writing myself into a corner

Tonight is my first writing workshop at the library’s writing center, and I, for one, am absolutely terrified. It’s been years and years since I’ve been in a writing workshop. I don’t remember how the dynamics work, I don’t remember how to participate without turning bright red, how to talk about writing, how to talk to other people, frankly. How do you have a conversation with someone? How do you make people think you’re smart without actively trying to be all impressive and trying to make people think that you’re smart, because there’s nothing, worse in the world, really, than someone who is obviously trying to be all impressive and cool when they are not. Help. I’m not impressive and cool.

I’m also not a creative writer, any more. A writer writes, not blogs, or creates newsletters or direct email campaigns or internal articles about new HR initiatives. I don’t remember the last time I wrote a word of fiction. It has been so long since I’ve written anything down that I do not remember how the words go. How do you make words turn into characters and themes and plots and stories? Words are so small, and these things are so large and complex and impossible-looking. I look at the book I wrote, all one billion pages of it, and I wonder how the hell that happened. Where did it come from? How is it possible that it will ever happen again? Fiction writing comes from a very specific place, and I have a feeling that my specific place has been condemned and boarded over and is now lost to the mists of time, forever.

I signed up for this class because I didn’t want that to happen–I don’t
want to give up writing for pleasure in favor of writing
for–well, I still find it a pleasure. But what I do every day is not fiction, stories,
books. It’s not the kind of stuff that I
feel lost without. It is strange, and kind of stupid, that I know
exactly what this hollow is, and exactly what will fill it up and I
continue to not do a thing about it, to walk around with a hole in me.
It is not so strange, maybe, because when I do try to do something
about it, here comes that terror again. I signed up for this class,
excited to finally be taking a step toward writing things for me, on a
regular basis, and now I feel kind of sick and sad at the idea of
actually going to the class, of having to talk to people, of having to
shut up and then put up. What was I thinking, is what I want to know,
and is it too late to back out?

It’s too late to back out, and I’m not going to, and I am excited, I
really am. It is going to be good, probably. It is not going to be
awful, most likely. If they make us do freewriting in class, probably I
will not spontaneously explode like a thick and viscous firework,
showering the room with shame and gore. Probably I will just freewrite
something that may or may not suck. Probably it will feel good, to sit
down and write fiction for the first time in I don’t know how long.
Once I’m there, and sitting down and class starts and we are all of us
hopeful writers filled with hope for the future, it will feel
wonderful. I just have to get through the anticipatory nausea, and
maybe stop hoping I will die before tonight.

  8 comments for “writing myself into a corner

  1. Sarah
    July 16, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Hi Anne-
    I’m a new-ish follower of the site, but just wanted to wish you luck! and i’m a little jealous actually. I absolutely understand where you’re at. As a angst filled college student, i wrote VOLUMES of fiction. that i actually still dig. But having been a magazine editor now for 7 years…i wonder in amazement at the ability i once had. where the f did it go? so…just wanted to say kudos for your bravery. it’ll come back. you just have to tempt it out again. cheers.

  2. anon
    July 16, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Of course you’re nervous, but you’ll go and it will be wonderful. Promise.
    I would have thought the writing you and your old friend did together when he visited last week would have helped get your creative juices flowing again. C’mon, it hasn’t been *that* long since you wrote fiction! Anyway, it’s like writing a bicycle……something else you recently started again!

  3. anon
    July 16, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Of course you’re nervous, but you’ll go and it will be wonderful. Promise.
    I would have thought the writing you and your old friend did together when he visited last week would have helped get your creative juices flowing again. C’mon, it hasn’t been *that* long since you wrote fiction! Anyway, it’s like riding a bicycle……something else you recently started again!

  4. M.
    July 16, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Heh, you want to talk about a style of writing that will forever kill any creative verbal anything you might have ever had? Try scientific writing.
    I have a feeling you’ll be brilliant. If all else fails, make your first character a praying mantis. Then you’ll have to get creative. :)

  5. anon
    July 16, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    ha! my first comment had the interesting typo “writing a bicycle” instead of “riding a bicycle”–hence my correction and seeming double post! :)
    For some reason that really cracked me up, but then, I’m obviously easily amused……

  6. Beth
    July 16, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Like anon said, of course you can do it! You just finished telling us about chapter after chapter you and your best friend wrote last week.
    I understand the nerves, though. I’m the same way when I stop drawing for a while. You can do it, though. Remember, the worst that can happen is your head will explode and if that happens you no longer have to worry about writing fiction. ;)
    Good luck!

  7. lap
    July 16, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Aren’t you writing fiction with your buddy right nowish? Does that not count because of hand-holding? I just recently gave myself a goal of writing something entirely made up before the end of the summer, and I am not sure that I can do that. It’s not scary as much as it simply seems impossible.

  8. Anne
    July 16, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    You guys have a good point! I am not cutting myself enough slack. The stuff I’m writing with my friend feels exactly like that, I think–hand-held. We’re working off his very comprehensive outline, and it’s fun and good and creative and it does count, you’re right. But I’ll also be glad to be writing my own short stories, I have to admit.

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