I couldn’t sleep.
I slept too much.
I fell asleep too easily.
I was officially immune to coffee.
My jaw hurt waking up from a night of incessent teeth-grinding.
My head was at the verge of explosion while asleep.
I stress ate.
I did everything to avoid The Very Task I was supposed to do.
I still haven’t finished the first draft yet. Yes, I promised myself to do so weeks ago. But every week before the class, I had to go back to the pages and polish until it was presentable. The pressure. The excuse…
My record was horrendous. One time I brought ten pages, half were killed on the spot. (*Cause: Activity vs. Event; Events move the story forward.) Another time — six weeks into the quarter, my structure was suffering, which made it irrelevant to discuss the pages. (*Cause: The story was about a competition, but the rules were vague.) It sank without a trace.
Last week, the teacher stayed late to critique my work while most of the classmates left. She offered some amazing directions. I wanted to make her proud so badly. But when I was home, I panicked.
Can I really pull it off?
Because I chose comedy, no laugh meant no go. But one shouldn’t do his piece just for the sake of jokes. I kept reminding myself. At the library the next day, a new character came to me and hit me hard. He, was a Scot.
At the reading yesterday, I chose two scenes around my new Scot character — the beginning of Act II A (Page 30) and the Mid Point (Page 60). Not having heard my characters speak for weeks made me antsy.
When it came to an end, I realized that I got more than a few laughs. The forever nurturing instructor said, “These are good pages.” I hadn’t heard that comment on me after the second week, now it was Week 8. “You are writing a comedy of the Chinese girls traveling to England and we as the Americans are the audience. Culture and comedy don’t normally blend. But your story and the jokes came through.”
I was emotional. I could have cried. But I knew my beloved instructor wouldn’t like it. “Why haven’t you cried yet?” is her “How do you do?” I fought the tears to the back of my head. Then I confessed, “It is hard.” She nodded and confirmed, “No doubt about it.”
I could live on those compliments eating nothing else for days. No wonder writers without constant validation tend to go loco.
Another classmate was fighting against a seemingly obvious notion. The instructor paused the clock and took time with her. She even chided the impatient classmates who tried to be smartasses.
I was really touched. That to me is what a great Teacher/Shifu/Sensei is. I texted her after the class to thank her again, knowing that under her tutelage, we were in a safe domain being insecure writers — to be who we are, and unapologetically.
Yeah, I am a lucky bastard. I know it now. And I know it better.