Week 1: what I’m looking for

Identify the kind of writing you want to do, provide examples, explain those features that attract you.

It seems too easy to say I want to create pieces that linger with people, that resonate with something deep within, something they maybe didn’t even know was there. I want to create some sort of lens through which the reader can view the world with openness, compassion, and hope, but, more importantly, truth. I don’t want sugar-coated, feel-good stories or sentimental sap. I want humor and insight and patience and appreciation.

“Goodbye to All That” – Joan Didion
– covers a universal time in a woman’s life without being trite by 1) identifying the commonness of the experience; and 2) using simple phrases to avoid dramatizing
– using specificity to make details unique
– language and structure matches tone of essay: languid and nostalgic when recalling pleasant memories shifts abruptly to despair and fatigue; she doesn’t linger over the heartache because that is not the point here

“The Fourth State of Matter”- Jo Ann Beard
– brilliant use of theme with plasma, time with her dog, her relationship with her husband, and the shooting; creates cohesion and understanding by grouping like things together in an unexpected way
-use of language–vivid and touching moments without being too sentimental

“The Love of My Life” – Cheryl Strayed
– everything is present right at the beginning using simple language so it’s not over-played
– refusal to come to a reassuring ending; reality above closure
– so much raw truth and emotion must have been physically painful to write and publish

“Black Holes” – Bill Capossere
– seamless transitions between research/science and the more personal exposition- covering a “popular” phenomenon makes the science more approachable- good use of speculation–using the fragments you know to draw logical conclusion about what you don’t


Week 1: thoughts on Keyes

(I assigned myself the book “The Courage to Write” by Ralph Keyes. Seemed like a good place to start for someone pretty terrified to sit down and try to put things out there. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be writing some reflections on what I’m reading.)

The primary feeling I had after the first two chapters of “The Courage to Write” was relief. The first chapter was essentially a litany of all the fears resting within writers through the ages–the historic sense of dread that seems to haunt every great writer regardless of his/her success and tenure. So the main message there seemed to be you are not alone. Which, for me, does provide a fair bit of comfort.

In chapter 2, Keyes seems to boil the essence of a writer’s fear down to the fear of exposure. I whole-heartedly agree with that. It is at the root of all my hesitations–fear that, should anyone read anything I put real effort into, they  will know me for what I fear I am: a poser, a hack, a terrible writer. For as long as I have been engaged in writing in one way or another, I have always suspected that those who have encouraged me along the way, who have given me positive feedback and insisted that I keep writing, were just being nice. I have a deep-seated suspicious that I have been tricked into thinking I have any skill as a writer that merits attention. The acknowledgement that dozen of certified “good” writers have suffered from these same misgivings is somewhat reassuring, but really does little to lessen my fear of exposure.

I am a little wary of how helpful the entirety of the book will be as it seems like Keyes may break things up into the different stages of publishing in order to address the fears associated with each. But, lordy, I’m so far away from most of those fears that reading about them almost creates more shame—like why am I bothering to learn how to deal with fears on a level I will never reach?

so I guess I’m doing this thing or whatever

Because I’m equal parts nerdy, weird, and over-eager, I created a self-taught writing workshop for myself. Mostly inspired by Gabriela Pereira’s DIY MFA . I’m pretty shy about my personal endeavors (or at least the ones that really mean something to me), so it feels a little scary to put this out there. But I’ve given myself weekly assignments, and I need a place to put them to hold myself at least a little accountable. So they’re going here. Sorry if they’re terrible.