Week one of the writing class was interesting. The class is from six to eight every Thursday evening and at 5:45 last week, instead of traveling the 20-minute route to my class, I was running the kiddo back to school for some homework he forgot and absolutely needed. I’m trying to let him experience natural consequences when these things happen but he was near tears and I acted with my heart instead of my head knowing it was going to make me late. My GPS calculated my arrival at the Arts Center to be 6:20 but I didn’t realize how impossible the parking was going to be and circled the neighborhood several times which added another 20 minutes to the trip. Honestly, I nearly decided to bail and go home but something wouldn’t let me take the easy way out.
I ambled into the classroom a good forty-five minutes late (this was week one for me and week two for everyone else) and I interrupted an animated discussion which felt a bit awkward. Everything stopped and the instructor said “you must be Mary”, to which I blurted out quick apologies. I scanned the room for a chair, and after I sat, realized why it was empty. The arm clattered to the floor when I went to pull it in. I briefly wished I had just gone home.
I looked around the table of the dozen or so gathered and noted how young the other participants were compared to other classes I had taken. The average age was firmly in the twenties category except for one other woman and myself who are firmly in the 50’s plus demo. The teacher was about late thirties/early forties, in my estimate, and so full of enthusiasm for writing that I was glad I had decided not to go home.
The format of the class was to read something. Discuss. Write something. At the end of each writing exercise, our instructor asked for people to volunteer to read what they wrote and I kept my eyes down so I wouldn’t have to share the nonsense I’d scribbled in my notebook. I was impressed by what I heard, how creative these young people were and I felt a little sad I hadn’t done something like this in my twenties when I felt less vulnerable to share ideas as they were now doing. I spent the majority of class as a spectator as I listened and nodded along.
We did a few in-class exercises, that mirrored some of the works we had read out loud. One of the writing exercises was around a crazy time in our lives and I, who hadn’t been even writing in my journal for a few weeks, sat there in contemplation for a good five to eight minutes while others were furiously writing about the topic. I finally decided to pick a time when I was constantly in tears over whether I should quit a job with the only company I had worked for in my over twenty-year post-college career. I didn’t like to relive the anxiety of that time of my life, but it proved to be a good topic for me as I easily filled three pages with the anger, hopelessness and hurt I felt at the time. In the end, I quit the job and I’m sorry I spent so much time in angst over it. And also for the wasted resentment, I held onto for so long.
We did a couple more exercises and then our at-home topic was announced: write about a time when you were judged or when you judged someone else. I wasn’t thrilled with this as a topic because I’m at a point in life where I don’t like to judge others (no one knows the path someone else has travelled) and I couldn’t easily think of a time in my life where I had done it or when it had been done to me. I scanned my mind as you would a computer to seek out a particular file and stopped at the summer after my Sophomore year in college.
The next morning I was ready to start until I took a look around the house. It was a certified disaster. Piles of clothes crowded every surface, books and papers scattered the floor and surfaces were covered in a shimmering dust which had been magnified by the bright sunshine that poured through the windows. I was in need of a device that would tether me to my writing chair.
I gave myself 30 minutes to deal with some of the mess so I could turn my full attention to writing. By ten a.m. the words, in a complete surprise to me, flowed in copious amounts. I was reliving a story about a man who had become my nemesis during a summer job when I was working in construction as a flag girl. I remembered his harsh treatment of me and how he had judged me as a spoiled college girl but the words got clogged up and the essay became about the death of my brother to suicide during my freshman year. I knew I’d have to scrap it because it wouldn’t fit into the 3-5 pages we’d been assigned and it wasn’t a topic I wanted to get into for class, at least not yet. I nearly cried that the three hours I sat in front of my computer had been a “waste of time” and that I didn’t have anything usable from it.
I decided to let it go for the day and ran some errands, browsed Sephora (a place I could easily get lost in for hours), and finally made my way to Barnes and Noble to look for some inspiration among the tables and shelves. Here’s another place I could get lost in for a day. Knowing I had a stack of library books at home as well as several unread digital books on my kindle, I fought the urge to buy anything new. After an hour, I reluctantly left sans shopping bags to pick my son up at school. I was disappointed my first day of writing hadn’t gone as planned.
Early Sunday morning, I had a spark of an idea for the judgment piece and since it was 4 am, I did what anyone who identifies as a would-be-writer with a strong idea would do. I got out of bed, pulled on my robe and in the glow of the computer, set about writing the first draft in Evernote. It was going to be a humorous piece about a disease I’ve had since birth where my organs are switched and how it has tripped up and confused various medical professionals throughout the years. I’m currently on draft three and I’m pretty happy with how it’s turning out. I may even share it here when it’s perfect. Hahaha.