Last night at 6:25, I tried to join a Zoom session for my first writing class. And, naturally with my lack of luck, the internet crashed. No signal. Nothing. Didn’t matter what room I was in or what device I was using, I was not going to get online.
Thank God for my phone and my limited data supply. As I prayed to God and punched buttons, my internet sort of sputtered to life, much like Frankenstein’s monster. I clutched my phone as the little circles spun, indicating digital thinking. And then, the pop-up windows appeared.
I was invited to join the Zoom session.
I was asked about my audio.
And two minutes after the class started, I entered the Zoom session, feeling flustered and worried. Stupid. Of all the damn things, I should not have had internet issues at the last possible second and then struggled with doing something as simple as joining the Zoom session.
My teacher, Jan Clausen, was a wonderful, welcoming individual who guided us through introductions. We gave our names. Our preferred pronouns. Our possible publishing credits. And why we wanted to be in the advanced writing workshop.
My heart thrummed in my neck. My hands jittered. Because I felt so foolish for being late. Because what if I wasn’t good enough?
Everyone talked about their novels and memoirs. Drafts they had been working on for the last…
Maybe six months.
Damn. I’ve got a draft that is sixteen years old. What’s wrong with me?
I tried so hard not to stutter through my introduction which…was me stumbling over my words. I explained that I felt like I…I mean my novel had potential. My novel might have potential and I wanted to reach that potential.
Damn. Damn. Damn. I just sounded like an arrogant idiot. If I could have facepalmed myself, I would have.
Instead, Ms. Clausen said she hoped that the class would match my excitement and enthusiasm. And my nerves quelled a bit while I mentally grinned. Okay. I just grinned even bigger on the screen.
Ms. Clausen invited us to design our own workshop. What were our rules and guidelines? As a small group, we designed how we wanted to interact with one another, how we wanted to help each other grow as writers.
And then came the sharing time. We were asked to have up to three pages, double spaced, of writing that we wanted to share with the group. Something that would reflect and represent our voices, who we were as writers. And after we shared, we then offered insights into what we heard or thought of as the writer read.
What if I’m not good enough? What if I just sound stupid? What if my insights are wrong or if I say the wrong thing?
The first writer was a Hawaiian woman who read her published short story about the volcano goddess and her interacting with the people of the island. The string of simple sentences interlaced with beautiful imagery created a mythological moment. I sat in my living room and breathed in the scent of rainforest blossoms, felt the intense heat of a woman whose veins were lava. I balanced my computer on my lap and steeped in the intense language filled with the mystical and feminine.
I tried. I really tried to offer thoughts. I didn’t want to be the quiet student who seemed like she couldn’t keep up. And when I tried to contribute, I didn’t speak quickly enough, loudly enough. Or maybe the internet crapped out again.
Because when it was my turn, I had to re-read and re-speak at least two times because my internet kept blipping out and people couldn’t hear me. I read a page from my short story about the Greek fates. A magical realism piece that analyzes the destruction of tradition. How we bind people into roles that are inescapable. I read about the day after a girl’s sixteenth birthday and how she had to help her father prep are a body for an open-casket funeral.
I stopped reading. And the fear trembled through me. Made my body quiver as I waited for….
Compliments. The Hawaiian writer noted the magical realism. I was complimented on my juxtaposition of a birthday party against a girl in a mortuary. I was complimented for my vivid details. For the fact that my character was given harp strings.
Each time someone spoke, I felt a thread of hope. A filament of belonging. That I was within my tribe of wordsmiths who loved the art of writing, who loved stringing together words and sentences to create meaning. The inner damn, damn, damn shifted. Morphed into yes, yes, yes.
For the next hour, I sat in the advanced writing workshop and listened to each person read their pieces. I listened to metaphors creating characterization. Heard images build social commentary. Walked down paths with individuals who lead me through historic moments. Or other worlds. Or just through a hospital corridor.
I went from feeling like the other to being part of. I wasn’t outside looking in. I was in. I wasn’t always able to be heard. Because of crappy internet and hesitation laced still with an edge of fear. But I was there. Present. In a world that I have been dreaming of inhabiting.
At 9:30, the class ended. I closed my computer and exhaled my anxiety and sat back into my couch. I chugged water and looked around my tobacco brown painted room with a sense of fulfillment. A sense that the adventure is only beginning.
And I can’t wait.