Monday, July 10, 2006

Writer’s Group part Duh

I tried to get them to shake up things a bit in the meetings, but mindless routine took hold immediately. We always sat in the same position, and critiquing of my stories always started with HC who set a bad tone. When she was absent, I actually got a few compliments. With her in the room, it was not kosher to compliment a lowly man, least of all a white one. I remember that when I first joined the organization and signed up for a critique group, TL looked at the signup sheet and excitedly asked a black writer if he was Grant. She was disappointed to discover my snake-belly skin rivals her own translucence.

Anyway, HC always started with “Well…I don’t have much to say…”, then proceeded to tell me everything about my writing was complete crap. Worse than her opinion was that, after reading my work, she had a completely different idea of the plot and characters than I intended. The others nodded and agreed with everything she said, leading me to wonder if I should quit writing. If a roomful of (supposedly) talented writers not only reviled my work but were unable to even understand it, I obviously had zero talent. Fortunately, my stubbornness kicked in when I left and I always tried again the next week.

Over the next year, I altered my writing based on their complaints. Because they had such difficulty understanding anything I wrote, I abandoned all subtlety and wrote things like:

“Bob turned on the lights while entering the room. He turned the lights on so he could see what was in the room, which would be impossible if the lights weren’t on, but they were on because he had turned them on. He looked around the room and saw what was there to be seen because the lights were on because he had turned them on in the first sentence. The lights, which were on because Bob turned them on, shone brightly in the room because they were on because he turned them on.”

To which they would invariable respond with “How could Bob see in the room? Did he turn on the lights? You need to revisit this.” Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, but close. After brainlessly accepting their constructive abuse for almost a year, I began to ask about what they had published, what they had read, etc. That’s when I discovered a) nobody had ever published anything (although TL had a poem due to be published by a university press), b) the critiquing groups and rules had been largely been the creation of local writer Paul T. McHenry whose writing career consisted of one truly awful Clancy-esque military non-thriller, c) HC wasn’t reading my work, just looking at a few paragraphs about which to complain, and d) none of them were my target demographic because none of them ACTUALLY READ BOOKS. When it came time to pay next year’s dues, I cheerfully left the organization, re-edited my stories following my heart instead of their rules (pretty much putting them back in their original condition), and have since published every one they condemned as utter crap.

Once again, let me stress that these were all nice (albeit prejudiced) people who seemed to be really trying to help, despite laboring under a bunch of moronic rules imposed on them by some organization. As always, people started with a good idea (writers helping one another), then they organized and it all went straight to hell.

I don’t remember any more writing rules (thank the zombie Jebus), but I do remember a few rules of feminism I picked up from the ones pursuing that PhD. It appears feminist doctrine is an inflexible as the rules of writing. Following are the ones I remember:

FEMINIST RULE #1 – whether or not a person is privileged in our society is based on three factors: sex, race, and wealth / power. White = privileged, non-white = oppressed. Male = privileged, female = oppressed. Rich & Famous = privileged, poor = oppressed. Therefore, any white male, even a convicted prisoner or homeless person, is automatically at least twice as privileged as any black woman, such as Condoleezza Rice. Note – I’m not joking or exaggerating. The textbook actually had an illustration and a graph for mapping how well society treats people. According to it, the only way a white female could have a life as easy as a white male would be for the woman in question to be rich and powerful and the man to be poor as dirt.

FEMINIST RULE #2 – while acknowledging that men have largely led society since the beginning of written history, we have taken it as far as we can go and the intellectually superior women now need to take charge now to usher in the future.

FEMINIST RULE #3 – the bond between women is stronger than the separations of racism; therefore all women should be able to relate to one another better than with any man.

I’d like to close with a snarky comment, but ideals like that supply their own ridicule.

25 comments:

SJ said...

Rules 1, 2, 3 are all funny but #3 is just plain hilarious... maybe it's privileged.

Doug Murata said...

I really really enjoyed rule #3. It sounds like something an uneducated ("formally educated" isn't necessarily "educated") feminist would say. I'm all for feminism, but I'm not too keen on illogical stupidity.

Just Some Gal said...

I'm speechless...

I guess I'm not up to date with my feminism...

I'll just blame it all on the man.

I'd still get you to cook some japanese food though, maybe that will put you in your place! ;-)

Spider Girl said...

I'm feeling largely unoppressed these days. Dang it, I'd probably get kicked out of their club.

Seven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Seven said...

Sounds like you are describing the ideas of every guest on National Public Radio? The invited list at NPR:
1. White angry women in the arts
2. Black angry women in the arts.
3. Ivy league professors that fully understand that all black people need help out of dismal poverty, yet are enormously talented and deserve our utmost respect and charity.
4. Ivy leauge writers touting their latest "Why America sucks" book.
5. Black male poets. See guest 3 for reference.

annush said...

i don't like feminists...i believe in equality not in obsessive compulsive stupidity...

JohnB said...

You planning on a "Where Are They Now?" post?

Question: With all due respect, what does one do with a feminism degree anyway (besides teach)?

circe said...

I am going through withdrawals for lack of blogging ability but I want to compliment you on your tenacity in keepin on keepin on in the face of the nonsensical, daunting crap you were forced to endure in your 'writer's group.'

And I was unaware of the rules. :P Thanks for sharing.

ever,
circe

kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

I'll hazard a guess that you've read Stephan King's book, "On Writing"?

These posts made me laugh laugh laugh in that pained, been-there-seen-that sort of way. The only writing group I ever enjoyed, I organized myself, and it was really just an excuse to get together with friends and drink and gossip. Looking back, we didn't actually critique anything after the first meeting...

Kira said...

Aw, damnit, and here I thought that feminism meant being able to buy as many vibrators as one wants. No more feminism for me!

fatty ~ said...

i am totally privileged, so is everyone connected with me.

patti_cake said...

What a bunch of bitches. I can't believe you hung in there past the third meeting. I hate angry feminists. Maybe because I love-love-love men :)

Grant said...

sj - I really found rule #1 the funniest in that they truly believed privilege could be so simplistically charted.

doug - they liked to remind the black woman of that rule. "Remember, the bond between women allows us to rise above racial intolerance."

blondie - I'll be barefoot and in the kitchen, but I'm drawing the line at the whole pregnant thing.

spider - you must be rich and famous. It's the only way you could possibly attain my level of privilege. :p

7 - I think I went to college with that group. Poetry night was brutal.

annush - I agree. I found it funny that people with advanced degrees could be so narrow-minded and gullible enough to believe whatever they were told.

johnb - where they are now is out of my life. Even though it was actually a feminist degree, it was touted as a PhD in literature, so they were expected to spread the word through teaching and writing.

circe - thanks. I'm still getting that commercial page when I try to visit Metalfly.

kimber - I have read it, and so did one of the members of the group and she learned completely different lessons. In particular, his "Keep your tools with you at all times" was translated to "You don't need all your tools with you at all times."

kira - you don't have a clue. True feminism means Alex must be subjugated and ruled for his own good.

fatty - I will be sure to drop your name the next time I seek publication.

patti_cake - actually, they were the worst kind of prejudiced - not filled with anger, but completely convinced they were genetically superior.

hellbunny said...

I can't believe you actually stuck in there and took it every week.

~Deb said...

I never quite understood the "rules for writing". I hate structure. Like an artist, I think the writer should be creative and go on their own path, instead of following rules from what other people feel is 'good writing'.

I hope your pilot for the Gigantic Atomic Chickens comes out real soon. Now that's creative!

Grant said...

hellbunny - they kept their feminist views and personalities hidden and just focused on the writing for the most part. It wasn't until I was nearing the end of the year with them that I began asking them questions so I could better understand their views.

~deb - actually, I did write a short story with the GACs. Although I do favor some writing rules - basic grammar, anyway - most of what they preached just limited the writing to banality.

Leesa said...

grant,

I live my life by these three rules. I am not sure what humor you find in these rules, although my hubbie blames my lack of humor on my feminism.

Tracy Lynn said...

Thus you illustrate why, when some idiot girl tells me she's a feminist, I groan, roll my eyes, and walk away.

It's funny, I consider myself a feminist, but most feminists don't. I'm pretty sure it's because I have a sense of humor.

And a bodacious rack.

Liz said...

By bond, you mean rope or tape?

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