Thursday, June 18

They Should Not Have Let Me Into This School

Posted by Shelly Holder

No, seriously. I don't know what the admissions board was thinking. I think they either were going to lunch, or coming back, and just wanted to get out of there.

What I'm taking about is my supplemental piece. For us artsy folks, they allow an additional submission of creative writing/video/music sample, acting sample, etc. And I sent one in. I happened to stumble across both the original, and my later rewrite. The original I went for humor. I failed. In the rewrite I went for high literature. I failed. And the thoughts that I express... are horrible, cliche, and uncomplimentary to my own profession. I am traumatized. I am amused. I don't know what to do with myself, so therefore I am posting both versions here.

At least I recognize my "style" or "voice." Apparently, I had it even way back then. I have a tendency to include subclauses- a lot. I use dashes- a lot. I indicate multiple thoughts by using "that"- a lot. And I do this all still today. I also have a structure in which I like to use the body of a paragraph as one point, then add a single sentence separated from the main text that completely contradicts or twists the original idea. And I do this all the time now.

I also realize that I was trying to go for a creative non-fiction piece. Or would have, if I even knew what creative non-fiction was back then. But I also use writer's block as a vehicle to get over my writer's block. Ugh. Just ugh.

So, I would say enjoy, but..... Yeah.

WARNING: This piece is mildly offensive. Please forgive me. I was ignorant and didn't know any better. I don't write like this anymore.

***
There is something about a blank white piece of piece of paper. It has a space, an emptiness, that demands to be filled, and yet possesses a very lethal danger to all who would seek to mar its creamy perfection.
It's called writer's block.
My pencil thumped rapidly against the stack of notebook paper, its rubber eraser bouncing a little higher each time. I slowed the tapping, moving so that each hit would trace the lines on the paper. Down the red line, across each green line that spanned the vast canyon that was my masterpiece.
Or would be, if I had anything to write.
In my experience, writer's block hits at either one of two places. The first, where most writers and all good storytellers start- at the beginning. It's the bone-crushing despair that stops you from ever touching pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, if you're one of those types, but I prefer to take my chances having writer's block with an inanimate object than having a disapproving cursor blinking back at me.) The second place writer's block can hit is about 1/3 of the way down a page, where you are so thankful that divine inspiration has given you an idea that you surge to reach for that pencil, only to find that the idea peters out after four sentences.
Writing can be a shitty business. And I'm such a lucky girl to enter into said shitty business.
Because honestly, a writer cant declare herself to be anything other than she is. It's like toast trying to pass herself off as French bread. You're still toast, burned edges and all.
Believe me, I've tried. 15 years of trying, in fact. One of the first things I remember is my dad saying that I should be a writer. I brushed off each and every suggestion like that, thinking I wanted to do something worthwhile in life, like dig in the mud and discover buried treasure (I wanted to become an archaeologist.)
How ironic then, that I've come full circle, and traded one obscure profession for another.
Of course, writing is a worthwhile occupation- it keeps all the lunatics off the street and locked away in their houses trying to write the great American novel.
It saves on construction for mental hospitals too.
Alright, all writers aren't crazy, but admittedly we are a rare bunch. Everyone in the world might be trying to write the aforementioned great American novel, so much that it's passed into the realm of cliche, but I think authors, as opposed to writers, have something special (and yes, there is a difference: writers are those still dreaming of the great American novel, a sort of croissant and mimosa type; author's are those who've decided it's time to be toast.)
I read once that authors are like vacuums, who suck up other people's lives, then weave them into stories like sparrows building nests.
This vacuum likes being toast, even with writer's block and burnt edges.

***
The Rewrite
(This one is only slightly better. I am proud of my editing skills though.)

There is a very lethal danger, though often forgotten, in the expanse and emptiness of a blank white piece of paper. Space stretches out unchecked from corner to corner, down each side of the page, traversed only by a few brave lines, establishing a thin, tentative sort of order in that expanse of uncharted territory. And to those that seek to mar its creamy unblemished perfection, it issues a mute challenge, a warning, a curse.
It’s called writer’s block.

My pencil is often rendered useless by this most dreaded of circumstances. Frustrated by lack of progress and thwarted by a force greater than it’s own, my pencil seeks refuge in useless action. It thumped rapidly against the stacj of notebook paper, its rubber end bouncing a little higher each time. I slowed the tapping, moving so that each downward hit would trace across the green lines. Lines that spanned the vast canyon that was my masterpiece.
Or would be, if I had anything to write.

In my experience, writer’s block strikes at either one of two places; at the beginning, where all good story-tellers and most decent authors start, or about one-third of the way down the page, after a few hope-filled sentences burst forth. It’s either the bone-crushing despair that prevents pencil from touching paper in the first place, or the insidious creeping despair fom that contrast between divine inspiration and the eventual stuttering end of divine inspiration.
Writing can be a truly shitty business. Wordless, mocking challenges, disapproving, blinking cursors. the failure to conquoer the blank page or screen. Soul-searing, scarring failures, remembered and pondered over and prodded at by some inherent masochistic desire to delve right back into the pain-filled heart of writing.
And I would never want to do anything else. There can never be anything else.
A writer cannot be happy passing herself off as anything else. It is not a career, it is a character trait, as genetically determined as hair color or eye color or race. You may dye your hair, but each month the roots grow out and you are once again reminded of the truth of identity. The same for toast, trying to masquerade as the finest French bagette. Both are crunchy, slightly tough, sometimes stale. But in the end, the burnt taste always give it away, no how much scraping and trimmed edges and cursing occurs.
Not that many writers don’t try. I tried. Years of trying. 15 years worth of trying to avoid the person I really am. Over a decade’s worth of fighting and avoidance, and to some degree, I am still fighting that siren’s call. Avoiding failure by not writing. Avoiding writing’s block by not writing. Avoiding a burning, tireless obsession by not writing. Avoiding anything, everything, whatever I fear by not writing at all. I think that to some degree, I will always be fighting. This too is a part of writing: destructive, vindictive, integral, necessary, accepted.
It could be argued that the only benefit of writing is that it keeps the crazies off the streets- and what writer is not a little bit crazy for pursuing heart-ache so willingly?-and squirreled away in little garret rooms writing the next great American novel.

(And here thankfully I stopped.)


Right Now:
What I'm listening to: "Runaway" by Mae
What I want most: to take back this piece. Definitely.