In my junior year of college I suddenly decided that I didn’t want to leave college and try to desperately find a (maybe) paid internship in some public sector government cubicle, but rather, I wanted to write on some blog for $$$ and dispense my thoughts and “wisdom” to the world.
So I signed up for this creative writing class. I showed up on the first day of lessons, sat in the back, and looked around at all my classmates while LOLing in my head about the professor behind late. But I wouldn’t be LOLing for long.
Exactly three minutes past the bell, he walked in. Dark jeans, dark brown chukkas, and some variety of flannel that I can’t remember anymore. He immediately passed out the syllabus and began talking. Or, I should say, he began giving a speech:
“Think about the darkest moment of your life,” he posed. “Think about your biggest regret. Think about the thing that haunts you the most.”
“That’s what you’ll be writing about in this class.”
“Write about things that matter.”
During one class discussion someone brought up that a certain accomplished writer had produced two (pretty good) pieces of work about the exact same event. This was suggested to be a criticism, as if to ask, why couldn’t she do something new?
“If you can write well about one thing, that’s great!” our instructor said after we were all done debating amongst ourselves. “If you can write well about one thing, that’s all that matters. And if you’re talented enough for people to be interested about re-reading the same story from a different angle of yours, that’s more impressive still.”
I began trying to find my one thing.
I wrote about being an RA, I wrote about growing up and watching my family struggle financially. I wrote about having panic attacks, and about mundane things like watching bourbon be made.
I tried to write about coming out and being gay, but it all came out incoherently. Plots involving random characters and insanely boring events.
“Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what you want to say about something,” our teacher reminded us.
The next fall semester I took another writing class, and began writing about my sexuality again. I wrote about my first real “friends with benefits” relationship. I wrote a hermit crab essay about coming out. I was getting closer, but not quite there yet.
The 2016 Presidential race was roaring, and I was consistently bemused by the political rhetoric of the religious right. They had (and still have) a nasty habit of using religion to justify discrimination against gay people. As if Jesus had said anything on the subject.
I would argue with people IRL and URL about it.
“If you follow Jesus,” so many people would tell me, “then you know that homosexuality is a grave sin.”
“That is not my experience with Jesus,” I would say.
Perhaps, I had found my “one thing.”
I began writing about my sexuality, publishing more articles referencing it—if not overtly talking about it. I was feeling my way forward, trying to figure out what exactly I had to say and what exactly it meant.
I knew this wasn’t just going to be another article. It was going to be something ~~important. I didn’t know how yet. To the alarm of my friends and family I became overtly transparent in my work, bearing every insecurity and every sadness that I could put on display. I was creating an atmosphere of self-authenticity, trying to follow my rawest emotions to the words I needed.
By the summer, I was ready. I began putting together the essays and thoughts that would eventually become my first, and probably last, book. In late September I sent the manuscript down the hall to our books department, and had my words imprinted on ink.
Since then, I’ve had a lot less to say. My writing has felt flat and uninspired. There’s a few things I’ve put out there that I’m comfortable with, but they feel disconnected and irrelevant. I have a cluster of discarded headlines and introductory paragraphs discarded in WordPress, just waiting for someone to put them out of their misery.
There are some people who can write about absolutely nothing and still make it interesting. Those are people who are seriously talented writers. I’m not one of them. When my writing is interesting, it isn’t because the words themselves are entertaining, but because they are describing something interesting. The story is interesting.
I need a new story.