First, let me be clear that there isn’t any one instance of spontaneous combustion or workshop or instructor that has made me feel horrible about my writing. No one has said, “Liz, you are wretched. Go home.” I am fortunate to be housed in one of the most supportive writing programs in the country. (Do I have the statistics to back this up? Heck, no, just pride.) I love the writing life and I hope I have many years left to scribble out my quirks and oddities.
My teachers are professional and demanding. None could be better for me as guides. Rest assured, they are not a bunch of sappy do-gooders. They are highly skilled agents of D.B.N.D. (Do better/Never done.) If I put one more adverb in a poem or write another analysis in passive voice, a wooden ruler will materialize out of thin air and rap my knuckles, but good. Don’t even let me speak in the seductive language of abstractions except in sotto voce when their backs are turned.
But ugh, the times I’ve learned how far I have to go. Folks, I am in triple digits here. The challenge is most often how fast I can make the light bulb flicker on before they realize I am a fraud. (Yes, I deal with Imposter Syndrome on a daily basis.)
These are the teachable moments: When I learn there is another challenge. I am not quite there yet. When the “I like what you did here” softening the blow of “but I think this needs more development.” The duality of how far I’ve come and what I don’t know, is rough. I write a crafted sentence and then confuse the reader. It’s not so much about wanting to throw in the towel, but wondering why I thought I could jump onto this moving train like a 16 year old off to see the world?
And don’t even get me started on the things I have learned about submitting: the spring day of submission, the long summer of waiting, the failed crop of fall, and the winter of post-rejection. (Yes, I know rejection isn’t feedback. But damned if it doesn’t feel that way.)
I never anticipated my life being one protracted sophomore year. I know the ropes…until I realize I don’t.