The Well of Inspiration
Class #1 and 114 Days
Wham, it’s finally almost done. I graduate from The University of Alabama in 114 days with a Masters in Fine Art in Creative Writing. What does that mean? To become Master Tuck? It means the most radical and human of things has happened in 4 years. Change. I am wildly a different person from the person who moved to Tuscaloosa in July of 2018 (?). A metamorphosis of cacophonous transformations have sputtered into a million directions like a wild head of roots or gargantuan prairie full of rockets. One, I have a book. It is approximately 58,000 words. It’s a memoir and a medical investigation into the body and life of my mother, the parts and sides of her I didn’t know. I have a draft and am actively working to get it published (if you know a good literary agent, let me know!) Writing the book changed me and my thinking around my entire story. The inherited story of my life is different because I took on writing this book.
I also have 2000+ hours working for Alabama Public Radio as a student reporter where I learned what it meant to work in a newsroom and with audio storytellling. I have a smattering of knowledge from a wide range of classes. I have many hours teaching and tutoring in my experience box and programming, admin, and research experience.
Largest and most wonderful change of all has getting married last year to the love my life, Meg. One day in November of 2019 I walked across the quad here in Tuscaloosa and my life changed forever.
So, on the journey of change, to completing my loop here, I am going to walk you, the reader of this newsletter through my last class I am teaching as a graduate assistant. It’s a fiction writing class. Today was class number one. An intro class and in it I asked students to create a well on a piece of paper. Like a well where you get water. They had to fill the well with what inspires their writing. How deep does it go? What lurks down there? What fuels their stories?
In the well you can put the places that inspire your writing; the type of people you want to write about; the themes; the categories and subjects; the genres; the writers and creators that have given you a gift—that shock art and entertainment can give a person. Have you felt this watching a movie? Reading? Looking at a painting? You feel something after the experience; you feel licked and whirled by it?
In my class I am asking everyone to write 3 stories through the semester. I am going to join them and write at least 3 myself. I’ll print them here. Next time, I’ll share the one short story from before teaching this class, and that I have finished, 2am. In the fiction world, I have written one short story, one novel, and hundreds of ideas throughout my life ever since I decided I wanted to write. I remember the day. I switched my major to English in Fort Collins, bought a Moleskin, and sat outside Eddy Hall on campus and wrote my first entry. I was 20. No one could have stopped me. I had swerved out of the guaranteed life of creating fake limbs for a living, left the world of healthcare and sports science to be someone who wanted to toil with the arts, and the foggy unknowns of the future. I had zero guidance in this matter. Knowing what I know now though, I might of only offered light direction and talked a bit more about money and safety to my twenty-year-old self, but I would have also told that person go, keep at it. I would have said you can have both and you can make it.
Through my years of wanting to write, to be a master of sorts, I have struggled loving myself. I have been obsessed with becoming a journalist, or some writer for Outside Magazine or National Geographic, always hoping that’d I morph into that some day. To show that I can write and be paid and be safe and adult. It’s not just a hobby! I have had such fear in this journey and let that fear squash out all action. There has also been another part of me, a whole ocean of me who likes stories, comics, science fiction, short stories, hunked-out novels that I have shut off because fiction writing is not a job. Or a serious one. I have always arm wrestled with this feeling: I am a fraud and writing won’t feed you or house you or retire you or give you travel money. All true if you sit and worry about it. Which I have spent nearly a decade of time worrying about it. I have spent an adulthood trying to self-invent, transform, conjuring ideas, trying job after job and believing I couldn’t become the person I wanted to be. What I have learned in these four years is that I am exactly who I want to be. The future is dark, as Virginia Woolf has written. Meaning we can’t see it. We can’t know it.Darkness is good. The future is full of things you don’t know. You have no idea. All you can do is create and go into it.
I have found out I am good at lots of things that give a person money. I am good at teaching for instance. I am good at writing. I think I could make money at both and also make my tiny universe of influence a better place, or try to at least. I want to give to people what good teachers and writers have given me.
So, anyways, every Tuesday and Thursday, I’ll update readers with the exercise or theme from the class. If you like writing, take out a fresh sheet and draw a well. Make your best one. Give it bricks or grass, grit on the sides, maybe a pail on the side, and then write what you draw from. What inspires you to keep writing despite what the world might tell you.
See you next time.