A homework assignment that asked me to do some thinking about myself as a writer? Yah, I’m going to post that on my blog.
A bit about the assignment – from the syllabus of English 712-
The purpose of this first project will be for you to reflect on your literacy practices: on yourself as a writer and reader and the literacy practices of formative groups and institutions (e.g., family, school, church). The process of composing this three-page collection should develop your self-awareness. . .This project will resemble a collage. Like an essay, it will have some overall unity of intention: the overall picture you want to convey about yourself as a literate individual shaped by certain social/cultural contexts. . . .Unlike an essay, the collection will include bits from various genres ordered as you wish to create an overall effect with some variation and texture. . .
Tara, the writer.
An Ethnography in the Third Person
At age 9-
Crying. Report due on elevators, She doesn’t know why she chose elevators, or was it Otis. Her mother picks up the pen, helps her finish.
At age 10-
Teacher enjoys Tara’s creative writing piece set on the bird sanctuary at her great uncle’s farm, and tells her so. Tara beams.
At age 10-
Other children are told they are smarter. They get to write more and do more exploration on their own in a program called SOAR. This will bother Tara for years.
At age 14-
Academic writing flummoxes her. She gets passive aggressive
At age 15-
Tara writes her first persuasive speech under the tutleage of a beloved teacher. She gets 102 points on the project, 2 points bonus for going 2nd.
At age 17-
Tara writes a persuasive essay on the dangers of political correctness (to date, the most conservative thing she has written). The A+ paper makes her believe she might have a knack for this thing called writing.
At age 18-
At the first of three colleges she will attend for undergrad, Tara makes the forensics (speech) team. At the novice tournament, her persuasive speech on the dangers of condoms (seriously), gets her second, and qualifies her for nationals.
From ages 18 to 21-
College writing becomes formulaic. Papers get grades based on her level of soberness. She hates everything she writes. Everything.
At age 22-
On her study abroad semester to Ireland – Tara masters the art of the letter, and the art of the email.
At age 22-
Tara delivers her first poem to an audience. An audience of 200. This is the first time she thinks of writing as a form of social justice.
At age 24-
Tara writes electronically. Emails, work newsletters, music message boards. Tara saves creative writing for journals.
At age 26-
Tara begins graduate school. Finds academic writing tedious again. All night writing sessions and shaky theses are rewarded with As. She hates everything she writes. Everything.
At age 28-
Writing takes a back seat to all things grading.
At age 29-
Tara begins blogging.
At age 31-
Tara writes first eulogy for coworker who passes at 41 years old. Would trade all the praise, to not have had to write it.
At age 32-
Tara blogs every day for 9 months while on maternity leave. Realizes later that this was self-care for a nasty bout of PPD.
At age 33-
Tara writes 2 eulogies in three weeks for her father, and her paternal grandmother. She publishes the eulogies on her blog in a very public act of grief.
At age 34-
Tara writes to find breath. Tara writes to find meaning. Tara writes to save herself. Tara writes. Tara still hates her writing, just not everything.
At age 35-
Tara prepares her MFA applications . . .
Nothing to Write-
No stories to tell,
no words to convey,
no angst to lay out on a page.
I want to tell you all about this one time in Ireland,
but it will take too long.
And there was this certain day at work,
but I like my job.
And, I’ve been thinking about this past April,
and it’s very random Wednesday-
and as random a Monday in March,
but I don’t think you would all be amused.
There is this show I once saw,
and the one time I met,
or that time I danced to. . .
Oh? You’ve heard this all before?
When I was a seven, I saw this thing,
this thing you wouldn’t believe,
and this other time as a twenty something,
I said out-loud, very out-loud.
But sometimes, I’m not sure if those stories are true,
or just dreams turned over so many times,
they look like memories.
So I rack my brain,
and stare straight at that damn,
and that damn blinking cursor,
And, instead, tell you all the things,
I just can’t write.
Save for my year at home after the small one was born, a year that I still was the yearbook and senior class advisor- I’ve been working at, teaching at, or attending one school or another since, you know, I was five. That this is the longest break from classes I’ve taken since being a grad-student, somehow escaped me. So here I am taking notes on this book I need to read for Monday, and writing questions in the margin so I am ready for class discussion. I will be in a class with all teachers, and I wonder if that changes things altogether? Will we all be impossibly nerdy, will we all be terrible know-it-alls? Or, will that just be me?
As I pose that question, that old anxiety raises in me, on how to participate, but not say too much. That anxiety carved out of years of being the big mouth in classroom, of seeing teenage eyes roll in my direction when my hand was raised again. That anxiety must be the reason I always have so much empathy for the kids who always have their hands raised. When I eventually ask them to put their hands down, and give someone else a chance, the seventeen year old me always wants to pull them aside and tell them-
“Hell yeah, participate my friend, raise your hand, be brave, have answers, move the conversation, don’t give up, those ideas will get you places.”
I never do though- leaving them to their own anxieties and bugaboos to overcome.