Our after-school space being more freely-structured allows the students to be more open and about themselves and about their writing. Some of the students consistently wrote things that were humorous or lighthearted, while many of them explored their passions, problems, desires, and struggles in extremely transparent and admirably honest ways. I was consistently blown away over the course of the semester how free and willing the students were, and how readily they wrote about these personal issues. I think that environments are hugely important for high schoolers, and now, as a college student, I deeply miss it. I admire how quickly they worked, how consistently some of the students were able to produce and confidently perform new work. Being in college and being constantly overwhelmed and tired and in a perpetual state of existential dread about my writing, seeing people write a lot and really love it was a little earth-shattering.
I feel like this is the case for many English majors (or anyone in the arts), but when your passion becomes your career (ostensibly, hopefully), it becomes a monster. You become an English major, and therefore writing will eventually be your job, which you have to be good at, and if you’re bad at it you won’t make any money and you’ll be fired, have to work at Starbucks, and then you wasted all your money getting an education that you can’t put to use and then your dad was right all along and you should have just gone to Purdue and become an engineer like him. But the students in the creative writing club aren’t there yet, or if they are thinking about writing as a career, it’s with excitement, not with paralysis. They still approach writing not as an obligation, but as a release of tension. And I think that is one of, if not the, biggest takeaways for me from this experience. Being able to foster an environment in which those with a love of writing flourish is unbelievably important for the mental and emotional health of young people. Going forward from this class, I want to continue to create those environments, both for others and for myself. Learning to find that place where writing isn’t a monster, but an ally (in the relative terms of this metaphor). If that happens through mentorship like this, or tutoring, or just a writers’ group, I don’t know, but I don’t particularly mind. This class has helped me look forward with much clearer eyes.
Camille Arnett is a senior French and English double major.