Dispatches | November 03, 2006

As a teacher at a women’s college I have a unique perch from which to watch and wonder about my students.  For a change, this semester, I have small, boutique classes, which allows me to run a rather informal classroom.  Many of my students feel comfortable telling stories about their boyfriends, and from what I can tell, they settle for what by their own admissions are mediocre guys.  There’s a divorcee who wants my student to become the stay-at-home mom of his posse of hardnosed boys.  Another student dates a “player” who doesn’t return her cell phone calls and openly flirts with her prettiest friends.  Oddly, my least favorite is a small town football hero who has no intention of moving on.  The only one I think I like is a sensitive, girl-pants wearing emo boy who sends care packages of books and candy.

So many of their trials and tribulations were my own, dare I say almost twenty years ago.  I remember it well.  I was an odd looking little girl — gap toothed, fuzzy haired, rail thin — who slowly, and perhaps even miraculously blossomed by the time I arrived at college.  So stunned was I by male attention, I said yes to dates from any guy who asked.  After a number of boring conversations and bad action movies, I opted to spend weekends alone or with the girls in my dorm.  Though I learned to practice selectivity, the dates didn’t dry up.  I can even look back on my college boyfriends and see that I somehow made good choices; they were all bright, hunky, hardworking, what my mother called a “good catch.” 

Yet, I am still in touch with that old familiar feeling when I sit down to write.  Like my students, I sell myself short, though this time around I do it on the page.  I willingly latch onto my first sentence as if I am glad to have any sentence at all.  Unfortunately, I don’t practice the same patience and selectivity in my writing as I do in my personal life, where it’s paid off.  I didn’t marry until I was 37, and I made a whopping good choice.

I call it “writing desperate.”  It is the fear that another idea, another first sentence, another fresh metaphor, you name it, will never come again despite the fact that experience tells me that it will.  All I can do is counsel patience, and take seriously the Post-it on my computer that reads “wait.”