I took another writing class
even though Mother says I should be teaching them by now….
[I have finally realized that nothing is standardized and outside the world of real school, university, graduate programs
well, maybe not certain graduate programs, the content and quality of any class is about 98% dependent on what direction the teacher goes. With another 1% due to who is in the class with you, and 1% on the ventilation system.]
We met in a small room, 6 students, and the idea I thought was discovering or developing your voice. Voice is a word agents and publishers like to toss around
and slap you upside the head with, usually in terms of what is lacking in your work.
After a brief instruction on how we would give feedback on each other’s work, the teacher tossed out about a hundred writing prompts on separate pieces of paper. Nice to have options, sure, but giving writers that many prompts is basically like sending the Kid into the local candy store and telling her Pick One.
Let’s just say you could get your nails done waiting. Toes and Fingers. And do your sister-in-law’s. And that uncle’s.
Then, there’s Wendy. Perhaps I have spent too much time with tarot cards (did you know I have a woo woo side? you do, right?), but I just looked at the prompt that landed in front of me and went with it.
It being this: Soap Operas — why do we watch them?
I figured it was no accident (see? woo woo). After all, I watched As the World Turns from the age of 15 and mourned when it was cancelled.
So I wrote. And every one else did, too. Then the teacher asked who would like to read.
Maybe it was the tight quarters, or the smallness of the group, or my desire to convert the world to the hopeless task of loving soap operas now that most of them are gone…but whatever, I volunteered. I read. And then…
I’ll admit, the kooky, older lady next to me said she thought it was charming. But that was about it.
Then, the next two students read their pieces. Their pieces from prompts that they carefully chose were about the gut-wrenching moments of them leaving their spouses or being left by their spouses or their child’s scary illness or their own scary illness or all the above happening simultaneously, plus a train wreck and an overdue library book.
And then, I saw it. Two Kleenex boxes at either end of this little conference table. How did I miss those before? Just what kind of class was this supposed to be?
It was too late to make a run for it.
I felt I misread the invitation and came dressed as a goofy, tropical plant to a fancy garden party. Crap.
And when they read, they were serious. It felt bleak. And the woo woo side of me worried that their heavy, dark vibe would glom onto me and put me in a funk.
Not that I’m afraid of negative emotions. No, that red and purple, dripping, throbbing thing on my arm would be my heart. But at least through my 20’s I hoisted around a heavy armor to protect it. Now, I’m old and tired
of carrying that beat-up shit around and dealing. But still.
Honestly, a huge draw to me in friends or significant others is their ability to smile or raise their eyebrows in a cheerful way. Superficial of me? Or…super deep? First-date men who never changed their facial expression as they talked, taking themselves or life uber-serious, buh-bye.
Now, there I was in class. No one smiling, no one lifting their eyebrows. Who are these people revealing…all their stuff??
And why was my chair getting so small, so uncomfortable, so…awkward?
But later, once
I had a stiff drink the shock wore off, that little woo woo part of me softly chimed in (the woo woo is never loud but very smart) that perhaps, as an Alaskan friend once said, you wouldn’t want all the flowers in the world to be the same color. Maybe it was no accident that we, this hodgepodge of dark and light, were in class together.
Maybe their bold expression of their dark places would set a good example for me to hang out a bit more there, in myself.
And maybe they will learn to occasionally enjoy a soap opera.