A Cry – by Colin Pearce

charlie brown sigh-thumb-200x258Tabor Adelaide graduate, Colin Pearce, reflects on life after his MA. Colin’s struggle for inspiration is a familiar one, especially following the intense activity and collegiality of the Masters Program. But in writing this elegant and honest reflection, has Colin finally started to break through?

 

A cry

by Colin Pearce

 

This isn’t a cry for help.

 

This isn’t a cry of despair.

 

It’s just a plain old cry.

 

If completing my Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Tabor didn’t break me, it certainly bent my subframe and it makes me cry.

 

There was nothing wrong with the course.  I loved it. I now have a post nomial to add to my e-mail signature and to add to my creds on my Linked-In account. And better than that, I can wave it in my kids’ faces to show I am not as stupid as they suspect. With the fuss I made about the study and writing I subjected myself to, some less-informed people think I have a PhD. I don’t correct them.

 

I have no complaint about the lecturers and supervisors because I am still in awe of the genius of Dr Mark Worthing who introduced me to the whole program, I remain smitten by the gentle and wonderful wisdom of my supervisor, Dr.  Rosanne Hawke, and stunned at the patience and smarts of my co-supervisor, Claire Bell and the gracious if not flattering encouragement of Dr. Wurst, Dr. Cooper and dear Yr.

 

So why am I bent?

 

I don’t know. And I am not going to pay a head shrinker to find out. And as much as you would like to tell me what you think is wrong with me, I suggest that’s not one of your better ideas.

 

I can only comment on the manifestations of my bentness.

 

At first I went numb for about five months after completing my final submission – maybe seven months. I wasn’t counting. I just sat and stared and forgot what I was saying mid-word and couldn’t find my place again. I even forgot that I was saying anything. I didn’t answer questions such as, ‘Do you take milk?’ or ‘Would you like that as a meal?’ or ‘How’s your day been?’  I didn’t even know what day it was.

 

I shuffled. I slept in a lot and when I got up I went back to bed. I avoided people as much as possible lest I’d have to answer the question, ‘How’s your novel going?’

 

I fell in love with Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris but don’t ask me why. I’ve seen it ten times. Is it that I identified with Gil’s yearning to be completed by a ‘work’, a connection or perhaps a recognition.

 

The Lovely Christine thought I had lost my last marble and took me to a GP who specialises in funny people who’ve lost their last marble.

 

He just said I was just a funny person who’d lost his last marble and that I should take vitamins and drink more water.

 

Fat help!

 

Then it got to the point where I couldn’t read books.

 

I’d try.

 

I’d get half way through the first page and fall asleep. I started with Ulysses and down-graded to Treasure Island, Hiawatha and Winnie the Pooh. I felt I should know more—more about writing and philosophy and general knowledge of all kinds and felt ashamed of the fact that I had not read Moby Dick or The Great Gatsby, War and Peace, The Grapes of Wrath or even Huckleberry Finn. I had a go at Anna Karenina but spent most of the time trying to work out how the book got its name when it was about a love-starved farmer. I still don’t know because I didn’t finish it. I’d think about reading something and then decide I didn’t want to see how clever the author was at openings and creating scenes and characters and running descriptions and plot and sub-plot and denouement and conclusion. I just couldn’t bear to know any more. I still don’t. I don’t want to know how they did it–or do it–with such ease when in contrast I agonised over every letter and punctuation mark and still got them wrong.  I have an Irish mate with barely a Grade 3 education and today he told me he had finished his 159th Kindle read. I stared at him and wondered how he could bare to be exposed to so much of other people’s cleverness without feeling like a leadened shillelagh. He blinked and asked me if I wanted another coffee.

 

And writing?

 

Every syllable is a chore. I haven’t written more than two blog articles in eighteen months. I stopped writing my weekly Kick in the Pants and Two minutes with God about a year back and gave up Facebook to get away from all the lounge-chair critics who needed to tell me their stupid views about everyone else’s stupid views, including my stupid views. They were like a soccer crowd discussing rissole recipes at full volume. I was recently commissioned to write a 7-part retail training series because I am supposed to be ‘the ideal man for the job’, and as much as I am grateful for the money, what used to be as second nature as scratching my ear has turned into a trudge through a turgid mental bog.

 

I would love to be a writer when I grow up. I’d like the world to be a better place because I wrote one of the things that made it so.

 

But … here I am writing this, and crying.

 

 

3 thoughts on “A Cry – by Colin Pearce

  1. Colin – I can truly sympathise. I think yours might be a common experience for many of our MAs – we should think of some ways to touch base and support one another in the months and years after it’s all said and done. If it’s any consolation, you ‘Cry’ made me laugh – not in derision, but for joy at reading your woes expressed so engagingly. So thanks!

    It seems a hard time to be a writer, when words seem so worthless. You finish your reflection by reminding us of one of the writer’s most basic motivations: to have written something that made a difference. But what with a sprawling publishing market and clamourous social media, that may be as unlikely now as ever before, a thought that threatens to sap one’s energy and interest entirely. What do you think?

    For my own part, I continue to try and write because it’s about the one thing I’m any good at. What good may or may not come of it, the good Lord knows. I hope and pray you’ll continue to write, and that in some way God will grant you a glimpse of the fruit of your labour. Hang in there!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My goodness! Colin, I’m sure my response was not the intended outcome of your article, but I found it so encouraging! As a Bachelor degree student undertaking my first term of Creative Writing, I have felt incredibly depressed by the sheer volume of talented writers that saturate the market. I am sure that there cannot possibly be any combination of words left untouched, and so my attempts at unique and insightful writing can only elicit an indulgent sympathy, at best.
    But the thought of following this degree through to Masters level fills me with an even greater dread: that upon completion I will be faced with an expectation of greatness; that surely, by that point, I will be endowed with a kind of literary genius only granted to the elite graduates.
    To know that you are on that distant horizon, sitting glumly before the overpowering wisdom of Winnie the Pooh, crying dejectedly, is enormously reassuring. It means that this journey is not finite. There is no end point. There is only the rise and fall of each day, the continual learning and accompanying humility that comes with exposure to great literature, and the endless drive that sits restlessly within us, prompting and pushing like an overbearing mother.
    And you must know, as I do, that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it! You cannot throw up your hands in despair and announce,”That’s it! I’m not going to be a writer anymore! I’m going to be a painter, or a cobbler, for at least, in those noble professions, there is always an end to each beginning.” Because unfortunately, (or fortunately!) this is our lot in life. The desire to write was birthed long before we were wise enough to protest, and now we can do naught but ride out the undulating seasons of writing, hoping that each winter, with its frozen isolation, will be followed by a spring filled with hope, inspiration, and the fruit of seeds we thought were long-since dead.

    Oh, and if you haven’t already read it, have a look at this article – I found it very encouraging! 🙂

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-09-10/29872

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s