December 12, 2009

Personal Statement

I am trying to write my personal statement for my graduate school applications. It is supposed to be brief, and addressing all kinds of things: career goals, personal history, writing aspirations, writing proclivities etc. I have no idea how to go about writing this. I wrote a personal statement almost two years ago, when I last applied to graduate school (that time for film, as opposed to creative writing) and my statement was not very good. It was technically apt, and vaguely creative, but it was squishy and loose and reminded me of something I would have written in high school. It got me into AFI, so I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on it. But now I have even less of an idea how to write this. How do you write about writing? It seems ridiculous, particularly when they make it clear that your writing in the statement will be taken as an example of your writing ability. I am mailing a writing sample as an example of my writing ability, so this seems sort of implosive. I tried to start once already. I sat down and put on "Divenire" by Ludovico Einaudi and opened a bottle of Pinot. I sat and sat and finally pounded out one sentence.

I write about blood.

I am not sure this will work in a personal statement, let alone the first line of a personal statement. I know that it is true. I write about blood. Not gore, or innards type blood. Thicker than water type blood, and all that comes with that. But I am afraid there is no way to get that across without sounding like a product of the gothic imagination, or just heavy handed. It is even more true now that I am here, where my family has been since the 1600s. The headstones of relatives casually stud people's lawns. That, in of itself, is pretty heavy handed imagery, even if it is essentially the truth. They ask why you write, what motivates you. The only answer I really have: remembrance. I am tempted to write something completely off the wall, totally without the bells and whistles of a traditional personal statement. Maybe I will just do that. It is hard when I am afraid to state fact, visit reality.

My sister died in October of 2009 and I wrote the eulogy, and it was the last thing I wrote for a full year. I want to go to graduate school so that you can teach me how to write about something other than sisters. I want to go to graduate school so you will give me a deadline, so I can learn how to do this again. I just need to do something, you see, that feels like something normal people do. Normal people go to graduate school and go to class and have assignments and grow up, and I need you to accept me so that I can try to do those things, if only to prove that I still can. I can't give you a good personal statement because that requires an ability to write accurately and broadly about myself as a person, and you see, I think I have been a few too many people in the last two decades to know where to begin with that. I write so that I can remember who I was before this happened and that happened and you happened and this, again, happened.

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