Following one’s instincts
The more I read the more confused I get. I just wanna write about stuff I’m interested in and stuff that I think will benefit readers. Here’s what I wrote in the manuscript synopsis I had to turn in during my first semester:
American society is increasingly secular and is undergoing increased polarization between the secular and religious as well as among faiths and denominations. In the 2012 presidential election we saw representation from two historically marginalized groups – Mormons and African-Americans. Clearly the influence of European-derived Protestantism is diminishing. And with change comes the potential for conflict. We see this in so-called “anti-sharia” bills and in massacres in Jain temples.
Stories have the power to change perception and feelings – that’s what narrative is about, whether fiction or nonfiction. Understanding has the power to prevent or mitigate conflict. That is my over-arching goal with this manuscript: to tell stories that have the power to open minds. As I report and write more, I will have a more detailed view of how the stories will go together.
So I just want to write about that stuff. I don’t want to write a magazine article and then try to turn it into a nonfiction novel. I don’t want to crack my knuckles and start an essay as though I’m composing a sonata. I just wanna write about what’s going on and what I think about it. I am driving myself absolutely crazy and in the meantime I haven’t written anything – and in the meantime I’m late as usual with an article I’m writing. Somehow I just sit at the keyboard frozen.
I loved blogging for the Chronicle. I loved it because I just sat down and wrote what I thought. I never did much reporting in that blog, but I could do that. I could write long blog posts that include reporting and research. And that is what I want to do. I don’t know what you call it or what category of nonfiction it is, but that’s what I wanna do. Can’t I?
I thought my first semester at Goucher would involve writing in different styles with a mentor’s feedback. That was based in large part on their catalog:
Workshop I: Creative Writing (4 credits)
Personal essay, memoir, autobiography, narrative nonfiction, immersion journalism, literary journalism, etc. 50 pages required.
Instead I was forced to do journalism – I don’t care if you call it literary, I was boxed into reporting and never understood how to use the reporting to tell stories. I wasn’t able to write an essay. Okay, I’ve probably complained about this enough. It’s not the program’s fault. I just wish I could have a do-over. I have even thought about taking a semester off so I can get caught up with the writing I should be doing now. Or I could just stop being a baby and just do it now.