Posts Tagged With: self-love

Workshop Rule #1: You do not talk about workshop

Reasons why I don’t thrive in a negative work environment:

1. I start to wonder what the point in trying is
2. I feel like no matter what I do it will never be good enough
3. I compare myself to others and think “I’ll never be able to write like that.”
4. I question my own ability, and capability.
5. Things feel hopeless.

Workshop is like Fight Club.

The first rule of workshop: You do not talk about workshop
The second rule of workshop: You DO NOT talk about workshop

At first I thought this was to protect the privacy of everyone’s writing. We are writers after all, and prone to self-loathing, depression, and insecurity. I think it’s important to respect other writers and their work, and I didn’t want to step on any toes. As I reach the end of the year I no longer believe this. We are told when we arrive “Workshop isn’t a safe place.” I am inclined to agree. Workshop is the land of emotional abuse. And maybe I’m wrong, but I honestly don’t know anyone who has ever thrived in life by being told they suck. In an effort to keep this anonymous, and because I really don’t dislike the establishment or what it’s trying to do, I’m not going point fingers. I don’t think badly of the people themselves, and I’ve learned a lot… from lectures. I’ve also learned a lot about myself, and the person I want to be. And I honestly have to thank the program for that, because had I never been subject to the amount of harmful negativity going on, I would have never realized I cannot morally support a system like that.

I could never look at someone and question whether there was any hope for them. I could never refuse feedback because it wasn’t worth my time. Every person, every writer, that I have ever encountered has value to me. Every story I read has potential to me. No one could ever convince me otherwise, and I could never be part of something that held that view. Not only because I’m terrified that by being taught by people who hold those views, I could become like them, but ultimately because I cannot and will not support the crushing of people’s dreams. Maybe because I know what that’s like. To be told you have no worth, and that you’ll never amount to anything. How deep those words seed themselves inside of you, no matter how hard you try to  keep them out. They take root, and you start to think you can’t. You start to question your own value and the value of your work, and especially people in positions of authority hold a lot of sway, because their opinion means a lot.

And I’ve spent the entirety of my adult life battling through all those bad seeds, and ten years later I’m still trying to push some of them out. The writing business is hard? Well no shit! It’s especially hard when you go someplace to learn and are turned away from that learning because the person who is PAID to do a job that is teaching doesn’t feel you’re worth their time to teach… Unless you’re already talented, of course. And then you get favourites. And the favourites are good. They have so much potential, and can do so much, and get so far. They are worth all the time in the world. And I hate that. I hate favourites. I think I might be a favourite, and I hate myself for it. I hate that someone sees value in my work, but the value I see in someone elses work goes unnoticed. I don’t ever want to leave someone behind. Especially not someone who I believe has value.

Maybe I’m selling myself short. Maybe there is something in my writing. I definitely believe there is value in my writing. That’s why I’m still writing. That’s why I’ll keep writing. But not there. And not for them. Because I don’t want them to get any credit for the writer I’m going to become. Everyone has an epic story in them. Something great, that, given the opportunity, will inspire people around the world. Like J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. How fucking inspirational was that series as a kid? And it would’ve never survived. Just imagine a world without Harry, Ron, and Hermione for five seconds and tell me how different it would be? So, no. Never. I’m done. Consider me officially weeded out. I will continue to pursue my passion for stage and screen, and fiction will go back to being my pass time. Because fiction is beautiful, and it’s my first love, and I could never see it covered in thorns.


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Sticking to Your Guns

I took a hit. A bad one. I feel slightly crippled, and the hurt runs deep, but as with all things I know it’ll subside with time. The human heart has a way of forgetting this kind of hurt in order to move forward. I keep telling myself I won’t regret my decision either because as they say, nothing ventured nothing gained. Sometimes when you put yourself out there you fail. And that’s okay. The most important thing to take into consideration is how you feel about your decision, and I feel proud of myself. You’re probably wondering what happened, so I received my final revision back on my second story and my mark dropped over 10%. I lost 3 letter grades. I cried. The last thread that gave a shit about the class broke. I laid awake for hours thinking about it. And the conclusion is pretty simple.

I re-wrote my story because I felt the first one was out of character for my character. I think the second story (and I will still post it) is much more “Melissa” than the first one. In fact, I think all the characters are more of who they actually are, so can I really be disappointed with that? In my last post I said it was more important to be my own authorial self than to make the grade. If I have to write my characters out of character just to get an A can I really call myself a storyteller? If I can’t even be true to who my characters are, then how can I be proud of anything I write? Because it’s my characters who are trusting me with their story. I can’t lie and say they did something else. That’s not how it works.

So I’m sticking to my guns, and reconsidering continuing fiction in school. I mean, at the end I get a BFA no matter what, and honestly Stageplay was fun. It made me feel like a storyteller again. I had freedom of expression. I could write and have fun with it. And I mean, who DOESN’T want to see their characters come alive on stage? My life is changing again. I won’t quit fiction. It’s still my first love, and I am determined to become an author, but I want to write in an environment where creative expression is encouraged and not discouraged. I am proud of myself. I’m proud that my characters are more important to me than a letter grade.


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The Stress Root

Someone suggested that I deal with the root of why I can’t write. The stress itself. I struggled a lot in first semester because in school grades matter. The difference between an A and a B could mean the difference between your registration being 1 hour sooner which is the difference between getting into the workshop you need to graduate or not. There’s a lot of pressure to measure up to the standard of “good” that the professors deem acceptably “good”. And after everything I went through in first semester, I left disappointed. In myself and in the system. I have a perfectionist complex, and if I don’t meet things to my level of what I think is acceptable I get down on myself.

It’s not that I can’t write, it’s that I feel I can’t write to the standard expected of me by the professors who are grading and judging me. Whenever I’ve thought I had something great I’d receive a much lower grade, and although I’m there to learn, I feel like the environment isn’t as conducive to learning as I expected. It’s not that I want to quit. I worked too goddamn hard to get in to quit. But my expectations of the learning environment are a lot different. Basically it as to do with expectation vs reality. Writers are very self-conscious of their writing (at least I am). I think it’s because when we write something we pour our heart and soul into the characters and the story. It makes us vulnerable.

To turn around and then have a group of peers and professors judge you on that is not just nerve wracking, but also hits my self-confidence in my ability to write. I want to write things that people enjoy reading and can relate to, and obviously not everyone is going to enjoy my writing, I mean, even I know I have a long way to go and a lot of improvements to make. Heck, re-reading some of my book makes me cringe because I’ve learned so many useful techniques that I can apply to it and make it that much better. But I want to learn in an uplifting environment. I don’t want to go to class and be like “Oh, I wonder which taboo thing I did this time in my writing.”

Apparently I write a lot of cliche things that I don’t know are cliche. You’d think with the amount of books I read (47 this year) I’d know what’s cliche and what’s not, but I’m not very knowledgeable with all the technical lingo of writing. I just write. I write and the story grows and the characters grow, and soon they’re out there living and I’m doing everything I can just to keep up behind them to document their journey. How do you judge someone on their ability to properly document someone else’s journey? Because people are cliche, they say weird things, and do things out of order. People aren’t perfect, so why should their journey be?

In order to write again I need to re-find that place where the writing is solely mine and not about what other people may think of it. I need to accept that from a technical, university standard, I might not be an A+ writer. But that doesn’t matter. What matters in writing is being true to yourself as an author, and being true to your characters and who they are as people. If you love and are passionate about your characters, other people will see that bleed through the writing. That’s why some of the best books aren’t necessarily the best written. I started this journey because I want to proudly hang that BFA on my wall, but in doing so I don’t want to look back and think I sold out just to make the grade.

I want to beat the system knowing I stayed true to my own authorial self and that I never wrote my characters out of character. I need to always be myself, and my characters also need to be their own self as well. And if that’s not good enough for my professors, then I guess I was never cut out for this school thing to begin with. Because ultimately it should be more important to me to be true to my writing, than for me to get an A, because that’s what writing is really about. It’s about finding those people and stories you are most passionate about and sharing them with other people who want to read them and can love them the way you do. Writing might be a solo act, but it brings people together too. Storytelling is where this began. A group of people sitting together and swapping ideas. And that’s where I want to stay.


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