January 13, 2010

Personal Statement:

I never intended to write. Words came trickling down my neck and arms out through my fingers, unbidden. It was the nearest thing to singing I could ever manage. My sister was a writer, too. She died on October 3rd, 2008. I wrote the eulogy. I didn’t write anything else for almost a year. Strange to have one’s life neatly cleaved into a before and after. Strange to have to try so hard at something that used to be so easy. There wasn’t much to be done about it; years like that are going to be hard no matter what you try or think or pretend. After that year was over I up and left Santa Cruz, where I had lived for five years. I moved to tidewater Virginia, where my father’s family has lived and died since the 17th century. I am writing again, about blood that is thicker than water. It isn’t easy, but sometimes I can feel it in my arms and fingers and I know I love it, and have to try, even when it’s hard. I want to return to school to learn how to do this thing I love again, after.

I may have always written, but I believe I learned to write as an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz. The fiction concentration was small and tightly knit; it taught me focus and drove me to improve. I learned how to pull the right words from the tangle. I liked that it was hard. I left with a clear idea of what it is that I write, and want to write. My work is inspired by my childhood’s summers, all spent on an island in the Chesapeake. The forest here hides abandoned houses, salt-worn and broken-windowed. The headstones of my ancestors grace the lawns of my tidewater neighbors. The past’s presence here is tangible, and I write with that in my mind. I write about families—about the ties that stay tied from one generation to the next, through love and turmoil and death. Blood that is thicker than water. I write about sisters, and the knots upon knots that bind them. I write about aging, a thing more apparent in the south than in California, where things tend to reek of newness. I write about death, and what it leaves behind. I am learning what it leaves behind. Life is a more ephemeral thing than I would have imagined. I write to remember and I write about places where memory exists tangibly, not just as photographs, tying people to one another or to a house or to a silly slab of dirt for lifetimes. I write about the true stories people tell until they aren’t anything like the truth anymore—until they are tongue-tangled myths, funny and sad. I write about, and for the sake of, remembrance.

Or I try to. Strange, to feel you have more words than ever jostling around inside of you, but to write so much less. It is how I felt before I went to school, before I knew how to write what I wanted, to tease words from the tangle. I know it could lead me all over the map. In Santa Cruz I studied film, wrote and produced a play, wrote screenplays, and directed short films. I found joy in all, as long as I could write. It all seemed to circle back around and make my fiction stronger. I pursued the same themes, no matter what the medium. I don’t care so much about professional goals now. I want, more, to write for its own sake—to do this thing I love. I crave a workshop and the community of peers it would provide. Deadlines and scribbled critiques and the one person who says, I don’t like this, breaking your heart and making you better. I want it to be hard. I want to write a novel about grief that isn’t stricken, a book about pain that doesn’t leave you hurt. There is a lot to sort through. Writing is different than it was before my sister died. I am still the same person but some days I wake up and it seems like the sun is rising and setting on the wrong side, painting everything in the wrong light. I want to be able to write about that, but I need help to learn.

That is what I ended up sending. I thought it was only fair to share, after the entry I wrote about writing the thing. Luckily, unluckily I managed to get myself to the point where I just didn't care anymore--where it all seemed unimportant. Repetition doesn't suit: another element in the mystery as to how I live here. It had been a long time since I'd attempted to write anything on a deadline, and it was hard, and it made me afraid of what I may not be able to do.

In other news, I am well. I say this because I think it is important to admit. In my life I have often had trouble owning wellness; I was better practiced at being not okay. To be well always seemed boring-more not okay than okay. For the first time in my life I feel proud to be able to say that I am feeling well, and maybe even some kind of happy. I want to hold it. I want to tell everyone I've ever known. Instead I go and watch a romantic comedy at the local cinema (45 minutes away, I'll have you know) and wish to rewrite it so it was actually romantic, or actually a comedy. I wish for the thrill of new love, but stand it. I am willing to wait. It's all so small, it seems. How to tell people what I have spent six months doing.

I have learned to be well by myself, when there is no one else there to pretend for or about.

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