Time on a cruise ship should be spent having fun, not thinking about bosses, politics or homework assignments. But those of us who attended the “Creative Writing Class” have been thinking about a homework assignment. We were given a prompt then told to write and edit two to three paragraphs starting with that prompt. But with being on holiday and so many other activities to choose from the chance that all of us would even make it to the next class let alone complete the assignment was pretty slim. As mature adults we each gave the assignment the attention we determined was appropriate then directed our energies toward more important things like choosing a dessert, selecting an evening show time or determining when to wake up from our afternoon nap.
Truth be told the cruise line probably offered the class simply to get us out of the buffet line for a few hours so the chefs could take a break. Ryan, the staff member leading the class probably had more noble intentions. Perhaps he wanted to bring other writers together for some writing, socializing and fun.
I was excited and a little nervous as I sat there ready to read my work in front of a bunch of writers for the first time. Ryan divided us into four groups. My group was made up of three old men and one young attractive woman. She had a bubbly personality, wore a bright yellow dress that glowed against her light brown skin and spoke with a charming English accent. To her left sat a talkative, rugged looking American with a long blackish-gray pony tail and booming voice. He announced he retired a few years ago, had been single all his life, and enjoyed hiking, canoeing and traveling. For a moment I thought I was watching the dating game.
To my right sat “The Writer”. He was pale and portly. The skin on his face was mottled with patches of pink surrounded by white, flaky scales. Some of the flakes had broken free but became trapped in skin folds. They dangled helplessly around his eyes, forehead and mouth begging for a good scrubbing. He had an odd, elongated face that stretched from his oily ginger colored hair line down to his cascade of chins. He spoke in a painfully slow and drawn out manner and his personality was as charming as nails scrapping across a chalk board.
The rugged American, bachelor number one, tried to make some chit chat by talking about liking to get an overview of a new place via a bus tour before exploring the area on foot. “The Writer” quickly condemned all bus and group tours and self righteously stated, “I never go on bus or group tours. I only travel alone”. It was quickly becoming clear that other options were probably not available to him.
The young woman was the first to read and openly admitted that she had just written her story ten minutes before class and had no time to edit it. She took an interesting angle on the prompt and was good in her description of persons and places. The rugged American gave a favorable comment as did I. But “The Writer” took issue with our comments.
“We are supposed to give a critical review. Your story was confusing and too descriptive. You need to edit it”, the scaly skinned writer barked. The young woman was jolted by his delivery and comments and sat there wide eyed and speechless. The American said, “I don't see any reason to be so critical”. Then I pointed out that she had already told us that it was not an edited piece. At that point “The Writer” lost it and went on a rant about, “That was not the assignment. We were told to edit for at least a half hour”, and on and on he went. The rest of us just looked at him in disbelief. We all realized that trying to speak rationally with him was not possible so we just waited until he ran out of wind. Then our group fell silent.
The American was up next and simply said, “I didn't write anything”.
Then it was “The Writer's” turn to read. By this point I had absolutely no interest in what he had written and based on the blank, disinterested faces around me I was not the only one feeling that way. He delivered a collection of rambling thoughts in a wispy monotone that made it even harder to fake any interest in his work. When he finished he looked at us as proud as a peacock. It was clear that he found his own work to be flawless. My group sat silent. Perhaps they were overwhelmed by his brilliant prose or maybe they simply couldn't give a “rat's ass” what he said.
Finally I read my three paragraphs. “The Writer” quickly commented, “It's too long.” He offered no explanation as to why he felt it was too long nor where I could tighten it up. I found his three word review to be worthless. I reminded him the assignment was two to three paragraphs in hopes that he would elaborate on his comment but instead he responded with, “I have published thirty books and one was over a thousand pages long.” How that statement related to what I had just read eluded me but it did reinforce my suspicions that he spends a lot of time alone.
Now to say the time I spent with “The Writer” was a total waste would be wrong. His critiques were worthless and his credibility questionable. (The number of books he claimed to have published changed with each class.) In the end he was more pathologic than poetic but he was an interesting character. So interesting that he inspired me to complete this, our final assignment, early and for that I am grateful. I hope it's not too long.