Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Aunty Christ is nothing if not committed

Actually, that title up there? Is a big lie. Aunty Christ is anything but committed, usually. The very idea of commitment makes her break out in hives and backne and song. Not nice song, either. Angry song. Song like “Head Like a Hole” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Angry teen anthem, specifically.

But this week I appear to be taking a break from commitmentphobia, to a certain extent. Or, well, that’s untrue also, since the phobia remains—but we are working through it. Breathe, Aunty, breathe.

Yesterday was the first meeting of the new writers’ group, and lemme tell ya, it was every bit as scary and intimidating as it could have been. The lady who had told me that she had about the same amount of writing experience as me, it turns out, is also—by which I mean like me—a liar. But a much more experienced one—in that the experience is in the realm of writing and publishing and education, and not, probably, lying, I mean. Everyone, apparently, has been to grad school but me. While I was off farting away my life in the mountains, raising goats, everyone else was working diligently on their MFAs. Once, back when I was a newly minted graduate of a top English program, I thought about getting my MFA. But then I realized that all the modern writers I was reading—Lorrie Moore and David Foster Wallace and … oh, I don’t know who I’m trying to fool anymore. I don’t read fiction lately, and my mind is so swiss-cheesed from the drink, I can’t think of who I used to read back in the day. But anyway, I used to read, back in the day—that’s my point. And my further point is that everyone started to sound alike to me, and I chalked it up to MFA programs and creative writing groups, and I decided that anyone could write, and all MFA creative writing programs do is make everyone sound the same: The creative-writing-school school of creative writing, I called it.

But now, I wonder if that decision not to go into an MFA writing program was borne of another realization: that I am not a worthy candidate. I am not very smart, for one thing. And I am lazy. Today, for example, while I was worrying about not having anything to turn in for next week’s writers’ group, did I write anything? An email, even? A comment on What Would Tyler Durden Do? No. I played sudoku, and I rather sucked at it. And I looked for a new blog template. And I cleaned my stinky apartment a little bit. Whether this is evidence of my laziness or my stupidity … one guesses it’s a little from column A and a little from column B.

In my favor, it seems that tastes in writing are subjective. I dated a guy last year, who went by something to the effect of The Man Who Wore No Clothes in my former blog, and he was known among his circle of friends as the best writer ever. Was he? My personal feelings about him likely color my opinion. I may not be the best judge. But honestly, among my new writers’ group buds, he would not even be allowed to join the group. And no, he is not the best writer ever, or even a good writer. Ha!

I may be feeling especially down about my talents because of one of the women who was at yesterday’s meeting. She ultimately decided not to join our group—I suspect she found me, in particular, boorish—but during her time with us she (1) asked me what I was working on, (2) admonished me for telling the group what I was working on, and (3) corrected my use of the word treatment when I should have said synopsis. I needed several drinks after talking to her, and still find myself today slapping my forehead and saying “Synopsis!” repeatedly. Of course it was “synopsis” I meant, and not “treatment.” And then I spent several minutes today googling what the difference was between the two—it seems that they are sometimes, if not often, confused, probably mostly by dummies like me, who have no post-grad degree.

By way of introduction, I listed my few experiences with writers’ groups thus far, mentioning that last year I had joined a cross between a class and a critique group in Colorado, mentored by a former Wasted State University professor. “Who was it?” Synopsis Woman wanted to know. I had no idea, frankly, and explained that WSU is a small joke of a college attended primarily by those who enjoy skiing more than studying, and was thus unlikely to have recruited any creative writing professor that anyone outside of her own family would have heard of. “Oh, so no one from Saskatoon,” she said, betraying her short attention span. However, I noted (hoping that this might impress), in college I had studied under Richard Stern. As mentioned in the above-linked wikipedia article, Professor Stern is known largely (if he is known at all) for not being famous, but still, I reasoned, this pedigree-obsessed bitch might have heard of him, as he is known, if only for being the unfamous friend of certain very famous writers. But no, she had not, and I was made to feel stupid once again, just for, you know, trying.

The other women in the group are awesome—awesome writers, awesome thinkers. Awesome people maybe? Who knows. They seem like it. If I find out that they singe puppies with cigarette butts, they still have other ideas that I can get behind. I am certainly outfuckingclassed. I know it, though. If only I can convince my brain to befuckinghave like something that’s trying to leafuckingrn something, maybe I won’t come off as a total jackass. Again. Because I’m pretty sure I did, yesterday, come off as one.

Oh, this all—this post—is only to make myself feel better. I write much more miserable than I feel. And the other point of this, I think, is to convince myself that, whatever else I may be, I am not a quitter. I’m outclassed, sure, but I should—and will—make the best of it. Anyway, what better way to improve than to associate with my betters? If I have learned nothing else from countless 18th-century English novels, I have at least learned that—although I like to think that I have learned a thing or two about how to play the harpsichord in polite company and the proper way to address a Lady, as well.

Also, there's this: In an effort to save money, Rich Bachelor and I are sharing a cell phone line, which should make me break out in hives and flop sweat, but actually does not. It’s not moving too fast, is it? It’s not like we’re buying a timeshare together, or adopting a Chinese. (Though I certainly want my own Chinese! These restrictions just make them all the more attractive!) Oh gush. I dunno what to say. I hope we get to share stuff for a while to come, that’s all.


Professor Howdy said...

Very good posting.
Thank you - Have a good day!!!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it so amazingly swell how academia makes us all sound the same? I mean, where would we be as a civilization if our Engdlish teachers did not have a set standard of rules that allowed us to critique everyone in the exact same monotone of voice? WE'D BE STILL LIVING IN CAVES, THAT'S WHERE!
But seriously folks, is it not Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson that separates us from the apes?

Personally, I believe that no one, and I mean no one, should have the balls (excuse me, testicles) to even think of sending off a manuscript for publication unless mommy and daddy had enough money to fund their grad school, complete with the latest pair of Birkenstocks and a mint copy of Walden Pond in hand. The nerve of those uneducated bastards!

So listen, Aunty Christ, get it together! Just pay Emerson the thousands of dollars you need for your MFA, and one day you, too, can write in that exact same wonderful voice as The Gifted (and un-passive-aggressive) Synopsis Woman in your writing group. And don't worry, honey, I'm sure you'll find your place in the Great Men of Literature edition of the Harvard Book Club magazine.

By the way, I couldn't help but notice that in your April 2007 Blog Posting #7, Paragraph #8, Sentence #8, that you inaccurately use the word lefuckingearn. If you would kindly consult the most recent edition of Merriam-Webster's English dictionary, I believe you will see you error. You probably meant to use the word refuckinglearn. But don't worry, I won't hold it against you. As a high-school drop-out of an unfunded Class C high school in rural upstate New York, I fully realize that not everyone can be enlightened as me. But keep trying, honey. You're only one good sugar-daddy from your Dr. degree in B.S. Literature.

I really do love your writing. I promise to be a more dedicated reader of your blog in the future.


George Popham said...

“I am not very smart, for one thing. And I am lazy.”

Wow, this is also my problem. I am a fantastically lazy writer and scholar, I absolutely amaze myself at times. I think that if you put it all together I have about 5 real work days a year. The rest of the time I’m, like, misting my oregono plants, or reading about the behavior of arctic foxes or shooting tennis ball tipped arrows at grackles and squirrels raiding my bird feeders. It’s that bad, and these aren’t even whimsical time wasters, they are really more over on the autistic side of the scale...

Also, I almost never think. Really, I never sit and cogitate, shit just occurs to me. Everything I’ve written that is older than three weeks looks like absolute idiocy to me. I just talk, babble babble babble, it’s fucking endless.

I’m not sure you should hang out with writers. Now Rich he’s no writer, he’s a guy who does shit and writes (really writes) about it. These people who are in your little Saskatooner circle they have a kind of fantasy that guarantees they will write only steaming piles of NPR-worthy, Ophra book club shit, at best, and they will never go beyond that until the fantasy is destroyed. Should they have the astronomical good fortuen to have the fantasy destroyed, 99.999 percent of them won’t want to write anymore, because it was the fantasy they really wanted and now they have to find something else to want.

People like this take all the fun out of everything. I have to avoid my department as much as possible these days, because a couple (only a couple) of people have started taking me seriously, and fucking christ is that depressing. They talk jobs and squabble about trivialities and make it all sound so important. It’s not. It’s just self-important barking and bleating... Now this would not bother me at all if they had a good time doing it... (We should all get to bark and bleat after all) but they are miserable and I can’t fucking stand it. It’s all this cool kid talk, they’re all so, I don’t know, *up on everything. Most of it never occured to me, “Should *I* be doing this stuff too?” I wonder. I mean, apparently, I’ve done every. thing. wrong. Right down the line, I have no idea why I’m here. But, I just keep doing stuff and stuff keeps happening. Sort of happening, but really it’s nothing that couldn’t be discounted and dismissed in a 2 secpnd department meeting aside from the right person. All very tenuous. If I think about that for more than 10 seconds I lose a whole day.

I still struggle and strive to not be so stupid and lazy, but the stupid lazyness must be helping somewhat. Maybe if I didn’t have the stupid laziness to fight off none of the interesting stuff would happen. If I were smart and productive things wouldn’t get looked at so carefully pounded on and wrestled with, and I’d say all the right stuff and impress the right people and be a magnificently boring and accomplished professional, instead of a freak clinging to the shreds of a carreer in philosophy. I have no hope of making it as a scholar or and academic or even an intellectual, I have to be a philosopher or nothing and to people in my field that’s crazy talk, wild speculation, and a bit conceited. It doesn’t feel that way, though.

Sorry, I hope I make sense here. I’ve had whiskey.

But, lastly, this here below, is the best sentence I have read all week.

“If only I can convince my brain to befuckinghave like something that’s trying to leafuckingrn something, maybe I won’t come off as a total jackass.”

I don’t know how you managed to describe my life so accurately in one sentence. Merci Boucoup.

David Rochester said...

Bejaysus, woman, you get some long comments. I can't possibly measure up.

Writers' groups have their up sides and down sides. Sometimes I pretty much want to kill everyone in mine, and the rest of the time, they pretty much want to kill me. Why any of us are still alive is anyone's guess, really.