Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Overprotective + Enough is Enough

First, thank you to everyone that has commented on my blog (all 4 of you!). You all have truly inspired me and kept me motivated! Sometimes I just come here and read your words and I feel better, honestly. Not many people understand what I'm trying to do here and it feels good to see that you do! I have become a major blog surfer these days and, of course, I read the blogs of those that comment here and I try to comment where I can. Special thanks to Blu, my most recent commenter, because one of her posts has inspired this one!


Okay, so . . . my UCLA ext. course starts on Wednesday . . . how exciting?! And nerve wracking!

My issue can basically be summed up to be STAGE FRIGHT . . . despite the lack of stage, lol. I have never liked exposing my poetry to the world. They're like my babies and I don't like the feeling of sending them out there, defenseless into this cruel and critical world! It took me a while to even post my poetry in my myspace blog (which has all but dried up over the past year or so) and I've only got one (count it- 1) poetry reading/spoken word experience under my belt. My only real experience with a workshop like setting was my creative writing class last fall, we would write in class and go around the room and share or write away from class and bring it in to share. All of the experiences ended up being pleasurable in the end (my prof was a tough critic but also a free spirit and no one in the class wanted to breathe a bad word about another's work for fear of retaliation when their turn rolled around). I got an A and wrote some pretty good stuff in the class. I thought I had gotten over my anxiety about sharing my work with others on such a large scale (if you can consider 30 people large) but it's all coming back to me now. This online class where I can't see any faces or hear any whispers and giggles, worried me more than that class ever did!

The syllabus requires that we not only post our own assignments for class critique and comments but that we comment and critique everyone else's work too! YIKES! I know that some of you are reading this and thinking, "Okay, girl . . . that's what MFAs are all about! That's what writing is all about!" and I know that, but can't a sista have her reservations? lol. Anyway, I went to the course roster and facebook'd a few (ok, all) of my classmates-- I thought it would make me feel better to put faces to names and personalize the experience. I only had a few hits which leads me to believe that the majority of them are older students. I googled my professor, listened to her reading some poetry online and read her list of accolades and impressive bio. These tasks didn't really make me feel any better, lol. But, we'll see.

Enough is Enough

Somebody once told me that if you love reading then being an english major will spoil that for you, because you'll read so much and spend so much time analyzing text that you'll forget how to love literature. Fortunately, for me, I didn't lose my love for reading (though I did slack off on my leisure reading while in school) and I was a pretty good english student. Anyway, I'm a little afraid that trying to get into these writing programs will ruin my love of writing--- I'll spend so much time critiquing and worrying about whether my poems are good enough that I'll turn against writing just because of the stress!

I don't want to compete, I want to write!

The idea of being "good enough" for an MFA program enters my mind daily, sometimes hourly depending on my stress level. After reading about other people's journeys to MFAs and MFA graduates and I start to feel second best-- I don't have the experience in workshops and writing or publishing record that some of them mention. Very many of them are older, perhaps wiser than I am-- they woke up one day and found themselves in a career that they hated and realised that their love was writing and took steps towards getting an MFA. Not very many fresh out of college folks like me with such limited exposure to the writing world-- or at least not that I've found. Have I lived enough to write good stuff? Am I dedicated enough? Well-read enough? Smart enough? Confident, creative, or cunning enough?

I am so tired of worrying!

I used to be a much more confident person (academically) before college entered my life, lol. No worries about not passing a class or doing well on an assignment-- especially when it came to writing! But, college brought on tough professors and excellent writers as my peers. And pressure, pressure, pressure!

I keep telling myself that enough is enough, it's time to take the reins of this thing-- I need to stop questioning my right to be in an MFA program or be a writer! I know what I love to do and all I'm trying to do is hone my craft like everybody else out there-- I'm not second best, I'm just different! My experiences are unique to those around me but make me no less qualified.



  1. Girl,

    You are so lucky you are in Cali or I'd find you and beat your ass. You keep putting me in momma mode. (By the way, did you read my response to your comment on my page?)

    Listen, we don't compare ourselves to other people. Understand? We compare who we are to who we were. We look at other people's work to establish goals and measures, but not to compare ourselves.

    It's a natural tendency, I do understand. I do it too, and that's why I never put anything out, but I fuss at you anyway. I say to you as I've said to my daughter, to the young woman I mentor, and to myself: let it go. Keep growing and you're doing your job. In workshops you are not competing. You are removing yourself and focusing on the piece. It's not your baby anymore. It's a work of art that you want to be as strong as possible.

    Here's some information that may make critique easier to recieve and easier to give. When I workshopped with awesome fellow writers in the 90's I found that the stronger my pieces were, the more criticism I received. I found similarly, that the stronger the piece was I was reading, the more criticism I gave. This was because it was so close to perfect, I had a lot to discuss. And critique isn't always about what's not working, much of it is, "this is great, this is perfect, I love this line."

    People responding to your work, pointing out cliche's and overuse of words or showing you how your approach is undermining your goal in a poem simply allows you to have a fresh view so you can go back in and work on it more. The critiques add to your perspective and your ability to appreciate other work. The process is awesome! Prepare to love it. Not to compete with anyone, but to grow with everyone.

    You already love writing, and will love it all the more once you jump into this process.


  2. LOL @ Terri swearing to be Toni!Your stern mother voice sounds alot like my conscience-- I need to listen to it more. Thank you for the advice here and on your post!

    When I first learned about MFA's I was so excited! I always intended to be a writer and study writing but it never seemed as tangible before. Before then, I thought that I'd be stuck in an English Lit Ph.D. program for years, followed by years fighting for tenure and years of squeezing in time for poetry between scholarly writing. But, now, my excitement is waning a bit b/c at times I do feel a step behind (but, I felt the same way when I entered my first major course in undergrad as well and I got over it soon enough.). In my heart, I know that I love writing just as much as the next person but it's my mind that keeps getting in my way.

    I know, I know, lol. Workshops aren't competing and I shouldn't campare myself to others BUT this application process sure feels like a whole lot of competing and comparing! I didn't really know much about MFAs until this summer, and the more I read about selective admissions, funding, professors, etc. I question my writing ability and wonder if it will be good enough to get me where I need to be. But, you're right, I'm just going to let my babies go and hope that they represent me well in my manuscript. I'm just glad that I'm not on any application committees, lol.

    As for these fall classes, I enrolled in them to help me calm my nerves (among other things like recs and my manuscript) so I can enter my MFA w/ my head held high and ready to work. I guess I just have the usual preclass jitters, once I get into the swing of things I'll be fine. Like I said before, this nervous energy usually subsides. In the end, I know that my writing will thank me for letting go and exposing my work to critique. My work is so far from perfect but then again I never worried about it being perfect before.

    If I do go to Bennington, we'll definitely take some time out and do some Make-Up workshops! lol. I get a feeling that I'll do great with stage makeup since my methods are far from subtle :). I loved the songs on your myspace page, by the way! If I was still in DC, I'd gather up my girls and take a road trip to Philly to see one of your shows!

    Thanks again for everything!


Let me know you were here! Comments encouraged!