Monday, November 10, 2008


One of the downsides of teaching students about writing is that teachers sometimes fall into the very traps they help their students emerge from. Consider it an exercise in the Law of Attraction. By attending to so many problems in student writing (despite my attempts to turn their attention to their strengths), those same problems show up in my own writing. If I come across a lot of wordiness in student drafts, my own drafts start to suffer from wordiness. If the student writing veers off the track, so does my own prose. And so on.

It seems that just about every possible weakness is showing up in this manuscript, the biggest of which is an overinflated audience awareness. I'm thinking too much about them. I'm overexplaining. I've overanticipating objections. I'm answering questions that aren't likely to be asked. My prose is veering too far off the topic. It lacks suspense or depth. It's plain uninteresting. The lessons I'm trying to teach lack substance and evidence.

It needs so much revision. It needs so much attention, so much tender loving care.

I tend to write well when I'm reading writing that really inspires, or reading styles I admire. I have a self-help book beside my bed to inspire content, but stylistically it's a bust. Other than that, it's been almost all student writing for the last month or more. How in the world am I going to be able to devote my time and attention when the next four weeks are going to be spent trying to help students write well-developed academic papers(no doubt riddled w/ problems during their drafting stages)? At least I can co-miserate w/ them. Right now I feel like a fish out of water. I feel like a sucky writer, like I can't do it at all and the manuscript is a pile of shit. I have visions of it being published and getting deserved horrid reviews. Right now I'm wondering how I ever taught memoir when my own stink on ice. So much for Yes I can. No, I can't.

I worked for ninety minutes on four pages and it still sucks.

How am I ever going to get it done? What made me think I could write a book like this in the first place? Could it be that somewhere deep down I never thought it would actually get published? The kicker is that I used to pride myself as a nonfiction writer. It's predominantly what I teach (in the context of academic argument, of course. Maybe that's the friggin' problem). but man, I can't tell you how much I miss my fiction right about now.

I think I'm ready to start praying. There must be a patron saint for writers. I suppose St. Jude also works: patron saint of the hopeless and those in despair.


mamie said...

Maybe it's a good time to take a break from the book you're writing.

Also, some writers I know only read what they're not writing; in other words, if they're writing fiction, they read biography or magazines or travelogues. It sounds like you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself and heaping unfair criticism on the tip top of the pressure.

The "retreat" I set up last weekend did wonders for me. Do you have any way to set up an afternoon where you can pamper yourself as a writer?

I'm pulling for you.

The Purple Panda said...

I think you're right on all counts, mamie, and I'm planning on requesting an extension for the manuscript.

As I just wrote in my newest post, I'm relaxing a bit and composing in my head, and doing a little bit of visualization to boot.

And yeah, I'll have to think about doing a little writing retreat.
Thanks for the support!!