Today my stomach feels volcanic. I feel like a takeout box filled with scrambled eggs. I feel like a rock tumbler, and I can only hope that it means my insides are getting polished and beautiful. But it's probably a stomach bug.
Today I said something out loud that I haven’t said in years: I would like to go back to school.
Ever since I left the self-contained universe of my college campus, returning to school has been a flickering thought that has a brief moment each autumn. The fresh notebooks, the smell of the used books tattooed with notes from previous owners, the careful packing of my bag for the first day of classes.
I miss reading books in a structured space - a space where I am forced to dive a little deeper into story, structure, and character. I miss making notes about historical factors and the author’s own biases to put their poetry into context. I also miss not taking notes at all and just doodling through lectures.
I miss late nights, early mornings, last-minute poems, and editing those poems into something shiny and singing. I miss reading poetry from my classmates and knowing, just knowing that they were destined for greatness. I am still waiting for some of them to realize their greatness.
I find myself craving a syllabus. I’m even considering crafting one of my own - anything to keep me consuming and producing within a structure. Don’t tell anyone, but I think I might actually do it.
I look back to a young woman who had more of an impact upon me than she’ll ever know - Elizabeth. The creative writing teacher who made sure we read poetry from all kinds of different people, which meant a lot to me as a white Midwestern girl. I remember hanging on to her every word, how she read poems was entrancing and her prompts were challenging and stretched my writing well beyond the confines of my comfort zone.
It was in her class that I discovered Mary Oliver, and it was around that time that I first read Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke - both enormous staples in my education as a poet and as a person.
Obstacles And Excuses Are Like Embarrassing Bodily Functions: Everyone Has Them
The largest obstacle at this moment is not knowing where this writing challenge is going to take me. Do I want to continue as a blogger, hitting “publish” every day? Or, do I want to stretch it all out for the long game and write poems or short stories - or novels? (Typing out the word novel actually just brought a lump of coagulated fear to my throat.)
I think we all want to consider ourselves some form of artist, and I often waver when I talk about writing because I don’t know just how far I should dive in. My fears of not having enough life experience or not having been enough places are founded in facts, but there’s no excuse to keep it that way if I truly want to pursue writing.
There’s also tremendous financial and time restraints to consider when it comes to going back to school. I can’t imagine being able to swing a return to the academic world for at least another few years. What do I do in the meantime? Turn this thirty day writing challenge into a three year writing challenge, and just hope I have it figured out by that point?
But despite all that, I found the ideas and uninhibited desires rolling off my tongue during a coffee-fueled conversation: I want to lead students, I want to read and choose books that I feel are important for their college-age minds. I want to lead young people, like I once was, in group discussions and workshops and be the one who has to tell the philosophy kid that he’s worrying too much about which words have latin origin and which ones have anglo-saxon origins.
I like to think that I want creative writing, even if only for a couple of years, to be in every breath I take, every experience I have.
It’s all so ideal and beautiful, and I imagine that “someday when it all comes my way” it will be good.
But what about now?
I’m sure you do this as well, living in the hopes that “someday” will bring success or happiness or the perfect daily life. I could live an entire life dreaming of the future without ever taking a step towards it, or I could shuffle my tiny, clumsy pencil feet across the pages today so that someday I can glide across the waves of words breaking and crashing onto the paper.
For you, maybe it’s getting into an exercise routine, or sewing that dream project, or going back to school, or writing a novel, or maybe it’s just trying a new hairstyle. There’s always something, at least in my experience, that someone is saving for “someday”.
But we aren’t guaranteed a “someday,” and it’s a little careless of us to assume it’s there waiting for us with open arms. Even if we do arrive, have we done the proper work on ourselves? Have we done the prerequisites to get accepted into the status we had hoped for?
So on that note, I think I will set about creating a syllabus for myself - things to read, poetry or blog post prompts that I want to explore, and even live events that might be interesting (hello, poetry readings - I bet there are some fabulous ones here in Los Angeles). I’ll share it once I finalize it, and maybe one or two of you can come on board with me. Or maybe you can just watch and have a laugh as I procrastinate on my own projects and fight my own deadlines.
And finally, if you’ve been reading my posts, I appreciate your willingness to hang out in between the wrinkles of my brain for the past couple of weeks. It’s a terrifying process to just journal and then hit “publish” - but it can be more productive than the alternative.
My writing over the past few years has been sporadic and always ends up being more of a whining session than anything else. I have journals spread throughout my apartment that have entries that more or less say the same thing: I feel like there’s no hope for me as a writer, I have nothing to say, it’s really hard to do anything ever, and then somehow a mention of Josh Groban or my rabbits, and then I end with a beautiful resolve that dissipates the second I close the journal. I can tell because I’ll return after months of not writing, and tearily write the same old story on the next page.
Knowing that even one person might read this makes me realize I don’t just want to whine about the same things (although I’ve gotten pretty close some days). If you have never published something you weren’t sure about, I recommend it. It’s so uncomfortable, but it feels like one of those uncomfortable things that will lead to a much better version of yourself.
In closing: don’t wait for “someday”, stay tuned for my personal syllabus to further my self education, and thank you for spending some of your screentime with me. I appreciate you.