Thursday, January 31, 2008

Not as Good or Bad as You Think

On Wednesday nights, I am teaching a Writing I class and we had our fourth class last night. There are eight classes a term, so this was smack dab in the middle. This is where you really start to find out who's committed and who's not so sure about this "writing" thing. We had a few absences, which may mean these folks are subcumbing to the pressure they put on themselves to deliver a "good" scene on a weekly basis. Even though it's a class - clearly labeled as such, too - students still feel they need to come in with the perfect sketch. The one where everyone laughs at every golden line of dialogue and where the teacher breaks down in tears of joy at witnessing such blessed talent. If that should ever happen, believe me, you'll be the first to hear about my rapture.

If you are in a class, it's a good idea to keep reminding yourself that it's a class. No one expects you to bring in the perfect sketch. More importantly, you shouldn't expect YOU to bring in the perfect sketch. Give yourself a break. Whether it's Writing I or Writing 4, you should be a little forgiving of yourself. It's the first draft. And whether you think it's a steamy pile of pooh or a shimmering work of brilliance, you're just not the best judge of your own work. You really don't know what you have on your hands until you hear it read back to you. One student remarked last night that stuff he thought was going to be funny was so-so and stuff he didn't intend to be funny got a laugh. Yep. That's the way it goes. Get used it and understand that the feedback you receive is about what worked and what didn't work and ways you can improve upon your ideas. It's not a personal attack. Many students, regardless of experience level, hear it as what they did wrong and get defensive, which doesn't help them move the scene forward in a rewrite.

Having someone read your work out loud can be rough. I'm still not used to it and do what I can to keep from curling up in the fetal position on the floor. But it's one of the best ways to run a diagnostic on your scene and get direction for rewriting it to give it that rapture-like sheen.


Back and ready for action. New place, new time. Gorilla Tango, 1919 North Milwaukee (near Western) from 1pm to 3pm. $5. Bring in scenes. Have them read. fetal position optional.


Another good idea from a friend for supportive readers who don't have blogs. On Tuesday, March 4th, visit a message board and leave your "Impeach Bush Now!" message there.


Even the yetis were out. My friend Kate snapped this picture of someone - or some thing - on the bus.


Yesterday, I asked...

"In Los Angeles, controversial new vending machines have begun showing up that dispense what?"

13% said "DIY Botox Injections"
- I see this more as an arcade game instead of a vending machine.

12% said "Bullets"
- I'd hate to be around the guy getting pissed at the machine when it won't take his dollar.

No one went for "Puppies"
Really, is that any weirder than "Live Bait" vending machines?

75% got it right with "Medical Marijuana"

According to the AP, the city that popularized the fast food drive-thru has a new innovation: 24-hour medical marijuana vending machines. At least three dispensaries in the city, have installed vending machines to distribute the drug to people who carry cards authorizing marijuana use. Well, it's about time! And I bet the snack food industry is swinging some big deals to make sure one of these is installed next to each one...


Debbie R said...

Nice to know that even someone like you feels like curling up in a fetal position when it is time to read stuff out loud.

Thanks for the reminder that perfection is not expected in a classroom setting. I always forget.

Joe Janes said...

Happens to me every time.

Writing's a very vulnerable act of creativity. It's understandable to want to "get it right" - whatever that means - but that's not where the learning and growing is.

Anonymous said...

One of the things I'm picking up in this 500 Clown class I'm taking is the importance of flopping.

No matter how hard you work on material in the remote, you're going to fail against the living eventually. And it's important to have that experience of failure in a safe environment, so that you get the experience of coming out of that flop.

If it ain't working, get rid of it. Own that failure, fix it if you can, and if you can't fix it then feature it and embrace the mistake in a playful way.

You've got to give your best each time. You've also got to be ready for the feedback. And without the feedback of an audience we're just jackin' off onstage.


Joe Janes said...

Beautifully said, Paul. - Joe