The Pain of English

Here I go again: I signed up for a writing class. The last one was hell. Hell. I fed myself a pathetic line about not learning anything without torture and convinced myself using hindsight that writing was not all that bad…and look at all the impressive scars I get to carry away. There may be a kernel of truth buried somewhere in the statement about no-pain-no-gain but it does not apply to writing. Writing is enjoyable. Should be enjoyable, I mean. I’ve romanticized about plodding to class every day, submitted myself to be metaphorically stripped and beaten, felt degraded and worthless, struggling all the while to uphold an illusion of winning a battle against the ruthless critic that is myself. They are merely sunk costs: the beatings and twisting on the rack every day that I might intimidate the foe by flashing my scars, hoping the perilous relationship between scar and skill remains obscured.

It’s not the hasty papers that get the pencil; no, it’s always the ones I’ve poured full days and nights into—getting every line and sentence just right, aligning imagery, prose, and tone to the setting, painstakingly looking up definitions of every other word—they are the papers that return sagging beneath a rash of corrective lead. It might as well be bullets that kill me forthright.

It is all for naught. How many well-known writers began their career by acing their writing classes? No. It was the dropouts, the drunkards, and wife-beaters who were destined to the reclusive fame of the writer. What are several hundred penciled comments on the papers of a random person to the gods? It means nothing. My fate is to submit myself to unceasing degradation while the true writers hasten their destruction by vice and whiskey. After years of torture I am forced to concede that writing teachers do not chastise the cherished. It was my last reprieve.

One tiny comfort remains: Having submitted myself to the lions, stretched my sinews upon the rack, and walked bravely to the stake, how could karma ignore my sacrifice? If not in this realm—in the afterward I choose to be a writer. And so I continue in this disingenuous incorporeality…

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