“Oh, you mean that quick sand I have been sinking in for the past 2 1/2 months?!”
Cover Letter I never sent to my adviser, M.Q.
for my first, of five, writing packets:
Here are my honest impressions of the winter residency 2013 at VCFA and beyond. Have you ever visited the entire Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in a limited time of let’s say, less than four hours? Residency was much like that for me and I will use the analogy to explain my experience. You begin your day with that tickled-beyond-words feeling that you actually get to be immersed in the exuberance of the Met’s collections with the thought that you certainly knew (ha!) enough about it to really appreciate this moment. But Oh, how you were so wrong! From train to taxi you rush up the steps of a most impressive building while screwing in your artistic eyeballs and turning up the volume of your creative brain. (You can do that, you know.) But what you had expected and what you envisioned was not anything of what you experienced.
First you receive your special badge when you get there and then you are offered a backpack where you can place magic rocks (deep tidbits of wisdom by real artists and educators) that you will receive as you roam through the enormous halls. You begin to scan the art work quickly because of your limited time. You become encumbered by the heavy weight you are gathering along your hurried tour and the splitting pain in your head begins to pound shortly after the second hour while you are being completely immersed. There is so much wisdom, history, beauty, sensitivity, creativity, and awe inspiring visual and mental stimulation; too much of a grand thing. Most of it you thought you knew. (there’s that word again!) But that is not all, in-between running through the corridors of the Met with your short time limit, you also get to ride on the biggest tallest most thrilling roller coaster called the “Dystropian” (VCFA riders will understand the name) with a group of total strangers you are grouped with. You get to share in the terror and exhilaration. But you feel different than the other riders (did I say really different!) and definitely not as young, so all the upping and downing and whirling to the quick left and quick right rapidly gets too much…fast. Each time you ride the coaster it seems to go faster and longer, as you soar then dip. But by now your body shuts down and says “This is enough.” So you have to choose to not only get off the ride, even though it continues to go on, but you know you can’t take in any more of what the Met has to offer because you are starting to feel beyond exhausted, sick and completely saturated—and your time is almost up–so you decide to sneak away. (No one will notice you gone!) But you still have all your magic rocks which you carry in your backpack to take home. Only a few feet from the exit, your stomach has dropped it’s one too many limits and you grab the nearest trash can and up-chuck gallons of salad, (This is true) the only thing you could eat while running around the Met and riding roller coasters in four hours time. You barely make it home, lying in the back of a taxi, then the train, before you collapse.
Now you are home sick, with all the magic rocks in your bag and a six month writing plan to explicate what you experienced both at the Met and riding the “Dystropian” coaster. But you left too early and you are feeling incomplete. (I had to leave residency early because I became ill with the flu strain and lying half dead, alone in a dorm, without med’s, computer access, and food was not going to get me better!)
You dump the rocks out on the floor and try to figure out what you are supposed to do now while pumping yourself with Tylenol to lower your fever. What you didn’t realize was that lots of little demons and a real live villain also snuck in that back pack and came home with you.
And what happened next is just really weird!
I began to work really really hard!
(Hard like, 10 hours a day hard; only writing and researching, hard. Like laundry is piling, mold is growing in the fridge, and the family eats Kirkland frozen food, over and over…HARD!)
Who knew writing was really actually a job!
Of course, I am NOT telling you everything I have to do for my packet work. That would bore you, even more than this blog post. But a big part of the course is to force creativity, quick , adding 2 or 3 picture books each packet along with about 10 other writing projects along with doing writing assignments in an ongoing forum with other students in my group. I am sure many of you think, how simple. But for me free writing and creative writing is similar to creating art. It demands a lot of thought and attention. Now even in my dreams, I can’t seem to turn it off so I have a writing tablet next to my bed. I, not only wake up for my several nightly bathroom excursions, but add, several times a night, a creative jot down in my writing journal. Who needs sleep anyway! (I can add these hours to the 10 I am awake writing!)
But how cool is that when I honestly thought my creative brain had packed its bags and truly left for good! (If I don’t look on the bright side, you will really see how insane I have truly become.)
But the course also carries dark secrets and all this delving deep inside has emerged and entire trunk full demons. Some of their names are Time (“Are you kidding, for children’s picture books?…how silly! Why would you spend one minute on that easy task.” I have heard those exact words from peers and the demon that sits right on my shoulder!), ENERGY(I don’t have as much as before Cancer and this is one I worry most about. My strength is sapped and I keep getting sick.), Insecurity (This one goes really deep and is the down pulling force in my quicksand. I don’t I feel deserve to be here and many demons reaffirm this often! Is everyone laughing at this lie? ), Not Knowing How, (I am 30 years away from my last writing course and do not hold an English degree as most other students do. Pretty brave, huh? Maybe stupid is the correct word! Learning through electronics is foreign territory, and feel I am in constant catch up mode, when others take a few seconds to push a few buttons,”there done!” I have the manual out on my lap! Being an electronic foreigner is rough!), plus tons more tough issues that surface as I keep plugging along.
Writing gets into a vulnerable place inside of you and then when you expose it for others to judge and scrutinize it is a very painful expereince.
Lastly I have been bruised and beaten down by my Villain, aka the critical essay. Together we have spent hours and hours fighting. Two points to him, zero for me. A half point for me, four more for him. The scores continue in his favor but the battle is not finished! I may be weak but I will not go down without a struggle and I will conquer, no matter how black and blue and broken I get.
But as much as this has been a huge stretch in my tight rubber band, I actually believe I am being stretched for the better. I just hope all this information will stick even if it’s in a gluey mess in my head after chemo- brain when I felt I would never be able to think again, without f o g. Every once in awhile I experience a glimmer of hope, (was that singing? No I didn’t think so either) but it usually gets shot down pretty quickly.
And after six months time I really hope I will admit it was worth every tear, bruise, stretch, loss of family time and fist fight, I encountered and endured to write for children!
Because it is for the CHILDREN
that I grab tightly to the vine for
and won’t let the quick sand overpower me
and suck me under.