Wednesday, October 10, 2012

writing essays

Last week I started another writing class. This one is on writing personal essays, so if you notice a huge improvement (and increase) in my writing here, you know why. You have UCLA extension to thank for saving you from only posts of NPR links and books I'm reading.

I've learned a bit and read some good writing already, so I know this will be a good one. Typically I'm fresh, ready and excited at the beginning of something - endings are a different story for me. But for one reason or another, the beginning of this class came faster than I expected and I felt caught off guard by it. I feel like I'm playing emotional catch up during this first week, trying to rev myself up.

So I thought I'd list a few goals and hopes here. If you're lucky, I might even follow up and let you know how it played out (but don't get your hopes up, promises aren't always kept on this blog!).

Make it count - I want to take the class seriously. I know I may not have a ton of time for each assignment, but I want each one to count as much as I can make it.

Remember to play - At the same time, I don't want to take myself too seriously, or feel the need for each assignment to be perfect. I will also resist my urge to qualify submissions, especially more experimental ones. This is a horrible habit of mine. The other day a friend, looking at the unsliced cake she'd baked, warned how horrible it would be, and I told her that no baker should qualify her creation. She looked at me with her you've-got-to-be-kidding-me look and said, "you do it all the time."

Be daring - I read two pieces today (here and here) that struck me as incredibly daring. The writers revealed potentially shameful stories - and yet there was a lot of power in them, and personally, there were aspects of each I could relate to, so I was drawn in, curious, reminded and moved. I think readers are most affected by stories that touch the edges of their own experiences - those icky places where we often feel alone, strange and uncomfortable. Daring essays help us to know we're not alone and give us the courage to live those icky places through.

Learn the craft of story - I think this is a weakness in my writing, so it's where I'm focusing my learning in this class. Good personal essays show a transformation, however small. I want to learn how to take a reader through these shifts in a way that helps them live it through, and re-live or recall their own again emotionally (is this what you would call relating?).

My first essay is almost done, and though it's an older story I've told many times, I took some chances in how I told it this time. I plan on submitting it tonight. Fingers crossed that classmates get it and have some constructive feedback for me!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, Betsy! I was just thinking about you...excited for your writing adventure through this class and hoping that we'll get to read some of its fruits.