Wednesday, September 25

be a little more messy

I struggled this week to write.

I'm taking an upper level non-fiction workshop this semester, which I chose over fiction after my overwhelmingly wonderful experience in the lower level non-fiction workshop, because I've found that writing from my own "voice" is easier for me than through another characters. Plus, I found that finding MY voice turned me into an infinitely better writer. I have to have my own voice before I can write from another, you feel me?

However, with my first workshop this week, I felt totally out of my element. There was the problem of picking an idea and then there was the problem of writing it. Everything felt forced. Everything felt way to dramatic and nothing came out how I wanted. I listened to my first professor's voice in my head telling me that every word sucked (he really did tell me my pieces sucked sometimes)(and I think you NEED to be told you suck often) and though I wrote and finished it, I didn't feel any sort of emotional connection to it at all.

And though my workshop went much better than I expected, my professor pulled me aside after and said, "Maggie, where are you in this? I don't see you- I see your characters, but not you. Don't be afraid to be a little more messy. I want to see you be messier."

When he said that, it immediately registered to me why I'd struggled. He was right. I told him I had my old professor's voice stuck in my head telling me not to go too far with things and he laughed and said, "But we can trim that down. We can add to it and take things away over and over again! Be messy."

I think I've been afraid to be messy lately - in my journals, on my blog, and in my assignments - because I've been too afraid of being "too cliche". I've been afraid to say the obvious thing on my mind out of fear that it isn't a unique thought. I've been scared to be too honest. I don't really know how to go back to the days when I could write without any restraint, but I think I need to try. I need to try in all regards to get there again, even if it's not something that's not obvious to people that read it, because I know when I'm "there" or not. I looked through my old notebooks today and found a quote from my old workshop professor who said that cliche is only cliche if it feels forced. Everything is a cliche. What makes something unique isn't the story or the experience, but the voice behind it. It doesn't need to be unique. It needs to be mine.

Here's to being messy and unafraid.


Maggie Shirley said...

Yes, yes, a thousand times YES. Holla at yo writer gurl.

My fiction professor two semesters ago was so hung up on cliches. Even when someone's story was actually really fab, she would "But this thing was cliche" and I'm over here like EVERYTHING IS CLICHE NOWAWDAYS. It's pretty much all been written, but the voice is what matters! UGH. I still get mad about it. She was such a bitch. She published one collection of short stories nobody had ever heard of and thought she was the shit. Nobody liked her. I've never had more fun filling out a teacher evaluation.

ANYWAY—yes, you got it, sister.

Z said...

Oh gosh, you hit the nail on the head! I did the same thing with fiction/non-fiction and I've found it so much "easier" to write, in terms of finding voice and plot. But you're so right! I have a hard time revealing precious parts of myself and being messy. Wow, majoring in words is hard!

Emma Jane said...

This is literally perfect. I've felt stuck in my writing lately too. I didn't want people to see my writing as stereotypical or fake. I was focusing so much on that that my writing started to see that way to me! Sucks. But you are so right, it is my writing, messy and real and true. Screw what erryone else thinks. Preack.

Tightrope to the Sun

Emma Jane said...

Preach.... no preak. Stupid.

Kaylie said...

I love what your professor said about you need to be messy to be able to edit it down to something great. As someone who loves to write creatively but doesn't have much formal training in it, I really enjoyed hearing your experience with professors! Sounds like a fun and rewarding time.