23 January 2017

Ruminations, continued


It would have been bad enough if that had been the worst thing in the class.  But things grew worse, for me specifically, and for the class in general.   

My problem was actually fairly simple.  I was a young would be writer, and like almost all young would be writers, I wrote veiled autobiographies, and I wrote them badly.  Very, very badly.  

Let me explain.  I was writing a novel at the time.  The novel was based on some of my young experience.  It went like this: Back in grade eight, I had known a kid who went by the nickname of Squirt, who was the class clown.  We actually had a few clowns in that class, plus a few wannabe clowns, all under the man who was the worst teacher I'd ever had.  (Sidenote: he was so bad, I don't want to name him, mention him, or otherwise think about him. He deserves no place in my memory or my works, and he shall have none.)  Clowning helped us get through the year, and this kid was the best.  He was so much the clown that it is him I think of when I think of class clowns.  

I only really knew him for that one year.  After that, we went on to different schools.  We never spoke to each other again after that, but I'd still hear about him through mutual friends from time to time.  "Did you hear about Squirt?" they'd begin.  "Oh man, he...." And then would follow some story about some over the top, manic stunt he pulled.  I'd laugh and nod.  "That sounds like Squirt," I'd say.   It was a regular occurrence.  "Did you hear about Squirt?"  followed by laughter and a "That sounds like Squirt." 

One day I heard another story about him.  "Did you hear about Squirt?"  I was asked. 

"What did he do this time?" I asked, anticipating another story about his antics. 

"He blew his own head off with a shotgun." 

It took a moment for that to sink in.  "That... doesn't sound like Squirt." I said. 

I thought about it for a while.  That didn't sound like him, I kept thinking, until one day I asked the question: or did it? All his behaviour became focused through the lens of his end, and what had seemed to be benign humour turned into to a silent cry for help- or was it?  I pondered it over and over, and ultimately I began to turn it into a story.  The story was to be a meditation on the meaning of friendship, and how well do we really know people.  I started writing it before I went to university, and one of the reasons why I was so eager for the Creative Writing classes was because I wanted to show it to them, and to get their help in cleaning it up and making it publishable.  I did not fear their opinions.  The idea behind the story was brilliant.  Obviously they would love it. 

Except they absolutely hated it.  They hated it in every detail, in every sentence, in every phrase.  They loathed the very punctuation. I had thought my writing to be subtle and complex.  It wasn't.  What I thought was gentle foreshadowing was to the class repeated bludgeons to the head.  They had figured out the story was leading to suicide of one of the main characters by approximately page three.  His characterization was so hateful to them, they were happy he was going to off himself.  In fact, one suicide was not enough for them.  "I hope the other guy kills himself soon!"  said another classmate.  That 'other guy' in the story was actually my avatar.  

I regretted writing a veiled autobiography: they did not merely hate my story, they hated me.  They weren't merely critiquing my story, they were critiquing me.   I don't know if anyone's skin is thick enough to take that. I only know mine wasn't.  I began to dread the classes where my work was to be critiqued.  They hated my writing.  I began to change my writing style in the hope that I may get some compliments, something other than the contempt I was getting.  I failed in that, and succeeded only in losing my own voice and my own style.  Halfway through my second year in the Creative Writing program, and I could no longer write at all. 

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