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