I finally took advantage of UCLA Extension’s Writers Program and finished 2 weekend classes on how to improve my writing skills. I admit I was a little intimidated (actually A LOT INTIMIDATED) when I finally decided to enroll. Unlike undergrad, these extension classes are administered like “workshops” where we’d do writing exercises and SHARE our work. God help me, because it was one thing to share my writing in a classroom of peers who are there to fulfill a requirement just like me, but it was another to sit in a room full of people who actually WANT to be writers and may have already been published. “Please don’t make me look like a dork,” I prayed before class. “Dork”…now THAT’S eloquence, Anna. Way to go!
So my first class was last month: THE ALCHEMY OF ART with Kate Braverman. She’s this skinny, middle-aged hippie who doesn’t own a TV, is married to a nanobiologist (the heck?) who plays the guitar when she’s doing spoken-word on the stage, and she’s all about the words on the page; writing as a way of living life, that is before commercialism gets a hold of it. Her mantra, when writing, is to KEEP GOING. “Don’t put a period anywhere! You can edit later,” she said. “If you put a period there now you won’t be able to write what you want!” And then she told us something that really got to me: DON’T BE AFRAID TO WRITE THE TRUTH – YOUR TRUTH. Our responsibility, as writers, is to tell our readers and ourselves, OUR truth It doesn’t if it’s nonsensical in the “real” world, because if it’s true to us, THEN WHO CARES? That’s stuck in me since then.
Being true to our writing was a similar theme in my second class by Maria Amparo Escandon: FINDING YOUR UNIQUE VOICE. Each person has their own voice on the page. Our voices are like fingerprints, similar to no one else’s. We read fragments of novels and short stories with a number of different voices and it’s, well, crazy that a 40-year old woman can channel a 14-year old girl’s voice in a story. I learned, based on my instructor’s theory, that each person’s got a well inside themselves….a well of shit, that is. And when we sit down to write something, we lower our bucket down into the well to draw up some…well, “shit” to extract emotions from, no matter how painful it is. I think that’s what’s keeping me from being the writer that I want to be. I’m trying to create emotion, most times, from external sources, when I should be taking them from somewhere with better resources, like my fears and failures, the things in life I often don’t LIKE to draw out.
My class was so…supportive. I got to be around 16 other writers whose curiosity and understanding about such a timeless art form was level, if not higher than, my own. Listening to everyone read their impromptu stories – humorous, poignant, exciting, etc – made me love every minute I was there. I made new friends who I hope to see and talk to again, possibly proofread something I’ve written. Cile said I need to hang out with other weird people, other writers. And I was like, “Ummm, not all writers are weird.” I stand corrected. Hahaha…jk! Writers aren’t weird, they (we?) just process information differently, like everyone else. We like to write stuff down…and then go home and write about what we wrote down. Hahaha!