Friday, April 29, 2011

Writing Coach--First Meeting

So I've gone and done it. I've finally committed and hired me a writing coach. Just the concept, initially, made me bristle a bit, wondering what the heck I was doing. I'm not the kind of person who has a cheerleader, a personal life coach, anyone to give me direction. I stand a model of anti self-help.

Growing up, my mother held to a steady diet of self-help books as guidance. I'm OK, You're OK" glared at me from the bookshelf, daring me to misbehave, threatening a punishment of a self-help book geared toward figuring out my particular behavior. While she would leaf through Games People Play, I chose Siddhartha as my guide.

And while I still swear myself opposed to the vast genre of self-help, I am cautiously optimistic about what the coaching will bring my writing. I did my usual writing jitters in anticipation of meeting with The Coach. After signing a contract, my first assignment was to put together a list of goals and submit it a day prior to our meeting. At first I could not figure out the assignment, something I find typical in my responses to being assigned anything. While taking the writing workshop this past winter, I immediately repelled any of the weekly assignments, thinking how the hell am I supposed to write about that. However, after I sat with the idea for several days (or sometimes even several hours), something always emerged; I always found myself energized and pounding words.

The same thing happened with my goals. Initially I couldn't think of any that had any resonance. After quizzing Nan about my goals and discussing them with Liz, I finally felt able to sit down and write something out. Once I surrendered to the fact that I could not come up with a neat list of a, b, c, d, I created a narrative, articulating my goals. Usually procrastinator me instead got jazzed by the idea and began to attempt to figure out how to articulate goals since it's not something I usually do, at least consciously. Some that made the list:
  • Build confidence in my sense of myself as a writer
  • Understand who I am as a writer
  • Understand craft more from a writer's perspective
  • Develop a practice as a writer
  • Move many ideas into finished essays
  • Learn to embrace revision
  • Finish pieces so they are ready for publication
Beneath each goal, I had at least a paragraph of written narrative, getting more to the heart of what I meant by the statement. Finished five days early and sent it off, calling it done.

Feeling slightly nervous just prior to my meeting this morning with The Coach, I realized once I sat down and started talking about things I wanted to accomplish and why, that this is exactly what I need to help move my newfound energy in writing into a deeper practice, one that I won't ignore.

And so, not dreading my assignments, I am more than cautiously optimistic; I am completely energized.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cinema Verite

Hey there--I'll take a bit of reality with less meta reality, please.

I grew up watching "An American Family." Each week I would tune into Channel 13, the local affiliate PBS station, wondering what outrageous thing Lance Loud might do next. Watching his freedom, glamorized the world of rock and roll/punk for a fourteen year old who constantly proclaimed "the suburbs are the bane of my existence." Punking out with Lance in the edginess of the Chelsea Hotel gave me some relief, realizing that there were other people out in the world that could escape the cult of ordinariness, a place in New York City where there wasn't any judgment. Even though I couldn't name the attractions I felt for other women, seeing Lance out and proud once he found his world in New York City gave me a vicarious sense of relief, even though I didn't know that my sexuality's hiding darkened my world.


When I heard that HBO had finished a docudrama based on the series, I awaited a chance to revisit the real reality tv that marked many weeks of my teens. Watching the original show, nothing felt scripted, nothing felt manipulated--it read real, at least to a fourteen year old needing to get out.

Unfortunately, "Cinema Verite," proves a far removed truth from the sentiment and originality of the series it seeks to understand. Even though stars fill the roles (Diane Lane and Tim Robbins), the script falls flat, feeling like the characters force feed themselves into their roles. I expected more cuts into the reality of the original series, entwining the former series with this interpretation of the original series' intentions. Instead, most of the 90 minutes ends up feeling like a scripted meta fest about the process of breaking ground for the world of reality television. It attempts to be a commentary on a cultural phenomenon, but falls flat into the world of artifice, losing the art that grew out of raw footage of a family.

Monday, April 18, 2011

End of the Semester Mixtape

"Cry me a River"--Julie London

Sometimes, I just got to "Cry me a River," Julie London style. It's the moment that the pile of the end of the semester hits me, usually about 3-4 weeks out. It's not like I'm not used to it. It's not like it's some great surprise that my piles will grow to the point where I can no longer imagine a view beyond their tower. It is at this moment, when I can only imagine the piles, that I try for a sultry whine, something not too obnoxious, but definitely worth a bit of heartbreak.

"Chain Gang"--Sam Cooke
After I finish my dramatic stage of whine, I immediately find myself singing "My, my, my, my, I work so hard." When I set my alarm for 6:00am and find myself sitting at the kitchen counter, groggy on a cup of coffee grading at 6:45am, or when I look at the clock on a Saturday night and realize that at 9:00pm when the hipsters are putting finishing touches to their outfits, I am still grading, plodding along with a steady chain gang strut.


"Helter Skelter"--The Beatles

I begin to lose track of the piles, to forget what needs to be done when, making lists daily in a desperate attempt to assign some order to the chaos. But every time "I get to the bottom, I go back to the top" of the piles of grading, wondering if I will ever find my way to the freedom that I know lurks just a couple of weeks away.



"Living on a Prayer"--Bon Jovi

And for one moment I breathe, feeling like I might make it, that there might just be an edge of the end in view. I remind myself that "we're half way there," the midpoint between the now and summer, when memories of grading, prepping assignments, and performing give way to a constant lull of spontaneous indecision, days spent in space and sun.


"Private Idaho"--B52s

Boom. In one second the chaos returns. It's like an attack from all sides, moving rapidly only to find that the piles are everywhere and need to be returned everywhere. Randomly choosing bits from each pile only adds to the disorder, since nothing ever gets fully finished, crossed off the list, until the very end.

"I Will Rise Up"--Lyle Lovett

Yet, I persist. No matter how big the pile knocks, I push past, knowing that indeed there is an end. "I will rise up and rise up," never giving up, "And I will stand tall and I will stand tall," determined to finish with an end that smiles at the success of not only learning me something through teaching them something, but also at knowing that I can say job well done.

"Celebration"--Kool & The Gang

"Yahoo. Yahoo."