Two Classes That Changed My Life

Writing is my life’s calling, but I came to it relatively late in life. It wasn’t that late (my early 20s), but it was late compared to those who claim to have known for as long as they can remember that they wanted to be writers. They were writing short stories in grade school and submitting to magazines in high school. For me, it wasn’t until my final year of college—when two events coincided—that I realized I wanted to do with my life.

The first event was a screenwriting class I took in the first semester of my senior year. I was always fascinated by movies, and I had dreams of somehow being involved in the film industry. I originally chose Computer Science as a major, planning to go into CGI and special effects. However, I quickly realized coding wasn’t my forte, so I changed majors. It’s a long story, but I eventually wound up as a History major. I retained my dreams of somehow being involved in making movies, though I didn’t know how. History might prepare me for a career in documentary filmmaking I supposed. Meanwhile, I minored in Communication because although my college did not have a film major, the Communication department offered several courses in film. By minoring I could selectively take only the film-related classes.

Up until that point, I never imagined becoming a screenwriter. It didn’t seem like something I could do nor that I would ever want to do. But in my senior year, after taking the other film courses available, all that was left that semester was “Screenwriting.” So I took the class, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Screenwriting came so naturally to me. I always enjoyed creative writing on the rare occasion I was assigned it in school. The problem was those occasions were extremely rare—like twice in eight years of elementary school and never in high school. I still remember one creative writing assignment from the fifth grade where we had to write a short story. (FYI: That story, “The Haunted Cave” is included as a bonus in the ebook version of my collection Story Addict.) I remembered that story so fondly even two decades later because I had so much fun writing it. I wished at the time that we had creative assignments like that more often. It never struck me then that I could write fiction on my own time…

Years later, when my college screenwriting class assigned us to write our own short films, it got my creative juices flowing again. Once I started to try to think of movie ideas, I couldn’t stop. Throughout my life I had watched so many movies and TV shows, so when I learned the craft of storytelling and the 3-act structure, it all clicked into place for me. Movie ideas kept popping into my head. I always had a vivid imagination but lacked the artistic medium to direct that creative energy toward. Instead, much of it fueled my anxiety. I wish I had cultivated those storytelling talents earlier in life, but I’m grateful to have eventually found creative writing when I did. Early 20s may be late for some, but it is still quite early compared to others—especially considering some people never find their passion in life.

The second event was also my senior year of college, this time in my second semester when I took another class: Web Design. We had to create and maintain our own blogs throughout the semester. I made mine about the school’s basketball team, writing two posts a week, and I enjoyed it so much that I continued doing it after the semester. This was key because it taught me the habit and discipline of writing every day (or at least consistently).

That blog was important in combination with the screenwriting class because to be a successful writer, you need both creativity and discipline. The creativity to imagine exciting fictional stories, plus the discipline to actually write them, rather than keeping the ideas in your head. The college basketball blog led to my current blog where I write about various topics, and screenwriting led to my fiction writing in multiple genres.

I don’t know where I would be today had I not taken those two college classes. Plus I have to give credit to both professors for inspiring me. It’s possible I would have eventually found my way to creative writing via another route. Or I might have gotten a traditional steady job, become complacent, and never found the time or motivation to exercise my creativity. I will never know what could have been… Nevertheless, it’s amazing how seemingly small chance events can have a major impact on the rest of one’s life.

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