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A Huntin' and a Fishin' -- a Memoir! 

Infiltrator stops dreaming and starts writing, via a class at the Learning Annex

Wednesday, Jul 6 2005
I'm blocked. Blocked up. My well has runneth dry. I'm flat out of ideas for my column. What is an Infiltrator to do?! Should I go undercover and infiltrate the subculture of cobblers at a cobbler convention? Maybe pretend I'm a craaaaaazy veterinarian and volunteer to neuter cats?! I guess what I'm trying to say is, I should really stop dreaming and start writing!

Fortunately, while doing laundry, I pick up a copy of the fine Learning Annex course schedule. (Scott Peterson's fuck-buddy, Amber Frey, is coming in August!) I note there's a specific class that will help with my writer's-block dilemma. Ironically, it's called "Stop Dreaming & Start Writing." Bells go off in my head. Then a siren. (Actually, a fire engine goes by.) This is just what I need; to stop dreaming and to start writing. That's my problem: lots of dreamin', not enough writin'. According to the testimonial of Josh Rander, Mission District: "Brilliant and inspiring class. I found it to be much more than I expected. It was time well spent!" Hell, if it's good enough for Josh Rander, Mission District, and his $49, then it's good enough for me and mine. Damn it, this week's column needs to be done; you people need your infiltration fill. If it's only costing $49 for a two-hour session, then tickle my pink little ass, I'm there!

Assembled inside a conference room of the King George Hotel, already sitting with pads of paper and pens at the ready, are 12 people, the majority of whom are moms with glasses. On a large easel, written in marker, are the words "STOP DREAMING AND START WRITING." So the point of the class is clearly made. Also on display is the instructor's obviously made-up writer name. I, too, am going by a pseudonym -- Armando Leonardo -- and he's ready to:

Identify the emotional blocks that held me back in the past!

Learn to conquer procrastination and perfectionism!

Stop trying to write like a "writer" and just be myself!

"We want people to feel like writing is a magical, special thing that should be treated like a luxury," explains our instructor, a blond, business-looking woman. (Or maybe naughty librarian; however you want to approach it.) She appears different than her Learning Annex photos suggest (don't they always). Her luxury comment refers to her four-week course, which she starts pitching at the very onset of this class. "It's held in a beautiful mansion, where great food will be served," she stresses, mentioning that her writing group sits around a large table in an elegant dining room. "It's a place where you can get your writing done!" she says. "One guy finished his first screenplay. He's been working on it for 15 years. He finished it with our writing society in six months."

As she prattles on, great food is once again stressed, along with the option of expensive private consultation sessions; all of it sounding like a fine, crazy throwback to Oscar Wilde times, where witty, well-dressed people eat exquisite hors d'oeuvres, down champagne, and spout delightful lines like "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about" in the midst of an elaborate, drawing-room farce.

But that's only something I dream about. Right now, I need to start writing!

As we pull out our "Stop Dreaming & Start Writing" workbooks, which are laced with inspiring quotes from famous people like Albert Einstein ("Imagination is more important than knowledge") and William Wordsworth ("Fill your paper with the breathing of our heart"), we are asked to list our concerns about writing. (I write, "Not enough racism in my stories.") But that's not enough; I must also listen for a good 10 minutes as we go around the room and learn what the mom-majority feels about the matter.

"I've never done this before," one mom says.

"At one time, you never spoke English, you never drove a car, you never dated," our Learning Annex instructor rebuts. "I think compared to those things, writing a novel is much easier."

(Who knew? Who really knew!)

"I won't be very good," another mom shares.

"You're here tonight," the instructor replies. "You showed up in front of other people; that's a big step!"

My hand goes up. I want to express the concern with my writing.

"It's too real!" I share, nodding my head with an intense look. This garners no verbal response.

The instructor soon moves on to practical writing advice.

"Don't play pingpong in the different sides of your brain." (This seems like good advice. Maybe that was it -- I was different-side-of-the-brain pingpong-playing.)

"Every time that little voice comes up in your head, say, 'OK, inner critic, I don't want to hear it.'" (More good advice. But she doesn't explain what to do if that little voice also says to bury hitchhikers and drifters under the floorboards of the house.)

"You don't sit down to be famous or brilliant." (Speak for yourself, mon frère, speak for yourself!)

Again, the mansion and how we can join our instructor's writing society after the four-week course and a private consultation (after which, all you pay is monthly dues) are brought up. "In my writing program, everyone comes and has a cocktail party every week!" she explains with a wide smile. I guess that's fine; I mean, Jackie Collins' novels have to be written, too. "If you make an appointment with me, you would not go clean your bathroom. You'd be focused. If you had an appointment with me, you'd show up. And you'd do what is expected," she says. "It's like having a personal trainer at the gym." (Or a dominatrix, if you think about it.)

"I want to go around the room, tell why we're here, and the project we're working on," the instructor says.

The next half-hour is spent doing just that.

About The Author

Harmon Leon


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