Friday, July 03, 2009

How Studying Creative Writing Changed Everything: Part I

Where I come from, everything's a metaphor, so replace "studying creative writing" with anything that's grabbed you by the hair and playfully yanked, and that you mysteriously found yourself putting your whole self into.

If you haven't encountered this yet, a hint: it's probably the thing in your life that doesn't feel like it could be (or should be) "the thing," because it's too fun, too easy, and doesn't feel like work in the way that you are used to. Make no mistake, it's work. But of a different variety. The kind that moves you forward and takes you places and introduces you to people you'd never otherwise meet.

Just like my married friends have told me about meeting my future husband: meeting him will not feel like what you think it is going to feel like.

As for how and when my hair was yanked, well, the actual yanking probably took place pre-adolescence, but the big old pull came after I tried out Syracuse University for two years, then dropped out to follow the Grateful Dead (which is a whole different post), and ended up—after a handful of shows, a lot of drugs, many hot parking lots, and a stream of cities across America—at Prescott College.

There, after a quarter of creative arts courses (theater movement, photography, and "the way of the spiritual warrior"—no joke, awesome class), I finally signed up for Introduction to Fiction Writing. But I backed out at the last minute. So I signed up again, the next quarter, and again I backed out. That's how terrified I was of my destiny.

When I did finally get the courage up (and constructed a good argument for the teacher who wasn't convinced I'd actually take the class this time), I was 23 years old. Sad a lot. Stoned a lot. And hungry for approval. (I'll say that over the years, three of those things have changed. I'll let you be the judge.)

After writing character sketches and monologues and reading Raymund Carver and Lorrie Moore and Amy Hempel and Joy Williams (a few of the Lish-ites, as in Gordon Lish, as in crazy brilliant teacher man as well as Raymond Carver's infamous editor), and we dug into writing our first draft of an actual short story, I knew that I'd found "that thing," my thing. Or at least one of them.

(More to come, on the morrow, in Part 2. Happy fourth—whatever that means to you!)


Pamelekh Klezmer Orkester said...

I for one an very glad you found your passion and that you share it.

TJBeitelman... said...

I've developed a major infatuation with Glen Hansard and The Frames, and here's what they have to say about the matter (in a song called "Star, Star"):

star star teach me how to shine, shine, / teach me so I know what's going on in your mind / Cuz I don't I don't understand these people / Saying the hills to steep, well / They talk and talk forever but they just never climb

You have to ask to be taught. That's the truth. It's a very, very important part of the transaction. Especially if what you're asking to be taught is your life's calling.

And if you're really going to ask -- ask in the right way -- you have to be ready for the answer, whatever it is.

Glad you were ready.