Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Ephiphany: Not A Christmas Story

Erica Orloff is the catalyst for this blog edition. Through various emails back and forth with her recently, as well as her blog this week, I've seen my path more clearly.

I'm talking about education, enlightenment, and the fact that open minds come to those humble enough to realize that it's the only way to true self. Stagnation will set in otherwise, as it does in an old house of which its window never opened to let in light and fresh air.

Here's an admission for you. For quite a while I thought there was no reason for me to go to college, thinking that at my age what's the sense. (Backstory: I didn't attend college after high school.) In fact, I came very close to bagging this semester - I was having a "so what" moment. Other things drew my attention, such as working on my current Epic In Progress (EIP).

But the EIP is going nowhere. It still simmers in my mind, but two days ago I sat down to figure out where it was going, and I came up with nothing. Days before that it nagged the back of my mind. Not the story itself, but the fact that I just couldn't budge on it. Immediately I felt like a loser/slacker. And then, of course, ugly Inner Critic rustled his wings as he jabbed a thorny nail into my gut. Snicker, snicker. That's what I heard him say. Or maybe it was more of a snort, snort.

And then yesterday in Fiction to Film class I learned something new about adaptations. We saw a short film based on a short story by Nanci Kincaid. The discussion that followed was filled with a plethora of interpretation. Beauty filled the room, except for one opinion that was so narrow-minded I wanted to...well, let's just say it was too stupid for words, yet, it didn't ruin the experience for me.

This empowerment, did it sit me down to write brilliance in my EIP? No. But my mind widened that much more, and when that happens, thoughts abound, even if not directed to the EIP.

Those thoughts bred more. I felt so strong today. I let my mind have fun. And as it skipped barefooted through puddles of new knowledge, a couple of thoughts came forth that I'm sharing here.

Thought Numero Uno: My static EIP. Either the Universe feels now's not the time to mess with it, or I'm in need of a writer's Boot Camp. Or maybe a shock camp. Something might be necessary to kick-start the thing, but for now I'm just going to remain a faithful college student, keeping my focus on learning.

Thought Numero Duo: Critiques. Let's face it. No one loves hearing what's wrong with their story. I think where some writers feel the pinchy-ness of truth, though, might be in its delivery. Praise is a wonderful thing, but it also eclipses the "other stuff." I've been guilty of this. If I didn't like "other stuff," the non-praising words, I'd shove them aside and well, that got me nowhere. And I knew the "other stuff" was probably right, but the delivery was off. But in last years Eng. Lit. class, the professor work-shopped an essay with me. His suggestions went something like this: "This is good, but I think it would improve if you tried yada yada yada..." His delivery made all the difference. It stopped the eclipse. I wanted to improve from "good" to "better," and maybe on to "GREAT!"

Those are the thoughts I wanted to share. My mini-revelations that came bathed in bright light. The Dr. Phil "Ah-ha" moment compliments of open-mindedness.

I believe that good writing begins when the writer realizes there's always room for improvement. Whether multi-published or struggling to get a foot in an agent's door, remaining open-minded is the key to accomplishment.

I know I'm reiterating some of today's Erica Orloff blog, but in doing so I'm admitting that there was a time when I thought I knew everything I needed to know about writing, as well as other things. Maybe everything. Yet within the last year and a half I've seen personal growth, and it comes from surrounding myself with people who share knowledge kindly, like Erica Orloff for instance.

Have you had bouts of know-it-all-ness? In other words, have you ever felt you've reached the highest knowledge peak, in any aspect of your life? Any revelations you want to share?


Anonymous said...

Actually, I do everything in my power to keep a level head, especially in this business. I've seen what the know-it-alls in the business are like and it's really sad. I like to keep myself gounded in reality. To me, that means constantly learning new things and taking it to the next level. I'll get a big head when I'm old and senile and allowed to. Only then will anyone listen to me out of respect anyway. ;-)

Edie said...

I don't think I ever reached the highest knowledge peak -- especially in regard to writing. That's one reason I kept seeking out a good critique group. And I've always read wiritng books. But now I'm even more open. It's as though I developed a writing soul that says Feed Me, and I'm gobbling up insights.

Stephen Parrish said...

Erica has illumniated my path a few times too.

If you're blocked on your EIP odds are it's not you, it's the EIP. (EIN???) Pass a synopsis around and see what people think.

spyscribbler said...

Only teaching, but I've reached a point to where what I'd love to explore with teaching is beyond what my students are interested in. I REALLY LOVE teaching students to bring out the best in themselves, to REALLY learn how to excel. I know how to do that now, but I don't have the students, at the moment, who want to practice 2 hours a day, LOL. So... I've reached the peak of what I can offer to students whose parents are happy with 15 minutes a day three times a week. *sigh*

As far as writing? No where near. To me, writing, and pushing myself over that peak to where you suddenly see everything in a new light--and with that, see a whole new set of skills and things to learn--is absolutely exhilarating. The most exhilarating thing in the world.

Erica Orloff said...

Oh, Kath . . . you are WAY too nice. You strike me as one of those women who is just . . . honest, forthright, and direct. More than once I have popped by your blog and gone, "Ah ha . . ."

ANYWAY, I will second what Stephen said. Sometimes it's the damn dress (from my post of two weeks ago) . . . sometimes it's our ennui. Sometimes it really just is in the power of brainstorming with others.

If you feel like slipping a synopsis or couple of chapters my way, I'm all yours.

And I am so glad you are getting so much out of your class. I am living vicariously through you since I cannot go back for my doctorate until Demon is in kindergarten (if I survive until then). I love the classroom environment. You'll have to let me know how the Kincaid film is.

And join Netflix! :-)

Kath Calarco said...

Marcia, my plan for senility involves a bottle of cheap wine and a big fattie. :)

Kath Calarco said...

Edie, you, as well as the rest of my blog followers, fall into the realm of "surrounding myself with greatness". And love the "Feed Me" soul. That just says you'll always be open to growth, and better the "Feed Me" soul than the "Feed Me" stomach, lol.

Kath Calarco said...

Steve, I love you, man! You picked up on the EIN - you might have earned a spot on my "Extra Eyes" list. I'm always in need of that.

And you brought up something that says alot about my conundrum. I don't have a synopsis of my EIP, and maybe that's what's stopping me. Maybe I need to sit down and write one, if for nothing else, but to gain some direction, one I'll probably veer from, but still, it's a start.

Kath Calarco said...

Spy, I'll bet you're a fabulous teacher, as frustrating a role as it is. I think I'd be pounding my head against the wall if I knew what would work, yet had no receptors. And parents can, at times, be such a stumbling block in their child's greatness.

And you nailed it for me - seeing things in a new light is "absolutely exhilarating;" so much like a contact high.

Kath Calarco said...

Erica, you are making my heart swell. Thanks for the kind words. I know they come from a deep red place in your chest.

I have to go back and look at the "damn dress" blog again. Most likely I'll copy and paste it, and then keep it within reach at all times.

And I'll take you up on the offer, just as soon as I got my stuff together.

Robin said...

I've always felt quite the opposite actually; that there's so much I don't know. I've thought about going back to school too, Kath, on many occasions. I've got my BA, but getting a masters in writing is something that's always lurked in the back of my mind. I've taken lots of classes over the years and just like what everyone else has said, feel there is always more I can learn.

I'm so excited for you that you're in school again and wish you much joy and success with it! You may not realize it, but I've learned a great deal from you, Savvilicious, here on your blog, and take your words to heart. Thanks for sharing yourself with us!

Amy Nathan said...

I'm sad for writers who are know-it-alls, for those who submit manuscripts that are not ready, or who are truly surprised (not just disappointed) at rejection. I think sometimes I'm too damn level-headed and realistic. It's cumbersome at times to always weigh the options and possible outcomes, maybe those others go through life a little lighter. But I'm still not sure I'd give up what I do and who I am. I think all the thinking, lol, makes writing and living better. It makes me value every moment and every word.

Kath Calarco said...

Robin, you're making me tear up. Thanks so much for your kind words. I guess as long as we surround ourselves with like-minded people, the learning never ends. :)

And if you're serious about a Masters, go for it. I know it's costly, but think of all the new horizons you'll encounter. :) And then you can share them with others.

Kath Calarco said...

Amy, great point. The thinking that goes into writing makes life better. It exercises the brain, which in today's society, is sometimes lost.