Personal Narrative: A Journal, a Journey

y September 14, 2010 What¶s In A Name? September 14, 2010 Writing and Coffee Shops: My Own Personal Hell on Earth September 15, 2010 The Death of a Writer September 22, 2010 It¶s Okay to be Sad Because That¶s How You Find the Happy September 24, 2010 Writing About the Little Things Turn Out to be The Big Things September 24, 2010 part 2 The Start of Something September 25, 2010 Therapy and Elk September 26, 2010 The End, An Unchained Melody

y

y

y

y

y

y

y

Final Author¶s Notes This piece began to evolve before the assignment was announced. However, it wasn¶t until after I finished typing the last letter did I realize where I had begun. I begrudgingly began crafting my piece when asked to identify what a writer is or what it means to be a writer. With a mediocre amount of thought I placed words on a page that satisfied the requirements of the assignment. As I listened to my classmates speak (and some quite passionately!) I began to feel emotions ranging from admiration to resentment and I wanted to write about every single one of them. What my mind couldn¶t tell my mouth to speak it would tell my hands to write. Shortly after I wrote my first short assignment, titled ³Deanie¶s Ice Cream´ and plainly put, it felt good. Initially it was difficult to have a particular or set of goals. I felt pressure to have goals similar to my peers, and then at the same time I wanted a goal that was wildly different. Naturally my aim was to turn in my document on time and with as little stress as possible, but those goals seemed boring, predictable, and lame. I hadn¶t even started writing yet and already I was brain-blocked with what my goals were, but then it hit me like a meteor striking the earth and created a conflagration across the meadows of my mind. It was then that my goal became to write something that I was proud of. It sounds simple, but writing something you are proud of is hard work and took a dedication that I was unfamiliar with. Although I found a new respect for the writing process, and what my process consists of, it couldn¶t be my goal because it felt phony and prescribed. I decided to set the goal of writing something I was proud of because it¶s something that I sadly have yet to do during my academic career. And, I can¶t think of anything greater to get out of an assignment than pride and accomplishment. The words hit the page easily, and my mind raced with ideas that absolutely needed to be expressed in the most beautiful words possible; and five minutes later I would have the familiar symptoms of writer¶s block. I kept writing though and eventually my mind would be racing around the corners of my memory. Gradually pages began to fill with words that I liked and could see myself being proud of one day. Meeting with a writing group was scary at first because I had concern that I would turn from the future proud parent of an assignment to a parent ripping off the ³my kid made the Dean¶s List!´ bumper sticker and throwing it in the trash. With amazement I left our first meeting eager to revise my ideas and show my group what I had accomplished. The turning point of my process came when I presented my group with what I called my ³shitty first draft-slightly revisedish´ and asked them to help me find order in the chaos of pages displayed in front of us. From here I was presented with the idea of turning my essay-form paper into a journal. Magnificent! I could barely wait to change the style and show off the true emotion and general moodiness I possess as a writer. Although the crux of the assignment was underway I struggled with organization and editing, and the creeping thoughts of what other students were writing about still occasionally catapulted me into what many call ³analysis paralysis´. I knew that I had reached the homestretch of my process when I found myself laying each page of work across my living room floor with thoughtful consideration of what order each journal entry should fall. My mind ached with the same pain that an 800-meter runner feels as she digs her legs into the track toward the finish line. I finally crossed that same boundary mentally and although it may not have been my best race it has been one about learning and preparing for the next time my mind toes the edge before racing off into a new frontier of writing.

Personal Narrative: A Journal, a Journey

September 14, 2010 What¶s In A Name? My parents didn¶t bless me with a middle name like Hemmingway, Frost, or Shakespeare; instead my given name is Lynn. In the 1960¶s The Rolling Stones turned out another hit entitled, Little Miss Amanda Jones that consequently would later spur my parents on to naming their youngest daughter, Amanda Jones. They had high hopes I would be a musician and named me Amanda-Lynn, like the teardrop-shaped instrument the mandolin. Although I appreciate the beauty and poetics of music, I never have been able to respect it in the same way that I adore written word. Although I have never produced a beautiful melody, perhaps the unknowing wit and embarrassing humor of my parent¶s grand idea for a name was the catapult that drives my longing to write. Being a writer gives me the courage to think. A writer is not a title easily given or earned. Unlike the engineer who attends four years of college and then is spit out into the world with enough knowledge to earn a steady paycheck, a writer can¶t be built in an institution. A writer is similar to an inventor because no one goes to college and graduates with a degree in inventor-science. However I do believe that writing can improve though practice, reflection, and study because writing isn¶t always a sporadic spew of the mind¶s eye. I may not be able to provide a complete definition of what a writer is, but I can tell you that I am not a ³writer´ by Webster¶s definition. Today I am a writer of this page and in a year from now I will tell my students that they are all writers, even if it is only in my classroom with work safely completed for only my eyes. I believe that writing can be nurtured out of a person, like the clay on a potter¶s wheel. I may not be a writer, but I can write. Writing is hard and writing something that someone else might want to read is even more difficult. I am positive that the best aspect of writing is that no other form can completely express the emotion of a situation better. Like a stage being set up for a theatre, writing can completely immerse an audience immediately without a single prop purposely placed for action. Writing creates a story or situation that is only visible in the mind¶s eye of the reader. The power of words are unlike any other powers in the world because they can immerse a person in love like a pair of arms formed in a hug, and kill in the same way as the most deadly weapon. However, the most dangerous and yet fascinating aspect of writing is that once it leaves the hands of the writer it can never be changed.

September 14, 2010 Writing and Coffee Shops: My Own Personal Hell on Earth Being a writer gives me the courage to think. My favorite question to ask someone is what are they thinking about, but when the question is turned my way I have a hard time giving a straight answer. How do you tell someone that your inner monologue was just obsessing over the way a leaf was billowing down the side walk? Or, that you recently wrestled a goat to the ground for the first time and you are silently searching for the perfect words to write down to describe the triumphant event? Writers are weird. Coffee shops are noisy and already I have no idea why I decided the Leaf and Bean would be a great place to write, even if it is a shitty first draft. I¶m actually soundlessly freaking out about the eruption of children impatiently waiting for their $4 smoothie and young professionals trying to make deals with each other. I hate the term ³young professionals´ because what does that even mean and how does one become such a person? Coming here was the worst idea of the day, but it has confirmed that my writing process does not begin in an ear pounding, caffeine pushing, people faking, public version of hell! Perhaps it is the overdose of caffeine in my system, but the anxiety of being here coupled with the anxiety of not producing anything even close to a shitty first draft is overwhelming. I¶d rather go shopping, and I hate shopping. When I sit down to write I have three qualifications to meet prior to the first word being typed: a full stomach (or else I¶ll be searching the cupboards before I even open my laptop), a clean-enough workspace, and no noise that is any louder than the clock ticking away and measuring my life on the wall. A staple part of my personal writing process is writing at night when the neighborhood is quiet, other than the occasional train horn calling out to anyone who might still be awake to hear his warning. When I begin showing symptoms of writers-block I like to sneak outside and gulp down the fresh Montana air while stealing glances at the stories the stars wrote years before I was born. When I¶m out there, hiding from the dog and the man sleeping in our bed just two windows away I feel like a teenager stealing puffs from a forbidden cigarette. Instantly my mind clears, as if it were drugged by the calming nicotine of that illicit drag and I am ready to return to my desk with words already escaping through the exhale of the big skies cool atmosphere.

September 15, 2010 The Death of a Writer My earliest significant memory of writing revolves around quickly penning a will. Yup, a ³last will and testament´ in the third grade under my desk when my teacher raised her voice. Sometimes when I was feeling overly emotional I would write when the teacher across the hall screamed at her students; times were different then and screaming teachers were still accepted. Cowering in the fear of being yelled at and being caught writing only furthered my will writing, which went something like this«´When I die please bury me with my stuffed dogs, Mugsy and Mutsy and my Cabbage Patch kids can be given to my best friend (insert name of best friend of the moment)«and tell my parents that I¶m sorry for not eating more peas...´ and so on. I scribbled a mixture of print and cursive words furiously without attention to punctuation or spelling because even in the third grade I unconsciously knew that writing means having a certain amount of abandon. After I recovered from my moments of despair I usually ripped up the paper and forgot about how frightened I was. Then, a day or so later I would silently curse myself as I found myself writing another will while hoping I could finish it before the teacher shot me the look of death. I was a strange kid. I often recall writing poetry as an adolescent. Page after page would fill my notebook about all things lovely and dark. My parents fought with each other and when my mother ran out of problems to yell at my father about she would turn to me. There was no talking back, there never was a period of ³I¶m sorry, or I was wrong´ it was screaming then silence. In the silent moments I reflected on my grief and confusion in verse. I wrote and wrote and wrote endlessly every feeling, desire, and moment I could muster. I didn¶t mind that the other kids looked at me like I had a disease or that I was a nerd, that I was weird, and it might be contagious. A few years into writing she stumbled across my journals and was in a particularly bad mood that day. She leafed through them and mumbled a few negative remarks that I shouldn¶t have cared about, but I was young and emotional«so I threw them all away.

September 22, 2010 It¶s Okay to be Sad Because That¶s How You Find the Happy Often what I write is sad. I know that reading about sadness can make people feel uncomfortable because they were looking to escape to a place happier than their self-induced miserable existence, but sadness is honesty. I often hear about, read, or watch films about privileged twenty something laughing about their teenage angst and the prose they created protesting their parents already lenient rules. I don¶t look back and laugh on the pages I poured myself into when I was younger because they still are the truth. And sometimes the truth is sad. I read my father¶s eulogy when I was nineteen to a crowded funeral home filled with tearstained, hiccupping friends and family. I never planned on writing it. It was too sad. It was too true. My older brother had already taken the responsibility of creating the perfect words to end the funeral, or at least enough words to fill the time commitment. It was the night before the funeral and his calling-hours had just ended. I sat alone in the basement and stared at my ghostly reflection in the window, but I couldn¶t see myself because he lingered in my mind. I wrote down everything I didn¶t tell him, that I needed to tell him, that everyone at the service needed to hear about him. I can¶t remember what I wrote now, but I remember the feeling it gave me«the liberation from grief and the courage to let Bill¶s shyest daughter find her voice. After I write down the sadness that an imaginary window of happiness opens and floods a page with beauty. The following is an excerpt I wrote during a happy moment from a memoir titled, Deanie¶s Ice Cream. We climbed into his old Chevy Celebrity station wagon. It was new to us, but old and used to the rest of the neighborhood. The blue bomber smelled of dirt, dust, dog hair, and an ashtray overflowing with bits of Marlboro Reds. The windshield was spotted with bugs who had previously committed suicide in our path. I picked at the perfectly worn and pilled velour fabric of the backseat while Marcie gazed with a familiar goofy smile out of the window at the tall oaks and maples. Her perfectly fluffed bangs blew across her freckled forehead and into her eyes that were guarded by a pair of oversized pink glasses. We all sung the name-game song that played on his favorite oldies station; the only station that was ever played. Georgie, our docile Shar Pei sat in the front seat and panted almost rhythmically to the radio. I never saw his face, only the occasional glance of his peanut M&M colored and shaped eyes through the rearview mirror, but I¶m sure he was smiling even if it was his heart that sung and not his mouth. We rode through our neighborhood, past the bungalows that all looked the same. We waved at the children playing baseball in the street and stole looks through windows that showed families sitting down for dinner, or old men smoking cigars in their underwear. The wagon turned left and sped down Lincoln Way. I had just learned what sign pollution was and stated matter-of- factly that Perry Township was suffering from the worst case of sign pollution that I had ever seen. Marcie giggled and his brown eyes flashed in the rearview mirror then over to the dog as if George would understand his silent response. The three stop lights between our house and Deanie¶s felt like an eternity; like we could drive to Florida in the same amount of time. The sun was always setting in the exact same spot as we crept down the big hill that overlooked downtown Massillon. The hazy rays beat upon the windshield and glared in our eyeballs mimicking the white light we¶re suppose to see on our way to heaven.

September 24, 2010 Writing About the Little Things Turn Out to be The Big Things I take pride in sending emails that appear random to the recipient in their humor or wellwishing. Most mornings before I leave the house I write an email to Kyle, typically chronicling the dog¶s latest escapades around the neighborhood, or how the sky woke up in a better mood than I did and I know this because it sent bolts of magenta through our windows. As I craft my words carefully I enjoy considering the look on his face when he takes a break from engineering to read a few non-important things going on in life. I guess I like to write these ³non-important´ memos because I believe the details inside are what make life so special. I have little desire to publish anything I write. It seems like most of my peers find that the satisfaction of being published is the end-goal; the bagging of a peak deemed too dangerous to explore. Prose is my genre of choice. I find it just as difficult to write prose as I do creating a poetic masterpiece of words bouncing down a page. When I write I tend to stick to what I am good at because even when you are good at something it is still as painful as writing what doesn¶t come naturally. When I was twenty-five I experienced a quarter life crises and decided to load down my hatchback with junk and move to Montana. I remember telling my mother that I needed to leave the dreariness and chill of northeast Ohio and she silently understood, until I told her I would be departing later that week. Then she put up a tear-enraged fight all the while telling me to go and ³sow my oats´ as if I were some wild cowboy looking for a dog and a fast horse. When I left I felt that I was about to embark on something huge, but I didn¶t know what exactly. What I did know is that I needed to write it down«every detail so I wouldn¶t forget this time in my life. As I cruised across highway 90 I took notes on paper, notecards, receipts, and about anything else that would remind me of where I had been and where I was going. I wrote because it felt good and I although I could have picked up my phone to call someone I didn¶t feel like anyone, but the pen and paper in my shaky hands would understand. I didn¶t want to forget what hadn¶t yet happened, even though it was already feeling incredibly significant. I haven¶t revised what I scribbled down on those random pieces of paper and for the time being I don¶t care to change anything about them. My writing isn¶t about publication because I write for myself. I take the time to pen quick notes to my future-self because already I realize that it is the little details in everyday life that turn out to be the chapters in our biographies.

September 24, 2010 part 2 The Start of Something Writing a personal narrative is comfortably uncomfortable. Although my thoughts quickly escape through my fingertips and onto the page I worry about those same fingers turning in a document that isn¶t academically sound; and because of that I worry that my future students will feel the same way. How can I ask them to write fearlessly if I can¶t? To turn in their poetry, their hip-hop song lyrics, screenplays, prose, or simple five paragraph essay without self-doubt or humiliation? I¶m afraid that I¶ll be their silent fraud of a teacher because I¶ll teach them lessons on how they should form a writing process, but yet I don¶t have one of my own that I feel comfortable telling about. The only written work I have ever turned in has been for a grade. I obsess over the given topics and then wonder what my classmates are writing. In my hours of agony I contemplate if I am the only one suffering this much, and I must be because the level of misery I allow myself to experience is simply ridiculous. It wasn¶t until I began this journal and glanced back at the plentiful words that filled each page that I became aware of the picture-process I have created. My past teachers, mentors, and even my parent¶s words of ³it¶s never too late to try´ come pounding back into my mind, slapping me like wave hitting the rocky coast of Maine. I can see my process taking shape into something that I am proud of. Creating a journal of thought not only works as a therapy technique for the personal devastations and triumphs in life, but also in writing. Throughout my life I have been doing this all along, but it has taken me years to realize that this is my process! I¶m beginning to feel confident that what I¶m doing isn¶t right or wrong, but that it is the start of something and in order to get somewhere you have to have the courage to begin.

September 25, 2010 Therapy and Elk When I look through Anne Lamott¶s one-inch picture frame I see the brown eye of a thirteen year old quarter horse. The almond shaped half-dollar lined with godly placed mammoth eye lashes looks right at me and through me, into my brain communicating her trust. As the picture widens I can see her entire head now, long and smooth with a wild black mane bobbing to the rhythmic clop of her hooves. My mind moves further away and I see Darcy with her brown pony tail, messy under her helmet. Her thick-as-a-coke-bottle wire- frame glasses are sliding down her face to the reckless smile escaping her mouth as the horse moves faster. Her hands awkwardly clutch the reins, but it¶s the best that she can do because this is her weekly therapy. Writing is a similar therapy. Stepping into the smooth leather of a saddle attached to the long back of a gently-wild horse is like gripping the pen or tapping the keyboard before exploding your thoughts onto a page. Darcy¶s awkwardness slips away as the mare moves effortless down the trail, gently gliding Darcy¶s torso to the natural movements of the fourlegged healer. My mind mimics the horse¶s motion as I close my eyes and dream in words of truth. I want to write about the way football in Ohio makes me feel so everyone who hasn¶t spent a significant part of their life living in the Football Hall of Fame city can experience the rush of the excitement a hometown game feels under the Friday night lights. I want to write about what I see and I want to create words that are so beautiful and vivid that a man blind for nearly his entire life can see the fine details of watching the leaves change each fall in southern Vermont. I want to tell a story so unique that the readers almost trick themselves into thinking they were there. With ease I passionately paint pictures of the trails I¶ve taken, some down highways, and some through overgrown forests. I long most to tell those who can¶t travel to Heart Lake in Yellowstone how it feels to continuously ascend four a half miles towards the destination only to get a glimpse of the gorgeous waters that still rest five more miles away. Although I still don¶t desire to be published I want to share with someone how it feels to hear the first evenings call of a bull elk to a cow on the next hillside. Being able to describe how his throat rumbles before the crescendo of the soprano-like melody escapes his mouth pushes me to write. The enchantment of the wild draws me in and keeps my pen moving.

September 26, 2010 The End, An Unchained Melody I¶m going to keep writing towards a never-ending goal. The Righteous Brother¶s sing Unchained Melody with a fullness that I desire for my words to create. Their words, ³Oh my love, my darling. I¶ve hungered for your touch, a long lonely time´ create an emotion in my soul that I crave for my words to depict. Like life, writing is an adventure of constantly revising what happened the day before. My process is not fool-proof, but looking back it is one similar to that of my parents naming me after an instrument and an upbeat Rolling Stones¶ song; you can plan for the future, but until it happens planning is only like the well-wishing of a thoughtful note to a friend. Each new draft is like the addition of a new section of instruments in the orchestra. First the French horn sounds his call like the bull elk in the wild, and then the woodwinds respond to the call of their lover¶s lament. The strings begin to play a melody both melancholy and cunning atop the elk¶s magical reverberation, and then the percussion starts creating a fullness that grabs at the throat of the audience. The song is sung in many languages and even when the last note has been played it lingers in the minds of everyone. Writing creates the same emotion and lasting impression for me. Like the orchestra I keep practicing and playing my words out on the page in hopes that one day I too can create my own unchained melody.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful