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My summer semester concluded yesterday and I feel myself taking a long deep breath.  The class was good, but I need a break. Just two short weeks and then it is back into the grind…

However, I combed through some of my old papers and I found two inspirational quotes I had forgotten about.  I’ll share them here as a way to keep pushing myself.  I hope you like them too.

1) “I think that if art is not made then the world will go on, but once art is created, it sort of connects you with just about everybody else who’s around.”  — Edward P. Jones

2) “Write about what you love and write about what scares you… If you’re writing about what you love, you might have stories that are perfectly resolved and quite happy.  If you’re writing about what scares you, you may sometimes have a story that’s not quite resolved.  If you write about what you love and if what you love scares you, then you may have the ‘Great American Novel’.” — Greg Bear

Cats and Frogs


I Feel So Stupid Right Now

I have finished another night of class and I feel as if I have hit an emotional wall. Right now, I am asking myself why I bother to get this degree. Everything I like, the professor pointed out as a problem. Parts that I saw as a problem were highlighted as effective. Do I read my classmates work with another brain? Am I so underdeveloped as a writer that I am starting to see bad as good and vice versa?  Somedays (days like today) I just want to quit. No one is forcing me to get this degree. No one forced me to apply to this program. And yet, I take a step back as think, Well, if you knew all this stuff you wouldn’t need to pay all this money.

I want to blame this disconnect on my genre style writing. I am not a literary writer, although I like to think that I straddle the line between genre and literary. Even so, most literary journals, editor, and readers will look at my writing and firmly declare me a fantasy writer. I can wear that label. It suits me and my bookshelves are filled with science fiction/fantasy. I am what I read.

Being a genre writer in a traditional program makes me have a crisis moment at least once a semester. I feel it more tonight, because said crisis had happened several times in previous classes this semester. My process was wrong. My words were shallow repeats of my classmates. Over and over, I feel myself not seeing what everyone else sees. It makes me close my mouth and not open it again, convinced that my words are so empty, how could I ever think they would matter?

I know on some rational level this is not true. When we read a work, we bring our own personal thoughts and experiences. How can your opinion be wrong?

And I still leave class feeling like crap…

I think my real fear stems from not seeing what others see. It is like everyone stares at a cloud and sees a frog. But I don’t see a frog! I see a cat. Damn, where is the frog??? It is insecurity that only I feel and not necessarily present. I don’t know if I will ever get over it. My writer’s neurosis may always be there. The pressure to conform, whether real or imagined, will always be on me in this program, because I don’t see frogs. I see cats.

Sometimes I wish I could be like everyone else. To write a close character study story with an intimate setting and snappy dialogue would be so normal. A story where nothing “weird” happens and plot is not a driving force would fly out of my head and onto the page.

Once in a while, I do write the straight forward literary story, but those moments are rare. My stories (and my voice as a writer) are strange, beautifully strange to me, and haunt me. I write the work that I just can’t get out of my head. And those stories are not going to be found in the literary section.

In fairness my classmates and professors have always been respectful of my work. I’ve never been offended by anything anyone has ever said or written. I am lucky. I had heard horror stories about genre writers being torn apart by literary people. The idea that genre writers somehow don’t work as hard as a literary writer does permeate some programs. I did have a moment about 10 years ago in a community writing session when one woman suggest that I “get rid of all the supernatural stuff and write a real story.” Ouch! Lucky for me there was another reader in that group who told me to ignore her.

*12 Hours Later*

I ran out of steam earlier. Last night I felt so drained and I just wanted to get the thoughts out before they faded. My feelings haven’t changed. I’m still feeling stupid and lost, but I also recognize that this may never change. I enrolled in this program to learn and grow as a writer. If I can’t be challenged, why am I here? To carry on my metaphor, I need to see cats and frogs.

And I realize that this won’t happen overnight.

So I’m going to be frustrated and lost during my pursuit of a master’s degree. I could quit, but what good would that do me? How will that make me better as a writer? Instead of quitting, I need to dig in and do the work. I need to develop bifocals to see both as a literary writer and a genre writer. I have a feeling I’m going to be messing up a lot. I’m exhausted and overwhelmed at times. I still have over a year of classes to take and plenty of assignments and discussions. I do feel like I am growing as a writer. It is just that growing pains hurt!

Hopefully, at the end of this, I will be a better writer. That is my goal after all. I can’t be passive about it. I have to actively work on pushing my old habits aside and trying to learn new ones. I can’t be afraid of the different.

Wish me luck!