I freely admit that I took a creative writing course in college not because I thought I could write, but because I thought it would be easy. At the time I had very little interest in writing creatively. However, being a philosophy major meant that I had become somewhat adept at writing long-winded dissertations about vague ideas. Creative writing, I assumed, was the same thing, without having to be metaphysically astute. I also figured it was the perfect opportunity to utilize the Rogets Thesaurus that had been gathering dust in my room for three years (after all, wasnt creative writing just writing with the addition of fancy words?).
The course began just as I had expected: The first assignment had us writing about how we would change the world. I was so confident in my abilities that I waited until a half hour before the next weeks class before I started writing. I assumed that wed hand in our papers and then talk about what it meant to be a creative writer, maybe analyze a few examples from Dave Barry or Hunter S. Thompson.
When class started the teacher asked one of the students to stand up and read his paper. I immediately felt sweat bead up under my armpits. One by one my classmates spoke about eradicating famine and ending war, each using eloquent prose and verbal craftsmanship. I was in full panic mode not only because I barely gave any thought to what I had written, but also because I wrote about me being the omnipotent ruler of an Earth where everyone else was my slave. Luck was on my side, thankfully, because our session ended before I was called to read.
The next assignment involved writing about my greatest fear. I gave this paper a little more effort, starting it about two hours before the next class and rereading it several times in anticipation that my name would be called.
As I walked into class the next week the teacher handed me back my first assignment. The look on her face spoke volumes. Written across the top in red ink was a brief note. It read: Unacceptable if youre not going to take this class seriously, please drop out now. I was in shock. Never had a teacher been so blunt and to the point (I later learned that blunt and to the point were effective tools of the creative writer).
After class I approached the teacher, mentioning the note and my feelings about it. I told her that I was indeed interested, and to prove it I wanted the opportunity to rewrite the last assignment. She obliged, giving me 24 hours to hand it back in. In that time I wrote the worlds most eloquent dissertation on the fear of clowns. It was funny, upbeat, and peppered with psychological ramblings.
A week after handing in that assignment my teacher pulled me aside after class and told me that she not only loved my paper, but had literally laughed out loud while reading it. Ill never forget that the look on her face was filled with complete sincerity. That moment inspired me to keep writing and ultimately began my love affair with the written word.
This weeks feature, Becoming Jane, is the story of one of historys most gifted crafters of the written word: Jane Austen. Austen, of course, is responsible for several seminal works including Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, both of which have been made into feature films.
This picture has absolutely beautiful cinematography and involves not only wonderful acting performances, but also eloquently written dialogue. Unfortunately, the percentage of the public interested in this individual and time period is miniscule at best. To be honest Im shocked this film ever got the green light to be made. I was barely interested before I got to the theater and only vaguely interested while watching it, which is entirely unfortunate since it was so well made.
Fans of Jane Austen will love how this film resembles her poetic prose, even if the story deviated from actual events in her life. If youre in the mood for an English love story from the early 1800s or are a huge fan of Austens work, give this one a try. Its a solid film but very limited in its appeal. A poetic B- for Becoming Jane.