Monday, October 1, 2012

Doing Things Wrong the Right Way by Pavarti K. Tyler

My traditional education experience was somewhat schizophrenic.  I attended Smith College as a theatre student who couldn't act.  I also had a sociology minor, but thanks to my social anxieties I avoided talking to people, an essential skill for a sociologist! 

What I did have under my belt though, was an absolute love of reading.  I read (and still do) anything I can get my hands on.  I love a book I can loose myself in so completely that I become another person, live another culture, revel in the sorrows and pain of a life I have never lived. I’ve made it my life's mission to find the books that are the most interesting, most unique, best crafted pieces of writing I can find.  It's been a hit or miss endeavor, but in the end it's been worth it.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy a good NYTs best seller now and then.  Hell, I'm one of those "twilight people" you've been known to make fun of (don't pretend you haven't).  I love a good new Sookie book and often pick up whatever the newest big thing is when I'm at the airport.  But left to my own devices, I'm more likely to check out the newest release from Interlink Books than Random House.

This has inspired my writing.  I’ve held onto this idea of writing the story that I believe in, not the one that will sell.  It also got me through college thanks to an English professor who took me on as a project. 

In the words of Luc Guilleman, "everything you write is wrong but somehow it works!"

During my senior year he threw his hands up and said, "Fine, write it however you want, we'll fix it later" and sent me on my way to begin writing my Senior Thesis paper.  I spent the next six months, writing and editing while simultaneously directing the play that would correspond with the paper. Directing and Dramturging a full length piece with a unique approach and student designers/actors turned out to be the easy part.  The paper gave me fits.  I desperately tried to understand the structure of quality writing.

January arrived and my Production of "The Trojan Women" by Euripides opened. Thanks to the amazing men and women I worked with, it was a success.  We opened to a full house and received rave reviews from the college papers as well as local news organizations and the theatre community.

But the paper still sat, mocking me with its incomplete state.

I had two working titles, as divergent in theme as they were in style: "Helen of Troy; victim of her times or whore" and "The Effect of the Peloponnesian War of Euripides’ Interpretation of the Trojan Women." 

The Helen of Troy paper inspired the Smithie Feminist within me as well as the rebellious part of me that wanted to explore our assumptions about her character.

However, the Euripides paper was more likely to pass the thesis review board.

So I wrote both.  The second semester of my senior year was light on class work (although I did take a particularly awesome Indian Dance Class), and I spent most of my time writing.  Half way through the semester I presented Professor Guilleman with both papers.

After reading them, Luc called me into his office.  Sitting his chair with his long spindly arms holding up his head he spoke the infamous words: "Everything you write is wrong, but somehow it works!"

At his suggestion, I abandoned the Euripides paper and devoted myself to working on the Helen of Troy idea.  In the end, I did not receive Thesis credit for my work, but what I did earn is of significantly greater value: reaching the people who read your work is incalculably more important than fitting inside someone else's mold.

As an adult, my "wrong" way of approaching work and writing has led to success as a business woman, a human being and an author.  I would have never learned that without having read some amazing transgressive books and the exasperation of one Professor Luc Guilleman.

About the Author

Pavarti K Tyler is an artist, wife, mother and number cruncher. She graduated Smith College in 1999 with a degree in Theatre. After graduation, she moved to New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off Broadway.

Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry for several international law firms. She now operates her own accounting firm in the Washington DC area, where she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not preparing taxes, she is busy working as the Marketing Director of Novel Publicity and penning her next novel.
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  1. Leave it to you to be such a rebel and make it work :) Great post!

  2. I love this post!! And from one of my new-found faves!! YAY

    I started reading really young - but my favorite book (and the one I go back to often, even now) is Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

    What a great concept. I just took a ton of books to the senior center here - I needed shelf space.

    1. Thanks doll! I'm honored to be a fav! WOW.
      My kids love Anne of Green Gables, it's a perfect audio book for long car rides!

  3. Great post Pavarti -- everything wrong is right again! One of the best things I've ever done for myself was NOT taking many creative writing classes. I had been such an avid reader for so long (raised on the classics) that I thought "I'll never be able to write like that." And guess what? I was right. If I had tried, in one of those writing classes, I'd be sure to have plenty of people eager to tell me how I had fallen short. Before writing my first novel, I was working on plays and screenplays -- mostly dialog. The best advice I gave myself was "Write only what you want to write about and write it just the way you want." Nothing wrong with that:)

    1. Thanks Richard! As anyone who knows me can attest, I love breaking the rules :) I was an avid reader too, but I grew up reading Lord of the Rings at 8 and TommyKnockers at 10 (my dad has a warped sense of "age appropriate") but I'm thankful for it. I was taught to read critically because he and I would talk about the books we read on the phone every week. It was a great way to bond with a parent who didn't live with me and really set me up to always look at things analytically.

  4. I loved your post. Conventional rules and formats have crushed many writers.

    1. Thanks Eleanor, seems like we had some similar issues following the rules!

  5. Fantastic article Pavarti! I can totally relate to what you say here (and others such as Richard Long above too)... What drives me to write and create is to take the rules and bend them into new and unique ways. This to me is one of the hallmarks of a great writer: to do things in new ways, push boundaries and discover new territories. Too often I think we can lapse into the mind-set of only following in the footsteps of others, and adopting the advice of others as if it's the "right" or even "only" way. But I chose to follow my own path and believe that greatness will come to those who do the same :)