Thursday, July 1, 2010

What I Learned from Mark Twain: Day 2


“All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.”
Mark Twain


     Professor Stewart, who facilitates the poetry and creative non-fiction workshop, gives the first lecture of the day. Professor Pritchett welcomes him with another praise filled introduction, followed by our enthusiastic applause. Although unfamiliar with this practice of applauding before and after every lecture, I am quickly becoming aware that this is “how it is done”. I assume at real literary workshops, the ones real authors attend, applause is standard, possibly required for admission. Professor Stewart is the editor of New Letters Literary Magazine; the obstacle blocking our path to literary success. If we can get past him, we’re published. We’re in. I’m hovering on his every word.

     “Writer’s need to respond to the minute experiences with joy.” Professor Stewart quoted extensively in his lecture from Rollo May. I am assuming Rollo May was a joyful individual; Professor Stewart seems to be a man who understands the concept of joy on an intellectual level, but doesn’t embrace it much. “We must have the courage to create.” This is a truth I can latch on to. Finding the courage to create is my goal in attending the workshop, now we’re talking. “When an individual is afraid of the irrational they surround themselves with business.” I’m never sure if it is “business” or “busyness”, neither one looks right on the page, I become distracted with this internal debate and fail to pay close attention to the remainder of the lecture.

     “We are to strive not to avoid the anxiety of solitude.” Distracted, I’m not entirely sure who Stewart is quoting here, but it’s good quote, so I write it down. Looking around the room, it appears many of the students are hoping for some sort of solitude in this newly formed, fledgling community of writers. They line the perimeters of the classroom, despite both professors extensive use of the overhead projector built into the center of the ceiling. In coming weeks most of the perimeter dwellers will decline the opportunity to participate in workshop discussions and will not submit material for critique. I will end the class never saying more than hello to most of them. Here again, mission accomplished.

Vocabulary word for the day: Esemplastic
- adjective: having the ability to shape diverse elements or concepts into a unified whole: the esemplastic power of a great mind to simplify the difficult.

     I didn’t write down the context in which it was used in the lecture, but this word does not register in Microsoft Word Spell Check so only really intelligent people use it. People more intelligent than Microsoft Word slip this into ordinary conversation: I’m all over it.

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