Public debut

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Ok, it finally happened. After weeks of putting it off, I finally read my work to a small audience. Oh boy.

I had penned something about a month ago almost, a little short story/narrative. I wrote it in order to read it out loud at the writer's workshop with the intention of receiving, GASP!, criticism.

Anyways, I had taken it like 3 straight weeks to the damn group and had not had the chance to read it out loud. It was really annoying. Of course I was a tad apprehensive about letting my "child" loose to the jackals... and so when the time came to read, I usually hesitated and there was always someone who was much more eager to read their stuff... so I waited in silence. But last Thursday was THE DAY. After all, I planned it as the last day I was going to the workshop as a whole.

Yes, I had decided that after reading my work I would not return. Even though I acknowledged that the group was far from perfect, I had thought that it wouldn't be a problem, as long as it stimulated creation and a feedback loop. But, I was wrong. The basic problem was not the fact that the teacher is somewhat ignorant or that he sometimes looses control of the discussions; well, they are part of the reason, but not the main reason. The basic problem I see is that the workshop wants to be two things at once. It wants to be a quickie literature/grammar class, and it also wants to be a workshop. In a grammar class, you learn the basics about writing, it's a given that people don't have a good understanding of the fundamentals of structure and such. So you study those. In a workshop, you bring "works" in progress and you polish them; most people already have a good grasp on writing. At least that's my opinion and those were my expectations. I'm not saying I have a particularly good grasp on grammar and writing... but I'm not interested in going to a workshop to learn that. I can do that on my own. This group wants to be both and doesn't succeed in any case. That's why I decided to go last Thursday, read and never return.

As fate would have it, I arrived about 45 min late to the 2 hrs session (too much work, oops). Anyways, I missed the grammar class session and also the part where the teacher, in his obsession to have people write something right then and there, makes the attendants write essays or poems in like 15-20min. Sheesh. So, since I arrived late, I skipped this part, hehe. This new girl joined the group, she seemed kinda spunky and fresh... and she indeed turned out to be, haha. Without anybody indicating it was time to share personal works, she began reading something she had written. It was ok. I thought she was fun.

Then came the dreaded moment. The teacher asked if anybody else had brought something to read. Now, I was a little hesitant but jumped at the chance; nobody was going to stop me this time around. I had once seen the group pounce on someone else, and it was a little scary. Some of them were sharper than I had given them credit for, especially the old-lady-poet woman whom I had grilled on her comma use. So I made my way into the lion's den.

I hadn't read my work in at least 2 weeks, so as I was reading it, it seemed strangely alien to me. Obviously I spotted some punctuation and grammar errors and quietly said to myself "Shit". Always, after I was done there was silence. I explained what my intention had been and asked for some suggestions and/or corrections... then it began.

First, old-poet-wannabee said I had repeated some words way too many times (don't even start Psesito!). Some of them were on purpose; I was trying to emulate a child speaking. Still, some were not. Damn hag had gotten me. Then the teacher mentioned how I had used slang in a certain sentence and said "If your intention is to use slang, then it's OK...but if it isn't, it's a mistake". And I said "Well, that particular one is on purpose"...and he said "Ok... but if you didn't mean to, it's a mistake, ok?" and I'm like geez, did I just speak to a wall or what? Later he corrected my use of another word, saying that when it's the subject of a phrase, it's spelled differently. So I said "Oh, you're right, when it's a noun you change the spelling" and he looked and me blankly and said "Ummm... when it's in the subject you spell it differently, ok?” And I'm all like "Hmmm... I don't think he remembers what a noun is... frightening".

Then the old-hag-poet said "Well, I juts don't think people should get defensive". And I was all like "SHUT UP BTCH! LEAVE MY BABY ALONE!!! WAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!". Ok, I wanted to say that, but kept my composure. I feel I'm an expert and hiding my feelings and was surprised she had mentioned me getting aggressive. But the teacher intervened and said I was being quite calm; he mentioned that a person needed to justify his use of language if indeed he believed he had not made a mistake. The old-hag disagreed, she said everyone should just write down all the suggestions and shut up. And I was all like "You wish, haggy!”

Luckily, the more moronic members were absent (like the crazy old geezer), so the feedback was mostly constructive and useful. The new girl mentioned something interesting. She said I had not conveyed what she thought a real child would say. She recommended I do some more research into children. I thought it was a good idea... but the risk of being labeled a fucking pedophile is high, so I think I'll stick to reading Faulkner or something, haha. Still, I think you cannot write about something you don't know. Research, or life experience, is an integral part of good fiction writing. Otherwise you'll just end up with rehashed ideas that anyone else could have thought of and your work will have added nothing to the collective experience. Or so says me.

Surprisingly, all in all, I thought the reading turned out to be a good experience. So, I decided to return to the damn workshop. I saw that, no matter how awkward it may turn out to be, feedback is still feedback. I made up an excuse to the teacher and will now be arriving an hour after the start of the session, meaning I'll skip the useless grammar course part, which is great news, haha. And the new girl offered a glimmer of hope that maybe more people with new and interesting points of view could enter the group. I feel I took the criticism well... but it sure is hard to be a mature as I am, sheesh, haha. I remember being immature was so much easier and came so much more naturally to me... :-P

I was somewhat disappointed my text wasn't more error free. But that's just how it is. A huge part of the process is polishing and making what you've done better. I once heard art was 20% inspiration and 80% perspiration... and I feel that more now than ever. Well, now all I need is time... sheesh.


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