(Hardly) Tragic Life Stories

This morning my brain woke up at 7:15AM, exactly 45 minutes before my body was ready. That was just enough time to lay there and start over-thinking things: Was the car going to get a ticket? Did I remember to lock the door? Am I catching cold? What’s wrong with me? Why does winter suck so hard? Etc, etc. In that time, my mind wandered, and got all self-critical of my 20’s. You know, the university years. The stuff of which nightmares are made. The conscious moments between longer periods of being drunk prior to graduation.

More specifically, I was feeling embarrassed to have spent several years as a creative writing major: all the poor things I not only wrote but shared with my classmates. I was writing from nowhere, from a life part-lived. Essentially I was making the shit up as I went along…which should be the goal of creative writing, otherwise they would call it plagaristic writing. I think art schools and especially the creative writing major should be abolished. What a way to commodify art…guised as education. Art should be workshopped, never graded.

The point: sometime in the late 90’s I took a class called Creative Writing: Memoir Fiction. Or something like that. I was so into it: what could be more awesome/easy than writing about my life? At the time, I thought I was amazing. I was invincible. I was 22. I was totally lost in life but having a great time. So I wrote a story about it. I seriously thought: “I – hands down – have the most interesting life out of everyone in this class and my story is going to BLOW THEM AWAY.” I was conceited. Did I mention that?

My only caveat was one particular classmate who was actually a good writer. She had had her work published and shit. We had mutual friends and at the time I thought it was likely that her life might be more interesting than mine. She was also a few years older. And this morning, in my momentary post-dawn panic, I realised it was the possibility of her opinion that embarrassed me. Like my “tell-it-like-it-is life story” about going to bars and having dinners at fancy restaurants was remotely intellectual and engaging. It totally was not. That story was a bona fide piece of garbage.

The largest tragedy here was that I ever thought the drivel I put out there was appropriate to share and discuss with others. Yikes, anyone?

A final thought: how depressing and morally crushing would it be, being a creative writing teacher? Not trying to be offensive to creative writing teachers out there, but the amount of pure rubbish you would have to process: read cricitally, comment on and grade. All the while, your internal dialogue being: “This is the future of English literature. Fucking hell. Can I murder myself now?” Thus, possibly, the genesis of a new genre.

One Reply to “(Hardly) Tragic Life Stories”

  1. I remember I felt that way when I took a creative writing class in highschool. I too thought I was going to destroy this class because I was convinced I was in a room full of dunces. All that being said, I’m quite confident the contrived stories I came up with were drivel, but at the very least grammatically correct and without spelling errors.

    On another note, I miss your old Dears lineup. Whatever happened to Valerie, George, Martin, and Patrick?

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