"Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't." -Mark Twain

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Thankful for School

I am thankful for all the obvious things one should be thankful for (life, health, work), but one thing that hit me this week was how thankful I am for the graduate writing program I’m enrolled in.

I’ve attended college for lots of reasons over the years — because I wanted to start something, because I needed to finish something, because I didn’t know what else to do — but right now, I’m going to school because I want to. We are paying for my classes out of pocket, and it’s not cheap. That’s not any kind of badge of honor, but a testament to how much I want this. Every day, I walk into class and open my spiral notebook, ready to capture any sliver of information that will make me a better writer.

I am thankful for my classmates, a motley crew of youngsters half my age who push me to be a better writer than I really am. Bad writers get weeded out of graduate level writing classes pretty quickly, and all the ones that survive are good. When I started the program the names and faces ran together, but as time goes on it’s really neat to know them as people; to learn about them by what they write, and to learn from them by how they write. Many of us are competitive, but not with each other. Each of us want the others to make it. I understand the allure and convenience of online classes, but the interaction I have with my classmates is such a core part of the educational experience for me that I can’t imagine attempting a degree like this online.

The University of Oklahoma has gone out of their way to hire not only published authors as professors for their professional writing program, but ones that truly care about their students’ success. I’ve had conversations with my professors before, during, and after class about my writing. They have offered guidance, suggestions, and feedback, and are genuinely excited each time one of us gets something published. Each assignment I get back comes with suggestions on how to make it better, and I love it. I’m not doing all of this to have sometime tell me I’m good; I’m doing it to get better. So far, it’s working.

There used to be a line of insults that began with, “When God was handing out brains…” and there’s no doubt I got a weird one. I remember things that happened to me in kindergarten, but use a daily alarm on my phone to remind me when to pick Morgan up at the bus stop. Sometimes in social situations I can never think of things to say, and yet while sitting behind a keyboard, I never seem to run out of them. I come up with ideas for short stories and novels every day, and this program is helping me develop the tools I need to turn those ideas into complete stories.

The odds of becoming a financially sufficient full-time writer are so slim that they could be compared to shark attacks and lightning strikes, but that’s not what it’s about for me. Sure, I’d love to be a guy who “writes for a living,” but I will be content to be a guy who “lives to write,” and that’s what I’m learning to do at the University of Oklahoma. And for that, I’m thankful.


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