Saturday, June 14, 2008

on how i'll spend my summer


Ive gotta start writing my memoirs. no. not in a James Frey style i hope Oprah doesn't berate me on national television way, (though i would be lying if i said the seeds of this venture weren't as vain and perverted as that), this project is much more academic. this is for a class.

yes, i have school work over the summer.

i explained the class a while back when i first started it. the course is called a seminar in autobiography. it is at once a writing workshop and an academic exercise with focus on historical context. it goes over the course of 3 semesters. to get into it you have to maintain a 3.6 grade point average for two years, then contact the professor directly to ask permission for entry. if you're gpa meets the criteria you have to send her two creative writing and academic essay examples. it was also encouraged to get a couple professor recommendations. after jumping through these hoops, i began the course a year ago.

there are obvious reasons why i would want to take such a class. anyone that has ever read five or more entries of this blog can gather that writing about myself and the life I've led is one of my "things." i get off on it. it is an intense yet abstract desire of mine to lend words to the life i lead. in a way, it makes me feel like my existence has some importance. maybe it's arrogance or just simple insecurities, i don't know. but i feel better thinking that my life is worth something to write about. it helps me cope. (i guess i should also admit that i think other people lead lives much more interesting to write about, and i get off on writing about those people too.)

but the big kicker, and the reason i signed up so quickly, was that on top of the eight credits you get for passing the actual classes, when you finally hand in your memoir, you can get another zero to eight credits for that (depending on how good it is). then, as if that weren't enough reason to scribble my john hancock along the dotted line, going with the theme of autobiography, you can also hand in a life experience portfolio* and receive up to twelve more credits. that there is the possibility to bank three and a half semesters of school in one fell swoop. (is that the phrase, "fell swoop?") how could i not pass on it?

the first semester of the course was spent studying sad, historical memoirs. we had to write a lot of academic papers, critical essays mostly, analyzing how the writer structured their life and framed it in context. there were a few personal essays as well, and we did a lot of writing exercises and reading each others work, but at the end of the day, we were graded on how well we understood structure, theme and context, and how grammatically correct we wrote.

the second semester we studied more personal memoirs, still with some historical context, but we didn't have to write papers on them. we just had to read them. i don't think i finished even one. we had to write three personal essays over the course of the semester. the focus was on editing ourselves, so the professor didn't help as much as just guided. there were some weeks when we weren't even required to be in class for lecture. i would have posted them here, but didn't think they were of reasonable length. they were long. after one thousand words, blog post can get a little tedious, so i try not to post things too lengthy. [of course i break this rule all the time. so sue me.]

anyway, only half the students from the first semester continued on to the second course. some didn't do well enough and werent readmitted into the class, and others just decided they didn't want to take on the project, which entails spending the entire summer writing your memoirs and having them fully finished and edited to hand in by October.

which brings me to here. its mid June and i haven't started them yet.

its that age old question i ask: what do we find harder, to start something, or to finish it? at first you think its hardest to start. that's your natural instinct. this is because it takes so incredibly long to get something - anything- going. but then once you start, you realize it is remarkably harder to finish. and only after time do you understand that it is this inherent knowledge, this predisposed fear, of not being able to finish, that makes it so immensely hard to start in the first place. which begs the question: whats harder, starting something, or finishing it?

Ive been reduced to the exercise of one of my stoned, philosophical musings.

Ive narrowed down what years I'm going to write about. I'm skipping all the tragic childhood shit. who needs to hear that again? no, i hope to focus on the guy those early years created. you take a boy that, for the first 15 years of his life lives with no sense of stability, his life a pandemonium of disappointments loosely perforated with the occasional moment of love and relief, then you install him into the middle class American family. you inject him into the ordinary life. who does he become? was he that person already? and how does his past haunt him? how does he handle all the ghost?

though that last paragraph was teetering on the brink of gibberish, it is the springboard for what i want to write. I've got about ten years mapped out in my head, with pretty strong bookends. and i have a loose idea of how i want to begin and end it. but i just cant seem to start. i keep making excuses.

oh, i cant start until i go to San Francisco and do some more research and maybe some interviews with people. i cant start because the sun is too high and warm and i should get out of the house more often. i cant start because i don't know what chapter i want to start on. i cant start because jamie lidell was on conan a few nights ago and i haven't asked every music geek i know what they thought of his performance. i cant start because i just finished class and i need a vacation. i cant start because i have this gas and i just cant concentrate when i have gas. i cant start because its simply not time for me to start.

really I'm too concerned with it. i need to just start and begin and power through and kinda suffer. its way too big to start last minute. i have to start it soon. I'll tell you what, if i mention that i haven't started by mid July, please start sending me death threats.

*im somewhat unclear on what this portfolio should consist of. essentially, we have to prove that in the "real world" we learned things that would equate taking some college accredited course. i.e. i can qualify that by throwing raves and clubs i learned money management and budget crap. im sure there is some class for that.

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:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at downtownalleys.blogspot.com.