Your commentary on the world today: Expanding your skills while following your passion

When I started my university journey, I was one of the few who knew without a doubt what they wanted to do in life. I was privileged to feel secure in my choice and was ready to spend the next four years learning as much as I could about the ins and outs of journalism. This confidence helped me through the tedious and difficult courses, but it also had a downside.

In the spring of my sophomore year, I sat down to write a standard MP paper for a general education course. Within 10 minutes, I was frustrated that my academic writing skills had rusted. After intense practice of the Associated Press (AP) style, which is only used in print journalism, the boundaries between writing styles began to blur.

I wasn’t even instinctively adding Oxford commas (and I’m a big fan of the Oxford comma which unfortunately isn’t used in AP style).

I’ve always loved writing and thought I could write a solid academic paper on the fly. Yet there I was, having created a Frankenstein out of a paper. I intended to figure out why my skills suddenly seemed dull. Then it occurred to me that the newspaper lacked passion.

My studies brought me closer to my goal of becoming a journalist, yet I felt deprived of creativity. As a child, I wanted to be the author of fantastic tales. My once boundless imagination was tamed.

Honestly, that scared me. I thought I had to choose between two areas for which I had a great passion. Did working in the news world mean I couldn’t pursue the wonderful, fantastical side of creative writing in my adult life?

A few days later, I shared my writing dilemma with a friend from The Slate. They encouraged me to take a creative writing course. I was skeptical at first because I rarely had the confidence to share my creative work with others.

Well, I couldn’t have made a better decision when I signed up for a creative writing course. It was like taking a breath of fresh air. Much to my delight, I wasn’t horrible and started looking forward to every class. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the flutter of anxiety and excitement when sharing my work. Would my class like this? Would they hate him? Does anyone have a comment that could give me a new idea?

I found that the more creatively I wrote, the more life I brought to my short stories. I started to finally develop my own voice in my writing. By adding an extra line of description here or an unusual detail there, I felt my stories come to life. The course I was unsure about had instead strengthened my short story writing skills and my ability to connect with my readers.

This semester, I’m in a fiction writing class – the kind of writing I’m weakest at. Am I nervous? Absoutely. I’ll probably feel like melting in a puddle when my peers criticize my stories. But, the challenge, the possibility of failing spectacularly is exhilarating. Because when I fail, I learn.

Middle school is the perfect time to experience failure. We learn to learn skills and fail at them, without it resulting in poor performance evaluation or job loss. If you feel your skills are stagnating, I implore you to take a course that is not only beyond your comfort level, but one that interests you. Whatever your specialty, if there’s something that intrigues you, now is the time to explore it. Sure it will count towards graduation, but take a risk.

You might be in business college, but you loved a ceramics class you took in high school. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out how proven skills in patience and attention to fine detail in ceramics will translate into your future career.

There are many risks in life that may not be worth taking. But right now, as students, we have the unique chance to take risks just because the reward, in turn, ignites a fire within us. Enrolling in college means signing up for a long journey, so might as well have fun along the way.

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