Monday, November 3, 2008

Why Can't I Write?

I met with my workshop prof after class today and confessed that I wasn't writing much. That I'd gone away from just sitting down and writing about things to planning it out before hand; thinking themes and symbols and plot points. I am not having fun. He said he wants me to stop editing first and just write--just sit down and type out 50 pages of whatever and then trim it down. That would be nice--if possible. I'm sure it is possible--I'm just stuck on themes and other "literary" ideas, and find other things to do. Like watch CNN in preparation for tomorrow night (so exciting!! Go Obama!) or try to find illegal downloads of HBO's True Blood online (very doable, but crappy quality), or read trashy books that make me dumb. This weekend I calmed my jittering need-for-normal-reading cravings, unearthed my fun book from amidst the smarties on my nightstand, and read the entire thing in about 6 hours.

Want to know something sad?

This program has made me smarter. The book did nothing to root me in--whatever I was seraching for in even reading it.

I know, I know... learning from a MFA program isn't a bad thing. I was just bothered by it because I was reading the book (by one of my favorite authors) and finding myself commenting on the writing as being "below par". God, what a snob I've become! Now, it's completely plausible that said author just had crappy luck with this novel (which happened to be a retelling of a previous story from another person's POV), but I wonder if I am not in some way polluted by this program. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing... I don't want to become a snob. One of those people who look down on the average reader and the average book as if they're trash (some people here are like that and it makes me cringe each and every time they say something about the avearge reader or make remarks about best selling authors). Why is wanting to write books for the general public considered selling out? Why do you feel most of the books out there now are poorly written? What makes them poorly written? God, it's exhausting. I just want to write like I did back when I was working (or not working). But... I'm positive that almost every person I've met up here so far would look down at the last 1.5-2 years of my writing. Maybe I'm making too many assumptions--I don't know, it's just this general feeling I get (not from everyone, but a vast majority for sure).

I still wrestle with whether or not I'm in the right place. Whether or not I should be shelling out so much money on such a program. It's still a gamble. It's paying off in that I am learning (possibly at a subconscious level) and I do enjoy my classes and all the people I've met. But... is it right for me? My prof told me I'm writing at a Jedi Level 6. Please do not ask me what it means because I have no idea. (Perhaps Jedi Level 6 is what Yoda's reading to the right?!?!) Maybe it's better than that.... It seems like a nice level to be at and he was complimentary of parts of my work. But I just sat there staring at him while wondering just how many Jedi levels there are in writing fiction. Am I at six of 1,000,000? Six of 10? I should have asked him to specify. I also got the sense that he was telling me to be more proud of my work? That I should have a bigger ego about it? I got that sense. He picked up that I can be (am) too hard on myself. Shit--my poker face is slipping. Or he's just a fellow Empath and watches me a bit too keenly.

**Must... hide... true identity...** <--said in a struggling manly superhero voice.

So anyway, I can't write tonight.

I think it might have something to do with the atmosphere of this place, this bedroom and my unbelievable way of letting shit pile up all around me. I'm staring at a load of clean clothes right here occupying the empty side of my bed with a loathing hate (for many varying reasons, I suspect). Why can't they just put themselves away? I guess it doesn't matter, I'll just drop them onto the clean pile in the basket by the bed (where they'll remain until the weekend when it's time to wash again). Gosh, I'm rambling tonight. It sorta feels nice--therapeutic in a way. Sorta like how York Peppermint Patties have become my drug of choice the last few weeks. And you know what else? I can't find my copy of Sydney White--yes, I know it's a cheesy movie, but it's cute and I've been craving it since I moved up here. I know that the moment I buy a new copy the old one will jump out and yell "har har, got you to spend more money that you didn't have!" That happened with a vampire novel that was hiding one of my many purses--I found several months after buying a new copy (right as I was about to move up here actually).

What does all this mean? Besides my need to ramble about--I'm not sure. Avoidance mainly--to keep me from writing my circus love story that will likely be dark and moody. I am dark and moody--literally and emotionally.

Snow is coming soon. I guess I can look forward to buying more winter gear and some needed boots. I can also look forward to February 2009's AWP Conference in Chicago--a few of us are road tripping out there. Other MFAers, check it out!


angie said...

my little geisha, i love you. i don't know what to say.... i hate it when you are in this kind of place... i don't know what this jedi level 6 business means, but i would take it as a compliment, not over analyze it, and just know that "the force is with you" hee hee. now i must say, i am very curious about this whole circus love story thing you have going on.... sounds interesting :-}

Eileen Wiedbrauk said...

I know that the more I learn about writing the less I enjoy certain fiction. Although it's also hilarious to me to read books by my instructors AFTER I've taken their classes and look at the work and completely see all the mechanics of what they've done because you've been as much inside that writer's brain as any reader will ever get by taking their class. :) Mostly though, what I see in fiction now that I notice is a lack of clarity. I still enjoy the plot - but it's the wording that often throws me for a loop because I know how I could have made it more precise if only I'd been there for an edit ... and yet that is occasionally the convention of the genre. I started editing a story I had been working on while simultaneously reading a lot of romance novels and all my sentences were strung together like "While smiling to herself Jane closed the door" instead of just getting down to it and saying "Jane closed the door and smiled." I think there will always be something to be said for clarity in any form of writing, but everything else is genre conventions.

No idea on the Jedi level thing (I even googled it but that was no help).

And don't worry about the themes and symbols and stuff; they're what happens when you're not looking. Actually, for me they're what happens when I'm either 3/4 of the way through or in my third edit and then I realize that if I only have another scene with a bird I had develop the whole freedom/flying away thing that the character had an offhand conversation about on page one. However that conversation on page one was really just written because I was watching a bird out the window and my character needed something to talk about.

Oh, and I'll be at the AWP as well! Turns out it's 3 blocks from where I used to live in Chicago :)

Margosita said...

I've been having trouble with it, as well. For me, I keep being surprised at how hard it feels. Writing is hard, but no matter how many times I say that or hear it from others I continue to feel unprepared for it when I sit down at my computer. I think I secretly hoped that when I started the MFA program writing would get easier. Jokes on me, I guess. I feel sort of overloaded, much of the time. The writing universe keeps expanding and I get less and less sure of where I'm supposed to be in it.

I just saw this on another blog. I've only skimmed the list so far and I'm not sure any of the suggestions are super useful, but maybe it'll jog something for you?

Margosita said...

Oh! And I think I'm gonna go to AWP, too. Still ironing it out, but it could be fun!

Becca said...

Ok, Tom told you that you write at Jedi level six? I love that. I love it that he says strange things like that. I can't write today either. My nerves are all on edge. I think it's the election. I went up to barnes and noble but couldn't settle down and focus so I left after a half hour...I usually stay there for EIGHT hours so that shows how much my concentration was affected today.

Do you know what I think? I think you should work on that vampire novel and I will work on my fairy tale. Work on your fun vampire novel and turn it in for your last story for the hell of it. You'll have more fun and I guarentee some of the people will have a great time reading it. I know I would.

This MFA program did that to a few of my favorite books but at the same time it helped me recognize what a few of my favorite crunchy authors are doing exactly write. Don't sweat it.

Oh, and we are all empaths here. That's the trouble with MFA programs. We're all the sort of people who can read other people and know what they are thinking on their insides. Nobody has any secrets but everybodies pretty awesome about treating other people well, so it seems to work out.

My comment is almost as long as your blog.

Becca said...

also I can't spell. The shame, the shame.

See you tonight for chili and election coverage.


Tanya said...

LOL... yeah the whole Jedi Level 6 thing doesn't exist but in my prof's head. He's quirky like that.

If you guys (eileen and margosita) go to AWP we need to get together sometime! :)


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