Monday, January 16, 2012

--humility.

I'm in the editing stage of my novel.





At the outset of brainstorming the notion of a masterpiece, one is enthralled and excited about this part of the writing process. That is, until you actually get to it. Other than cringing at my grammatical errors and rolling my eyes at clich├ęs, I’ve been flooded with the memories attached to my manuscript.

I started my novel during my freshman year of college in a fiction class ask a eighteen-year-old writer, who felt typos were inevitable and my world was the most interesting thing ever. I added an advanced fiction writing class to my roster—with students two years older than me—convinced I knew just as much about creative writing as they did.

During the first class, we listened to a quiet girl’s tale of a woman swallowing paint after her craftsman husband cheated on her. The round table discussed her theme’s relevance to Dostoevsky’s work and the Romantic ideals within her text.

Say what now?

I was immediately stunned at my classmates’ comparisons and realized almost instantly that I should’ve taken the first part of the course. This fact shut me up for the entire semester. I was afraid the wrong analysis would send me straight into social pariah mode and I wasn’t having that.

When it came around to finally sharing my novel, I was extremely excited. It would be the first time I’d speak up in class, knowing the subject was clearly something I was an expert on. The other students, who’d read the partial document the night before, were in love with my work. On the way to class, two girls stopped to ask, “Are you complete? I want to read the rest! Where is it?”

My confidence was at an all time high. I was convinced my professor was just as amazed as everyone else was. I walked into my buzzing class with a pile of my manuscripts adorned with a cute cover and poetic quote.

“Today we’re reading Ms. Buddington’s novella. Wasn’t it an interesting read?” The students all nodded and agreed. “I’ll say my comments first, I felt it was very urban fiction. It reeked of the typical black love story sprinkled with a bit of poetry. It has potential to be great, but isn’t near that at all. With much work, it will be. Anyone else?”

I was immediately crushed. I’m sure there were comments from my peers that would’ve been easier on the ear, but I’d stopped listening. Clearly, the class was filled with women who were enticed by the love triangle between the pages. The only critique that mattered, was heard.

To make matters worse, I was so immersed in my edits for the second half of the semester that I completely missed the deadline. Two days after it was due, I sent my instructor a hurried e-mail.

“Professor,

I’ve been incredibly busy and I completely missed the deadline for sending in the paper. I sincerely apologize. Can I hand it in immediately?”


Most professors were easy on us. We were usually given small deductions for late papers. I just knew I would be okay.

I was in for a surprise.

“Ms. Buddington,

I will not accept your paper. In fact, I suggest that you humble your entire literary existence. It seems to me that you were so into your own work that you forgot about the pieces of your peers. Perhaps, if you take my class again, you’ll be more attentive to everyone else and not so focused on your own career.”


Damn.

It was understandable.

After speaking to her, her perspective was that I reveled in my spoken word/writer fame on campus and my attitude portrayed that I didn’t care about my academia. When I told her that I was a freshman and incredibly embarrassed by how little I knew, she was shocked. She’d assumed I was older and my silence was me just being plain rude.

Although she’d misconstrued my solace, she was right. I’d given nothing to the conversations of the classroom and expected to be rewarded for the selfish effort I’d finally made. I’d grown accustomed to the approval of my high-school English teachers and left my modesty in my dorm room.

Although my teacher was a bit rough on me, her words humble me every time I work on my novel. Five years later, still banging away on the same piece, I’m confronted with teenage me every time I reread it. Editing the words of your younger and more inexperienced self might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

Now, twenty-four and blossoming, I abhor typos. I now understand that there are way more relevant things than my own world. & I am quite the critique giver.

As my novel editing winds down, I can revel in the experiences attached to it: There's the boy from Brooklyn, in my fiction class, who inspired the main male protagonist, the bourgeois mid-east boys from the memories of my university who adorn the office setting in chapter three, and the father who still writes poems in the basement of my parent’s home.

Even the main character, the straight A/B student, awkward & angry, who scored that one C+ in her advanced writing classes, is an experience all her own. She’s a grown up now: Rarely separated from Microsoft Word, craves Barnes & Noble and practices humility with her editors.

Sometimes.

The End Beginning.

-riv-




6 comments:

juju said...

Nice post!

freexoneheart said...

Love! I wonder who this professor was... It's always good to know where you came from. And I hate typos too. I think every English major does lol.

BellaBrown said...

There comes a time when we all have to look at the scars on our knees from when we have tripped and fallen over our own untied shoe laces. I'm glad that you have learned to double tie yours babe. You are a better woman and writer because of it.

Veronica said...

Think of the person you'd be today if your professor hadn't said those things to you.

It may have pinched then, but you're a better writer now because of it.

Many blessing to you and good luck on your book! So happy for you!!!

Ran Walker said...

Riv, I truly respect your honesty in this entry. As writers, we all evolve, but, like you said earlier, it's a wild to edit the work of your younger self. Even now, as I wrestle through the umpteenth draft of my current novel, I'm still baffled at the "younger" me from even two months ago and what the hell made me write certain things.

I look forward to reading your finished book, and just know this: your commitment to the art of writing makes me proud to even know you.

Keep writing!

Christina said...

My younger self poems blow my mind and I wonder what was I thinking all the time.

I love the honesty of this post. A writer who can talk about their humbling moments is one who is on the path of greatness.