terror in the classroom

you would think that after about 50 years in lower and higher education, a classroom would be as comfortable to me as a pair of well-worn slippers. tonight i attended a creative writing class at the Community College of San Francisco (CCSF), and found that engineering school did not completely inoculate me against stage fright.

i’ve been talking (and talking and talking) about my desire to be a writer. it’s a broken record i play regularly with some measure of self-loathing, mad at myself for never having really tried. so, when i had lunch with bernie today and he told me about this creative writing class in our neighborhood, i figured i’d give it a whirl. put my money where my mouth is. if not now, when?

this was a clear case of nice, clean logic that flies in the face of muddy reality…

CCSF has a ‘campus’ at a high school about 5 blocks from my apartment; they hijack rooms from the school once darkness falls, apparently. maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that, in a society which so clearly values teaching, the community college system is reduced to educational vampirism to survive. at any rate, i walked up there with greg (friend of bernie) to attend the first class i’ve been to in almost ten years- it was hard to tell whether the noise in my stomach was bees of excitement or butterflies of anxiety.

i think the bees and the butterflies had made a mutual non-agression pact, because there were measures of both in my nether regions. i was excited about the prospect of pursuing my dream of writing, and simultaneously scared that, put to the test, i would fail. after all, writing these blogs is easy – i don’t have to read them to a class or a discerning teacher, exposing myself to public ridicule. the bar is generally pretty low on the Web (not to disparage my readership, but people don’t expect Hemingway here), and there’s a certain comfort in detachment.

the thought of reading my work to a class full of strangers, people armed with incisive witticisms and rotten tomatoes, made me feel seasick. i’m not entirely averse to criticism, but i’m not sure i am ready for a truly public forum. with this blog, it’s different – most of my readers are people whom i know. the potential for embarrassment is pretty minimal, assuming i avoid overly personal and sensitive topics (you know, flatulence, sex, conspiratorial gossip – those sorts of things).

i think i could get over all of that, though. on some level, i just don’t feel totally committed to doing it yet. i feel like i have to crawl in private for awhile before i do it in public. i also have some distractions over the next month or so that will force me to miss a few classes (blatant rationalization, but true nonetheless). i don’t want to waste anyone else’s time if i’m not fully engaged.

it will happen – someday; me trying to write something more than these blogs, that is. it may just not happen in the classroom for awhile…hey, i can always read a few books about it in the meantime, right?

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2 thoughts on “terror in the classroom

  1. robert keil

    most people at writer’s groups are pretty helpful and supportive. At least, that’s what Linda and some other writers have told me.
    Of course, if you just remember to say, “if I wanted your opinion, I’d squeeze it out of you, you no-talent fuck” class will go much smoother.

  2. connie harvey

    i’ve recently enrolled in chicago’s famous ‘second city’ improvisation course to help me overcome some of the same fears that you’re confronting with this writing course. i think the common thread among all of the students in my class is the desire to express themselves freely (and, of course, to explore their talents) without judgement. in fact, improv is all about how to make your cast members look good, contrary to what you might think of actors. i would guess that the writing course is about this same sort of comaraderie and non-judgement. in the words of eleanor roosevelt , “you must do the thing you think you cannot do”.
    (by the way, if none of what i’m saying helps, just drop the damn course).


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