Jul 16, 2010

Writing about Writing

Just wanted to say hi. Hi. Life is good. Our house is such a mess that I have trouble finding places to sit or walk. Partially (mostly) because we have a curious little 1 year old munchkin living off us, partially (mostly) because I haven't been doing my share of the housework lately, which is partially (partially) because I have so much school and work taking up so much time, and partially (mostly) because I have too much fun playing video games.

Now I want to write about writing, Creative Writing, specifically. I really enjoy the class, it's a lesson in humility. I say this because the last creative writing class I took (about 10 years ago) I felt I was among the best, if not the best, writer in the class. Now, ten years later, I feel among the best, there are a lot of very good writers in my class, of which I am one, in my opinion. It's good to mingle and learn with so many other talented writers as well.

The teacher I greatly like, whether or not she likes me, that is to be decided. Several papers she has seemed upset with either my writing or my criticism of some of the required reading, but she also has always made valid points to my writing or feelings. For example, I emphatically did not like one of the required readings, "The Diamond Mine" by Nadine Gordimer. While I realize now I was being arrogant in my assessment that the author is a "third rate Joyce Carol Oates" and the type of story has been "done before and far better than this writer attempts," I felt that the teacher was also unfair in her statement that I need to "get humble" and "being a critic is not your job at this stage of your creative life."

While a valid point, I was just stating that I didn't like a story and gave reasons why I didn't like it. In case you're wondering what the story was about, it depends on who you ask. One person called it a "beautiful story of a young girl's sexual awakening during wartime," I called it "the story of a horny 24 year old soldier heavy petting a 16 year old before he went off to war, while in the car with her parents." But, we can't like everything or please everybody, and I will not change my opinion or feelings, whether or not I'm at that stage in my creative life.

I still admire the teacher and by the end of each class I look forward to the next class.

Another thing to come out of this class is the story of Nick the Thief. If you've read Glass Of Random lately, Nick pops up twice. Basically, he's someone who can't communicate or form relationships with others in a traditional way. So he steals things from them, breaks into their cars and homes, sifts through their trash to try to understand and connect with people. Nick is now featured in 3 exercises, and I enjoy writing about him, as well as a story that's not fantasy. Not that I don't enjoy fantasy, but I've had it pointed out to me before that that's mostly what I write, so it's somewhat liberating to write one story that isn't.

Several facebook friends and otherwise have introduced me to I Write Like. Which is a website where you can enter text that you wrote, and the website will analyze word choice and writing style and tell you what writers you write like.
I've done this several times, with different things I've written. Final census, my fiction is either like J.K. Rowling or Douglas Adams, my blog is usually like Stephen King. This particular entry is apparently like Margaret Atwood. I was hoping for more along the lines of Neil Gaiman or Oscar Wilde, but the Douglas Adams or J.K. Rowling thing ain't that bad.
The interesting thing, someone else has posted writing from various famous authors, and it gave interesting results. I can't find it now, but it was something like "I posted writing from the Declaration of Independence, and it said you write like Edgar Allan Poe. I posted "The Raven" by Poe and it said you write like Shakespeare. I posted the 18th Sonnet by Shakespeare and it said you write like Charles Dickens, etc etc. Which they then stated the obvious, writers don't always write like themselves.

If you wanna check it out, here's the link (I posted it already, but here it is again in case you missed the link to iwl.me) If you do, let me know who you write like.

I write like

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


Tracie said...

Hey, how'd you change it to say your own name? Shop'd?

I think you're brilliant, most of the time. (Or at least potentially brilliant.) And I don't like your teacher. You've been writing for years. You can say whatever you want about other people's writing, as long as it's true.

Austin said...


Thanks, sweetie. I think I can too, but she had a valid point that I should just glean what I can from the story, and not condemn it because I don't like it, or think it's a story of heavy petting with very clear imagery and a very unclear plot.

Mark said...

I think you are potentially brilliant, too (lots of potential), just like I think you will potentially clean up your house.
Sounds like you need to find more things you like about the authors your teacher wants you to read before you rant about the things you don't like (and apparently the teacher thinks you are younger than you are, too).
Mom can't wait to get up to Utah (a couple of weeks!) - love to the Beckstrom 3

Jacob I. McMillan said...

You're bummed because you didn't get Neil Gaiman, I'm bummed because they didn't give me Cormac McCarthy or J.D. Salinger. I think that thing just exists to bum people out.

Your teacher has a point. Even if you didn't like the writing yourself, it is a piece of writing that has been published and read by many people, and how many of those did you have again?

It depends what your assignment was, I guess. Was it to give your opinion or to analyze the piece? Cause those are different things.

Austin said...

The assignment was rather vague, IMHO. It was basically "read these selections and write about what either stood out to you or you had a questions about.

Jacob I. McMillan said...

I've had to write about stories I hated before, and trying to come up with positive things to say is such a strain. I wrote an essay on "House On Mango Street", a book that I thought absolutely sucked, but from reading the paper, you'd never know that. But I had to show I understood what the author was trying to do, even if it wasn't something I cared for much.

Gotta put yourself aside sometimes.