Creative writing began as more of side passion as I was growing up. It also existed as a very supplemental part to my English Literature major. I have always loved poetry and writing and used to write the first few chapters to stories I invented in elementary school and junior high school. In high school I slipped away from writing narratives, but continued to read and write poetry into college. When english courses had poetry units, I was thrilled that we got to read and write poems in class. In general though, I would usually only write for myself when inspiration hit.
I would write free verse poems that had no set structure. The poem, my mood, or my breath would dictate where the line breaks formed and how the meter was composed. I would write when the mood struck and then make small revisions on the poems when I came back to them after some time and thought.
I would then take a Sharpie fine print pen and transcribe the poems from my computer or phone into a small blank sheet notebook. It would be dated on the lower left corner and nestled in between other pages that held drawings and beloved quotes. The small notebooks are my own personal version of Hope College’s Literary and Art magazine, the Opus. They are a mix of my love for literature/poetry and art. I never widely shared my work, I would usually only share a poem or drawing or two with a few close friends and family.
However, my perspective on writing changed when I was put into Intro to Creative Writing. The class pushed me outside the comfort of private writing and led me to the epiphany that creative writing is made to create an experience for the reader. We are now on the other side of the book’s spine. We are the John Green’s and James Patterson’s that create words that keep heavy eyelids sprinting across the page at three am. We are the ones that are standing at the edge of a cliff yelling into the Great Perhaps. Our words are the balm to the break-up and the fuel to the fire.
The class forced me to grapple and wrestle with formal poems that at first felt like a leash on my words. Yet in actuality, the constraints and form of formal poems led me to create meter and word combinations that otherwise never would have happened in free verse. The pantoum structure and the use of scaffolding guided me to create meaningful repetition and complex meanings through using and breaking the form and scaffolds. My poem “Running Circles” follows the repetition pattern of the Pantoum, but instead of repeating a whole line exactly each time, I would change a word or two. It created a deeper meaning and sound than keeping the line intact would have done.
I was also pushed during the Poetry Blitz to not only write when I felt inspired or in the mood, but to get in the habit of writing a poem a day. It stretched me to write about a lot of different subjects and push through mental writer’s block, which taught success through discipline.
The class was also my first exposure to a workshop for creative writing. It was a joy to be able to share my work with fellow writers who could recognize the successful literary components in my work, but also provide concrete feedback and suggestions. The PPC structure was very helpful, not only for critiquing my own work and receiving feedback, but also for guiding my own workshopping of peers’ work. It created an environment that celebrated and pointed out triumphs, but also didn’t leave the weak and broken spots untouched. Instead, we assisted one another in revising those parts to build and add to the poem and narrative.
The full class workshop was also a great experience for me. We got the unique opportunity to objectively sit and listen to the readers’ responses and experiences of our work. It helped me understand how my work was interpreted outside of my own perspective as the author.
I will take these tools and experiences I gained from Into to Creative Writing into the rest of my writing life. I now know the beauty of a writing group and having individuals who are willing and talented at reading and workshopping my work. A writing group member and I still send each other work to review and discuss even though our group is not required to meet.
These experiences have opened me up to the joys of sharing work that is close to our heart and using it to help understand our own experience through each other’s experiences. It is as Sellers and Emily Henry stated: writing is made universal though the use of specifics. My sonnet, which I really struggled with writing, ended up hitting a note with everyone in my writing group. I had written specifically about my grandparents and the undercurrent of alcoholism in their household, while trying to keep they rhyme of the sonnet structure. After doing the PPC’s of my poem, everyone said how although I was describing the specific experience of my family, the specific images I used became universal to the experiences they knew growing up about drinking, grandparents, and alcoholism.
I learned that I still enjoy writing narratives, although poetry will always be my favorite. I can see in my work how I have learned to use images to create and show a scene instead of telling the reader what I see. I have cut wordiness in my writing and go straight into the energy and tension of the piece. I now have the tools to create those moments in my writing, that originally I only touched on in my past creative writing. A voice emerged out of my memoir that I didn’t know existed when I wrote my first narrative fiction piece. I found that my voice is humorous and sassy. It plays off of the irony in life and unique ways to view and depict the people I know and the experiences I have.
I learned how to use words and structure to create energy that jumps off the page. I now use verbs that give muscle to my writing and keeps the energy moving throughout the piece. My poems now have depth beyond two am musings that sit in my phone or remain in my notebooks.
I still add to my book of poems and art, but now I submit my work to the Opus, and share them more often with my friends and peers. I see the benefit of focused revision, and do not let the weak spots sit in-between the good parts of my writing. I work hard to revise the weak parts of my writing in order to make the piece stronger overall.
I want my poetry to be a call to art, in both the writing and art world. It will be a blending of, in my opinion, the two best ways to create and make meaning of this human experience we call life. We create meaning through our senses, be it through words on a page using images to describe a moment in time, or works of art using a camera or clay to visually pour a drop of meaning onto the canvas of the eye.
I will continue to write two am musings on love and longing, yet I will also let that smoldering pen write what it is like to wake up to lacy curtains billowing in a summer breeze. I will become the scorned friend, the servant worshiping on her knees at Christ’s alter, the confused parent. I will adopt words that build up the rotting boards a forgotten farm. I will place a finger on the warm spots of yellow between the tapestry of trees in the forrest.
I will take the mundane, the moments of heart-racing excitement, the best and worst nights, those happy and heart breaking tears and turn them into words that create meaning out of my existence. I will continue to be vulnerable and allow others into my writing and my experience in the hopes that maybe my words will speak to their own life.
A dream of mine would be to get a collection of poetry published that I could have and share with others. Then maybe someday, someone like me, could go into the library when school lets out for the year and pick up a stack of poetry books. Those books I grabbed spoke to me, murmuring their musings to me, as I developed a love of reading and writing. Someone may one day pick up my book and say, “Yes, finally someone put words to exactly what I couldn’t say.”