Monday, February 15, 2010

Student Revolutionary Apatheticism

I am a writer. I really enjoy it, the whole process, the act of creation, creating, crafting, shaping, being immersed in the simple act that is to put language into form.

However, there are downsides. Being a writer means I unfortunately must needs be surrounded by other writers... And let me tell you the inside-secret that all artists refuse to acknowledge for fear of being tossed on their ass outside the academy:

Only crappy artists like being around other artists.

Seriously. If I had a quarter for every time the idiocy of a gathering among the justly unappreciated of workshops and shitty bookstore readings crashed around me, I'd be kept in Bazooka-Joe bubble-gum for the rest of my wasted life.

This is especially obvious amongst the workshop group, amongst the creative-writing classroom. And here I sit, trying not to gouge my eyes out, rip the ears from my head and toss them onto a burning pyre... because, honestly, I can't stand this atmosphere so drenched with talentless hacks.

Let me give you a few gems that emerged from the discussion tonight: "I love how the author uses distance. The disconnected connection is amazing..."

Yes, contradictions like this are actually rather common. Here's another one: "The surreality is so real in this story!"

Or, "The details are so... so... detailed."

It was a circle-jerk of brown-nosing the professor for that participation-credit, and nobody had the balls to say anything of substance, except to praise the story as inventively as they could on the spot -- which, unfortunately, wasn't really all that inventive.

But the most cruel, sadistic lie I heard was uttered at the end when the professor said: "You can make a living as a writer."

HAH! She says this because she has, but neglects to admit that there aren't enough creative-writing jobs, even for graduate students! There aren't enough grants, or scholarships, or residencies, and there are absolutely no creative-writing programs outside of a liberal university, especially considering we're competing for those same things with the professors from our own programs!

She refuses to acknowledge the brutal economic struggle that is the working writer. Long hours at dead-end day-jobs, writing by laptop light near 2 AM, sipping cheap boxed-wine at community college readings where even the sponsors don't give a shit. They just want you to edit their manuscript.

It's a tough world out there, and preparing students for it by lying to them is beyond irresponsible when you're being paid to teach.

Although, I guess I can see the logic. She's setting us up for failure so she and Joyce Carol Oates can keep getting themselves in anthologies for cash-money. It makes sense to screw the students so you can stay top-dog. Most successful writers are not young. Forty is the average. Most writers who live on writing alone are so old they've been grandfathered into the establishment, paid merely because they're still around and remember the times when real greats walked the pages of Conjunctions or The New Yorker.

That isn't why I'm pissed. I'm pissed because I can't say anything about it. I can't tell the professor, "Hey, what you just told us is not true." Why? Because then I get failed, or dropped from the class. Because then I have to struggle against a hostile professor who will grade me with an obvious bias and pretend it doesn't exist. Because then I have to deal with students who think I'm crazy for telling them they're being lied to. Because then I have to be "that guy" who's outside convention, even if convention is just a code for being fucked-over.

Frankly, it's more politic to blend into the scenery, to pretend and pretend and pretend and hope that someday you remember what you were before the pretense and bullshit.

Still... I feel bad to be immersed in this on a daily basis, and having to pretend it doesn't stink.

That is the real sad story of art. Doesn't matter how good you are, how unique or original or creative or visionary. It doesn't matter what you produce, but how much you can kiss-up to the establishment which subverted free expression and act like they're still legitimately countercultural.

Sorry, but you are not Allen Ginsberg, nor Jack Kerouac. Not Raymond Carver or Jay McInerney. Not Douglas Coupland or Bryce Courtenay. Not Sylvia Plath or Langton Hughes or Alice Walker or Judy Budnitz or Sherman Alexie. You are not Chuck Palahniuk so stop copying him!

Some days, I just want to kill everyone. They're really that pathetic. Beyond compassion or pity. They represent why I am often homicidal (along with cyclists who don't stop at stop signs) and why I am often misanthropic. They are the cause of cynics and pessimists. They are the reason for serial-killers and rapists. They are the why Kurt Cobain killed himself.

Because who wants to live in a world where nobody understands you?

End Rant.

***Author's Note: post dated at  February 11th.***

2 footnotes:

Mira said...

The funny thing is, this post sounds like a rant I could write. But I don't have any experience with creative writing classes, courses, or even reading groups. Still, i can feel I can relate to your situation and understand exactly what's going on. Does that make sense?

Those gatherings don't sound like something fun. For some strange reason, many people think being an artist means to be egoistic. Well, it does, in a way, but it can be difficult to be around other writers.

As for the professor- I think she's doing her job... Well, one part of it. She should encourage you to write and become better at it, but not to delude you into thinking that it's actually possible to be a professional writer (in a way that you could earn enough to live without an additional job). There simply isn't place for everyone.

The sad thing is, talent is not the only thing that matters.

It doesn't matter what you produce, but how much you can kiss-up to the establishment which subverted free expression and act like they're still legitimately countercultural.


That's why true writers don't write to be published. They write because they need to. It's just who they are.

PS-The apathy photo you chose: it makes me incredibly sad. I don't want to sound cheesy, but something inside me hurts whenever I see that little kitten. I always wonder what happened to him and I'm sad because I can't help.

Zek J Evets said...

@mira: yeah, that picture makes me sad too. one time, as i was walking back to my car after seeing a late movie, i noticed this kitten rolling down the ramp leading out of the parking garage. there was a long line of cars waiting to get out, and somehow the kitten couldn't walk right. it fell near this one car's tire, and almost got crushed.

for some reason i just stared at it. eventually someone ran out of their car and grabbed it.

dunno why i never did anything myself, but i often wonder what happened to the kitten -- if its alright, if its legs were broken, if its in a good home, how it got in the parking garage, etc.

but as for my professor. she's doing her job, true. i just think she should be a little more realistic, and not build up our hopes with false possibilities.

the world of creative writing is strange, strangers than many places i've been to (and i've been many strange places).