I am ready to learn, and I am ready for a fight. It’s only because of the past, which follows me around everywhere in a lumpy, psychic bag and sometimes tries to convince me that the past can predict the future.
Let me fill you in on one of my past lives. No, not the one where I was Cleopatra (why was EVERYONE Cleopatra??), I mean one of the careers I dove into before I settled into my life as a massage therapist who writes stuff. Right out of college, I picked up my Lit degree and stumbled into graduate school. The academic, writing life was my object. To be surrounded by books and words and ideas, all day, every day. I had my grandiose ideas and a book-length work of fiction, so I signed up for a Long Form Creative Writing class.
Have I mentioned that I lasted only through the M.A. program and no longer?
In that class, we were instructed to sit quietly and listen to critique of our work. No comments, no answers to questions, no subtly suggestive noises of any kind. When it came time for my work to be critiqued in class, I spent a couple of hours totally silent, listening to people talk. After about thirty minutes, I started to notice that little workshop dance where everyone tries to say the next most insightful thing. At this point, they have exhausted all the truly helpful information and have slipped into “perform for the Professor” mode. It was not subtle. It exhausted me.
About a week later, I had my mandatory one-on-one meeting with the Professor. I would have been happy skipping this face time, but he insisted that everyone schedule their time or risk failing the class. So, I scheduled the time (in between the two classes I was teaching and the mountains of reading and writing for my other classes.) And the Professor decided to answer his phone five minutes into our time, and hold a conversation which lasted until about a minute before the end of our appointment. All the while, he signaled me to “stay,” “just wait a moment.” I gained nothing, but I certainly lost any remaining respect I had for the Professor as a teacher of humans.
So, my most recent experience with workshops has not been pleasant. It has been armored, to say the least. And this is the lumpy, psychic bag of my past that I am attempting to leave behind in July. I am headed to Wildacres Retreat to spend a week learning and workshopping with no distractions but the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina. Whenever I think about the retreat as a whole, I am ready to learn. Whenever I think about sitting around a table with my fellow writers, listening to their thoughts on my work, I am ready for a fight.
I have submitted my manuscript and made all the necessary travel reservations. My work now is unpacking the baggage and leaving “ready for a fight” behind, in the past, in that Professor’s office where it belongs.