Mixed News (and how I’ve realized I miss writing personal essays so much)

I think the title is self-explanatory. Here’s what’s going on: I’m temporarily abandoning my poem and instead am working on a new personal essay.

Ok, I don’t know if you can tell by now but I tend to jump around a lot in my plans (i.e. first it was struggling to write poetry, then it was finally starting to get the hang of poetry, and now it’s a return to personal essays). My dad calls it a lack of direction/perseverance but I believe it’s a willingness to try new things and a sign of my adaptability. And in this case there is some solid justification.

Basically, the decision results for a writing program that I applied for, the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop (it’s one of the top summer writing programs for high school students), came out on Friday. Instead of receiving an acceptance or rejection, I was crushed to learn it was altogether going to be canceled this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I was pretty disappointed about this. I was really hoping to be able to attend, as I really want to hardcore work on my writing this summer as well as put together and polish up a writing portfolio in time for college apps. Welp, so much for those dreams. Like, it’s not that I can’t work on my writing without a summer program. The biggest draw for me was the chance to work with mentors and maybe even more importantly, the chance to meet other young writers and to be part of a community. Writing for me has long been a lonely, isolated endeavor (lol that came out sounding so depressed). It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that there’s a whole world of young writers out there my age, and a realization of how much I wanted to be part of a writing community.

I mean, as much as I am very disappointed by the news I’m still maintaining an optimistic outlook. I applied to a second writing program whose decision results come out on April 17th, this Friday. I’m really hoping that a) this one won’t get canceled b) I’ll actually get in. Assuming that it does run, I’m not too certain on my chances of getting in but I’m praying my application’s strong enough to pull through as it seems pretty selective.

Just in case (I mean you literally never know), there’s another summer writing program that I’ve decided to apply to. This one runs entirely online so the good news is that it’ll definitely run unaffected (I hope?) by the pandemic. The slightly bad news is that this program is also SUPER selective i.e. I’ve read they have a < 10% acceptance rate and I also got rejected last year (though I was notified I did make it to the final judging round). Also, their application deadline is the 15th, this Wednesday, sooo I don’t have a lot of time to piece together my application.

Anyway, the program caters to poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction; I initially toyed around with the idea of going for poetry but ultimately decided to go for creative nonfiction. For creative nonfiction they require 8-12 pages of a writing sample. Last year I kind of scrambled to toss one together since I realized I didn’t have enough writing (lol good writing that I’m actually proud of) to meet the requirement and had to dig around for some old writing, which was probably why my application was not as strong as it could have been. This year though, I think I’m a lot more solid with the writing sample since I have a new personal essay I can include from a couple months back and I did a major renovation of one of my old essays.

Which brings me to the reason for my change in plans of my writing.

I’ve impulsively decided to write a new personal essay to pad my writing sample some more, which is a bit of a stupid decision given I still need to write a Writer’s Statement as part of the application and I’m a little choked on time. BUT I am so glad that I did because I’ve realized just how much I miss pouring myself into writing personal essays. Yes, it is so frickin time-consuming and involves a lot of staring at the same page but I don’t think I’ve had this much dare-I-say-fun(?) and fulfillment in a while.

Maybe I was trying too hard at poetry. Maybe it’s because creative nonfiction is where I truly thrive and feel the most comfortable. I think for a while I was trying to avoid creative nonfiction because I felt like writing poetry was an easier route to getting published in literary magazines and winning competitions. I know that’s not a great mindset but you know with college apps looming ever closer, there’s this pressing urge to get published and win awards otherwise it feels you have nothing to show for the type of writer you are.

So in many ways I am grateful for the quarantine. It has given me more time to ponder, to explore the different realms of writing, and to consider my relationship with writing. And I’m so glad I’ve started writing creative nonfiction again because it’s just that I feel this sense of freedom and ability to find a place for all the metaphor-packed language that I once thought could only belong in a poem but really were perfectly suited for the personal essay.

Anyways, I want to say more but I’m afraid this post is long enough as is. I’m really sorry if this post was super ramble-y and all over the place (I mean it’s like 2am) but I just wanted to get some thoughts off my chest.

Oh, and I’ll update you on the decision results this Friday 🙂

Jooce

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