Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On Writing

So I attempted to attend Diane's writing workshop on Friday and Saturday.  In 2005, I  registered for a beginner's poetry class at the Center for the Arts.  When I attended though it was apparent that the class was not full of beginners as expected.  Folks were working on chapbooks, had been published in anthologies etc. etc.  I stopped going after I made a fool of myself. A woman in the class used the description of an Ansel Adams' photo as a metaphor in her poem.  Not having seen the actual photo, I said something like "that part of your poem reminds me of an Ansel Adams photo." She derisively (at least in my mind) said, "that is an Ansel Adams photo."  I never went back.  How's that for resilience?  Someone, I don't remember who, made a comment to me when I was young that I should keep my mouth shut and let others think I am stupid, rather than opening my mouth and confirming it.  That stuck with me and so I am quiet oftentimes when I want to speak. On this occasion I braved my fear and commented and then felt like an ass.  I could not get past my shame and embarrassment to go back.

Now 6 years later, I decided to try again.  There could not have been a safer venue for me to test the waters.  I love Diane.  She has a huge heart and she loves me back.  I also knew some of the attendees and though all the folks in the conference were seasoned writers I knew they would be gentle and encouraging with me. It was obvious I was a beginner and had never actually written, aside from plagiarizing other writers in my journal when drunk which doesn't count. After a long night of Dewars  I often meticulously copied poems I loved.  If nothing else I have good taste in lit-er-ature. (She says with nose in the air!) These beautiful pieces of writing were always obscure works that not many people would recognize.  (You know, just in case all those folks as enamored with me as I am with myself  might happen to pick up my journal and read it.)  At the end of a poem I wouldn't credit the author.  Later when I sobered up I would read what I had copied and think "Damn I'm good!"  It wasn't until I quit drinking entirely that I realized those poems were not mine! 

Prior to the workshop, my only expectation was to attend both days.  I wasn't worried about what I would write or how foolish I would look.  I just wanted to push through my fear and be present.  I love to be around accomplished, smart people because my hope is some of it will rub off on me.  Of course, I've never put in the work and have always hoped these qualities would just magically osmose into my being.  It's progress for me to realize that I have to start writing daily (at least 15 minutes and at least enough to fit a 2X4 picture frame - this advice from Diane)  Right now my imagination has flat lined.  However, Diane says it can be resurrected if I  write every day and exercise this muscle in my brain  and I have made a decision (this is important for later - note to self) to attempt it.  Right now, due to my lack of imagination I am left writing about my  own experiences and it makes me feel whiny and indulgent.  I want to be able to create original poems, non-fiction that isn't boring but has some universal appeal, short stories, RIGHT NOW!  Time takes time however and my hope is that someday I will become a writer, if only for myself.

Anyhoo...back to the workshop.  I attended the entire day on Friday but had an unexpected response to one of the writing exercises.  I became horribly self conscious and felt ashamed of what I had written.  Then the homework assignment was to "begin writing the story I don't want to write."  I've lived that story thank you very much and have no desire to parse it again in a writing assignment, so I declined to attend on Saturday. The big difference today is that I was not afraid to attend.  I chose not to and I am proud of myself.  I was 50% successful and that is better than zero. I saw Diane yesterday and she is facilitating another workshop in June so I get a second chance to be 100% victorious.

Tomorrow:  The most important thing I learned from Diane's writing workshop.