Maybe it's because I've basically been trapped inside for going on eighteen days. Maybe it's because I've become disenchanted with stuff around me. Maybe it's something I shouldn't talk about on the Internet, seeing as I'm in a Creative Writing program, but Lisa's recent entry is exactly what grates my nerves about writing programs, or about "teaching" writing. Everything that follows is my opinion, I'm not trying to put words in Lisa's mouth at all. She might have a more positive take on this. And, like I said, this is my opinion, and also keep in mind that I'm not even in workshop this semester. Though the points I make are pretty much WHY I dropped before the first class.
- Writing workshops don't focus on your own writing. The professor leading the class will like what he/she likes, even if you're a good writer who just has a different take on things. If the professor hates flashbacks, 1st person, present tense - you're going to tailor your writing to what they want, just to get through the class. If you don't do that, more power to you, but I like to think I have balls, and by the end of last semester I was totally tailoring my work for this one professor.
- Isn't Creative Writing about being creative? Yes, there it is in the name, even. So why is it frowned upon to write 1st person present - a form that isn't even that innovative! I'm not saying every assignment needs to have a gimmick ala Mark Z. Danielewski, but what's wrong with exploration? That helps writing! It helps brainstorming! It helps to get out of the box, to think "I'm going to tell this story backwards." Why should that be frowned upon? Why should we be stifled by gearing our writing to dated standards?
I'm glad I dropped workshop this semester. I think I'm a little too put-off to deal with it. I haven't been writing fiction since I came to this program. Counter intuitive, right? I just have no drive. Though a great part of that is because I'm swamped with schoolwork and work-work, a big chunk is because I don't want to write what professors want me to write. When I'm given strict guidelines for a writing assignment, I can't write it. There's no room for my brain to be free and let me be myself in my writing. So my creativity is crushed.
My Sketch Writing class, on the other hand, is a good deal of workshop. Constructive criticism, an open, inviting environment. The faculty doesn't say, "You can only do it this way! This is the way I do it, this is the way that's best." They show us some professional examples, they read one of their skits, then they set us free with very broad guidelines. When you come back next week with something totally off the wall, they don't tell you it will only work in this format. They work with you and acknowledge that you're trying to do something different, and that you should think outside of the box, that you pretty much have to, with comedy. They help us with format and layout and professional aspects, but that doesn't dilute the class. We're not here to get published, like so many in MFA programs. We're here because we love to laugh, we want to make others laugh, we want to perform what we write. We're doing it for fun. Writing used to be fun, but lately, it hasn't been.
I guess this is the perfect place to shut my mouth. I'd like to clarify that I'm NOT badmouthing my program. Our faculty has a lot of experience, a lot of publications, and who am I to speak? As I commented on Lisa's post, I've been hearing advice like that my entire writing "career". Undergrad professors had certain formulas that worked for them, so that's what they taught. Sometimes they didn't even practice what they teach, which is worse in my mind. I'm not trying to point the finger at my school, because this is just my opinion. I've been thinking about it for a really long time (first day of the program, perhaps?) but it's all me. I know classmates who are learning a lot, who are growing in their writing, and who really enjoy class and workshops. This is all personal thoughts and opinions, so keep in mind that I'm a bitter, angry girl.
This has pretty much been the best extended weekend ever.
+ Kelly and I meet some acquaintances at a dive bar after work
+ Said acquaintances are VERY generous, leading to...
+ Kelly and I perform our first "show" as Electric Lady Jam
+ I finally accomplish my goal of singing karaoke, and don't even use the screen prompt
+/- Video footage exists >
+/- We try to sign up for a second song, but Kelly can't write properly
+ Blizzard begins
+ Snow is beautiful
+ Snow is cold
+ Snow burns your eyes when it blows in your face
+ 16"+ upon waking, snow keeps falling
+ Field on the corner still has IMMACULATE snow, even at 3p!
+ Commence completely ruining that field for anyone else
+ Make snow angels (video footage exists):
+ Build an epic snowman:
+ Catch up to the current episode of How I Met Your Mother
+ NOT do any schoolwork, because campus is closed tomorrow
+ Write sketches instead of do freelance work
+ Watch Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl all afternoon, squeal as necessary
I'm back to reading. Slowly and not-too-surely. But it's more than I read the first month of my first semester, so I'm counting it as a victory.
Joe College by Tom Perrotta --- A re-read, just to get me back into the swing of things.
Free-Range Chickens and Ant Farm by Simon Rich --- I read them in reverse order, and found Free-Range Chickens funnier, but these are definitely books I'll keep coming back to when I want something light-hearted to read and inspire me. Ever since I finished Ant Farm, my mind has been racing and I've been scribbling ideas in my premise journal for the sketch writing class. Both are books of short sketches and "What If" situations, such as: Dalmations
- Hey, look, the truck's stopping.
-- Did they take us to the park this time?
- No... it's a fire. Another horrible fire.
-- What the hell is wrong with these people?
And, from an interview: Q: When else do you feel that the end is near?
SR: Every time I get an automated response from a company and I feel myself altering the pitch of my voice in order to make it more robotic so that the robot will understand me. I feel pretty scared because I don’t think we humans should be working so hard to accommodate the needs of robots. I think it should be the other way around. I shouldn’t have to coddle a robot in my day-to-day life.
Q: How do you feel about chickens now?
SR: It hasn’t affected the frequency with which I eat chicken, but I am more aware of where they come from. I can visualize much better how the chicken got from the farm to my plate. One thing about chickens is that they are unbelievably dumb. When you try to get them back into their coop, they’ll run from you, and when they get winded, their only recourse is to hide, but since they live on plots of grass, they’ll hide behind a blade of grass, which is really like a full grown man trying to hide behind a mailbox or a parking meter. I’ll never forget the image of a bunch of chickens hiding behind blades of grass.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer -- This book was required for my Fiction/Nonfiction Crossover class, but I enjoyed reading it. It is definitely intense enough to deserve its own post... I still don't really know how I feel about it. It's been popping into my head randomly since I closed the cover for the final time; my thoughts are totally jumbled. Especially after I googled pictures of Chris McCandless... that changed my opinion quite drastically.
He's always smiling, and why shouldn't he? He did what he wanted. He went out on the adventure he worked his whole life for... In his last photo (waving and holding the note) he's incredibly gaunt, but still smiling... Is he putting on an act because he knew the film would eventually be developed and shown to the public, including his family? Or is he genuinely happy that he experienced all he did, even though it killed him?
That's what I struggle most with, I guess. Especially with everything that's been on my mind since last semester... My thoughts are louder now. My brain is yelling at me and I can't ignore it and live these next few years passively. I have a lot on my plate and I'm pretty sure I'm gearing up for a change. It's thrilling, but daunting. I just want to do what I love. I want to be happy and not dread waking up in the mornings. I want to be excited about what I'm doing.
In totally unrelated news, this is my new favorite picture of myself:
"The doctor said I wouldn't have so many
nose bleeds if I kept my finger outta there."