Archive for May 2012

What’s on the page

May 23, 2012

So I’m taking this fiction writing course.

It happened sooner than I’d hoped. I was planning on trying to get into the one offered at MUN in the fall, but when this spring session came up, I submitted a story right away. And got in!

I’ve been to two classes so far, and it’s completely blown me away. But not in the ways I expected it would.

When I described it to my husband — how we move the desks into a circle so we can talk easier, and how we each have to critique each others’ work — he said I made it sound like an AA meeting. Believe me, it feels like what I imagine an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting would feel. Writer’s Anonymous, for people with this obsessive, ambiguous, addictive, hopeful or hopeless (either could apply) habit of writing all the time.

I sit there each week, palms sweating, my face on fire (I hope it doesn’t show), writhing in my own skin whenever it’s my turn to speak. I don’t know any of these people. And they don’t know me. Not yet. None of them look even half as uncomfortable as I feel.

But it’s good. Really. I mean, it’s a personal challenge, one of those, get yourself out of your own comfort zone things. As if I haven’t had enough of that in the last couple years with all the moving. But still. I think it’ll be really good for me to go through this.

I’m learning to have an even greater respect for all the published authors out there. This is not an easy stage. It’s one thing to sit at home, or in a coffee shop, or the library (or at the Y, which has become an extension of my living room, where I sometimes go and use the childcare in the mornings to sit in the lobby and write) and use all your spare time to write stories. Then re-write them, again and again and again. But it’s quite another to get over yourself enough to share your creative work with others. Others whose opinions really matter. But wow, if I can’t get over this, then how will I ever expect to try to sell any of my fiction to the world? It would seem I have a long way to go.

Another writer I know put it so perfectly when she said, in a Writer’s Confessions interview (check it out on YouTube, look up Claudia Dey), you have to believe that what you are doing is essential. Some days I hit myself on the forehead with that very worthy thought. That, and these two very essential words: KEEP GOING. I’ve heard some writers describe their process as being similar to pushing a rock across the floor with their nose. I imagine the rock is easier to move along sometimes. (When I say things like this, my husband shakes his head, asks me, couldn’t you have chosen a simpler career goal? I have to remind both of us that it’s not so much that I chose this, but that writing is just….what I do.)

Another thing I’ve figured out over the last couple of weeks, is that the great writers have mastered the skill of not just puking out their emotions all over the page. It takes exactly that, a fine tuned skill, to have full control over what you are saying, and how you are saying it. It’s a skill I think I could use more of in my life, as well as my writing.

So I’m taking this course. I need to be taking this course. Why? Because although I have a very supportive family, I’ve had very few people in my life who understand what it takes to become a published writer of fiction. My parents, for example (bless them for the unconditional support they’ve always offered me) would gush over a….grocery list I wrote, if I got them to read one. But that won’t help with my creative writing.

What will help, is the honest, unabashed critical feedback from classmates in a structured, supportive setting, led by a writer (Lisa Moore!) who I admire. Who cares about the cold sweats and hot cheeks. Because as a writer I know that what’s on the page, is what matters.

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