I’ve always been told that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This seems a reasonable rule of thumb until you arrive at college, where each of your professors has a different definition of “broke.”
This is especially true in the artsy majors, such as studio art, dramatic production, apparel design, cinema, or creative writing. The lines between what is beautiful and what isn’t blur or shift depending on which teacher you have. While it’s true that we’re learning our crafts fairly well, it might be better said that we’re learning how to write/sew/paint/draw/film/act for each individual teacher.
We’re all still trying to figure out if this is limiting us or improving us. With our GPAs and personal rapports on the line, most of us choose not to think about it for too long.
In the field of starving artistry creative writing, every class seems to contradict itself in one way or another. Earlier classes will demand that a work of fiction give lots of background information, another will tell you that background information should be limited to a paragraph and should be in the middle of the story and not the beginning. One teacher will tell you similes and metaphors in poems are wonderful things and another will tell you your images aren’t concrete enough. Hand the same piece to two different teachers and one will give you an A and the other will give you a D. While there is a mutual agreement among all writing instructors that adhering to traditional grammar rules is necessary, it seems that everything else is up in the air. If you can’t adapt, you can kiss your grade point average goodbye.
This is why you can identify creative writing majors by the nervous tick above their right eyes.
I am, of course, exaggerating. A bit. After all, none of us can hope to write solely for our own pleasure and expect to eat as well. We are all writing/acting/sewing/drawing/filming/painting for a specific audience, and it is essential that we know how to perform to the utmost of excellence.
Still, for once it would be lovely to get to the point where we can get it right the first time.
Where I’m From
I am from pine needles, knees scraped on dogwood trees;
Petals (and pollen) afloat on the breeze, and the silence
That comes from the absence of engines.
I am from wanderings in the grey woods,
And from wooden-sword battles, me vs. the air,
And from sharp autumn breezes and crackling oak leaves.
I am from dust motes in sunbeams on Saturday mornings;
From comics and cinnamon biscuits (the food of the gods),
And from black lines of newsprint and dialogue bubbles.
I am from towers of bright rainbow books opened up
In my mama’s white hands while I sit on the rose-pattern bedspread,
Entranced, in my footie pajamas.
I am from “No, not ‘whatever.’”
From “Codemy,” “Tradegy,” (playing with words,)
And from rotten-egg puns as my Dad cracks a “yolk.”
I am from histories told by the fireplace:
Grandfather limping from Normandy, grandmother’s dump truck,
The Buttermilk Story and Mudley’s last breath.
I am from thick-cushioned theater seats in the darkness,
Watching actors and actresses float on the stage,
Uttering speeches like old incantations.
I am from white sheets of blank, wide-ruled paper
And sharp yellow pencils that scrape out
The first humble lines of my own incantations.