Friday, November 06, 2009

The Fantasy of "Next Semester"

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A recent post at Allison Writes got me thinking about the fantasy of "next semester." I have always, always fantasized that next semester I will be on top of things. Next semester I will do every reading thoroughly for every class. I will grade papers promptly. I will give better lectures. I will finish short stories before the semester starts so that what I turn in to workshop is the absolutely most edited thing I can produce.

Instead I end up in situations like I am in now, where I am keeping my head above water. [I had written the sentence "just barely keeping my head above water" but the truth is that I'm a doing smidge better than "just barely" so I cut that phrase.]

I've been turning in things to workshop that I have written only just this semester. In fact, I turned in something this week that I wrote the night before. Not because it was due but because I wanted to get it out of me and onto the page and (for some reason) out in front of the group while I was still feeling energetic. Unfortunately the group now has two weeks to look at it before they talk to me and I'm certain I'll feel it is poo in two weeks time. In that piece I also committed what I believe are errors that I did NOT fix, because a perverse part of me wants affirmation that those things were wrong. I want to know that the error I wanted to fix really was an error.

Is it perverse, or is it my learning process? Isn't this what toddlers do? They think they know what's right and what's wrong so they do something and say "uh-oh!" and see if their parents say "uh-oh" or get mad or if the rents are cool with it. Trial and error. Action, reaction, alteration of behavior.

Realistically this is a good time for me to be doing it. First off, during the MFA is a great time to try and fail because you get instant feedback and instruction. (Thankfully I signed on for a three year not two year program.) Second, it's good because this semester I'm producing and turning in almost exclusively nonfiction pieces of writing. I believe I've written about this on this blog before, but when I work in nonfiction the writing goes faster because I don't have to come up with characters I just have to remember them. I don't have to imagine the conflict and then debate whether it is believable or not because I know it did happen and by positing it as truth at the beginning people will be more willing to believe the unbelievable. Although what I'm writing about is not all that unbelievable in my opinion.

But what all that means is that when I go back to writing fiction I will have to do prep work. My list of Things to Do/Write/Read Over Winter Break keeps getting longer and longer and ...

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