these days, i’m laughing at myself when i remember that i’m enrolled in an mfa program. i applied because i love to write. i applied because i want to make writing a part of my life. i applied, in part, because i didn’t think i’d ever get in.
but i’m in. and i’m doing it. and some days it makes me hate writing. some days i feel accomplished – made to believe by the high i feel from the words i’ve put on the page that the thousands of dollars i’m spending are worth it. other days i feel discouraged – certain that my work is lesser than that of my peers, that my ideas are too intentional and not intentional enough.
some days i feel nothing – nothing about writing, that is. i feel that i can take or leave it, that i should have stayed at home if all i wanted was to write a little something every now and then. other days i feel like there are stories to be told and that i must be the only person on earth that can tell them. those days, i sit and write so fast i can’t think straight – liberating those whose stories are told through my fingers.
i am not used to this. i am not a trained writer of this sort. i am trained to write critical papers, to frown over pages of a literary thesis until i can recite it from memory. i am trained to read like an academic.
and now i am expected to let go. to let the story write itself. to let the characters reveal themselves to me. i am no longer supposed to plan the ending, necessarily, or know for certain that the thesis statement, if you will, will not change. i am supposed to enjoy this loss of control.
i am trying to learn to do this. before i can trust myself to do it well, i must first trust myself to do it. to expect nothing and hope for everything at once. it’s hard.
this week, when my head aches at the thought of the genius intricacies in the work of my classmates and i am overwhelmed by the amount of reading to be done on top of my writing assignments in the coming months, there is one consolation.
driving to church last weekend, alex and i turned next to a large cemetery that we pass often. out the passenger side window, i saw a man standing at a grave. i could not see a standing headstone, only a tiny cup of flowers. through the fog, i could tell that he stared down at a flat gravestone. it must have been someone he loved. or someone he hated. why else would he stand there, in the damp, cool air, alone on a sunday morning?
in the car that morning, i did not point out this man to my husband. i did not need to. i needed to remember him. to see him and hear him and know him through the heavy morning so that he can tell me his story. this week, it is this man that inspires me. his story needs to be told and i have tried all week to convince him to tell it to me.
instead, though, i am afraid. afraid i will not do this man justice. afraid it will not be good enough. afraid i will get it wrong. to tell the story of one man, standing in a cemetery on a misty morning in september, i have to be brave. i have to be brave enough to start. i can’t get anywhere until i start.
starting is the hard part.