Saturday, April 19, 2008

"Do You Come Here Often?"

Thursday I was scurrying around the house looking for a notebook for the first session of my creative writing class. It was a lot like my grad school days--in the morning I taught writing; in the afternoon, I was the student. In this case I had taught a little computer class in the morning and then that evening somewhere in the college I would be part of something that I had signed up for months ago and was finally coming into being. Caithness time.

I sidestepped my angst over blank notebooks by finding (finally) a notebook that had at least one page filled--the first notes for the sweater for my daughter that had actually been completed and fit the intended recipient. I take this as a good omen. Too many blank pages, the weight of so many things unfinished might have scunnered me from the very outset of this round of "I will finish these projects and they will see the light of day."

I must have single handedly funded many other people's organizational ambitions with the number of clost organizers that I have bought with great enthusiasm and big ideas only to sell them at a garage sale. Likewise, books on how to teach yourself mathematics. Somewhere along the line I also passed along all my self help books.

Discarding those things might be an act of emancipation or one of surrender. Sometimes it is hard to tell which, at least for me. So here I am in a class again with way too many people to be a genuine working group. Twenty people are crammed into an easy-clean, multipurpose, classroom with tables arranged in a convivial U-shape rather than rows of chairs. Somehow linoleum floors and wood-grain tables are not speaking conviviality to me as I sit hunched a bit closer than I would like to a stranger on one side and friend on the other. I am relieved that I know at least some of the people in the room.

Perhaps to compensate for too many people in an uninspiring room, the teacher bundles up all her enthusiasm for the two hours of presenting and listening and encouraging. She is capable and genuinely enthusiastic but she looks as if she feels as if she is pushing uphill.

A few ice breaker activities get people writing and laughing. The tension eases a bit, but the laughter does not linger in the room for very long after each outburst. The air feels heavy. For the last exercise she invites us to move around the room but there is really nowhere much to go so a couple people move to the window and try to look casual. Maybe they are at ease, but it seems a studied casualness.

I sit in my same stiff chair and write about my wedding ring. The exercise is to write a description in third prson, then second, and then first person. When my wedding ring got its own voice, it gave me quite a lecture about how I take it out to the cow muck and through the garden soil but fortunately it forgives me.

My brother, who could barely sit through a lecture let alone an entire class, used to tease me relentlessly about always being in school. It began to feel like that. I don't think I want to count up how many hours I have sat in classrooms very much like the one last night. Unlike the closet organizers and the self-help books, this time around I am going to use the class for my own ends.

The cheerier part of my free writing exercise that evening concluded with:

"Outside the sun lingers. It is the season of long twilight and short dark. This has become my new favorite season. The light sustains me and proffers hope for warmth to come. The light sustains; the warmth energizes."


At 1:37 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

I tried writing class only once. It was a miserable experience but I did learn a bit.

probably the most important lesson I learned, however, was to research the writing of the teacher first, and not to attempt class with someone whose writing I do not like - regardless of resume.

At 7:47 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, good lesson. The instructor is a lovely person, a good writer, and has had some good experiences as a teacher. If I don't achieve my goals in this class it will not be her fault.


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