Month: May 2009

Great Friends and Great Times

After starting the weekend in a rut and feeling sorry for myself (how pathetic) I foundmyself able to turn it around thanks to my great grad school friends.  I was invited to a barbecue and it was exactly what I needed. I wasn’t worried about my work (which I got done before I went to the party) I was just into having a good time.

It was a perfect evening of wine drinking and talking about books,writing, professors and of course a good portion of it was girl talk. Can you think of anything better?

I’m just so grateful to have wonderful friends who understand how horrible a rut can be. I feel better and ready to conquer the week.

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Tell me this isn’t depressing…

Friday night has arrived and I’m dying to just DO something. Doing something can and would include: starbucks with friends, movies, bowling, renting a movie, going out for a drink, dancing, getting out of this room, and whatever else. Here is the problem: I have about ten bucks in my checking account waiting for student loans and my summer job to start. While the money situation is of course an aspect of being a GTA it’s getting old.I’m trying to avoid spending money except for on groceries and books I need for school.

I was going to go to the moviecube or blockbuster to rent a movie but here’s the thing my DVD player only plays movies in black and white and I think the sound is questionable. So my Blockbuster trip would be a very expensive one since I’d have to stop at Best Buy to buy a new DVD player.

 I’m itching for some kind of interaction. While I’m so glad one of closest friends from grad school is having a bbq tomorrow I still would like to do something tonight. Something that isn’t going to break the bank. I decided not to go to Best Buy and get that DVD player so I’m stuck here. Going to a place like Barnes and Noble is an unnecessary temptation. Delicious coffee and sweets,and even more delicous books. This is not a good idea.

My room is spick and span so cleaning is out of the question. Friday is my cleaning day so I’ve already done my chores. Some of you may ask, what about that boyfriend you occasionally alude to. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this but he lives 1000 miles away, so even couch time with the bf is not an option. Writing all this out is kind of making me a little bit emotional.

I have books and writing I could and probably should be doing for class but I desperatly need a break from homework. Although, the more I think about it I probably should do some more work today since tomorrow is going to be a day spent amoung friends. Tomorrow could be my break.

I’m done with the mindless television. TV gets lame after awhile, especially when you have the very basic cable package that doesn’t include HBO. I’ll proably do some mindless internet surfing for a while, maybe even research a bit for my novel. Sit in my bed and read. Not sure exactly what I’ll read but God knows there’s plenty reading material in this room.

I hope you aren’t reading this but are doing something recreational.

I know I’m such the Negative Nancy today. It’ll get better. I have to tell myself this. The hardwork pays off. This too shall pass, this too shall pass.

The Overrated writing of the Pretentious English Department

Do you ever wonder how some of the famous writers of the past would fare in a writer’s workshop? I know I do. Last semester I was in a World Post Modernism course and now I’m enrolled in a British Modernism course. I’m starting to wonder what the big deal is about some of these writers. During my Post Modern course I brought this question up to my classmates, most of whom were literature majors, so it was so of brushed off, you know the good ole  ” oh that crazy MFA.”

Well, when I brought it up we were reading Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy. The back synopsis made me think it was going to be this wonderful thriller, of course since when do I read the synoposis on the back of a book thinking I’m not being deliberately deceived? So, Jealousy is heralded for its descriptions and genius, but you know what there are times in the book (and yes I’m aware it is deliberate, and why he did it) where he repeats paragraphs verbatim. It’s ridiculous. So I wondered, how would a workshop treat this? Would everyone be thrilled by the form matching the content or some bullshit like that? I imagine it going one of two ways, “OMG Robbe-Grillet, this is genius. Simply genius” or “Dude, what’s with the repetition, it’s annoying. Do something about it.” I image the second option more likely.

So for my class this week I had to read “England my England” by D.H. Lawrence. My question for my professor when I stroll in today will be, “what is the big deal?” I will refrain from using profanities as it is disrespectful, but it will be tempting. We are told constantly by writers to “show and not tell” or not to tell too much. I’m a big fan of exposition but in moderation of course. Good dialogue makes me so happy. Anyway, I know I’m rambling a bit. What is the big deal? There are maybe five scenes in the whole story, all which are boring and don’t really do much for the character development. The narrator seems to be reporting a lame ass story about a family and then it ends. Abruptly.

I imagine this being workshopped and people saying, “I think a scene is necessary here” or “your characters lack development” or “why not cut the first few pages and start here” but instead we as students attempting to be scholars are told, the work of D.H. Lawrence is brilliant.

Well, I’m not impressed. This is not to say I don’t think that a lot the literature that is in the cannon (whatever that cannon may be) isn’t brilliant. I do believe writer’s like Woolf, Marquez, Austen, Borges and Joyce and so many others were in fact geniuses. I’m pretty confident that the English departments of the world know what is worthwhile and not, but there are times when I have found some of it to be overrated. 

I will say, as someone who aspires to write for a career, I know I’m no where near as smart as the writers I think are overrated. It could just be that I don’t get it, I don’t have the depth. It call also be a matter of taste. Probably though, these writers aren’t overrated, in fact, it is I who am simply an idiot.

The writing workshop friend or foe?

The workshop. This is the class us MFA’s covet. It’s why we spend hours and days applying to grad school. It’s the deadlines of workshop that force some of us to even write at all. So why have I hated workshops this past year?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. As an undergraduate I was obsessed with the workshop. It was fun, not that much work s far as reading was concerned, and the energy in the classroom was positive and helpful. It was in these workshops that the best classroom discussion as a student happened. When I started grad school this fall, I was stoked to have a workshop in my schedule. While this workshop was not terrible, it wasn’t satisfying. I never left feeling the way I do when I eat a delicious cheeseburger and fries. I left class as if having eaten a mediocre salad from a place like Applebee’s. Some nights of this fall workshop, I felt as if I’d ordered dessert, but usually it was just the salad.

This spring, I was enrolled in two workshops that I will say were both even bigger disappointments than the fall workshop. One of course was better than other, but the one that sucked the most sucked for many reasons, I’ve been trying to decipher. Knowing what the issues were can only help make me a better student and hopefully future teacher of the workshop.

One of the workshops was a novel workshop. This was the one that didn’t suck as bad as the poetry one. The issue with novel workshop was that our professor, I felt, didn’t ask  us  enough questions during discussion. It would either be what this professor thought, and three or four students leading the discussion. The amount of suggestions to improve our work was minimal and these suggestions ,as the course progressed, became contradictory. For instance, the first installment I submitted I was told, by the class and my professor to slow down, and be more description then when the second installment that was workshopped, I was told I had used too much description. I was confused, but decided I was the writer and would do as I pleased.

Poetry workshop this past spring was a nightmare. It was nothing but a bunch of poets and their egos, including the professor. While I will say I was fortunate to receive helpful suggestions from my professor and two or three classmates in general the workshop discussions centered around two or three students who dominated discussion. These students didn’t offer advice just insults, saying things like, ” I can’t get anything out of this poem,” and “this poem is too descriptive, it makes me nauseous.” These are really comments not embelished, just truth.

There was always a negative and awkward energy in this poetry workshop and by the end of the spring, I had decided that having two more workshops left was a Godsend because I was over the workshop atmosphere. I had signed up for the summer workshop being offered simply to fulfill graduation requirements.

Here’s the thing, last night we workshopped for the first time, and while I wasn’t the one being workshopped I still felt satisfied. It was wonderful. Everyone was positive and had wonderful suggestions. The criticisms were well thought out and not said offensively and the writers didn’t take offense to what was said. It was a circle of happiness, and for the first time in grad school I’m looking forward to workshop. I’ve fallen in love with workshop all over again.

After leaving class so satisfied I tried to figure out why it had been such a great class. You know, really analyze it to death and remove the magic from it. I’ve decided it’s the professor who is running it. This professor, while super structured demands that we hand in written comments as part of our grade, and has a structure for these comments. Because there is so much structure the questions the professor asks lead to people making really helpful suggestions.

I am being workshopped on Tuesday and can’t wait. I’m looking forward to getting advice then rushing home and making alterations and adding to this summer project. It’s so nice to take a class or start a project that reminds you why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place. Last night and these past two or three days have been like that for me, I’ve been reminded why I am in an MFA program and why I love to write.

A Good Kick in the Ass

It’s so funny how once that deadline is right in front you and you have no choice but to get it done, you do it.

So, of course, because my deadline has arrived I’m sitting at the computer, and I’m banging out those pages, thinking “why didn’t I just shut up and do this in the first place?”  I love writing, and I’m totally invested in my project. I have to tell this story. I’ve been called on by the muses to do so.

Yesterday my very cute boyfriend pointed out to me that if I had spent the time I was spending complaining and wondering why I was wasting time on actually writing I would have been done, and focused. He also pointed out to me something I hadn’t really thought about. He said my head was in the future. I am able to see that light at the end of the tunnel and because of this I need to keep my head in May and work day by day and not worry so much about December. He said something that stuck with me, “now is the time you need to be the most focused.” How very true. If I lose focus now, December will come and go and I’ll have an unfinished project and failing grades. This will mean I’m no where closer to my goals.

While I think I knew all of this before it was pointed out to me, I think sometimes I need it pointed out to me from an outsider. Someone like him, who I know has my best interest in mind. I’m really grateful I have him in my life because he supports me and gives me a kick in the ass when I so need one.

Deadline pushes writer over the edge

If it weren’t for the deadline  I have on Thursday I wouldn’t be working on this F***ing novel. I believe there is some deep seeded psychological reason for my not being motivated, but am afraid to discuss it here because learning too much about ones self can be dangerous. While Joyce may be a fan of the epiphany, I am not.

Tomorrow is Monday

Probably by the time you read this it will be Monday, but whatever.

I have been thinking, as I watch the TV in front of me and put off going to bed, that I don’t want it to be Monday.

Now, I know Monday’s generally suck, but the thing is I’ve been looking forward to the weeks passing. As the weeks move more quickly that means my finishing my coursework comes closer to being complete. It also means I’m closer to moving to the same city as my boyfriend and can finally have relationship with him with us both living in the same zip code. I crave this so much. These past three years have been tough with this long distance thing. I feel like I’m missing a half. Look, I know it’s cliche but that’s exactly how if feels.

This is the first Monday in a very long time (I’ll go ahead and say the first time in at least three years) that I haven’t been looking forward to tomorrow. I’m still not in the student mood. I can’t get into this huge writing project I’ve signed up for and I’m getting stressed out. Not that being stressed out is something foreign to me but I feel overwhelmed and scared.

I’m scared I’m not going to finish my school work if I keep up with this procrastinating.

Procrastinating is a kind of new thing for me. I never used to such a procrastinator. I used to be the student to get work done early. Now, I wait until the pressure is on to get cracking. I don’t like this. I need to revert back to my old ways. I’ve been finding the most ridiculous ways to procrastinate too.

For example: This weekend my younger sister by a lot of years was attending her first prom. I felt it necessary that I be there when she got picked up by her date. I needed to be there at the nail salon as she, my mother and I all got pedicures. That is nuts!

Instead, I should have staying at my apartment, an hour away from my parents house, focused. What the hell?

I will say that for the first time in a long time I did get some writing done at my parents house, but it wasn’t nearly enough. I did complete a story to be sent out and I finished my reading for my class on Monday. I’m ready to rock and roll for Monday, but come Tuesday and the rest of the week, I’m soooo not ready.

My Monday work aside, I also found myself up at two in the morning writing my other sister a letter. I don’t know what possessed me to start this letter and I don’t know if I’m going to give it to her, but it’s a long letter and there is some solid writing in it. What I don’t understand is why I didn’t take that energy and apply to the writing project I’m working on? What is my deal?

I don’t know how many of you writers out there have ever experienced this kind of rut, but if you have I really need some advice. I know this is my second, maybe third post about this but I’m struggling here. I’m a young writer trying to figure this writing career thing out.

Help a sista out.