This week has been a slow one in terms of writing production for me. Part of that slowness comes from an overwhelming number of papers to grade (can anyone relate?) and part comes from just the natural place where I am in my writing right now. I feel like I’m just settling into the cooler weather and putting on my writing sweater, which brings a blessed languidity to my pace – at least on the page.
Plus, I’m now gestating over my book, figuring out plot ideas, and considering the shape of things. This is important work, but it doesn’t produce much product – and that’s okay with me.
I have been reading more, and my creative writing students and I have been having great discussions. Just yesterday, as we talked about revision, some of them said that they felt like when they went to look back at their work, they felt like it was terrible and should just throw it out. Others said that when they used someone else’s feedback they felt like they were cheating (a colleague confirms for me that this may be the result of a religious upbringing – or for her, the result of being raised in the Midwest). Others talked about wanting to write from only the moment and that coming back later seemed false or artificial.
I did my best to dispell these fears and to urge them to revise, but I fear I have no real answers for these challenges except to “keep going, keep writing, keep rewriting, even when you hate it . . . . don’t stop. Persevere.” I say some of these things to them, but if I go too far, their eyes roll and they give me “yep, there you are, the crazy creative writing prof again” look – most days, I’m okay with that look, but I usually stop anyway. No need to make them get eye strain.
On other fronts, I just finished reading Jincy Willlet’s The Writing Class, which I randomly picked up a few weeks ago at the library because it was about, well, a writing class. I teach some of those so you can see the draw. And it turned out to be a pretty good book. A writing teacher pulls together a community writing class that happens to contain a psychopathic writer who because of his/her constant rejection from magazines and journals turns to grotesqueness and murder for relief rather than revising his/her work. (Ah – the themes of my life!) The book circles around this class’s meetings as they try to discover who has killed two of their classmates.
Willett has written a good protagonist, Amy the writing teacher, who – I imagine – might be based on Willett herself given the resemblance between the description of Amy and the jacket photo of Willett. Amy is a writer in a slump – in life, in writing, in love – and she has decided to not feel or deal with feelings at all because, somehow, avoidance seems easier. Throughout the book, she gradually comes alive, ironically since someone is trying to kill her. She’s a good character, deep and honest and while infuriating, also likable.
But, of course, my favorite character was Alphonse, the basset hound. Need I say more.
If you’re a writing teacher, a writer, have taken a writing class, or like murder mysteries (does that cover everyone on the planet?), I would highly recommend this book. It’s a fun read.
– The Writing Class by Jincy Willett
I’m feeling particularly “girlish” these days (no offense, boys), so if you have any books of this nature to recommend to me, please do. I’d love to know of some new titles. Thanks. Have a great weekend.