I need to get something off my chest. It’s been bothering me for decades now, and that’s not good. But I have decided coming clean will free me up to be guilty about other aspects of my life.
I have a degree in English. It’s actually an English Lit degree with a minor in writing, based on what I studied. Sounds impressive, huh? I wanted a degree in creative writing, but couldn’t afford any of the colleges that offered that degree. Specifically Emerson. Oh how I wanted to go to Emerson.
So I spent four years at a private Catholic college deep in the heart of Connecticut, studying prose and poetry. I have the paperwork that proves I did.
However, I know nothing about literature. I know what I like to read, but I don’t know why I like it. I don’t know anything. I can’t believe I faked my way through college like that. I couldn’t tell you why the Great Novels are great. I don’t even like most of Shakespeare. I suck at English Lit.
Because I have this degree and I feel like certain things are expected of me, especially when I write. That’s the part that throws me into a panic. I keep thinking that having this degree should make me a better writer, but I don’t think it does. I fear it doesn’t. I don’t even like to talk with people who are actually good at this stuff because it’s so intimidating to me. How did I get through four years of college learning to analyze literature and not like good literature? I don’t even have drugs to blame this on, as I am clean as a whistle. I mean, I’m betting the Pope has smoked more pot than I have (which is none).
So the funny thing about this is that I used to write a lot of poetry. I edited my college’s literary magazine my junior and senior years. And get this! I have actually had a poetry reading (with a professor of mine and a friend of his) in a real live bookstore in Hartford. My parents even drove down for that one, which was fun because it was an “alternative lifestyle” bookstore run by some ex-nuns. This was 1987 or so, and I think my parents were shell-shocked, but maybe not.
So even as I’m being asked to participate in a public reading of my poetry, I’m convinced it’s absolute shit, because I cannot tell if it is or not. I like what I’ve written, but I like a lot of things that aren’t good. I enjoy crappy romance novels like there is no tomorrow. I find slogging through most of Dickens a chore (I enjoy the movie versions, though). I have no idea if my poetry is any good, and I’m afraid to find out. One of the other poets had written stuff that sounded completely alien to me. Where his poems good? I have no freaking idea. I didn’t think so, but I think he’d had books published, and I was selling computers, so who was I to judge with my unjustly-earned lit degree?
15 years ago, I actually had my own e-zine called “Block Lines”. Remember those? I was so cool. I published poetry I liked (and some of my own, but other people’s poetry as well.) I don’t know if I was a good editor (I didn’t really edit, I just selected what to publish) but it seemed like a hip, happening way to get some of my work out there. I had a lot of fun with it until I got pregnant and exhausted and put it on hiatus. For 15 years.
Every year as my birthday gets closer, I get a burst of inspiration to write, and this year, for the first time in a decade, I’ve been writing poetry again. I’m not going to share it here because I’m still too terrified that it’s crap. Well, I’m not terrified that it’s crap, I’m terrified that YOU will find out it’s crap.
So that’s what I wanted to come clean about. I’m a possibly crappy writer who can’t use the skills her degree should have given her to validate one way or the other the quality of her writing. There. I’ll start to feel better any minute now.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go write a crappy poem about how this makes me feel.