Self-Editing

Part of weird disconcerting thing about having a blog is that you're always wondering if someone who you don't want to read it will find it anyway and get pissed at you. For instance, is it safe to write about my screen-writing class (the one that meets tonight where I have previously been instructed to buy the teacher coffee before each meeting)? Or the writing group I went to last night; I have some thoughts about that too, but what if someone from my class...Okay, fuck it though, because what is the purpose of writing anything down if you're too worried about hurting someone's feeling?

Overall, I like the writing in the class. I wouldn't say that anything I've read is publishable at this point, but none of it's unbelievably bad either and several writers could potentially do more with their work. Some might be in the group just to write just to write, not because they are striving to have be published. So, okay. But it's a tense little group and there are some things that don't make sense to me. For instance, last time we met, someone said something like, I don't really think there's all that much difference between nonfiction and fiction. To me, there is a pretty big gap--the difference between watching a documentary and watching an action film, for instance. Or reading a novel versus reading Bill Bryson's essays about camping or whatever the hell he writes about---they're different genres It bugged me that the person leading the group didn't stop and say, Wait, maybe we should think about evaluating them differently or at least have a discussion about what some of the differences/similarities are.

This week, we had someone say that though he writes in a very particular style (let's say it's "magical realism." In fact, it is magical realism), it doesn't mean he should be evaluated using that criteria. "That's just my style of writing," he said as a matter of defense. When he was critiquing other people's work, he would go on and on and on and on in this kind of lilting yet not soothing voice until the leader had to tell him to ix-nay. One of those times, he said,
"Excuse me, let me finish, please." We did not want him to finish. And then another time, he told this woman in our class who was not taking notes during the commentary that she should be writing what he had to say down. She said, Don't worry, I'll remember. I thought, What a dick.
I also didn't like his piece which was supposed to be (I think) futuristic, but really went back in time to an era when men ran the world (not that it's much changed now) and had many different wives who were essentially given to them as gifts. The women revered the men and took care of them dutifully, almost seeming capable of fighting for the chance to draw pus from the swollen, gnarled feet of the elderly dudes around them.

During a good portion of the critique, I was irritated because the four men in the group uniformly seemed not to realize that they are talking too much, taking up more time in their commentary than the women. I wondered what would happen if this were a psychological experiment where we timed the number of minutes they spent talking and compared it to how long women spoke. I imagined the psychologists coming to the realization that men spoke 500% longer than women. My crabbiness was underscored by the tension I could feel coming from our leader who really didn't want anyone to speak more than 3 minutes each. And then I was also mad b/c when it was my turn, I tried to go swiftly. but nobody else seemed to be following that pattern and some were giving line reads of the manuscript. Then I noticed that a couple of the women seemed to go on a bit so maybe I was being overly-sensitive. But I don't think so.

Comments

julie said…
Oh, man. You are brave. Writing classes/groups can be a special form of group therapy and sheer torture. And writers can be crazy egomaniacs, especially men.

Of course I have undergrad and grad writing degrees and have been in many writer's groups, so maybe I'm just a masochist.

My current writer's group, though, is three women. Period. It's very nice.

Julie

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