I've almost made it through my first eight-day residency at Goddard's MFA program in Port Townsend, WA. The cool breezes are carrying me through. From the folks back in Ohio I hear daily of 90+ degree days with smothering humidity - the kind that reminds me of stepping face first into a blow dryer and make me threaten to leave Ohio in late summer every year.
Last night I swallowed a huge lump in my throat and stood before twenty of my peers to read the opening chapter of my memoir, Memorial, at the student reading. I did it only because another student told me that the faculty retains the reading lists to track which students participate more than others. I'm still a "good student," at heart. They're also asking for student council nominees. No way am I tossing my name in that hat.
As I stood up to read, I made a futile attempt at self-deprecating humor which the members of the audience met with confused stares. My hands shook as I read, but I made it through all three pages without fainting. Luckily I had practiced reading it before one of my writing groups back home and I read slowly to avoid mumbling.
When I went back to my dorm room (I call it "the monastery" because I'm the sole student in that wing), the monkey mind part of my brain went nuts. You don't belong here. Your writing is flat. No one liked what you read. You'll never be a writer. You don't use metaphor. You didn't take any risks. You're boring, boring, boring. Go back to Ohio and stay there before they run you out of here. And on and on and on. I chanted my mantra, "I'm here, therefore, I belong here. I'm here, therefore I belong here. I'm here, therefore I belong here . . ." until I fell asleep.
Before 9:45AM this morning, four people had come up to me to say how much they liked what I read. One woman said, "I loved the images in your work. Your writing is so visual." Another said, "It moved me so much that I got up this morning and phoned my 80 year old father to see how he was." So much for the validity of monkey mind!
Will that inner critic ever go away? Probably not. At least not as long as I try anything new. Push on. Push forward. Don't be distracted. I came here to learn and that is exactly what I'm doing. The Universe is providing plenty of opportunity.