One thing I’ve noticed about online college: the terms seem to have wings; they fly by, a film in fast-forward. The fact that they’re only eight weeks in length could have a smidgen to do with the perceived brevity. I prefer that explanation to the cliché statement: “Time passes more quickly as a person gets older.” In fact, I’m heading out on a limb and claiming that all middle-aged people find that saying highly offensive.
Every term I take two classes. At Southern New Hampshire University, this is considered a full-time load for online students. At this pace, 36 credit hours can be earned each calendar year, making it possible to obtain a four-year degree in 3 years and four months. In the January-February term, my classes were nonfiction writing workshop (required for my creative writing minor) and the psychology of personality.
My professor for this class is a behavior psychologist whose specialty is evolutionary behavior. I don’t mind saying that this put me on edge, at first. Sometimes the most difficult part of online classes is finding a connection with the professor. After all, you will never meet them, they talk to you only through written communication and most of the time they seem fairly aloof. I hoped this woman would remain distant rather than pushing her evolutionary poppycock down my throat.
As it turns out, she didn’t remain aloof at all. Each week, she recorded a short video in which she reviewed the objectives for the week and stressed the important aspects of the lecture notes and textbook readings. Also, she verbally explained the assignments, so most confusion was alleviated in that area (for me anyway. Some people have no idea how to maneuver through the online classroom, and they needed clarification from her). Additionally, she mentioned some of her studies, but she didn’t insert any mandatory reading of her research projects or tack on side-bars about evolution at every possible moment.
My biggest problem with the class is that I had to read about Freud – again. In the September term, I took a literary theory class (required for my major) and we had to study Freud’s theory in-depth because it impacted the literature and theories of literature during Freud’s lifetime. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I consider Freud to be an over-sexed neurotic. All of his theories are based on analyses of disturbed minds, so who would even expect him to come up with something other than madness?
I found I could completely relate to Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages. I’ve always considered Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to be quite accurate, but upon further study I think he places too many limiting qualities for a self-actualized person. We learned about birth order theories, positive psychology, behaviors and motivating factors and I can list the Big Five personality traits and even say what they encompass (generally)!
While I find psychology interesting and I think it will help in my development of interesting and believable characters, I don’t know if I’ll take many more psychology classes. After awhile, it all starts to sound the same to me.
To be totally honest, I registered for the nonfiction workshop to “get it out of the way.” I’ve always been a fiction writer and I don’t see myself straying very far afield. However, in the very first week of class, I realized my perception of nonfiction reeked of narrow-mindedness and misinformation.
In the beginning, the professor made it clear that we would focus our attention on memoirs, autobiographies, essays and creative nonfiction. I’ll admit, I groaned aloud at the thought. This meant I’d be writing about my life – my dull, unexciting, uninspiring, lived in one state, never traveled out of the U.S. life. Distasteful to the extreme, I decided to “get through it” somehow.
By the third week, the professor found my weak spot and helped me write around it. In fact, I wrote this touching personal essay and realized that I hadn’t even designed it to meet its intended purpose. After doing his weekly writing exercise, I realized I’d written it from the perspective of the least likely point I was trying to make. Such a discovery implied a revolutionary moment for me. If I learned nothing else, this class had given me invaluable instruction in that one “aha” instance.
Most of the writing didn’t stretch me beyond my creative limits. After all, fiction has to be more believable than real life. Descriptive writing flows like water when I can truly enter the scene of which I’m writing.
My goal after taking this class: polish that essay and find a publisher for it. Keep writing narrative nonfiction with the intention that I can find a market for what I write.
Even this blog, something I’ve truly enjoyed, owes its existence to this nonfiction writing workshop. If you like the blog, say with me, “Thank you, Professor M.” If you hate the blog, I’d be happy to supply his email address so you can let him know about it, but don’t post your negativity on my page. (Just kidding, Professor M! I would never hand out your personal information. Not completely joking, readers; I don’t mind tasteful criticism, but this isn’t a gripe forum – for anyone but me!)