Friday, April 11, 2008

One for a Man, Two for a Horse

Last night in Memoirs class, we went around the room and discussed each other's work over the course of the semester. People spoke up at random to cite a memorable passage from someone else's writing, and simultaneously we took turns going around the room to write these snippets down. We went around three times, so I had three people's memories written on a little slip of paper.

In preparation for class, we had to assemble a portfolio of our work as well. This would consist of the rewrites of three essays (the long one and two short ones), to include the original rough draft with instructor's notes, plus our own commentary on the revision process, and an extra sheet talking about a reading we attended. I went to see Chip Kidd talk about his book 'The Learners,' but instead he mostly talked about his career as a graphic designer of book covers--for which, admittedly, he has garnered considerable fame and esteem.

I've written here twice about revising my essays, what an interesting and rewarding process that is (no sarcasm). It felt good to clean these pieces up and assemble them in a folder. I was pretty proud of my work and thought fondly of the other pieces that were being left out, other writing not meant to be included. I was feeling pretty inspired by how much I'd achieved and all the work I've put out. Good dog, XN.

As we made the rounds in the classroom, though (and you knew this is where the twist would come in), no one really seemed to recall anything I'd written. One woman remembered my supervisor dumping half a tank of my Sea Monkeys on the floor of my office. Another woman recalled "the moon has been accused of silver," from a creative writing exercise we did about color. Two little fragments from three and a half months of writing.

Evidently, I am considerably less impactful a writer than I'd fancied myself. Did I not try hard enough? Should I have taken more chances in creative expression? Should I have sought more striking passages to relate my experiences? Was the subject matter itself uninteresting?

Maybe I should dig out my old spoken word jazz from thirteen years ago, when I was fresh and exciting, caffeinated and naive. Maybe I should plunder my old journals for subject matter, study my creative expression from way back when I didn't know any better. Maybe this "show and don't tell" technique I admire so much has its drawbacks.

A long, long time ago when I had regular pen pals, a couple people commented that they never knew how I thought or felt about things. Many other people tell me I'm strongly opinionated, but a couple people still insisted they had no idea where my feelings lay. I didn't know how else to express myself, I thought I related past events pretty well. They said I did but without any implication as to my reaction to them.

I never knew how to take that. No one harbors any ambiguity over how I view Minnesotan traffic, for example. Who could listen to me mourn the pretty girl/stupid guy dynamic and have any question as to my feelings on that? I didn't know where I was vague, and when I asked for examples these plaintiffs couldn't provide any.

So then what? What is it I'm lacking? What do I have to do to captivate the imagination and carve a hole for myself in the memory of others? Where is my technique weak? What else do I have to learn, and where do I go for it?


Marina said...

Maybe they just couldn't get past your writing about Korea. They didn't want to cite that as something that stuck with them, lest they reveal themselves as perverts or gawkers.

Christian said...

I was hoping someone would bring up the Korea essay, because my group's response to that was very tender and sympathetic. I guess there wasn't enough poetry to it, just a straight-forward narration.

monster paperbag said...

Did I not try hard enough? Should I have taken more chances in creative expression? Should I have sought more striking passages to relate my experiences? Was the subject matter itself uninteresting? --> i find myself asking the same exact questions everytime..