So, school has started and I'm taking 2 English classes. I'm reminded of being an undergrad, when I knew I loved to read, knew I could write with some degree of skill and/or talent but struggled with my classmates and teachers. For me, reading is personal, done for pleasure and enlightenment but not done to look deeply for meaning or to make those who don't read as much feel bad. My colleagues seemed to feel differently. Like the Bible Thumpers I used to know who felt that everyone who was not saved was in a lower class, worthy of the eternity in hell that awaited them because they weren't Thumping their own Bibles.
When I hung around those people (most of middle school, if you must know), I took great comfort in the social out that their youth group provided and had more than the requisite number of crushes on the leaders but knew somewhere down deep that it wasn't right. Too much judgement, too much scorn and shame. Eventually, I lost my virginity (to a boy) at a far too early age, told one of the aforementioned leader/crushes and became myself part of the Shamed Ones for my transgression. The real end of my relationship with those people was when I mentioned Gays. I was told that Those People are going to hell and I shouldn't be around them. Like queerness is catching.
Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe it was! Maybe Maria from my parent's church sneezed on me while strumming her guitar next to her long-term lesbian lover and that was it! That single moment overshadowed a lifetime of being more attracted to girls than boys (yes even and especially after the virginity losing, thankyouverymuch) of not feeling like I had any business being a boy's girlfriend. But yes, I'm sure it was the sneeze.
But I digress. So now I'm back (from outer space) in English classes, and once again struggling with the attitude. Last Tuesday's class featured a roomful of MFA in Creative Writing candidates, all of whom thought they were Hot Shit because they are 'published' in a variety of lame ass midwestern literary journals. Well hey, motherfuckers, I'm published too. Here on LizSpeaks (3 years and counting) and in a cheesy book on adoption a few years ago. Just because the St. Olaf University Press hasn't chosen me as a featured author doesn't mean that I'm any less a writer than These People.
It was hard to listen to them and not scoff. Not that I'm any better. I, too, am a struggling writer, working hard to make sense of the bizarre gift that being a writer is. (Note, I didn't say 'good writer,' I just said 'writer.' Good or bad, this gift has meant a lifetime inside my head, spinning every event for a real or imagined audience who will most likely never hear the dialogue I'm constantly writing in my head. While this particular skill is nifty in some ways, it's also something of a curse (all the good things are, aren't they?). It means that I often miss what's really going on in the real world because I'm so busy writing in my head.)
One (okay, two) of the interesting things that came up in the Class of Pompousness is the notion that it's very much not normal to be contstantly writing in your head. Evidently the rest of the world does not operate this way, You People do not constantly spin every event for an imagined audience (is that true?? email me), you simply enjoy (or loathe) every moment for what it is, not for it's literary value. Hmm. How freaking novel would that be? Anyway, I guess some researchers (grad students, no doubt) are doing/have done a study of what goes on in our brains as we retreat into the world of a book or of our own writing. The world does fade away when I read or write, my sole focus becomes the story I'm reading or writing. In a way, it's like the only time I'm really "there," and not off writing for my imaginary friend.
For the record, there are 2 other times I'm actually "there," when playing hockey (and now that I've written this, you may see why I play so often) and having sex.
The struggle for me won't be so much in the writing or in the work of these classes but in dealing with my pompous colleagues. It was hard in undergrad, I'm sure it's only going to get worse in grad school. I will have to remind myself often that I'm here to hone my skills, be more disciplined in my writing schedule (i.e. develop one) and learn how to submit pieces (still unwritten) for publication. Part of this skill development may well be learning to at least understand why these people are so damn analytical of writing (to improve their own skills, I imagine) and how I can learn from that analysis without getting so irrated at their demeanor that I forget to listen.
Wish me luck.