I Will Never Make Anything This Good

The way most Creative Writing classes work is that you write something, a story or poem or essay, and then you "workshop" it. That is, you show up to class, full of anxiety, pass out the story that's been incubating in the deepest ventricle of your heart and then wait for people to rip it up. My first workshop was nerve-wracking. My second was full of regret. My third was interesting and fulfilling.

My fourth is tomorrow.

The thing is, I've still got to workshop a couple of stories by my peers before I pass out mine. The worst part, the part that makes me so fucking wrecked that I had to type it up on my goddamn childish blog, is that it's so fucking good. It's like a lightning speed guitar solo that bleeds emotion. It's so good and astounding that it makes you cringe. And I have to follow that! It raised the bar and I have to follow it.

See, I believe us Creative Writing majors keep tabs on each other. We bare our souls and personalities and vulnerabilities in our work, a side that others don't normally get to see. So we make notes on who's great, who's not, who is pretentious and who drops way too many references. There was this one person, who's been in a couple of my classes, that I've always thought was uniquely talented and usually had the best story in the class. This time around, that person had a good story - but not great. Kind of obviously flawed in certain areas. It was comforting that someone that I held in pretty high regard was as fallible as the rest of us.

Then this fucking story comes around, by some new person. This fucking story that is beautiful in its images and its narrative and its theme -- oh my god, when was the last time an intermediate workshop had stories with such big, powerful themes without being pretentious? -- it makes me curse. The work is so whole and complete that it hurts. I know I've said this about a few different works of art, but when I am exposed to this level of talent, I often think to myself: I wish I was this good at anything.

Sure, it's fine when Margaret Atwood or Don DeLillo or David Eggers is excellent at writing. They've got years of experience, we're at entirely different points in life, there is some far off chance that I could attain that skill level after college. It's expected that they're leaps and bounds bigger than me. But this is the first time that I've read work by a peer that is that good. The quality is astounding and I'm not sure what to write in my critique. I'm not sure how to not gush praise. Our stories, as writers, are extensions of ourselves. A story this good makes me feel that not only is this motherfucker a better writer, he's a better person. Do you understand the magnitude of that? Do you understand the power of that idea?

I like this story more than I like myself.

And that's amazing and terrible and beautiful and depressing. That is an antipode of emotions that only makes my job as a writer trying to impress my peers with my stupid joke-laden characters and their incredibly mundane emotional conflicts. This is the big pond now, there are other fish, and I'm starting to find that I can't swim.