There’s someone playing the piano or keyboards near my condo. It’s the same tune over and over and he/she really does need to practice. Here’s how my brain works.
- Brain hears the faint music.
- Brain focuses on the faint music and ignores every other sound. It’s annoying because it’s off key and repetitious.
- Brain wants to figure out what the song is. Shazam isn’t helping.
- Brain decides to blog about it.
- Brain finally resorts to putting on ear plugs.
- Brain is annoyed at the sound of my own breathing.
One of the strengths of my writing instructor is his feedback. If he likes what you wrote, he’ll tell you why. He told us that the biggest disservice we can do to each other is saying “I liked your story.” or “I didn’t enjoy your story.” We need to explain why we enjoyed it. For example, your description of the scene was vivid – the dim, foggy morning when your breath hung in the air. Or “I got confused with your character – I didn’t even get a sense of his age, gender and even appearance.”
Our assignment had a word limit. Of course, everyone felt that limit wasn’t enough. When I got my first assignment back, I saw how he was able to edit some of my writing. I still need to tighten up my writing. For example I wrote “My grandmother was a tiny woman.” He crossed out woman. I slapped my head when I saw that. It was so obvious. Some errors are just grammar “The food sizzled and hiss as it danced in the wok.” Hiss should be hissed.
My last class is next week. There’s a follow on course that’s even more intensive. He told us that students typically come with a short story (about 10 to 15 pages). We’ll take each other’s work home and provide feedback. *GULP* I am already nervous when I read my story out loud in class. I’m also blessed with an abundance of doubt about my own writing.
Anyways, I have to think this through. I want to save some money for a new camera (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and for travel.
No, not that.
My writing assignment is due next week and I don’t have a single idea.
One story neatly distilled into 300 words. That’s all I need.
Maybe I’ll write about a gay Chinese vampire hooking up with a werewolf rice queen through Grindr. Or homicidal writer who writes murder stories and acts them out in real life. Vegetarian zombies creating havoc in Taipei’s night markets as they devour stinky tofu.
Maybe that’s why writers drink.
So far my writing class has been a wonderful experience. My instructor is supportive, encouraging and down to earth. His humour and personable style makes us feel comfortable in sharing our writing. Each week, he unveils another element for us to learn. After 3 classes (there are only 5 in this introductory level), I feel like a novice climber looking up at an endless and towering mountain range. I looked back at my conquests and they are only ant hills. My universe of books and authors have grown every week. Yesterday, we read a short story from Tobias Wolff that floored me once I appreciated the balance of narration, dialogue and description.
My classmates write like crazy during class when given a prompt. I’m the only one that looks around searching for some inspiration. A lady read her poem that was haunting and touching. She wrote in 7 minutes after she got home. It takes me longer to take a dump. Ok – that’s not really accurate. If I don’t have anything to read, I can do it a lot shorter. A woman wrote about life and death in Iran during the revolution. I wrote about fried rice and my pet dog. A woman told us she read Anna Karenina 5 times and remembered how old she was each time she read it. I’ve already forgotten what I read in this morning’s paper (except for the comics).
When I received last week’s assignment, my teacher highlighted some sentences that could be edited and crisper. As an example, “It was something I couldn’t do while they were alive.” became “I couldn’t do this while they were alive.” There were missing words that weren’t apparent to me even countless reading and rewrites. I need to be more careful.
Despite my nagging insecurities, I am enjoying the whole experience and I’m learning about the craft of writing. It’s also very humbling.
I caught Bruce Springsteen’s concert when he came into town a couple of weeks ago. It was part of his River tour. The original River double album was released back in 1980 and was re-released last year as The Ties That Bind: The River Collection. It’s a 4 CD, 3 DVD package with additional songs, outtakes, documentary and a concert video. For this tour, I read that he was going to play the entire River double album. I only know a handful of songs from that album and hoped he was going to squeeze in at least some other songs.
He did more than that. The River set took about 2 hours. He sang a bunch of his other hits for another hour and 15 minutes. I’ve read about his legendary performances and I thought at 66, he would slow down a bit. But he played with energy and enthusiasm although he didn’t run, jump He had fun with his other band members. His die hard fans ate it up and they knew the lyrics to all of his songs (or so it seemed to me). He occasionally played in the catwalk that circled the stage, shook hands with his fans as he sung and even crowd surfed his way back to the main stage from the catwalk.
There were so many wonderful moments from the show. He sung River with a lot emotion and care. Point Blank was poignant and I could almost see the story unfold in front of me. He did a cover of Patti Smith’s Because the Night that I really enjoyed, his other hits such as Thunder Road, Born to Run and Badlands were just a pleasure to listen to. He played the last few songs with the stadium lights on. It was just wonderful watching everyone sing and dance.
I started to envy him. He does what he likes and worked hard to get to where he is. It probably wasn’t easy for him in his early years and I’m sure he made a lot of sacrifices. This is his love, his passion and his life. Dare to dream.
The pictures aren’t the greatest as we were sitting pretty far away.
Springsteen on the catwalk.
I can see him!
Bruce and the E Street Band including the saxaphonist Jake Clemons (Clarence Clemons’s nephew) in the back.
It felt weird going back to my university for my writing course. So many things have changed. I got lost finding my classroom but a cleaning lady was nice enough to point me in the right direction. The instructor was friendly and tried hard to set a friendly, open atmosphere. After our we read our first writing assignment, I was disappointed that everyone’s stories was vivid, crisp, had a better flow and more interesting. Mine was flat and limp. It was like going to an orgy and not being able to get it up.
We had to write long hand and not having done that for years, it felt really strange and awkward. There was a brief discussion about the merits of using a laptop to write your drafts vs writing long hand. Our instructor noted that when you use a computer, your writing just looks better even if it is just a first draft. He also recommended that we carry a small notebook and to write ideas and story lines. I felt he was looking at me when he said if you have stories that have lingered and stalled, don’t let your characters die. It’s hard to revive them. Write when you can. I thought of Rigby and Chris.
I’m impressed by my classmates. They know how to write well. I need to step up my game and take some writing Viagra.