For my first semester, I opted not to take any writing workshops. I wanted to get back to the basics – language, sentences structure, form. I’m taking three classes: Intro to Graduate Writing, Forms of Non-fiction: The Essay, and Forms of Fiction: The Short Story. Next week, I’ll tell you a little bit more about each, in addition to how I’m making ends meet, and attempting to be a full-time daughter, girlfriend, and friend. But, right now, I want to tell you about what I’ve learned.
After one week of classes, I’ve learned two things: I do not have a writing process, and I have never given much thought to the process of writing, and I am more concerned with what writing is doing for me, as opposed to what it’s doing for the reader. These facts make me a terrible writer.
The reason I do not have a writing process is because, for a while, writing came naturally to me. Characters, stories, and scenes came so easily I could barely contain them. Notebooks filled so fast that I was sure I would be published before my first year of college.
My fourth grade teacher, JL, told me I was talented but that I had to focus more on the subjects I didn’t find interesting – like math and science. I remember telling her I wanted to be a writer, and her saying, “Lauren, you are very talented. I know you will be a writer someday.”
That word – “talent” – made me lazy. It made me feel like I didn’t have to try because I was already so damn good. Somewhere along the line I forgot that writing took effort, gusto, and dedication. And then the world began to wound me in all the many terrible ways life wounds women.
For my application submission, I wrote about an event that took place over a decade ago. My college boyfriend and I had a fight one evening in August 2005. The rain and lightning were loud, yet our screams were louder. He’d had a few drinks, tossed me around the room, raped me, and then dragged me out of the house by my hair with no shirt and no shoes. He tossed me into the passenger’s side of his car, drove six miles out, and left me on the side of the road.
As I walked barefoot and topless through the abandoned Pennsylvania streets, I struggled to understand what happened to me. The plot didn’t make sense. And so when I finally got to a place where I could write about it, I became obsessed with making sense of it all. It wasn’t about connecting with the reader, or allowing the reader into my world, it was about me. It has not, however, been about the story. Thus, it’s incomplete. Everything I’ve ever written has been lacking in one way or another, yet I never realized why until now.
I always thought I was putting my soul onto the page – that my passion and love for those words could not be more perfect. But my hubris was on the page. My ego was on the page. My story was not. I wanted the paycheck but didn’t want to clock the hours. But now, I’m presented with the unique opportunity to change not just how I write, but who I am, and I couldn’t be more excited.