Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On Feeling Like a Bad Friend

We all know I strive for self-improvement, right? To be a better person and not be self-involved or thoughtless? Eternal work in progress, right?

So we may remember how I took this writing class a year ago summer, wherein I cranked out some questionable folktale-like material, had a dotty teacher, and otherwise had a mixed experience? Not having written anything since I was an undergrad (where my one writing teacher gave me such helpful tidbits as "more plot next time" or "cliche"), it was an intimidating experience going in. Was I a Writer? And what the hell did that mean, anyway? Did all these kids in the class stare at me and wonder what that old chick was doing, kidding herself? It didn't help that the whole class was populated by grad students and somewhat older people (but still younger than me) who had been writing for years. They were working on novels! I was writing dorky little stories about weed monsters. And if anyone said the slightest innocuous thing, like "boy, do I know from that weed monster too," I'd want to snarl at them, "what the hell is that supposed to mean?"

But while I insisted on donning my hairshirt, my good friend C dragged me along, took the class with me, and supported me all way. When we both came out at the other end disenchanted with the teacher and ambivalent on the process, she determined that we were damned well going to take the next class, with a better teacher. She wouldn't let me weasel out, even though I tried at every opportunity. I agonized about cat pilling, and she told me to call the neighbor kid. I complained about the flu, and she told me to be sure to pick up ginger ale before class.

Of course, she was right to make me stick it out. My teacher is really loving my stuff and fast-tracking me to the next level. I feel like I'm learning and getting better; things are clicking, and I have an idea what I'm trying to do. I have confidence that I actually can power through and produce something worthwhile.

My friend, who has been cheering since day one for me, telling me how she loves my stuff, has, alas, not had quite the positive experience I've had. She doesn't feel like she's writing good stuff, she doesn't feel like she's doing things right, she doesn't feel like she's got the innate ability to write the way that we're being asked to write. She's feeling like she's been reading the wrong stuff, not reading enough Literature. The flip side of my being stellar student and fast learner/experimenter as a result of my being a voracious reader is not having that framework and feeling like a failure because you expect yourself to just magically be and do.

All my pep talks and helpful suggestions are making no dents, and despite her enthusiasm to keep going with me to the next class in the series, she's making noises like she doesn't want to now. I cannot convince her that I was in that exact same spot, and that the only difference between her and me is that I've moved faster along the learning curve. I have a better idea of the possible, I'm a blank slate because I haven't been writing screenplays and genre fiction for years, like she has. She knows how to tell a story, she just has to figure out the details on how she wants to do it, which is of course where the devil hangs out. No two people are trying to do the same thing. A poet I personally will never be, and that's just the way of the world.

But, man, I'm starting to realize that my success and bolstering in this (and my thoughtless basking in same) has come at a price. And I just have no idea what to do, or if there's anything I can do.

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