By Blaine Russell, Guest Contributor
We often get emails and calls from families who wonder whether The One Year Adventure Novel curriculum would be a good fit for a student who doesn’t aspire to be an author. We thought it would be fun to hear directly from a non-writer!
The fact that I’m writing a post for the One Year Adventure Novel blog might give you certain expectations as to the type of person I am. So… here are a couple of facts that might surprise you.
One: I’m left-brained. Not extremely, but enough that I swing more to the mathematical and logical than the creative. At least, creative in the way required for imagining worlds and characters and stories to put them in.
Two: I’m not planning on ever writing for a career. Not even close to it. My passion is not creative writing. Instead, writing is just a hobby.
So, that being said, why have I wasted time and money on the One Year Adventure Novel—OYAN—curriculum and four years of Summer Workshops?
Well, I don’t think I wasted anything.
I started OYAN back in 2010, and attended the workshops from 2012 through 2015. My first“novel” was not much more than a short story, no longer than a Boxcar Children chapter book. It was terribly lacking in… well, just about everything needed to make it remotely interesting.
My second novel, which turned out as more of a novella, might be remembered with pain by my Summer Workshop critique group back in 2012. It was a pirate story, and I think the main character jumped or was pushed off the side of a boat at least five times. It was a convenient way to get him around.
Since then, I have not finished a novel. My life has become more centered around my studies, working on the family farm, playing music with my family band, digging my hands into clean,dark, garden soil, and taking as many pictures as I can in between. Writing happens rarely, and it’s hard to write a novel with only a few thousand words a month. But I would like to think that if I did, it would be much improved from those first two stories.
While I don’t see myself making a living off of my writing (though it’s possible I might write some nonfiction someday), I do plan on having my own business. Being able to express ideas through ink and paper, or, in our day and age, digital, black-and- white pixels, is extremely important for my goals. Writing is an essential tool for anyone, I believe, and OYAN has been the grindstone on which I sharpened my blade. I am very thankful to OYAN—and more importantly, to its creator, Mr. Schwabauer—for the training I received; for, without it, I would be much less capable of expressing these ideas.
And maybe some credit goes to my mom and dad for buying the curriculum and driving me to so many workshops!
I know some people who would disagree with me about the value of learning a breadth of skills. If you don’t focus on one skill set, how are you ever going to reach excellence, they might ask.
They have a point, to an extent. Too much diversity is distracting and thins you out, like trying to spread a gallon of paint over too large a surface.
But on the other hand, if you focus strictly on one skill, then what do you do if something goes wrong, whether it’s economic trouble, a personal accident, or a lack of interest from consumers or others in that particular field?
Not to mention, it’s like trying to (if you don’t mind another analogy) build a house with only a screwdriver, or a hammer, or a tape measure.
There’s nothing wrong with having one main goal. Creative writing, freelance editing, or whatever it may be. However, I think it’s best to make an effort to develop multiple skills that may or may not complement each other.
I’ve also known people who have focused so much on one pursuit that they quickly reached excellence. But just when they were really taking off, they burned out. We just can’t keep operating forever at an obsessed level. Burnout doesn’t happen to everyone, certainly, but you can’t be sure that it won’t.
So, no, I have never regretted the time I spent writing and going to writing workshops. And although I write fiction very rarely now, I still have benefited from the time that I did, and I enjoy doing it yet.
I’m so thankful for OYAN, “real” writer or not. It’s changed my life for the better.
How has creative writing helped you grow in other areas of life?
Blaine Russell is a homeschool graduate who spends most of his time working remodel and construction with a brother and dad, playing music with his family band, gardening, and trying to improve as a photographer. He lives with his parents and six siblings on thirty acres in central Oklahoma.