I got a few dodgy looks from my high school teachers and classmates when I told them I’d found a uni course I loved that allowed me to major in creative writing. Part of me likes to believe they only looked at me that way because I’d decided so early, but I’d like to think I’m socially aware enough to realise that it was because I was romanticising the shit out of the infamously unreliable creative industry. I didn’t care though, not in the slightest. Once I knew that I could spend my time at university surrounded by students who didn’t scoff at the set texts in English class, my mind was made up.
I still remember the day I was accepted. I was sitting on my floral bedspread, Mum next to me, my laptop between us. It was a warm afternoon. I can remember a light breeze carrying in the sounds of traffic through the open glass doors. This memory lives in my head with such ferocious clarity because it truly felt like the beginning of the rest of my life. Throughout the entirety of my last year in high school, I was fanatically researching university courses, trying to find the perfect one. I didn’t particularly know what specific career I’d wanted, but I knew what I was passionate about and I wouldn’t settle for anything less.
I remember my first year of classes on campus. It was full of buying the physical copies of required texts even though they were free online, simply because nothing beats flipping pages. I listened to lecturers in absolute awe as they got lost in literary discussion. I wrote down every single word from every single slide so I could pour over it when I got home. I had lunch on campus with new friends. I spent hours in the library and loved the exclusivity that came with tapping my student ID card upon entry.
But I also remember the harsh realities of second year. Realising that I knew so little, that the structured curriculum of high school English class really didn’t teach me anything about what it meant to be a writer, other than how to construct a wicked essay. I learnt that being a writer was a goal very few achieved. These realisations hardened me in a way I’ll always be grateful for. Studying at university felt like the rose-coloured glasses I’d proudly worn were being ripped off my face, only to show me that the world was much prettier without them. I discovered the editing and publishing industry. I found not only comfort in the fact that I could work with books while I tried to produce them myself, but excitement at the prospect of working with up-and-coming, and even famous, authors. The idea
of working collaboratively with another writer to bring their manuscript — their most prized and precious possession — to life, made me feel giddy with elation. The weight of my career had shifted, my shoulders felt lighter.
I learnt self-discipline, which was difficult to adjust to but proved insanely rewarding. I learnt to challenge myself and experiment with my craft, to step outside the boundaries that had been drilled into me during high school. I found freedom in my writing and became truly aware of the deep and complex world of literature; of different eras, genres, structures, styles and form. And most importantly, I discovered my own voice. I figured out how to best express myself, how to bring my stories and characters to life with fierce vividity. I still find fitting my work into marking rubrics and structured criterias restrictive, but nothing like the restraint I was under before I saw the world of literature through the lens of a creative writing major. The passion I once had was a mere shadow of the passion I have now, blossoming from the knowledge and experiences I’ve gained through such a refined yet seemingly bottomless degree.
I graduate this year and I think all the worrying
I avoided in high school has come for its revenge. The fearlessness I felt in choosing to major in creative writing has slowly begun to dissipate as the realities of post-education life start to rear their scary little heads. I’m more than happy to admit that I’ve grown comfortable in my degree. I’ve grown to adore the title of ‘creative writing student’ and unashamedly state it when people ask me what I study. It’s almost become a safe place for me, and I’ll look back with nothing but joy (and a little assignment anxiety). I’m so deeply ingrained in my routine now, so happy to be learning about the things I love most in the world at a depth I couldn’t have fathomed as a high school student. To be surrounded by people who love literature just as much as I do. But I guess I can’t be a student forever. I’m confident in the fact that I can take what I’ve learnt and apply it to an industry I’m passionate about in a personalised and innovative way. And even though I’m confronted daily with the fear that I’m not going to be successful, I look back on the education I’ve been so lucky to receive and know I’d be stupid not to give it a red-hot crack.
Who knows, I might actually make it.