Before I went to grad school to get my MFA in Creative Writing, I had a love of the written word.
I loved poetry and I loved myths and folktales. Strangle little tales were gems to me. I loved proverbs and wisdom stories.
They felt to me like spaces I could enter and I loved this feeling of transport. Each space was different. Some vast and clean, some mysterious and paradoxical.
This way I had of experiencing writing illuminated something about the world. It made everything seem bigger. More was possible than I saw happening in the world around me.
Obviously I wanted to master this craft.
I had this notion that to become a writer of things like this, I needed something like a guru, and I needed to become something like a monk.
I went to grad school.
My notion turned out to be inspired yet naive. Grad school was not monkish. The university was not a guru system.
My time there involved doing research and making arguments and judging how writing took part in various contemporary niches and movements. Whether my own writing was referential and informed.
Basically, it was a great education but ironically not what I had wanted. It awoke something in me, and I also let it smother a part of me that had got me there in the first place.
The kind of writing I did while at school was only sometimes the kind of writing I loved.
I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. It’s the sort of writing you could hear at a reading and politely clap for and then move on. It was not deeply impactful on me or anyone else.
After grad school I did a lot of introspective work through long freewriting sessions to uncover what was most alive in me. I found ways to be informed by what I had learned and also most importantly to let the deepest parts of me — the parts that had naive expectations — breathe.
For me this was the labor of love.
Rather than continue in the direction that had been affirmed through education, I sought to reveal what felt true and unique to me. To move forward, I needed to take a big step back.
I have been continuing to take that backwards path ever since.