Here are nine things you can do in the break during a workshop:
So some people liked it. Sort of. Nobody really got it, but at least some people liked it. Also, most of what they critiqued, especially that part with the dog, you already knew needed work. Except for the windowsill scene—what did everyone have against the windowsill scene? You thought at least Steve would dig that. Oh well. Cut for next draft.
You’re vulnerable now. They opened you up and stuffed line-edits between your ribs. Make a move and the words will shatter. Hold still and stay safe; they pass conversation behind your back until the skin has been sewn shut again. They never wanted to tear it, would help patch over your sternum if they could. But they can’t.
You’re vulnerable. Play dead.
Grab a coffee
A sturdy bridge over slippery stones. In line for your third caffeine fix of the day, say things like Wow, hopefully this’ll wake me up, or, I probably spend more money on dark roast than I do on tuition, ha ha. Flimsy jokes about student life let your classmates know you’re ready to talk, but steer clear of the tough subjects. That typo on page ten, for instance. Seriously, how did you not catch that? Now they probably think this is just a joke to you, a hobby. You don’t even care enough to proofread.
Or don’t say anything. Avoid cautious glances, cautious voices, by rummaging through your backpack. Count out exact change. Then pretend to add milk and sugar even though you drink it black. Grin when you pass by the others, tilt your coffee cup towards them like a nod. Take a sip.
Go for a walk
Prof said ten minutes. Wander once around the Fine Arts building and it’s been two-and-a-half. Walk around again, this time cut over the plain of grass that slopes towards the parking-lot. Damp soil seeps through your socks, tastes toes one-by-one.
It’s been four minutes now. Reverse direction, walk again. Run. Run and run until you vomit breath and worry and cold from your stomach. Wait thirty seconds and swallow it before you go back inside, so nobody will know.
Check your email
Your monthly Visa statement is available. Please log into your account to view it, and perhaps reconsider your spending habits.
Room Magazine thanks you for submitting your short story for consideration. Unfortunately, they are unable to accept it for publication.
Skyscanner price alert! Flights from Vancouver to Honolulu for only five-hundred-and-fifty-six dollars return! Don’t miss out on this amazing deal!
Read peer edits in the bathroom
To do this right, you need to wait. At least three minutes until the toilet rush finishes. Then slide into a stall and unfold your bundle of critiques.
Skip the first paragraphs—everyone only writes what they have to there: introductions, scrounging niceties. You don’t need that. You need the hard stuff. Read paragraphs titled “Things to Improve.” Holy shit. You have so much to improve. This might mean rewriting the ending. And totally cutting the part about the dog. Fuck. You really like the dog.
Okay, maybe read the first paragraphs. Maybe you do need that. Steve thought the reference to Yeats was pretty clever. Alright.
Somebody shifts into the next stall. Papers rustle.
Climb a tree
There are three good trees. Trees you can climb in less than a minute, at least ten feet off the ground. The first one is a deciduous, you don’t know what kind. The leaves have withered yellow but still frame branches thickly enough to obscure the caged hollow at its heart. Stand on tiptoe to reach the first branch, feel your weight lift from legs to arms. Swing back, forth, back, forth. And now—launch your body forward, bend knees, heave hips, twist torso. Wriggle into a coon-squat on the second branch. There’s a place, a perfect place, at the center of the tree. Align your vertebrae against pale wood. Dangle arms by your sides.
The other two trees are evergreens, shading the sidewalk—that asphalt prairieland that spreads beneath planted with cars, scattered motorcycles. Thick lower boughs, wider than your own waist, make both these trees easy to clamber cloudward, higher and higher, to where rough foliage scrapes and snaps against your neck. Higher and higher, until the branches thin to the width of your wrist and sink under your weight. You perch level with the second floor of the Fine Arts Building. Look into office windows, see tired professors answering questions from tired students. Look down, see people scuffle by with books in their arms and phones between their thumbs. Nobody ever sees you.
Look up cheap flights to Cuba
Prices go waaaaay down in February.
Fake an interest in the hallway posters
Open mic poetry reading at Felicitas, Thursdays at eight. Free to attend! Free to participate!
Apply: MFA in Creative Writing, University of Guelph. Deadline tomorrow for admission in September. Choose to specialize in short fiction, long fiction, medium-length fiction, epic poetry, poetic-prose, CNF, experimental journalism, memoir, one-act plays, five-act plays, copywriting, ghostwriting, zombiewriting, mocumentaries, low-budget indie screenwriting, bitter satire. Partial scholarships available.
Book launch! This Tuesday! Munros! Three new works by UVic Alumni! All of whom write better and have attained more success than you ever will! Fifteen dollars!
Sneak onto the roof
Everyone else chose ii: Grab a coffee. The prof has scurried away to the photocopier, printing extra handouts of “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” You, miraculously, have been left alone.
The window in this room is broken. Unlatch locks and push glass wide. Stand on a chair, on the ledge beneath the window, and become birthed onto tarmac. Water gathers in corners, at edges—seizes leaves in its gutter-swill. Walk towards the side, peer down. Feel dizzy.
Now lay your coat over your shadow, lay your body over your coat. Birds spike upwards, then plummet beneath the outline of Douglas firs at the edge of campus, glide to the conclusion of this ridiculous Freytag’s triangle. And you know you’ll keep that part with the dog. No matter what classmates and speckled sparrows say. You love that part.
Please note: The opinions expressed by guest bloggers at the Submittable blog are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Submittable.