Artist and author Julia Cameron issues an invitation to write and I feel like that is what I long for and need–what I’m trying to find by writing this blog. Julia says start writing:
Decades ago, when I was a student at Valleyview Junior High, I spent most of seventh grade anticipating eighth grade English because I had heard that one of the assignments included writing a fiction short story. I could not wait for that assignment.
The adult me wonders: why did I believe that I needed to wait for the assignment to write fiction. Why not just sit down and write?
When I finally became a student in 8th grade English, I was so excited to be completing the fiction writing assignment that I went to a great deal of extra work to type my story. I used an outdated typewriter. The typewriter ribbon had been used long past the suggested change date. The letters printed grainy, faded dinge and the ovals in the o’s and d’s filled in with gray as if dust had collected in them. Typos were splashed with whiteout and I painstakingly printed over them with pen. Adult me thinks the pages were probably barely legible, but child me believed I had gone above and beyond the assignment requirements to turn in a written triumph. My story was just so good with its grand setting and twisting plot.
I thought that Mrs. B would recognize my story-telling genius and permit me, or encourage me, to move on to an illustrious career as a novelist. Instead, that Mrs. B yanked the invitation to write out from under my feet. On the upper right hand corner of the first page, she wrote “Plot unrealistic. B.”
To that point, I had always earned A’s in school. I had never before earned a B on any school project and when I saw that B, I thought, “I guess I can’t be a fiction writer.”The child me who had known with exuberant certainty that my lifetime assignment was to write fiction books was squelched with the teacher’s scrawl. I crumpled the typewritten pages, walked to the trash can which stood by the teacher’s desk and threw the story and my life calling in the trash can.
How I wish I could have that story back. I wish now that I could read it and chuckle and cherish those beginnings. I think they should have been celebrated like a baby’s first steps are celebrated. If my first steps to writing fiction had been lauded, or at least encouraged, I wonder what would have happened. Would I have gone on to study creative writing at a University? Would I have attended writers workshops? Would I have novels published by now?
Did that teacher’s hastily scrawled comment really change the course of my life?
At the very least, it was my first taste of academic disapproval. It raised in me a fear of disapproval. I fear I will pose an idea, a creative idea, and it will be smashed. I fear part of me will be hurt with that smashing.
I wish that all the love, the desire to write, the mystery that lured me, the intrigue I felt prior to that B, that I felt as I created that plot, I wish it would come rushing back.
I don’t know why the “Plot Unrealistic. B” comment shut me down like it did. I mean, I got F in Gym in high school and that didn’t paralyze me. That grade didn’t shoo a part of me to an eternal exile. I still bike and ski and exercise. Last year, my sister coaxed me into running a half marathon. (My official pace was recorded as 6.22 per mile. But that’s another story.)
How do I lure the creative loves-to-write fiction part of me back? Where do I find the invitation to stroll the red carpet of fiction writing?
Right now, I go to the writing faucet and turn it on, and words come out, but they are all second guessed.
I can call myself a writer say that I have written words, 1019 at last word count, my story is coming along, but the words are second guessed and checked. I need the water, the real word water to start at least trickling out.
How do I loosen something that has been stopped for so long? How do I relive that moment when my creative soul skedaddled?
What if I look at the moment from Mrs. B’s perspective? It is a moment that meant nothing to her, I’m sure. What are the things I remember about her? She lived in a tiny house near the school. Her son J was a little bit older than me. Did she have other kids? I think so. One day, she came to school with out shaved legs…well she shaved the front, but as I lay with my head on my desk I noticed as she walked by that black hairs, squished by her panty hose, matted on the back of her legs, right behind the knees. She had missed a lot of hairs. Child me was grossed out.
Now, I wonder. She worked—even though many moms at that time, in that town, were stay at home moms. But were they? Susie Mayfield’s mom was a nurse. Joan Hanes worked as a nurse. Mrs. Nolan worked as her husband’s office manager.
So I don’t know if Mrs. B worked while her counterparts, the other women her age, didn’t work. I presume she was married and if she was did her husband work at the paper mill? She wasn’t wealthy or well off. Her house was tiny. So many houses in that town were tiny. But she probably had a summer camp, like most of the people did.
But it seems that she must have been hurried or she’d have shaved all those hairs, right? Was it hurry that prompted that “Plot unrealistic. B.”?
It was fiction. Written by an eight grade aspiring author. How could she slap a B on that paper, even if she was pressed for time?
More importantly, how do I retrieve the power that I gave Mrs. B? How do I get back my invitation to write?