The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Back to School– Day 18

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My quibblings and mockeries of dormitory living aside, things have been working out well here at the summer writers institute.  I can say without a doubt that my fiction-writing skills have developed faster and better than I thought they would.  I look forward to seeing where else they will go since I have well over a week left here.  The experience serves as a reminder of what you have to do, really, to get better.  It seems basic and cliche, but it is all about practice, practice, practice and work, work, work.  I’m fortunate to have found an environment where I can focus on those two aspects and tune my mind to the new skill set.  This is pretty much how it has to work, to my way of thinking.  Get on a college campus where you’re not distracted by your everyday existence, where bill paying can go on hiatus, you don’t have to worry about preparing your own meals, you’re not going to take your dog for a walk, you don’t have to clean the bathroom…  strip away all that daily living crap, and you can do a lot of learning.  And when you’re surrounded by other writers (even poets!), you have an interested support group that shares a common goal.

True that I haven’t been “working” so much as practicing.  We are given 45-90 pages of material to review for each class, and I’ve been taking the task rather seriously.  That has meant spending a lot of time on other people’s writing.  But you have to do that.  You have to see what your peers are doing, and then hash it out with them, understand how and why they did it, and find a way for it to inform your own work.  You also have to see how and where their writing is going wrong and come up with some suggestions on how to make it better.  You wouldn’t believe how motivated you become when you want to get better and you handle unexpectedly great work from a writer who is sitting right next to you, who probably has work habits similar to your own, and who probably has a general likeness in background and education.  This is not an uncommon feeling for me.  I’ve been in writers groups with other writers who were way ahead of the curve and motivated me to plug away.  This also happened frequently at Northwestern–  I felt the heat from classmates.  I saw what they were producing and didn’t like the taste of dust in my mouth as they sped ahead of me.  The only choice was to stomp on the gas peddle and catch up.  I credit that competition / motivation with helping me create what I consider my best work as a writer.

As for the unglamorous dorm life:  What else are you going to do?  The environment here is set up like this on purpose.  Take advantage of all this stuff to focus on your purpose.  Writers are supposed to suffer!  We’re supposed to live with our feet on the ground.  I don’t know what to tell you if you can’t deal with the bathroom from hell, the doors slamming at 3AM, and having to walk to get whereever you want to go.  I wouldn’t want to live much more than a month like this, but I can also tell you that there are some highly sought-after writer’s retreats that make Weicking Hall look like the Waldorf-Astoria.

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Written by seeker70

July 21, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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