Word gardener

Grad school is out for the summer, which means I finally have more time to decompress…and think, and write, and read about things that aren’t part of my grad program. Someone once described grad school to me as intellectual boot camp, and I think there’s a truth to that. I would actually call it emotional boot camp as well. This isn’t my first grad program, so I knew going in that it would, at times, encompass a lot of my brain’s energy.

I’m also doing it with a chronic illness (which keeps throwing new and interesting symptoms at me), and a searing need to write. And writing is what I’m here to write about.

I don’t post as much of my writing publicly because it’s shifted. I had a few realizations as I got older, and one was that my early fixation on publishing had less to do with publishing and more to do with wanting to feel heard.

It took a little longer to understand that I didn’t need others to hear me – I needed to be able to hear myself. So I retreated away from any thoughts of publishing, retreated away from other blogs, and started doing what I did years ago – writing anything and everything.

As a result, I’ve amassed a collection of poetry and short stories and much longer stories and personal essays, as well as a written journal. At this point, I just write whatever needs to come out. It’s a little disorganized at times, but one of my special talents is the ability to thrive in chaos.

What’s intriguing is that a lot of times, what’s on my mind comes out as a story rather than more personal, non-fiction writing. I have a thought or a feeling or an idea, and it germinates into some sort of narrative. My discontent over the sociopolitical landscape of the U.S. spawned a series of stories set in a whole different world.

I’ve learned things about myself as I write. I believe that my deepest feelings come out as fiction because of major violations of privacy I dealt with as a child and young adult. Writing in a journal is hard to me – I do it because it’s been suggested to me that it can be helpful, but I’m much more willing to take risks and be brutally honest with my fiction and poetry.

Over time, a shift has occurred. Instead of writing something and then realizing later on what it germinated from, I’ve become a lot more aware of how I, the writer, am informing the narrative. I still often feel like the stories drive themselves and the characters have autonomy, but it’s all some extension of my own brain. I put pieces of myself in each of my characters, and those pieces take on a life of their own.

I feel more like a word gardener than a writer; I drop a tiny seed of something, and simply describe what it looks like as it grows.

This summer, I want to grow as many narratives as I can. I love grad school and I love my career, but I simply can’t live without writing. All those feeling-seeds and idea-seeds and trauma-seeds need to get out of my head, and I need to be able to see what sorts of things they turn into.

And then, from there…well, who knows?  🙂


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