My Creative Writing Journey

January 26, 2022
Mia Salas

I remember my first grade class’ Halloween party like it was yesterday: the mummy wrapping station on the rug, the spooky cupcakes on the desks and a Halloween storytime in the book corner. Though I briefly stopped by the dessert desks to grab a cupcake, I found myself all consumed in the fourth activity: Halloween story starters. Shifting through printed handout starters about witches and ghosts and goblins, I spent the entire party writing story after story. I somehow drowned out the “Monster Mash” track that played on repeat and the laughter of my classmates as they wrapped each other up in toilet paper. All I could hear was the sound of my pencil gliding across the thick-lined paper. 

It’s no surprise then that when applying for colleges ten years later, I was drawn to Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing. With faculty such as A.M. Homes and Idra Novey, and graduates like Jodi Picoult (I am obsessed with her novels!), I knew I wanted to take courses in the department. And ever since I was admitted, that’s exactly what I did. I took everything from “Introductory Fiction” to “Advanced Fiction,” from “Introductory Poetry” to “Advanced Poetry,” and even Special Topics courses like “Political Fiction.” 

But my writing journey came to an abrupt stop at the end of last year. It was Spring 2021 and I applied for the Creative Writing thesis. At Princeton, everyone writes a thesis in their concentration (mine being English), but some certificates also require you to write a thesis. In the case of the English department, you can actually replace your English thesis with a Creative Writing thesis if you are accepted into the program. So anyone can apply for and take creative writing courses, but that does not necessarily guarantee that you can write a thesis in the department. 

When I received the email that my application was not accepted, I was crushed. I felt as if all that I worked for and all that I hoped for since coming to Princeton, since sitting at that table at my first grade Halloween party writing about witches and pumpkins, had meant nothing. Was my writing not good enough? Was I not good enough? I decided to take a semester off from creative writing for the fall. I was hurt, and perhaps a little too prideful to keep taking courses in the department.

But as these thoughts slipped into my head, I remembered something that one of the creative writing faculty members said. She told our class that she herself was rejected from writing a creative writing thesis, and now she’s a bestselling author with several novels that she is proud of. During the fall semester, I missed creative writing so much. Yes, I might have been hurt, but being at one of the top schools in the country not only means that you’re surrounded by other brilliant, talented people, but that you have to learn how to be surrounded by other brilliant, talented people. It means accepting rejection, learning from setbacks and moving forward. 

This semester, my final semester at Princeton, I am taking a course called “Spark! Sparking Creativity in Writing” with Professor Quade, who I had as a professor for “Advanced Fiction” during my sophomore year. The course focuses on daily writing practice as opposed to long-form, workshop writing. I hope to leave this course with the tools I need to continue writing in my day-to-day life, even as I start my career after graduation. Receiving rejection is always difficult, but it made me realize that creative writing is something I never want to let go of. Thesis or no thesis, I will continue the dream that little first grader had as she scribbled word after word onto her paper.