I had, was limiting my creative writing to poetry. I addressed this issue by compelling myself to write short stories, rather than poetry whenever I had class work or assignments. However, from reading Peg Alford Pursell’s book; Show Her a Flower, a Bird, a Shadow, I realized that it is possible to combine both genres, so I practiced this combination in my short stories.
Another barrier that I overcame is, my attachment to my writings. I tend to be emotionally attached to my writings, especially my short stories. I realized that, to properly edit my works and even create revisions out of a piece, I need to separate my emotional attachment from the work and see it for what it is rather than what I feel from it. This may sound ridiculous but sometimes, I even cry when I read certain things that I write because many of the characters in the stories exemplify the lives of people that I have met randomly and it is important that I do justice in telling their stories. When I write or read, I put myself in their shoes and I try to imagine what they may be feeling.
During the course of the class, I also learned about my strengths in writings. I learned that I have a good sense of imagery and putting detailed descriptions in my works. With this strength, I have also realized that my overall purpose with short stories is to make my readers feel what my characters are going through, intensively.
On the other hand, I realized that whenever I write memoirs, and I can’t use accurate descriptions when I don’t remember some things, I am tempted to question the overall truth of the message I am passing across to the audience.
I also discovered my writing habits. One habit that I have is the use of pronouns rather than names for the characters in my stories. I tend to use pronouns more, because from my cultural background in Nigeria, names have meanings and the meanings tend to influence the messages in the writings. In addition, I think that using names may affect how people categorize my work as “African” or “Nigerian” or “Foreign” and the audience that read my works. Most times, when I give my character names, it is because I intend that the story has a special effect on a targeted population. Whenever I use names, especially Nigerian names, I also intend to add meaning to the character’s actions through their names.
Another habit that I discovered in my writings is the gender of my main characters and the emotions that I attribute to them. In most of my works, my main characters are women and they tend to be filled with melancholy and sadness. I realized that when I am not writing about women who are sad, I am writing about men, who are witty and brave. I still can't explain why I find myself doing this repeatedly in my stories.
Through this class, I was able to identify where I create my characters from; Instagram comments. That's right, Instagram comments. I love reading and writing feedback and I find that the most interesting part of a social media post is the comment section. That is where people argue, agree, create friendships, sell products, advertise themselves, relate to the original post, or relate to another person's experiences. I tend to spend more time reading the comment sections than liking or assessing the post itself.
My journey in this class was not a straight one, neither was it an easy one but it was much better than I anticipated. I am surprised at how many good stories I wrote during the course of the class. Through this journey, I have also gained confidence about writing short stories. Before taking this class, on several occasions, I had talked myself out of writing short stories and concluded that I was not good at it. I had also allowed myself to believe that it is not possible to combine shorts story and poetry, so writing short story will mean putting poetry aside for a while. This class allowed me to realize otherwise and to explore the abilities, I did not think I have.
Going forward, I plan to edit and create revisions from the short stories that I have written in class. I will be writing more and I hope that the next book I will publish will be a novel or a collection of short stories. In that book, perhaps, the second half of it, I will write about the process of creating the short stories, what inspired the characters and why I wrote the short stories. I think that information will be very beneficial to developing writers who will be reading my works.
I will also be reading more short stories, both Nigerian and foreign short stories. I am curious to discover the differences in the languages and techniques that are used. Because my writing is very important to me, I will keep challenging myself to do something new and to keep growing.