2005-09-07 - 1:57 p.m.
So I’ve been having all sorts of contradictory feelings about myself in the past couple days. I guess that’s good because it’s been a long time since I have had ANY sort of feeling about myself. But it is getting cumbersome to be having these feelings. And the fact that they are all coming out of taking this writing class irritates me and at the same time makes me very glad that I am getting my money’s worth (again, more contradiction). This writing class is essentially anonymous being that it is entirely conducted on line. Each week the teacher (a published author and graduate of some really great writing schools and programs) posts a lecture, around ten pages of it and then he starts a discussion about it. Also, he assigns us homework and twice in the ten weeks each of us has to submit a story for critique. So I messed up and had accidentally volunteered to be one of the first people to submit work and that was all fine and cool with me because I had a weeks notice (where everyone else is getting at least three weeks notice but that’s my fault) and I did manage to get the story written and submitted with only one small bout of panicked depression about it. Anyway, I’ve been getting my critiques and none of them are bad…mostly people say that this line or that line doesn’t really flow with the story, and I already knew that. We also have to say two good things about the story and the good things people say about my story are really, really good…not just, I like this story but ‘the words you write are lyrical and flow like a song’ or ‘It’s as though you are painting your words on a canvas’…so that means something to me.
It says in our class overview that there are many kinds of writing…you know, like general fiction and literary fiction. It says that we are focusing on literary fiction. So I wrote a literary piece. And then this woman who had to submit her work this week writes this story, and it’s not bad at all, in fact I envy her precision because I can write some damn pretty words but I totally lack the ability to structure my work…but her work is not at all what I would consider a literary piece…literary pieces are much more difficult to write. It’s the difference between Kraft macaroni and cheese and the macaroni and cheese my mother made homemade. They are both good and of course Kraft has its place, but eating a spoonful of my mother’s homemade macaroni and cheese is something you would remember for the rest of your life. It has substance. Anyway…so this woman that wrote the Kraft story is getting these reviews like she is the greatest writer on earth. One guy even said that she was already a talented writer and didn’t need this class and that he couldn’t find one thing to say in critique of her story. (which is missing the point and I wish that our teacher would please tell that guy that he HAS to critique something because that is part of our class and it would have been really easy for me to just say nice things to people last week when I was critiquing but I worked hard to try and do what I was supposed to do.) Like I said, it was a good story and she did a fine job of putting it together but it was NOT a literary piece of work. And I feel kind of slighted because I could have written, very easily, something that was not literary. Damn…I probably could be a bestseller right now by writing easy stuff with no emotion or vulnerability or human-ness at all. But I am doing what the class was intended for. So I wish, again, that our teacher would please remind people that we are not learning how to be a Tom Clancy, that we are learning how to be a Paul Auster. But this is just a little bitch of mine and I did appreciate the critiques I got and I think that the guy singing raves to the Kraft woman did her a disservice by not offering any words of critique.
So…what I was saying…I’ve been feeling weird lately. Sometimes when I am writing (and not for my diaryland entries, these are just downloads of my life, this is not my writing) I will sit back and say, “DAMN, I AM GOOD!” I truly believe that I am a good, sometimes really fucking good, writer. I get almost conceited about it which leads me to feeling like I am out of place in this class of people who are writing for the masses and who probably read only books that appeal to the masses. I AM a literary snob. I will not lie about that. I probably am TOO MUCH of a literary snob because I won’t even look at that stupid Dan Brown book and I should probably read it before I condemn it. But I learned a long time ago that books that appeal to everyone are typically crap. There is a difference in saying that it was really dark and saying it was so dark that for a moment he thought he had been dipped headfirst into an inkwell (stolen from Paul Auster’s The Invention of Solitude who stole it from Collodi’s Pinocchio). And that’s what I mean by crap. I don’t read for stories necessarily, I read for the art of words. So I don’t care if my future books I will write are ever accepted and read by the masses…in fact, I hope that the masses say, “I can’t read her writing, it’s too much.” I want to be part of that exclusive circle of literary artists. And most times I believe truly that I will and can do just that.
So then I have to knock myself down a notch or two. I will start thinking that yeah, I am a good writer but I am not THAT good, not good enough to break into the circle of literary. I will start thinking that I should just accept my fate as a person that writes only in secret and only for the benefit of her computer. I will start to sell my soul for a moment in panic and start to write some Kraft story and then I will just stop…it all. I will stop writing because writing for the masses is not what I want to do, even if that means that my writing will never be published.
And then I will start thinking that I am too dumb to write. That there is no way I will ever be literary when I did not go to college. Are there any literary writers who did not get an MFA from some fantastic school? ARE THERE?? I didn’t even go to fucking community college for anything. Why? Because I am conceited and somewhere within me I didn’t think I HAD to do any of that. I had grand aspirations for myself back in my early twenties. I was not a slouch on my couch…no, no, not I. I bought books by the bagful and I read them all. I started with the classics and moved on to Irving and Robbins and from there I inched my way into the deepest depths of literary. Slowly, it took me years and years to get to the point I am at now where I can read one paragraph and tell you if it is art or if it isn’t. And I researched…damn did I ever. I knew I wasn’t going to college so I learned on my own. I know things. I learned history and places and magic and flowers and poetry…I learned things at my own pace and that was probably a mistake because my pace is halting and does not allow for me to know any one thing in depth. And that is what I missed by not going to college. I am not the kind of smart person who can spout off about anything. You should listen to my husband sometime. He IS the kind of smart person that can spout off because he knows layers and layers about things. And he will tell you that he learned that in his college years.
My husband (and incidentally most people that are close to me) will say that I lack self confidence. My husband thinks that I did not get enough positive reinforcement growing up (he is not saying that about my parents but about other people, friends, teachers what have you) and I tend to agree that I lack, severely, self confidence in some areas. I did have a rather rough road in high school and my teachers were all hell sucking assholes but I don’t really believe they were the cause of my self confidence issues. And my friends have always loved me so that couldn’t be either. In my opinion, my lack of self confidence comes totally from my own belief that I am stupid. I will rarely get involved in conversations that don’t have to do with mundane things because I never feel equipped to do so. This feeling of mine is probably the biggest contributing factor in my complete and utter solitude. But I will tell you that there are certain things that I am rather conceited about. I will tell you that I am (or was) indispensable at almost every job I have worked at. And I feel justified in saying that considering that the people who were my bosses when I was in my late teens still, to this day, tell me that I was the best employee they ever had and in fact, when they sold their business they were doing everything they could to make it so that I could buy it (dumb dumb me). And my boss from my last job almost cries on the phone when I call to check in. He will say over and over again…”there is no one like you Whippy.” And I KNOW that. I know that I would exceed any expectations in ANY job I set out, truly, to do. And I am also conceited about my writing. I have no doubt that I am really, really good. The only problem is that I am just at the beginning of my process of writing. To write one really beautiful, perfect, awe inspiring line is not enough. I have to write thousands, billions of those and I am not sure I have THAT in me.
I just want to mention that my parents have always been fantastically positive to my brothers and to me. Perhaps my parents are not perfect…there are things that occurred to me in my life with my parents that have scarred me and that were just not pretty…but the one thing they did impeccably was the fact that they were incredibly positive about the people we are. My father, who has only read one story of mine and that’s just because it was in the paper, sings me praise every time I talk to him. He tells me that he shows people my letters because they are so beautifully written. And my mother…well, from the earliest I can remember she knew our dreams and because of that she has always referred to me as a writer and my brother as an artist (in every way). I am almost certain that when she describes us to people she would say, “My daughter is a writer and she works in a restaurant.” To my parents, and yes, even my father though he has been on my shit list for many many years now…we were/are the smartest, most incredible beings on the planet. And maybe that hurt us because as I said, I never thought I needed to go to college. But also, I think more than anything my brothers and I will be exactly who we want/need to be. Had I gone to college I probably would have forgotten about writing, would have talked myself into believing that I would never make it. I would probably be a librarian now and in ten years I would be joining a writing class and typing a biography for myself like many of the people in my current class are typing…’I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid but life got in the way…’
My god…this is just about the longest entry EVER.
Basically all I wanted to say is that for the last week I have been on this roller coaster ride of emotions concerning myself. At times I think I am a fucking god, and in the next moment I feel like a complete, unworthy, moron. One minute I will be thinking that these people in my class are Clancy people and the next minute I am wondering if it is ME who is wrong…if I don’t get what is literary writing and what isn’t. I’m just a mess right now.
And I could keep writing on and on about this but I must find something else to do because my cat has been sprawled across my right wrist the entire time I have been writing this and my hand is numb now.
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