I took Creative Writing: Nonfiction as an elective this semester. But I wouldn’t have if I’d been a little better informed on what the class was. I know plenty of people who love it; in fact it almost seems like the whole class does except for me. Well, and one of my best friends, but she hardly counts because she doesn’t like anything except Sweeney Todd and tea. In fact, another of my best friends practically worships the class, then again I disagree with him on pretty much everything except the fact that fencing is fun.
Well, I don’t know what most people think when they hear Creative Writing: Nonfiction, but for me it certainly wasn’t memoir. I was thinking, I don’t know. . . historical stuff, creative essays, whatever. But NOT memoir. Or mehm-wahr as I now say and spell it automatically as a result of my teacher’s peculiar stressing of the word.
Memoir is writing about yourself (honestly!) as if the rest of the world cares. There is no making stuff up. There is no lying. Changing names is discouraged. And you have to think about yourself constantly until you’re virtually wallowing in self-pity. For some reason, no one is interested in your story at all if it’s happy. And this makes perfect sense to me in writing fiction: conflict, conflict, conflict. But in memoir-writing, that means I have to think about my worst experiences and then whine about them. …? Really? This is supposed to give me closure. . . or help me towards my apotheosis. . . or something. . . but isn’t that my business? Not something a class at school should be doing?
It’s by far the most touchy-feely class I’ve ever had, kind of like a less direct human development session. And as if this weren’t enough, we don’t even read the works (or fine, the memoirs) of amazing writers. Or even great writers. Hell, I’d settle for good ones. Much as I hate to say it because I respect him so much, Somerset Maughm’s writings would be perfect models for this class, but do we read anything like him? Nooooo. We read David Sedaris as if he were Joseph Conrad. (He’s not. I shouldn’t even have put them in the same sentence.)
Only this week we read his The Ship Shape (and you can’t imagine my horror when I found that in The New Yorker) and yet again I felt the need to complain to some higher power which would deliver me from Sedaris and poems about glasses full of mucus (I didn’t make that up).
So I’ve decided now that the only way I can could get anything good out of the class would be by posting my assignments on here and, well, making fun of them. So here goes:
Tarot Card Exercise: September 7, 2010
Look at the card that you have selected. What does it remind you of? A story from your own life? A feeling you have experienced? A relationship you have had? A memory?
Write for 50 minutes about how the imagery in the card relates to you.
You may use the card as a literal or figurative source of inspiration. For example, if you have drawn “The Tower,” you may write about a literal experience that you had with a Tower, or you may write about anything the image of a tower reminds you of. You may use the card in any way you would like.
Do not worry about making a polished piece. Begin writing and see where your thoughts take you. If you find yourself getting stuck, hit the enter key and move onto something else.
If a black cat crossed your path, little woman, would you walk along with me?*
Yeah, I would. Right under a ladder.
And so, is it surprising that all I see is a lousy bit of laminated cardboard staring self-importantly at the ceiling. My future? Present? Past even? I doubt it. If a human can’t predict how I’ll kick the bucket mathematically or psychologically, why should I believe that a flimsy card can help decipher tomorrow morning’s breakfast? Right. I shouldn’t.
Just like I shouldn’t call 1 (800) 792-3243 (that’s 1 (800) 792-3243) for a Palm, Tarot, and Psychic Reader whose pathetic ad I unfortunately glimpsed on TV.
I think I’ll leave that to anyone so completely lost in life that they cam actually put their faith in a bit of paper. And not even a paper dollar, either. Just a simple red-backed card bearing an odd illustration of five men fighting with medieval quarter-staffs in Roman togas under the caption “The Five of Wands” as if I’m meant to care. Am I supposed to take that seriously? Apparently so, but I exist to disappoint.
I’m staunchly atheist. Staunchly scientific. And staunchly logical. Tarot cards, do not even verge on logic. The word itself is absurd—Ta-row? I distinctly recall a ‘t’ coming at the end of that word and yet I’m not allowed to rhyme it with parrot. How can I trust something that deliberately misleads a person with it’s name? It would be like befriending a pterodactyl! This expensive deck of cards is right up there with tea-leaf reading, palm-examination, and crystal ball-gazing. All superstition. All laughable. All equally non-existent.
At this, the card no longer stares, but glares. Challenging my challenge to its own existence. I answer it gladly and pick up my own wand: Ikea scissors, label still attached—the Five of Wands’ white flag. See? The word “wand” can apparently apply to anything. A pink sparkly thing topped by a bright star and wielded by some grotesque fairy at Disneyland. A quasi-sentient stick of wood. A walking stick. A medieval quarter-staff. And even, a pair of twenty-first century scissors. Amazing, isn’t it, the flexibility of one word?
They quake and tremble now, clawing at the frame of their card-cum-prison as I raise my Ikea scissors—snip!—open them—snap!—and close them once more—snur! The little men have abandoned whatever brotherhood (or lack thereof) they once belonged to and tumble and trip over one another as they fight to make their way out of their picture—all wands but my smilingly bright one forgotten.
They all tilt and fall against the side of the sky as I pick up the card in my left hand, Ikea scissors poised. Their wands roll over the hill and out of sight, whatever power they once possessed bowing to my utterly human one.
Ikea scissors flash and the deck is one short. I told you not to trust me with your card, Alice.
*The Kinks, Good Luck Charm
Brilliant, right? Riiiiiiiiight. Just thoroughly annoyed. And even more so when my teacher wrote on the paper right by Just like I shouldn’t call… “Yes! Please do!” Yuck.
The assignment bugged me so much I couldn’t take it seriously at all. Just look what I ended up writing about: cutting up the card. And 50 minutes? Psh! I get like 5 hours of homework a night! I’m not spending 50 more minutes to write about my experiences with wands.