Thursday, February 14, 2008

Classes with Maria

A few years ago, I took a couple of writing classes taught by a woman called Maria.

The beginner's class, once per week for 8 weeks, was all about accessing our creativity. The first day she brought out a strange assortment of foods and laid them on the shared table we were sitting at.

"Everyone eat a roasted chick pea!" she commanded. We did.

"Now, if that taste was a sound, what sound would it be? Quick, don't think too hard about it, just write about that sound!"

I have no recollection of what I wrote at that moment. Kind of makes me wish I'd kept my notes.

Next, she passed around a plastic tub of plain tofu.

"Stick your fingers in the tofu!" she commanded. "If that feeling was a painting, what would it look like? Write about it!"

A lot of the class was like that, just doing weird stuff to jostle our brains until they jumped out of the rut of rationality and went skittering off into uncharted territory.

"Take off your socks!" she commanded. "Now try to snap your toes! Use your big toe and the next toe, like you're snapping your fingers but with your toes." And then we'd be asked to write something from the point of view of our toes.

We also did slightly more conventional things. I liked the exercise where we wrote a descriptive sentence in large print on a blank sheet of paper. Then we cut up the paper so that each word was on its own paper scrap, and re-arranged the words to make found poems. Then we mixed everyone's words together and made a sort of story. That was good fun.

I had such a good experience in the beginner's class that I decided to carry on to the Writer's Workshop. The point was to bring a creative work in progress to read aloud, and share feedback with the other group members. I didn't have a work in progress, so I decided to start writing a novel just for the heck of it.

Well, the workshop and the beginner's class were like night and day. The workshop was serious. The workshop was structured. There were no games, and everyone kept their socks on. I tried to adjust. I sat up properly in my chair and tried to look pensive. I offered thoughtful comments.

But jeez oh man, the workshop bored me almost to sleep. I'm afraid to say that the novels of my fellow writers fell far short of bestseller material, let alone works of literary genius. I'm not afraid to say that the novel I started sucked the big one. I wasn't inspired, and I've never been much of a fiction writer anyway.

We sat in a small, stuffy room, listening to each author read their work aloud in a droning voice. Sometimes we had to do the same chapters over multiple times, so that the writers could get feedback on their revisions. Eventually it occured to me that I was wasting my time, so I bailed out after the 5th of 8 classes. I just couldn't take any more.

I think I'll just stay a beginner forever.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

If you arent enjoying what you are doing then it will show and others that read it will notice. Stay a beginner if that makes you happy or better yet make your own path to what you want to do.

Leighann said...

You lost me at the whole toe thing! *gag*


Tequila Mockingbird said...

that story showed that presentation is everything.

jameil1922 said...

i've never been a fiction writer either. i went to my friend's creative writing class, though because my secret boyfriend (it was a secret to him hahahhaha) was in there. that made me like him even more. AMAZING WRITER!! luckily most people were pretty good writers but he def. was a standout. anything he wrote about you wanted to get inside that story.

Sparkling Red said...

Warped Mind of Ron: Yes, I will. Thank you, Zen Mind of Ron. ;-)

Leighann: At least no one in the class had dirty troll feet.
(Note to others: visit Leighann's blog post for today if you want more info on this reference.)

Tequila Mockingbird: ... said the Mistress of Presentation. ;-)

Sparkling Red said...

Jameil: I hear you. It's so cool to know people in person who can write as well as published authors. I just want to sit down at their feet and wait for the words to roll down to me.

Karen said...

I enjoy my own fiction and I don't care who else doesn't.... LOL. Sounds like an interesting class though

Kell said...

I'm with ya. I've been to classes like the second one and most of the people wanted to read their stuff because they thought it was such enlightening prose and they want so much for others to think that. I haven't done one since.

R.E.H. said...

Writing workshops need to be made out to be fun!

Seriously. One must never forget that writing is supposed to be fun... even when it is a "job". If you're not enjoying the writing - that will show. And, that will make bad writing.

Give it another shot. There are good, fun, writing classes out there.

Jenski said...

That beginners class sounds like a great way to tap into unknown creativity! I always wish that I could write a great piece of fiction. I think there are just grants and scientific papers in my future.

Sparkling Red said...

Karen: That's the way to go. Really, we can only write well if we write for ourselves first, and others second. If you can do that, more power to you!

Kell: Yeah, there are some really good writers out there, but there are also an awful lot of people who are trying way too hard to be impressive and literary. I'll take a pass on the attitude, thanks.

R.E.H.: I may take another class sometime... but right now I feel like this blog is my best learning opportunity. Learn by doing, I say! :-)

Jenski: That's the joy of being a beginner. You have permission to screw up and not take it too seriously. That opens the door to all sorts of experiences that you don't get when you're playing it safe.
You never know - maybe you will write a great work of fiction. There's only one way to find out if you can...

PixieVonAzia said...

Hi thank you for the comment..

I understand where my friend comes from. She's just not interested just like yourself in having children and I totally understand that but you know it is part of my life now and I would hope by her being my friend would show SOME interest. I don't necessarily mean I'm going to go into detail like your stories of projectile vomit =)but an occasional story of how she started to learn how to talk would be good to share..

Neway love your blog and yes your writing experiences with the toes was slighty gagish but funny, trying to imagine you snapping your toes =) I will visit again =)

Aurora said...

First: Your Maria sure knows her marketing. Second: I wish that my English classes were as fun as your beginner class. If only learning could always be fun.

Nicole said...

Nope, I can't be bothered with boredom and seriousness.
I rather take dirty troll feet and the sound of beans ;)

Sparkling Red said...

Pixievonazia: Thank you kindly! Do come again. Even if your friend doesn't have the patience for your stories, that's the good thing about having a blog. You'll always have an interested audience. :-)

Aurora: Yeah, it sure is a far cry from [university course] 101, where there's 200 students and at least half of them are sleeping at any given moment.

Nicole: Well said! There is enough seriousness in life without paying to sit through more of it.

Stewie said...

Holy cow, that class sounds fun as hell.

Wish I had had that.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I like being a beginner at a lot of things; however often my pride swells up and before I know it - I've exaggerated myself to expert status. Good thing most people take me at my word. I guess if you're confident in yourself and what you say, most people won't bother to call you on it. I'm still trying to decide if that's a good thing...