Workshopping Angst

I was in one of those creative writing workshops where everyone brought in something they wrote. The whole class then took turns ripping those stories to shreds. It wasn’t my first time in that kind of rodeo. No one ever overtly said, “Your story is terrible. They should bar you from ever holding a pen and paper again.”

The criticism was more polite and vague like, “You had a wonderful sense of place. I really liked your description of the car being red like a wagon, but I think you could do without the first three pages. Start it with the fourth page.” This is said even though the story might only be five pages.

There is a time and a place for this kind of feedback. Where it is nice for someone, anyone to take a look at what you’ve been scribbling away.

And this one workshop I’m alluding to was filled with smart, studious commentators. They actually read everyone’s work and put some thought into their criticism. Or else they were really good at faking it.

I bring this all up because I’ve been thinking about this one story I brought in for review. It featured a thinly veiled version of me. The major difference was there was a prostitute involved in the proceedings. The teacher said there should be more urgency in the story. I remember thinking at the time that was a valid point because there was no urgency in my life then either.

The other main criticism was that the character was too young to have such despair. No one could be so depressed and world weary at 22. I can’t remember if I pointed out, “Hey I wrote the thing and I’m 22 and I’m as world weary and filled with despair as can be.” But thinking back on this moment I wish I had said that (but maybe I did).

That class was wrong in stating the older you get, the grimmer your world view. The elderly might be grouchy, but I also find they’re more likely to be optimistic . It is the young who live in the darkest shadows. Eighty year olds do not cut their arms just so they can feel something, nor do those in their forties. That is the realm of those in their teens or maybe just past the cusp of twenty.

The aged like to say youth is wasted on the young and that would be the case if they did not get their angst out in paper or song before mellowing begins.


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