Cami Wilson Joey Franklin English 317r 14 December 2012 Question: How does one determine which format (spiritual, lyric, memoir, etc) to use to effectively convey one’s message? Sit Down and Write As graduation nears, I can feel my body turning to face the unknown. That vast expanse—the blurry landscape in the distant reaches of my vision. The unexplored mass that plagues my daydreams. The part of my life that has yet to be written. And, my mind, like a broken record, continues to run over the unanswered questions that fill my future. Where will I be in the next year? Will I stay in touch with my friends from college? Will I eventually go to graduate school? Will I marry my boyfriend? Will he get into medical school, and if he does where? Will he need a backup plan? What internship do I want? Will I get the job I need? Where is the best place to start my career? Will I chose to work while I have kids? Can I even have kids?. . . It’s the classic dilemma of my generation, most of who have planned out every detail of their lives up until the moment of college graduation. Now that my graduation date approaches, I am beginning to feel the pull of its heavy anticipation. Even if I did have a concrete plan for my future, would I even be able to take each step I laid down ahead of me? This past semester I have studied the scholarly research essay in my English Language 410 class. Taking ELANG 410 alongside creative nonfiction was frankly hilarious. I would walk into ELANG 410 to learn that an essayist states their claim clearly at the beginning of the essay. The essay must include a clear title, make an appeal statement, explain a territory, develop a niche, make a claim, acknowledge a rebuttal, and declare a thesis all in the introduction. Authors must use deductive reasoning and avoid inductive reasoning at all costs. Stories do not prove points; grounds, research, and data prove points. Every essay must follow the exact same format. Then the next day, I would walk into creative nonfiction to learn that a creative essay should explore unanswerable questions. Questions should be explored through personal experiences and stories. Claims were to come about through inductive reasoning and offer up questions for the readers to answer for themselves. In the creative essay, the pathway to take is never as clear as you would like since the creative writer must write to explore a question rather than explain an answer. In Phillip Lopate’s introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay he explains, The essayist attempts to surround a something—a subject, a mood, a problematic irritation— by coming at it from all angles, wheeling and diving like a hawk, each seemingly digressive spiral actually taking us closer to the heart of the matter. In a wellwrought essay, while the search appears to be widening, even losing its way, it is actually eliminating false hypotheses, narrowing its emotional target and zeroing in on it. (xxxviii)
But this leads to the uncomfortable question of where to start an essay? What format should one begin to use for such an unusual format of writing? You just have to start writing and see where this takes you. In order to live my life and cope with all of the questions that plague my mind, I have to keep living one day at a time. I have to make small plans that might fail, but I just have to keep on going. After Cheryl Strayed crosses hundreds of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail she accidently loses her boot. But since she is in the middle of the trail with no other clear answers ahead of her she has to keep going forward. She relates in her novel Wild: I looked north, in its direction—the very thought of that bridge a beacon to me. I looked south, to where I’d been, to the wild land that had schooled me and scorched me, and considered my options. There was only one, I knew. There was only one. To keep walking. In my creative writing, I often plan to write something and then another idea sparks in my mind that is much better than the one before. I have to get that idea down on paper before it slips out of my brain. My first draft of an essay comes out in a stream of ideas—related, but unstructured and unclear to the reader. Maybe I still have a lot to learn about creative writing, but I believe that in order to capture the essence of my mind, I have to sit down and write. And then after writing in circles, blubbering in fragments, and dancing though landmines, I can go back and make my thoughts more clear to the reader. Dinty W. Moore writes in The Mindful Writer that you must “write with your passionate heart, but edit with your calm brain.” (106). When I first begin to write, the format of my essay is never clearly laid out. But through editing my passionate rambles, my writing will be able to take form and bring out the essence of my train of thought. Choose to write in one format and maybe your essay will come out in another.