I started an online writing class this week and am already overwhelmed with the workload.
Things didn’t get off on the right foot.
The start date changed and I missed it. When I signed up, I put the dates on my calendar: January 7th through February 1st. I must have overlooked an email because lectures were posted and class discussion boards started filling up on January 2nd—five full days before I logged in.
We were instructed to post to a public forum requesting an editing partner. A number of people had already paired off with someone. Slightly nervous about how my tardiness would affect my marketability, I typed a quick message about being fashionably late to the class and asked if anyone was still available to be my editing partner. After posting, I glanced through the introductions left by the class participants.
When I read their credentials my stomach plummeted. I can feel it now, cowering just above my left ankle. Every participant I looked at was leagues and miles ahead of me in what the instructor called their “writing journey”. They go to writing club meetings and have actual published work. At the very least they have a rejection letter or two to prove that they have tried submitting their work to someone somewhere.
I clicked back on my request for an editing partner. No one had replied.
And then I was ten years old again, standing shoulder to shoulder with thirty other fifth graders in a line snaking around a blacktop basketball court. Some of the more confident kids are killing time by talking trash and rough housing. I stare at my shoes, quietly shuffling from foot to foot. The line dwindles with each name called until there are only two or three kids left. My eyes prick with humiliated tears, and an awful red heat is creeping up my neck to fan across my face, highlighting my rejection in scarlet shades of misery. I was going to be picked last. Again.
Feeling pale, I printed the first two lectures and closed the site.
So now I’m arriving late to the game, feeling overwhelmed and minus an editing partner. What is my game plan?
First I hid in a book.
Me (rationalizing to myself): Reading is a good thing, right? All good writers read a lot.
Self (nodding too enthusiastically): Oh yes. Definitely.
Me (relieved): Oh good. Because I thought maybe I was procrastinating.
Self (shaking head): No need to use such a nasty word.
Then I went to the gym.
Me (looking at Self): I can’t begin by being stressed out.
Self (ever agreeable): You know, this is a perfect time to go for a run.
Me (relieved): What a great idea!
Self (proud): I know.
Finally, I caught up on my social media reading.
Me (hunched over keyboard, frowning at screen): Damn it, doesn’t anyone ever do anything on Facebook but play Farmville?
Self (anxious to help): Maybe you should refresh. It’s been a few minutes.
Me (punching F5 button, excited): Oh look, Susan bought a cow!
Self (nodding in approval): That’s smart. She can sell the milk.
I want to post excuses for not doing the work in one of the classroom forums. Something along the lines of:
Work got really busy and the kids need help with their homework plus there’s all the laundry and the dishes I have to do and God knows when I’ll have time to cook because I’ve been meaning to learn to do that for oh fourteen years and I should really stop putting that off. So, no, I’m sorry, I just don’t have time for this insightful and helpful but very challenging (and therefore terrifying) course right now. Maybe next year.
What am I afraid of?
I am afraid that I will suck.
That I will suck really really bad.
I’m afraid that I will write so badly that I wouldn’t read my own book—that I would read a few lines, be overwhelmed with disgust and cram it back into the hole it left on the bookstore shelf.
I’m afraid that my favorite authors would be disgusted by my work, too. Even the dead ones.
I’m afraid that I will never never be good enough.
Not for this class.
Not for publication.
Not for anything beyond the three people that read this blog (which includes my mother and, technically, she has to like my work. It’s sort of her maternal obligation.).
No wonder artists are notorious for being chemically dependent.
(oh shit… did I just call myself an artist? That seems so pretentious and narcissistic. But … shhh… I kind of liked it. Don’t tell anyone.)
There are things to be excited about, too.
I learned a term the other day: backloading. This is where you put the power words at the end of a sentence to make it more powerful to the reader. And now, everywhere I look, I see backloaded sentences.
Have you ever wondered about something and then found out there’s a word for it? Like this:
One morning, I poured cold cream into my hot coffee. I watched the cream for a moment, let it swirl around and form into clouds. It looked really cool. I wondered why the cream swirled and formed clouds.
So I Googled it.
My little nerdy heart was overjoyed to learn the term for this phenomenon: convection currents.
(If this excites you too, and you want to see what I’m talking about, click here:
If this is not your bag, read on.)
That’s how I felt about backloading. That moment when a mental light bulb blinked on and I, newly enlightened, said, “ooooohhhhh.”
I am behind already! And the class started three days ago! Or was it eight days ago?! I don’t know exactly but I hate being late and it’s all spinning out of control and I really just want to curl up in a little ball under my desk chewing my fingernails and braid my hair into tiny braids so I can unbraid it and braid it again and now that I’ve typed it four times the word “braid” looks funny-
(Deep breath. Another. One more.)
Ok. That’s enough.
Let me just find… I know they’re here somewhere… Ah, yes. Here they are.
(puts on big girl panties)
Ok. Lecture one: Studying Real Life Body Languages.