Sunday, April 24, 2011

When original titles aren't relevant.

I think the biggest mistake I've made in my education, which has now become a big part of my life, is the more I've learned, the more I wanted to teach. In my view, knowledge only becomes meaningful when it's passed on. Now, I'm not saying I've learned it all or am always right, just that I have learned things, and every step of the way have spent a ton of timergy trying to pass on the things I've learned.

I envisioned this blog as a grand statement on writing communities and the sharing of knowledge in a world that is increasingly thankless and self-centered, but I don't even think I have the energy anymore to make such statements. Thus, many paragraphs deleted, the title changed, and something new created (yaaay writing).

I've heard so many stories of writers who look back on their lives and wished they'd been a part of something more. However intangible, they feel they've missed out on something by sitting alone in a room building a legacy for themselves. I've had so many teachers who, with soulless detachment, seem to approach a class like a training day at McDonald's, having little passion or excitement for what they're doing, much less caring about the connections made with people and what can collectively be built.

I didn't want all that. I thankfully had a great role model that was passionate about teaching, in all senses of the word, and even passionate about writing communities and what people can build together, with one another, for one another, not just for themselves. Maybe it was a mistake, and I jumped the gun, but instead of getting to this point through reflecting back on life and wondering where it all went, when it came to writing, at least, I wanted to build myself up in a way that didn't take a lifetime of regret and working alone to wish I'd been more involved.

That was a mistake.

Maybe it wouldn't have been a mistake for others, but it was for me. Dividing myself in half, always willing to give a part of me for the sake of other writers has mostly been met with skepticism at best (who was I? Nobody of note, so back to Stephen King's On Writing). Or, at worst, led to assumptions and accusations. Writers seem an especially... special bunch; as if anytime anyone has anything to share, they're just trying to show you up, ruin your vision, dictate limitations and rules when everyone knows writing is all just an overflow of passion from your soul and entirely subjective anyway that nobody can teach, riiiight?

I dunno, maybe.

And maybe it was arrogant of me to ever think I had any knowledge to share, or pretentious of me to specifically search out writers and communities I saw that were in need of that knowledge. Whether it was being a teaching assistant in lower-level fiction classes, volunteering to lead workshops (and being brushed off, because apparently NO workshop is better), trying to help bolster community reading groups, or frequenting online writing sites, the teacher in me saw a need that even my piddly amount of knowledge could help fill. When others very literally asked why I bothered to 'waste' my time with such endeavors, I naively and perhaps idealistically responded that these were the places I could help the most, as if I was some surgeon in Doctor's Without Boarders, or something.

The truth is, it was a mistake. Both a personal mistake, and professional one, probably. I divided myself, always wanting to take the amazing education, insights and knowledge that was being given to me with one hand, and pass it on with the other hand. What happened, though, is the sharing got me nowhere, and the huge hit to timergy from that sharing and efforting to help other writers surely didn't help me in my own writing, especially with the time commitment, and double-especially when it wasn't my job, so I wasn't getting paid, but in a volunteer capacity.

So, what's my point? I don't know. I'm just tired. So much energy trying to connect with writers, trying to join and help build communities, trying to pass on knowledge and the insights I've been privileged to have access to through both my formal education and my own efforts informing myself. I know I've had it lucky as a writer, so thought the right thing to do wasn't to take and horde and empower only myself, but to give. That was a mistake. Maybe not for everyone, but I believe it was for me.

Hell, focusing on not only becoming the best writer I could be, but the best teacher, didn't even get me into a degree program that would then allow me a job in teaching. I don't know if that means the system is fucked, or it's just me (probably a combination of both), but I can only probably change me, right?

People keep asking me what I'm going to do now, since for the second year I didn't get into the MFA programs I wanted, haven't gotten anything published, am graduating with my English degree with writing emphasis. In a few weeks, I'll literally have no remaining tie to all the things I started because I had a passion for writing and teaching. It will have led me nowhere from a what-are-you-doing-now perspective. I'll have nothing left but myself, and I wonder if it isn't time I corrected the mistakes I've been making, if it isn't time I become the self-centered writer I've always despised, who hordes knowledge, gloats in the privilege that it is to even have the opportunity to write (whether it's in riches or squaller, it's a privilege).

And what else can I do? I've been left with little other opportunity than to be selfish.

Ironically, instead of learning to give of myself, had I just learned to take more of others, I have no doubt I would have increased my chances to then be given the opportunities I've been denied that would enable me to give to others. Meaning, had I focused selfishing on my own writing from the start, I'd have had a better chance to have gotten into an MFA program, where, if I'd then also selfishly focused on my own writing only, probably also increased the chance of being given a position to teach at some point down the line. And, then, I guess, is when we start hoping such writers learn to give, learn to teach, learn to not just selfishly continuing their own careers, considering a professorship little more than one more line on their resume?

It's the irony of our society, perhaps, and may be worse with writers (everything is worse with writers), but when someone has something to give, we instinctively doubt their worthy to give it. And when someone does nothing but take, we somehow deem them worthy of positions of giving. The movie Office Space, like everything, is funny because it's true. Maybe it's noble, the hope that if we give to those who only take, they'll learn to give. But that doesn't explain how most people I know who live to give get shit on, used up and worn out until they give up giving and learn to take... at which point perhaps they're given the chance to give, but at what cost?

Hilariously, I'm aware of the irony of this post (of my life). A nobody writer writes about his unsuccessful efforts going unknown and leading nowhere. If a writer tries to teach something in the woods, but nobody gives a shit, because he's nobody, which is why you aren't listening in the first place, does he even make a sound? Nope, he doesn't. The first thing he learns to take is a hint. ;)

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