The chapel at Ender’s Island is backed by a vista of Long Island Sound. The building smells of incense, the pews wooden and straight. Your footsteps sound off the stone floor. For two weeks a year, in summer and winter, I attended a residency program on the island as part of Fairfield University’s MFA program in Creative Writing.
On the evening of commencement, they told us we had arrived on the island as students and we would leave as writers. This was not entirely correct.
Yes, we had workshops with professionals. We had guest readers and mentors. We made friends and grew in our skills. None of these things made us writers.
I realized, years later, I had fallen into the trap of what higher education markets to students across the country. For some fields, a degree is a necessary gateway and professional certification. For others, it is not an instrument of passage.
The degree does not give you permission.
If you need permission to write, find a different way to occupy your time.
No, writing is in your soul. It is in your blood. It is a thread woven throughout history. The world, right now, needs to hear your story.
Why Should You Write?
2020 was designed as a catalyst. We’ve experienced generational change and turmoil, illness and conflict. The media will place their spin on anything and everything. The commentators out there will do the same.
When you write, you capture your voice.
Want to be heard? No one can stop your page when it goes to literal, or digital, print. Free access. Open channels. An audience hungry to read and understand why.
People want a story. You can be the storyteller.
How Should You Write?
Short and direct. Long and flowery. Find your style. Hear the tone and flow of your language.
The minute you edit yourself for approval, scrap the sentence and start over.
Write with courage. Write with power. Write with honesty.
Capture your anger and frustration. Capture your hopes and dreams.
Acknowledge the challenge and rise above. Your words can soar around the globe if you set them free.
Where Should You Write?
My first publications came years before I attempted graduate school. There are plenty of outlets looking for fresh voices in print or online. Some are paying, some are not.
Do some digging and you’ll find them.
Get a notebook and pen set. Get a journal. Pick up a small reporter’s notebook. These are now the tools of your trade. Have one at hand and fill it with anything and everything. You never know when an idea may emerge.
Grasp it and hold it tight for when you may need it again.
Write inside. Write outside. Write on the beach in July and on the porch during a thunderstorm. Write by the light of a candle in October and the smell of sugar cookies in December.
Write in the midst of a boring meeting. Write at the end of math class.
Write a song, write a poem, write a script and a short story. Climb the mountain of a novel and use fine tools to scrape away the intricacies of plot and character.
The World Needs Your Story
Were you angered this week? Saddened? Did your soul ache? Are you over this quarantine period? Has social media worn you down to the point where the weight is too much to handle and you find yourself staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night?
Here’s a secret……you do it already. Your status updates, your tweets, your text messages. Every argument you undertake in the comments section, is an exercise of communication.
Step back, organize your thoughts, and write.
Your audience is waiting. Your time is now.