Joining a writing class provides us with an unique opportunity to meet new people. People from all walks of life, all backgrounds, ages and with a range of viewpoints. They all come with their own story, their own interest in joining the class. Over time we will learn that, just as we have much in common in coming together for the class, we also have much that is different.
We all use stereotypes to help us make sense of the world, consciously or not. We look at the people and the way they behave and jump quickly to conclusions about them. That person is not very friendly, that person is young and flippant, that person is old and serious. The list goes on.
As we begin to hear each other's writing during the course of the class we start to learn more about each person. We learn a little bit more about who they are, what drives them to write, what it is they hope to achieve. We hear about their interests. We hear about their relationships. We even hear about their childhood. We hear about this in the context of writing and how they express themselves. The writing gives them a voice to express their life experiences. Their writing shows us their multidimensionality, their complexity.
We also can be surprised and this often happens over the course of the class. We hear some beautiful and sensitive use of language that comes out of the mind and mouth of someone who appears loud and insensitive on the surface. We hear some intense and harsh language from the person who appears conservative and naïve. We hear a literary use of language from a young person we wouldn't have expected to be interested in writing with such intellect and thought.
Gradually, our stereotypes begin to break down. At the same time, our own vulnerability emerges as we realize that that our own cover, our mask we are so attached to, is about to be smashed wide open as well.