Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Artist's Way and a List of Enemies to My Creative Self

Have you read The Artist's Way? I'll just assume you have because you are reading this blog and you are probably a writer of blogs, ergo--you fancy yourself an artist but have yet to find a more legitimate genre than blogs which prompts you to read books about being a more brilliant and prolific artiste. It's cool my baby, I'm right there with you.

I am only in the first chapter of this book and it is great fun. I like it. In this chapter I am recovering a sense of safety so please be mindful of that in your comments. I've been stuck in the first chapter for a while because I am trying to do all the exercises before I move on. Here are some of the exercises. You should do them too.

The first thing you need to do is list enemies of your creative self. The first enemy of my creative self is Michael Rutter. He was the so-called creative writing teacher in high school. I wanted to transfer into creative writing mid-semester--probably to get out of psychology because that teacher told my mom he thought I was slimy like a devil worshiper. (I do NOT worship the devil by the way. I'm so sure!) So Mr. Rutter takes me into his "office" and gives me two poems. He instructs me to write an essay about which poem I like better. I did. Then he told me I got it wrong. It was totally embarrassing and he wouldn't let me into the class. I was especially mad the next year when I saw the same exercise in the teacher's edition of Laurence Perrine's Structure, Sound and Sense, our textbook for AP English.

Even though I count him as an enemy to my creative self, Michael Rutter did me a favor. I think I probably wouldn't be any good at creative writing. And anyway, who's laughing now?

The other enemy to my creative self is a professor named John Murphy. He taught a Flannery O'Connor class I took as a graduate student. What is most painful about this episode is that I like Flannery O'Connor and I really tried in that class. So when he wrote in his ugly, harsh, red pen on my final paper, "Have you ever written a paper before?" It was not encouraging. Keep in mind, I was teaching college writing at the time. So when I talk about teaching writing and I sometimes joke that I'm just a fraud and I don't know what I'm doing and you chuckle at my self-deprecating nature, you should know that it's not self-deprecating-- it's true. John Murphy, you may be right--but you're still pretty mean.

Well, that's enough of that. The fun part of chapter one is listing 5 imaginary jobs that you would like to have. I immediately thought of ballet dancer. I took ballet in college. I always brush it off as just some meaningless P.E. credit, but I think if you really examine your P.E. credits you'll find some pretty serious wishful thinking, if we're all being honest. Think about it.

#2 is Rock star. I could never be a movie star--I wouldn't even want to. But I would like to be a rock star. Why? Because rock stars are cool.

#3 is Book store owner. I have thought about this seriously. I wanted to name my book store Bleak House after the Charles Dickens novel. Later (after the Internet revolution) I thought Brick and Mortar Books would be a good name. But Christian would rather invest in strangers on the Internet than in my store so that dream was squelched. Truth be told, this already exists and I don't own it so what's the point?

#4 is working for NPR, preferably as Doug Fabrizio's lackey.

And #5 is professor. Yes, yes--I may call myself [and insist that others call me] a professor but I'm not really a professor. And in my imaginary Artist's Way world I would be a real professor--perhaps of math or science, or even Literature--I might even specialize in American women writers and I might even have taken the position at BYU offered to one John Murphy and then he would be publishing his own little blog right now instead of me. And I would take students who wanted to add my class into my "office" and make them answer the question, "Flannery O'Connor, greatest American writer or the greatest American writer," and they would invariably get the answer wrong.


  1. You are just really really cool.

  2. i found your blog through a link on someone elses blog. i had mr. rutter and you didn't miss much. but i was glad i took that class instead of AP english because i never would have taken the AP test. good luck with the book.

  3. admirer12:19 PM

    Contrary to what hrt said, you are not just really cool.

  4. Anonymous2:17 PM

    I happen to know for a fact that that horrible psychology teacher and Mr. Rutter were in cahoots. Your writing was not the issue, but perhaps the social structure of Provo High in the 80's is to blame. They were high school teacher's, what power could they really have had but to stain the psyche of the teenagers they were trusted with. DON'T LET THEM WIN. I had Mr. Rutter and he held my paper up in front of the class and said my hand writing looked like chicken scratches. There is a huge credibility issue there. Cheers.

  5. I'm really glad that even though you say I will not invest in your bookstore, you do not list me as an enemy of your creative self. For the record, I would be happy to invest in your quaint downtown bookstore. Just fill out an application here.

  6. I have heard of The Artist's Way. It's on my mental list of library books to get. Of course it has been on that list for a year or two now so maybe I'm not as serious about discovering my artistic self as I should be.

    I worked with a prof named John Murphy at BYU whom I can't imagine asking someone if they had ever written a paper before. So I double checked--"my" John Murphy is John M. Murphy, not John J. Murphy. Phew.

    Kacy F--great adjunct faculty, or the greatest adjunct faculty? If I were at BYU I'd take a class from you. Really! As long as you let me in.

  7. "The Artist's Way" seems really interesting. It sounds like it really sets creativity in motion. Do you think it could help me?

    Ammon has talked about helping perfect strangers "prosper" over the internet also. I say you fill out the application and open your bookstore. I have a feeling you would sell cool books and other good stuff. I would shop there!

  8. M.R.'s book is in the six digits for sales ranking. Could be worse. I think.

    Let's talk about me: racquetball, bowling, folk dance, volleyball, tennis. What does it all mean? (I might have made up some of those, I can't remember.)

    Me again: my freshman high school English teacher had me come in after school so he could tell me he hated me (didn't like?? it's fuzzy) and wanted me to transfer out of his class. I didn't transfer, but it was kind of scarring. I'm with you on this.

  9. Look at you go: Going to the pool with four kids, wearing a bathing suit, taking time to be creative and actually do the A.W. exercises! (and you know I have a celebrity endorsement that says they work. . . I'm just saying. . . ) 5 weeks post partum and I'm still in my pajamas crying. I'm impressed.

  10. Like you, I took a leave of absence from the blogging world, and like you, I have recently given birth.
    I am trying my hand again at blogging.
    I am not squeezing into a bathing suit for my children's sake. I guess I'm still "Ignoring Three Kids without Guilt."
    Anyhoo, I was catching up on some favorite blogs and missing yer whole clan. Oh, btw, I have some artsy fartsy friends that are friends with the people who finally bought your house. So, I'm thinking that's a good sign.

  11. I love that your enemies were not ephemeral flotsam but real people. Way to go.

    And you made me examine my PE credits closely: ballet (duh), modern dance (duh), but archery?!? What does THAT say?

  12. Anonymous12:37 PM

    Does the fact that Murphy and Ritter stand out as monsters suggests that, for most of your life, everyone you have known has been invested in your success (either because they believed in you or because they didn't want to bother)? What worries me is that the handful of people who have opposed my rise to greatness (a group for whom I still nurse feelings of resentment), may have actually been part of a select cohort who have the courage or the energy to relate to people in a way other than insipid affirmation. I, for my part, have made an art of insipidity. I'm not sure which is worse: the tourette's-like misanthropy of a John Murphy or the swelling chorus of high school and college teachers who cheer their student's mediocrity. That last term applies to me, not you. Your writing is excellent; it has a well-constructed argument, with careful analysis, and a good, clear thesis.

  13. I had Mr. Rutter's Creative Writing class my senior year of high school and he was the best teacher I have ever had, bar none. I don't much care for his brand of writing, but he taught me more about English/Creative Writing and life, really, than any other teacher ever did. I graduated in 2004 and Rutter and I are still good friends.

    I will admit that he can be pretty abrasive, but he was no enemy to my creative self. :)

  14. Joe Riddle12:48 PM

    Rutter scarred me forever too. Unlike you though, I lacked the courage to keep writing in spite of it. Well done.

  15. Anonymous4:51 PM

    Rutter was such a jerk! He did something similar to me, making me come in to meet with him, then going on and on about how I wasn't talented enough to be in his class.

    When I tearfully told him it was my dream to be a writer, he actually started snickering at me.


  16. Anonymous1:40 PM

    hum. my aren't you a little bully. why not invite john and michael for a retort. maybe they had a reason for what they did. they are the real writers, after all. not wanna be bloggers.


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