Friday, 29 January 2010

All Excuses Apply

I seem to have stumbled into a writing workshop of sorts. This was not my intention. The module: Memory Maps. My reason for taking it? It's said to be the origin from which my course stems.

I'm finding this module to be a particular kind of torture. It's like flashbacks to I don't even know where exactly, but some sort of weird high school world. I made a very conscious decision not to pursue a masters in creative writing because I felt like I was done with writing workshops. Yes, they are useful and yes they can be a real treat. I have had plenty of workshops that I have absolutely loved. I've even found some of them extremely helpful: not only hearing what others have had to say about my own writing, but in reading and hearing feedback on the writing of others. But this class? It's like a half-assed writing workshop. It's part lecture, part write on a topic and then show and tell. I am all for the lecture part. I'm there to learn. I'm less enthusiastic about the writing bit--great exercise to be given topics to write on, but I'd rather take the writing prompts home than spend a quarter of the class jotting down things, but my absolute least favorite part is listening to everyone else read their bits. Why? It's complicated. Show and tell doesn't interest me anymore. These aren't carefully crafted and revised works that are deserving of consideration, but twenty minute blurbs (some better than others) and there's no time for constructive criticism. So really, it's just scribble and share. And then, there's the part that really gets me: the flagrant insecurities, the self-consciousness, the excuses before they even begin to read. And possibly worse than the excuses, the explanations. If it needs explaining, then I'm in the camp that says the writer hasn't done his job. And yes, some how, worse than the insecure babblings that proceed a reading, are the ones that launch right into it, over-eager to share, delighted by the sound of his words and his voice. Oh my god, it's not that good. And then there's the ego-inflating compliments and the oh, gosh, really? You think? Tell me more about how good of a writer you think I am. Or better yet, the ones who are happy to tell you why that part that you liked is so good, yeah, it's better than you first thought (and let me tell you why. . . ). Not to mention the undercurrent of competition and comparing.

I mean none of this to say that I am a better writer than the rest. In fact, I make no claims of the sort. It's simply the dynamic, the structure and the personalities. But I'm trying to keep my eye on the prize. I'm trying to stay focused on what I'm there for and to see the writing exercises as opportunities to think about something new or at least to outline a few blogs or make lists for grocery shopping or whatever it is that strikes me at the moment. Taking a lesson from psychogeography, I'm learning to drift. I'm trying to stay out of the politics of it, not engage with the display of insecurities or attention seekers. I'm trying to be patient, be respectful, and be open to the good that might come from this.

I must say, I am grateful to the tutor who on day one cut off the list of excuses (I'm not a writer, I've never done this before, It's not very good, I only had 20 minutes, and so on and so on ad nauseam) by saying, "All excuses apply." (Ergo, shut up and read.) Bless him. I have great respect for the graceful way he handled the situation, his ability to offer a thoughtful comment on each person's work, and his sense of humor. Surely he presents a positive model for me. Observe carefully, stay focused, and learn.

P. S. Gratuitous curse words and references to drug use do not make you cool.

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