In July 2019, at age 44, I went back to school.
The first attempt was in the fall of 1992 when I was 17; I'd graduated young from high school thanks to moving straight into first grade after nursery school. To say that college wasn't for me is an understatement that cannot be quantified. I lasted a year and a half.
In 2002, I and my new wife moved to Florida so I could attend School That Shall Not Be Named. I earned my first degree, an Associates in Game Design & Development, but found myself dissatisfied with the experience and the outcome. And I felt old. Twenty-seven and in a classroom with 18-, 20-, 22-year-olds? I was an old man.
Years went by, life happened. I had interests, careers, kids. Moved a couple of times between a couple of states.
I wanted to write.
The bug bit me in 1995 or so. '97 maybe. I was living in South Florida, not entirely of my own volition, and I decided to write a novel. I scrawled it out longhand into a bunch of notebooks in the back of a Denny's. I'd arrive at 11:00 or midnight, and hang out there, writing, until the sun came up. To this day, the only time I miss being a smoker is when I think of sitting in that Denny's, in the smoking section, writing that book.
The book was terrible. Most first efforts are. This was especially terrible. I was a reader, and that's why the words were at least legible, but I knew when I finished that without training, I wasn't going to get any better. The advice about practicing until you improve doesn't make much sense to me unless you have an idea of what “better” looks like. And really, we don't tell doctors to skip school and just practice cutting people open, right? In fact, I can't think of a single respectable profession that doesn't require at least some formal training.
So, I stopped writing for a while. When I picked it up again, it was to blog or to write copy for some project or another. In the back of my head, for more than 15 years, was the idea that I was supposed to be writing fiction.
In July 2019, at age 44, I went back to school. I enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University, online—because if 27 was old to be in a classroom, I might as well be dead in a classroom at 44. I went back to earn a degree in English & Creative Writing with a Fiction concentration. Concentrations aren't minors (students may still have a separate minor) but are areas of focus within the degree program. SNHU has four concentrations in my degree program: Fiction, Screenwriting, Poetry, and Non-fiction.
This series details my experiences in each class I've taken so far and will take throughout my journey. Follow the Musings of a Middle-Aged College Student category to read all of what I write about my time at SNHU, or follow the SNHU course recap tag for just the recaps. I'll update the list below with direct links as they're published.
English & Creative Writing at SNHU
Unsure of what the life of an online college student entailed, I enrolled for a single class for my first term.
While I won't call ENG-123 easy, I certainly felt I'd be able to handle two classes at a time going forward. LIT-100 and HUM-200 were up next.
This was the first of three classes that I haven't liked very much. It wasn't terrible; I didn't dread the work. I merely disliked the subject matter. More on that in the review.
HIS-200 was the second. Long ago I decided that if I treat history like fiction, it can be more palatable. I was wrong.
The first class to fall unequivocally within my major, and my favorite class so far. I enjoyed sharing my thoughts about it.
The third class I've disliked, and man, it was just bonkers. Don't know what a triangle is? MAT-125 will teach you!
A middle-of-the-road class as far as content and interest.
This was a great class right up until the final project. There’s a story here.
A great look at mythology beyond the Greek or Roman.
Spoiler: this is the fourth class that I didn't care for. Shakespeare. Whatever.
This course was thoroughly enjoyable, and I'm planning on revising my story and submitting it to the school's Fall Fiction Contest (update: I didn't, but I submitted to another contest that hasn't closed yet).
The story is a bit over 3,500 words and the contest has a 2,000-word limit, so we'll see just how that goes.
This is why I went back to school. The beginning workshop in ENG-329 was good, and I expected this course to build on it; I wasn't disappointed.
I'm the kind of person who listens to podcasts about language, like Word Matters from Merriam-Webster, so this class should have been right up my alley. And it was! Except when it wasn't. Hold on, I'll explain.
My studies covered literary theories like Marxism, New Criticism, and Formalism way back in LIT-200, and LIT-300 is merely more of the same. Like I said about LIT-200, it's a lot. Take heart, though, because any student who did well in that course should have no trouble here.
Everything led to this course. Every reason I had for going back to school brought me to this point. Sure, there are three more classes after this—two of them relevant to my major—but when you want to learn to be a better writer, you yearn for the workshops.
I'll reiterate this in the advice section, but I strongly suggest taking this class on its own. If you can spare the time, if you're cool with possibly adding an extra term, do try to take this one by itself. It's a lot.
Students create a website, establish a social media presence, and draft content for that website or blog. This is ENG-340 taken to its logical end: a complete authorial presence and publishing plan.
There are four IDS courses to choose from. I picked “Popular Culture” because I figured we'd get to talk about movies and TV and music. How hard could it be? I've been steeped in pop culture for 30 years.
Turns out, I was almost right.
About nine months after starting school, I launched a series here called “Musings of a Middle-Aged College Student,” of which this is the final post.