There’s this idea I’ve been kicking around for almost a year now, shifting parts around, changing characters, doing more research. It wasn’t quite ready to be written, but I had a deadline for workshop and hey, if not now, when? So I poured it onto the page, deleted one version and wrote another, polished the language, let the characters surprise me, delighted in the symbols that naturally cropped up, and made sure not to run away from tension or conflict, which is usually my single greatest flaw as a writer. Then I turned it in, reasonably proud of myself, and waited for workshop.

The workshop demolished it. This time, instead of complaining that I ran away from tension, they complained that there was too much tension and they didn’t care what happened. They didn’t notice the personal histories I’d carefully seeded through the story, so they complained it wasn’t clear what these two people meant to each other. They hated the setting and found it silly. Their suggestions for “improving” it showed that they hadn’t actually read the story or understood what I was attempting to do; the suggestions were all over the map and useless, instead of being focused on one or two solutions for one or two flaws, like they usually are. It was the single most painful and demoralizing workshop I’ve ever had.

I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t know what these people want. I feel like both semesters I’ve started out writing beautifully and enthusiastically, and by the end I’m fighting to force something half-baked out by deadline. I don’t see improvement. I see regression. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a writer. Or an academic. I’m apparently enough of a brown-nosing smartypants to piss off my peers, but from the quality of my writing, my lack of a GTA and my growing certainty that I won’t be able to hack a PhD program after this, not enough to actually do any good. I just don’t know what to do, and I don’t see next semester being any better.


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