The JanTerm Experience: “30 Days to Create”

Ashlyn NelsonI didn’t really know what I was getting into with this class, “30 Days to Create.” I didn’t like the sound of the other experimental Jan Term classes available to me, so I picked this one on a whim, having done so little research that I wasn’t even sure what I would be “creating” until much later. When I went in to class on the first day, it turned out that, in fact, I would be creating a book. Or 40,000-plus words towards one.

This was a daunting but not unpleasant surprise. On my first day, however, I found it very difficult to wring the required number of words out of my brain. Pumping out an essay on the Cold War is one thing, writing dialogue for imaginary characters is quite another. But now, as days in the class have passed, and as I have found myself sitting somewhere every day continuing the story that I was straining for that day, it is different. I, and many of my classmates, have become not only engrossed in the stories that we are creating, but emotionally involved with our characters, as crazy as that sounds.

But also, through this class I have found how much I actually enjoy writing. I have to stretch myself to imagine this complete alternate world, a universe that I am seeing from the eyes of a person who is not myself, who may or may not think, look, believe, and behave very differently than I do. I have had to expose work that I spent hours creating and recreating to the critical eyes of other students, putting me in a position of vulnerability that I have not ever found myself in before, but which has made me considerably more comfortable and confident in my writing.

Our professor, Metta, gave us the idea that, “fiction is not about finding answers to questions, but about discovering pathways to understand,” and I have found that to be true. As cliché as it sounds, I have grown to understand myself better through writing. Forcing myself to type out fiction has given me an outlet and a medium to express myself in an entirely new way, to give a voice to words that I never knew I needed to say.

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