The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Back to School– Day 23

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No, this stuff isn’t getting to me, the shootings, the knifings, the beatings, old ladies being bashed in the head for their social security checks, teachers being thrown out of a fourth floor window because they don’t give A’s. That doesn’t bother me a bit…  Or this job either, having to wade through the scum of this city, being swept away by bigger and bigger waves of corruption, apathy and red tape. No, that doesn’t bother me. But you know what does bother me?  You know what makes me really sick to my stomach?  It’s watching you stuff your face with those hot dogs. Nobody… I mean NOBODY puts ketchup on a hot dog.  ~ Clint Eastwood as “Dirty” Harry Callahan in Sudden Impact

I melted down yesterday.  Hard.  I considered tearing up a few manuscripts and flinging them out my window to scatter in the wind and litter the south end of the Skidmore campus.  I thought of blaring multiple f-bombs through cupped hands to alert everybody that I had reached my breaking point.  I thought about how quickly I could pack my car and take off, and even be home at the moment I’m writing this.  Was it the lingering grotesqueness of Satan’s Porcelain Palace?  Missing my cat too much?  Was I tired of the noise and distractions?  Had enough of the constant barrage of pizza and ice cream at lunch and dinner?  Reached the limits of living in a dorm room for a month at age 41?  Got tired of New-Yawkuhs?

No.  It was none of those.  I can take all that, and have been managing well enough.  What finally made me sick to my stomach was having crap writing stuffed in my face.

I mentioned that I’ve been taking my responsibilities as a peer editor, responder, and workshop member rather seriously.  On principal, I’ve tried to give the pieces I’ve handled the time, attention, and effort they deserve.  The time I have spent on peer writing has been triple that of the time I’ve spent on my own.  I’ve dutifully gone through line and content edits, and felt pride in serving the greater good to help a writer improve.  I’ve even seen my own fiction writing skills grow as I’ve done all the reviewing and editing.  But I can’t do it anymore.  I handled pieces last weekend that were such crap that I began to question the integrity of this program.  I wondered how people who wrote such crap got into the program.  I wondered about my own ability as a writer who is keeping company with writers who produce such crap and don’t know it is crap.  I commented to other trusted peers that the pieces sucked the soul out of me, and that the soul-sucking has happened all too frequently in the past week and a half or two weeks.

I have finally started to understand the perceptions of numerous writers over the last few years who have written about how the proliferation of undergrad and MFA Creative Writing programs has eroded the teaching and acquiring of creative writing skills.  One of the pieces that pushed me to the limits of sanity came from a classmate who is in a respected MFA program.  His wasn’t the only example; I’ve already seen a year’s worth of crap writing, mostly from undergrads in the workshops, but some from MFA writers.  It has left me wondering how they got in their respective programs, much less this one.

Several peers advised me to spend less time on the pieces, to not comment at all, or to not read them if after a few pages they are already proving to be turds.  None of those were viable options to me.  Thankfully, my rage was short-lived.  As early as last night, I read a pair of short stories from another workshop member that counter-balanced the crap I handled recently.  They were gems to work with–not perfect; but they showed an excellent command of craft, depth of thinking, sophisticated themes…  in short, they left me with a lot to work with, a lot to learn from, and an eagerness to discuss them to see how they can be taken to the next level.

to be continued tomorrow…


Written by seeker70

July 26, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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