Ruth E. Walker
I just blinked and now what do they say? Get Ready for School!
Once I got over depressing thoughts of our vanishing summer, it got me thinking. Some years back (many years, in fact) I decided it was time to return to school. A high school dropout, I’d left the workforce and a developing career in the human resource profession to stay home with my young family. Getting back into the H.R. game would be tough without a university degree; a sociology or psychology major would be best, I thought.
Fast-forward a couple of dozen courses later and somewhat longer years of evening and summer classes at Trent University, Durham Region Campus, and I had my degree. And no, not sociology or psychology.
English. And darn-near a minor in Cultural Studies. Even better: I graduated on the Dean’s List.
What I Learned in School
Study what you enjoy. And be open to stepping beyond what you know you’ll enjoy.
I took an Introduction to Anthropology. In the course catalogue, it all sounded a bit “sciency” but a lot of it focused on the past, so, because I like history, I risked it and I loved it. I even considered changing my major.
During the section with a biology focus, I held a plaster cast finger bone of the famous “Lucy”, Australopethicus afarensis. Discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia, this hominid’s skeleton is about 3.2 million years old. It blew my mind and created a connection that inspired a thrice-published poem, Lucy’s Bones from Afar.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the next section on archaeology was great grounding for my final course before graduation on Greek and Roman Mythology. And from that course, I found my way to a series of poems and flash fiction, powerful characters and a novel that continues to simmer on the back burner.
Suffice to say that just one course outside of my English Literature comfort zone affected my muse, inspiring characters, poems, themes and plots in much of my future writing. I didn’t stop with Anthropology 101: Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies, Ancient History and yes, even a sociology course or two peppered my learning. By the time I graduated, I’d explored far beyond Shakespeare and sonnets.
Continuing that Education
I’m not suggesting that writers need university courses for success. That choice worked out well for me but not because I started out thinking about a career in literature. And it isn’t the only choice that had a profound impact on my writing.
Over the years, I’ve taken more than one writers’ workshop that inspired new and exciting work from me. I had mentors that gave me new perspectives. And there are many books on writing that took my craft on deep and engaging journeys.
Learning for all of us is on offer from a multitude of options: mentoring, workshops, private retreats, resource books, conferences, and so on. But not all conferences or workshops need to be about “writing.” And not all resource books should follow a familiar or safe path.
Some stretching into the unknown can help you reach new heights. It certainly did for me.