Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dodging bullets....

I've been listening to RWA lectures for exactly three years. Sometimes I want to kick myself. If I'd known then what I know now... Every year is like a full length college-level creative writing course, complete with career hints and professional training. My only quibble is that they need more space. Some of those lecture rooms are way too small.

I recently got a new mp3 player because my kid took mine and instead of something normal, I had to be all different and get a Samsung Pebble. It was so cool (like my failed love affair with Macs), it looks...uhm, like a pebble. There's an on switch and an off switch, and it plays like the ipod shuffle. It's driving me freaking nuts. I'm OCD, I probably mentioned that. NOT being in control gives me the weebie-jeeebies.

Every night, before I go to bed, I erase everything, and load it with four hours of "what I want to listen to today". For some reason the 08 lectures are boring. Lot of promo, Internet this and that, and more than the usual amount of how to put the sex into your book. (although I'm hoping that's a temporary thing, I really don't need anyone telling me how to structure a sex scene) So after I blew through the 08 (if it doesn't catch me in fifteen minutes, I give up) I reloaded Suzanne Brockmann's lecture, Cast of Thousands (character in multi-book story arcs) and Eloisa James Doing it over again (structure and multi-book story arcs).

I enjoyed them the first time. But this time they spoke to me.

Education--self-education--is a moving target. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. I've been studying craft for years--not so much the grammar aspect of it, but structure and character, practical plotting and "why" certain things work. Hague in his lecture--and I didn't go to his Identity to Essence, but Unifying Plot and Character Arc--says people slip in and out of their internal truth. Identity, he says, is what you think you are. When you describe yourself to someone, who are you really? A mother, daughter, toilet-scrubber or taxi-service?

What, he says, stops you from being "who" you are? We are all labeled, we all look at ourselves a certain way. Jo Beverly, in the lecture I moderated for her back in 06, says we all have more than one name. Mother, daughter, wife, employee, friend, and we are all those names--but I think that isn't true. I think--after you strip away the outside, there's that piece inside without identity.

When I left Virginia, I walked into a totally new situation. Nobody knew me. I had no one to impress and nothing to prove. People see me as who I am now, not the person I created myself. Hague said, I slipped into and out of, my essence. Because I'm "me", I'm Jodi. And I'm labeled six ways to Sunday.

But at that lecture Hague said the one thing I "really" listened to. Identity is who you are, and there is only one word for what happens when what you are ceases to exist--and that word is death.

Back in 06, I listened to Identity to Essence for the first time. And he wraps every lecture with the question, "I would do anything to be a successful writer, but don't ask me to............because it just isn't me."

And for years, I've been thinking--what the hell does he mean? It's got to be more involved than it looks, because on the surface it's a band-aid pop-psych question, and goes nowhere. But this time, he explained. When you finally figure out the question and know the answer, it'll scare you shitless.


Alice Audrey said...

I made the fatal mistake of giving my identity to being a writer as a teenageer, but there are a lot of things I wouldn't do to become one.

I kind of get his question, and I kind of don't in a very Zen kind of way.

deanna hershiser said...

Once again, you said it: "Education--self-education--is a moving target."

Let me know when you're sure about the question; I'm half there, maybe? Or maybe it strikes like lightning...?