I’m not going to trivialize it by saying it was fun. It actually kind of wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, we did some fun improv exercises and the mic work was really funny at times. But my walk-away feeling from the whole thing, including the time I spent afterward talking to Crispin, was not so lighthearted. It was very satisfying, however, in the sense that I got something meaningful out of it.
My issue going into the class, and what I tried to ask Crispin about at the end with only moderate success on my part, was that I kept creating main characters who sounded so much like me on the page, regardless of what background I gave them. I approached him with questions along the line of, what’s wrong with me and why do I keep falling back into this awful me voice?
Crispin’s answer, as I understand it, was a question of his own: what exactly is so wrong with your own voice? I’m still kind of reeling from this terribly simple question. Where I was looking at the situation as being a writing problem, he pointed out a confidence problem. I decided along the way that my own voice and character were not good enough on their own and needed to be traded up for something better.
The metaphor that came up and that made sense to me is that I keep wanting to be the stage hand in the show, never a character on stage. At which point, I have to ask myself, why write at all if I won’t allow any part of my self to appear in it? Why do I keep trying to excise myself from my work? If all I wanted to do was the intellectual side, the left brain part, I would be an editor. But some part of me wants to play and bring out the emotional aspects.
So I have some work ahead of me and some thinking and some just waiting and living too. I did have a neat idea about my NaNo story during the class and with all of this in mind, I’m going to take a different tack. I don’t want to just throw my hands up and say, well, might as well keep doing things the same way I have been. I haven’t been satisfied with that and I don’t want to just numb myself to it. But I’m going to do my best to let my voice come out without constantly saying I’m not good enough on my own.
It was a very useful class; it just wasn’t what I expected. I had a good time at points, but it was also troubling. I feel all out of sorts now. At the same time, I feel driven to improve my relationship with this aspect of my writing.
ETA: I forgot to mention, but the improv was really helpful for challenging my assumptions about storytelling. There was an explanation of responding to situations with “yes, and” rather than “no, but,” which I did not really understand as we were doing the improv, but the more I think about it, the more it’s starting to make gears turn for me.