(Note: This short essay was rejected by Writer’s Digest for their 5-Minute memoir section. Enjoy.)
Fancy Horse Girl, Zombified Classmates and an Insolent Instructor
by T. K. Jones
Years ago when I was in college, I signed up for a creative writing workshop. I dreamed of honing my craft and meeting other enthusiastic writers. What ensued can only be described as a disastrous nightmare.
On the very first day of class, instead of doing anything related to writing, we were each forced to draw a horse on the chalkboard. Our teacher, a grad student, thought it would show our personality. For most of us, it didn’t.
But there was one girl in class who took her sweet time, spending five long minutes drawing what she thought was an amazing horse. It took up the whole center of the chalkboard. OK, so she wants to be the center of attention and believes she’s more talented than everyone else. Funny though, since of the twelve or so of us, she turned out to be the most lacking in that department. It seems the people with the least amount of talent are always the ones that are absolutely convinced that they’re overflowing with it.
So we spent the entirety of the first class drawing horses. It was a complete waste of time. As one person after another was made to draw their horse, my heart sank deeper and deeper. What did I get myself into? I wondered, as I scanned the faces of my aloof, already-zombified classmates. It was starting to resemble a morgue.
I made friends with the girl sitting next to me and we both agreed that we didn’t have a good first impression of the workshop. But because we were so starved for advanced creative writing knowledge, we decided to stick with it. To the very end. No matter what.
That couldn’t be said for everyone. A few dropped out right away. The horses did them in. Halfway through the semester, a male classmate, who my new friend and I found to be quite talented, gave up. Not just on the class but on writing altogether! Apparently, the last straw was a catty comment the fancy horse girl made about his story. That it sounded an awful lot like a movie she’d seen before. Of course she couldn’t produce the title of said movie but she just had to say so. He could’ve easily gotten back at her by staying but he never came back to class after that incident.
Most of the participants could barely be called participants at all, as their participation ended with writing their stories. As time went by, it became obvious that no one was really reading anyone else’s work! I felt cheated. Angry. Week after week I took the time to read each and every story, no matter how poorly written, and add useful comments. I even proofread and copyedited for my lazy peers! I got nothing in return except the occasional one-word comment. “Good.”
The rotten cherry to top off the stale, tasteless cake that was my creative writing workshop was the instructor. When he made a comment, which was strangely infrequent for the person running the workshop, it wouldn’t be constructive, rather what could be labeled as degrading. Always blurted out with a slimy look of glee and satisfaction on his perpetually greasy face. “Awful, awful, AWWWWFUL! Ugh!” He enjoyed the embarrassed and hurt expressions and slumped shoulders he caused.
The last day couldn’t end soon enough. It was a last-day-of-class “party.” As we awkwardly sat around in our usual circle, munching on stale tortilla chips and sipping lukewarm soda, the teacher tried in vain to lift the mood to resemble a fiesta. To at least get us to speak. Too little, too late, I thought. Too little. Too late.
© April 2015, T. K. Jones