What is a Top Choice for a Writing Class and Why is it Sarah Lawrence College’s virtual writers’ week? (Part 1)
(not sponsored, unfortunately.)
So you want to be a writer.
It’s what you’ve always wanted to do. It’s what you promised yourself in the corner of your elementary school library. But you don’t say that out loud. You tell no one about it, not even your reflection on the glossy cover of your favorite novel.
Things have changed. The bookshelves in your bedroom are loaded with AP prep books and you don’t remember the last time you added something to your to-read list. You know, the bulleted catalogue in your iPhone notes app, along with the unfinished poems you wrote at twelve and the not-so-original novel pitches with endings too happily-ever-after for your likings now.
Your high school friends know you enjoy reading, writing, poetry, and all that shit, but it’s just a hobby. It’s just another extracurricular that’ll take up one, times-new-roman, 12pt font line on your college applications. You glance into your future years and see yourself in medical school, in law school, as an engineer, as a financial manager. You see yourself marrying a male colleague you don’t hate before you turn thirty and you see yourself having kids with him and going on a family vacation once in a few years and you see yourself retiring at sixty-four and you see yourself living the life everyone around you has wanted you to live.
After all, you, right now, are nothing but another kid sitting on your bed at 4am, teary-eyed from a fic on Wattpad, staring out the window, wanting to scream because you know that you’re not crying for the protagonist of the book but for how you don’t want your life to turn out the way it inevitably will.
But one night, things change, again. You sign up for this writing and theatre program from a liberal arts college you’ve heard of from a friend of a friend.
No. This article is not going to go into detail about what each class is about, what each exercise has taught the students because these little descriptions will never begin to compare to the experience gained from attending those five days. This isn’t a Prep Scholar piece, but rather, a rant on how gorgeous the program is while speaking in second person point-of-view for some obscure reason.
It starts off a little like this: you join the zoom call, expecting a lecture on different poetic formats. Instead, your instructor asks you about the stage of life you’re in right now, and what season would that be? It’s a hard question with a simple answer. But to you, life has always been too grim to describe, too fragile to pinpoint, too black-and-white to understand. So, following your instructor’s guidelines, you pick the smallest, most delicate, overly-specific details and thread them together. (For the record, she has actually given a quote on that exact writing technique but your dumbass cannot, for the life of you, remember the words). She explains that that is what writing is — sensory, metaphor, language, and swerves. It’s not about creating some greatness out of thin air, but letting people see poetry in the most common, most mundane objects. Words are magic — but you already knew that when you were a kid, didn’t you? Then why do you feel surprised? Why do you feel like her words have stirred up something long casted away in you? You and your classmates talk about what you believe in and what you remember and the line between the two begins to blur.
The writing exercises are most intriguing. Your instructor tells you that self-consciousness is the death of fiction. (In hindsight, you’re not certain whether that phrase is from somewhere or if she had just made it up because literally every single instructor there is a genius, but you couldn’t find an origin from Google, so it’s probably the latter). It’s strange, because you’re used to every word in your writing being so calculated and carefully explained by another, you’re obsessed with having control over the exact meaning of everything and everything else. Nevertheless, for once, you let go. You create a list of foreign phrases from your instructor’s prompt, and ever more strangely, your piece works out in the end. That’s when it hits you — poetry is not linear, it’s not a rope to tug on. It’s messy, it’s chaotic, it’s about scattering yourself out there and watching as people try to piece you back together, and they get it wrong without realizing sometimes, and that’s alright. You write odes that start off with one thing and end with something else. Your writing journey has started off with something and ended with something completely different.
A week has passed and all good things must come to an end. You close your laptop. The sun is rising. Emerging from writers’ week, you feel as if a part of you has changed. Something in your head is a bit clearer, a bit brighter, a bit more refined. There is now a page on your notes app filled with everything you’ve written in the past five days.
You want to be a writer.
The 2am writer that lives in the mind of sixteen-year-old Yun-Fei Wang has been taking over her sanity for a few years now, tearing her lifeline down, yet building up an escapism in the same breath. Find her in the evanescence of black-inked words, or at @rainofelsewhere on Instagram.