I'm a little different from most other writers I've met so far in one glaring way: I have never been an English major or studied creative writing or participated in any class that might remotely help me write novels. No, in college I majored in Floral Design Management. Most people laugh when I tell them that, like they think it's a joke, like it's on the same level as majoring in Coloring in the Lines.
Oh, that was your major? Oh. *cough*
But I loved it! I got accepted in a lucky way, too. In high school I took a course called Experience Based Career Education, where you got to go and do little mini-internships around town. I chose Jr. High PE Teacher (pretty intimidating when the kids are bigger than you) and Floral Design.
The woman I worked for, Chris of Christine's Floral, was wonderful. She made me tie bows until my hand was perma-cramped. I stripped roses of their thorns and cleaned out buckets. I even got to put together a vase of roses for an order (and failed so miserably that one of the designers had to bail me out.) It was the best.
So when it came time to fill out my college application, I knew what I wanted to do. The school I went to, BYU-Idaho, is one of the few universities in the country that actually offer Floral Design.
The day the application was due, disaster struck in the form of a power outage. I sent it in the next day and got a very polite rejection letter stating that I was too late. A few days later I got a call from the department head saying that they had an opening and that I could have it if I promised to stick with Floral Design for at least two semesters and then I could change my major if I wanted. I didn't want.
I was so excited I ran to the store and bought myself some cheery dishes. I was going to college! Away from home! To play with flowers!
On the first day of school I showed up to class with a rosy outlook. Classrooms full of flowers just smell good anyway. Have you ever noticed that when you walk into a flower shop, how it smells? That was my classroom. Ahhh.
The class started with a round of introductions where everyone had to say what kind of floral experience they had. At least half the class had already had jobs in flower shops. I was confident in my abilities. I knew that stems had to be cut at an angle before being put in water. I knew about floral foam, how you can't push it into the water because that causes air pockets. But, wow, I didn't know as much as I thought I did. Or as much as other people, at least.
And let's talk about raw talent for a minute, because there were a couple people who had it in droves. For the first few weeks I could almost hear my poor little practice flowers whimpering to jump over to the next table and join someone else's arrangement. I, apparently, didn't have that raw talent. I didn't have the instincts to make beautiful arrangements.
All I had was a love of flowers.
That love drove me to try harder, to assess what looked good and what looked bad, to learn all I could. And this sounds totally cheeseball, but that love grew as I learned more. To this day, my heart breaks for the poor, abused flowers in Walmart. I'm like PETA for flowers, seriously. Maybe I should start throwing dandelion milk on the produce stockers? Would that be productive?
Same with writing. I have the love, I have some talent, but sometimes I look at other writers and think, "Oh...I have no idea what I'm doing here. Wow, adverbs are bad, huh?" But my love drives me to get better, to see what works and what doesn't, to grow. I'll put in the work and hopefully I won't slice any fingers off like I almost did in my Wedding Flowers class. Because that hurt.
But probably not as much as query rejections will. Yeesh.