So I'm taking a writing class. This particular class deals with the effective writing of essays, which seem to be my stock in trade. It's interesting to learn that there are different techniques for writing quality essays, depending on what effect you wish them to have. So in that regard, I'm enjoying it even if I feel like I'm a little bit in over my head, especially since we are "workshopping" which means we all read and comment on each other's work. I'm taking the class with a friend who is a fabulous and accomplished writer, so I derive comfort from having her there to discuss the work. But can we talk about the rest of the class for a moment? I recognize that perhaps these groups are like AA, so I'm not supposed to judge lest I be judged. But, seriously, folks. At least 80% of this class seems to be populated by what I can only call Professional Writing Class Attendees.
We went around the room for introductions/background/favorite books, etc. Me? "Hi, I'm E. I was in nonprofit and political work before being a stay-at-home. I write a blog read by tens of people. I'd like to learn how to do it better and to perhaps expand some previous posts for potential publishing. This is my first class ever. My favorite author is Flannery O'Connor." Almost everyone else: "Hi, I'm Jimbob. I work in IT for a major publishing company I won't name. Heh heh. This is my seventh course. I took Memoir I, Memoir II, Navelgazing III, Character Sketch I and II, Creative Nonfiction and Publishers: Friend or Foe." I'd like to find out how to have my book on antiques published. My favorite authors in no particular order are (insert 9 names here)...I'm hoping to get (insert long-winded somethingorother here) out of this class."
At first these introductions made me feel scared, like, wow, I am so green. How will my writing measure up to the writing of these experienced individuals? They are totally going to hate my writing, so lacking in formal writing education that it is. Oh my god, should I have taken Memoir I and Memoir II before doing this? Sh*t! Why didn't I sign up for Character Sketch I For Beginners before jumping into this Intermediate level class?!! I have no business being here! GAAAH! Then I gave myself the same advice I give Bambina when she is overtired and getting jiggy and silly: "Calm your body down now. Let's calm our bodies, okay?" So I took a breath, settled down, and decided to just let it happen. If I suck, I suck. It's not like I'm getting a grade. It's not like the world will open up and swallow me if Jimbob hates my essay. Let's assume these are all nice people, however literarily fat-headed, who aren't getting psyched up to wield a red pen on poor E's beginner works.
But then I got worked up again as we read Death of a Moth by Virginia Woolf. I was thinking, "Wow, this is the most boring thing I've ever read." Meanwhile, the rest of the class was waxing rhapsodic on how "it was at this point in the narrative that I really started to care about the moth," and "I can sense the narrator's ambivalence when she writes...." It was like people were competing to say the most erudite thing about anything we read. Meanwhile, I got none of those erudite things from the essay. None of them. So cue the internal drama once again: Oh my god, I don't get literature, I shouldn't be here..." Then we read Sacagawea by Sherman Alexie, whom I love, and I felt better, realizing that I don't have to like everything or pretend to just for the benefit of my classmates. I felt immensely better after the class when I confided my heresy to my accomplished writer friend, who said, "Oh my god! 'I started to care about the moth'?! I still don't care about the moth! That was boring!" I love her. For being so real--and for being real enough to not feel like she has to compete to be the "literati" of the class.
So this is my plan: Learn to write essays. Have fun doing it. Have fun exploring new things that make me feel unqualified. Live in that uncertainty and enjoy it. Know that I am SO using these people and this class as fodder for my first book. :)