While always believing that writing can be a means of healing, I find myself learning this lesson afresh in the early stages of the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics graduate program at the University of Washington Bothell. The writing prompts given in class have nudged me into looking at aspects of my life which I’d been ignoring and not wanting to talk about. Ever.
I’m also reminded of the complexity of each person’s life. Someone can grow up in a wealthy suburb like Bellevue and not be wealthy or a snobby suburbanite. A person can have warm family memories and have recollections of abuse side-by-side in the same life. In many ways, I think I’m developing a poetic of self.
On a somewhat egocentric track, there’s something appealing about the thought of words and ideas living on after I’m gone, maybe to be discovered anew in the back recesses of a bookshelf in some unknown future. Writing has the potential to change an instant into an eternity, a moment into something monumental.
Ideas, art, and writing can live on after we die. For example, Mary Shelley’s “hideous progeny,” Frankenstein, has probably affected more people in more places throughout more generations than any natural born children would have ever produced. Any given author may die, but their words can live on, animated by the ideas of the dead author–yet inanimate, too, with no breath, no heartbeat. Almost a zombie-life.
At the 2014 Fall Convergence which began the Fall Quarter, Canadian author Gail Scott talked about wanting to recreate the cadence of Montreal speech in her book, The Obituary, by blending together both English and French, thus creating an almost musical score from the words. Cia Rinne’s work also produced a similar sense of musicality in the written and spoken words. Ronaldo Wilson said at one point during the Convergence that he wishes to “sing in tune with the many songs I come from.”
And I realized, so do I.
As a parent, I have spent many warm evenings cuddled up with my children, reading aloud from classic stories. The books we shared came alive in the reading. The characters became our friends. The plots felt like part of our histories. The fact that I was reading aloud gave us opportunity to listen to the writing, to feel the rhythm of the words, to hear the refrain of that dear little engine as he chugged up the hill to the reprise: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
I want my writing to be something that can be read aloud. I want to find ways to express the musical cadence of speech of characters in a story or people in a memory. And like Ronaldo Wilson, I want to learn to make my writing sing in tune to the many songs I come from.
One of my personal goals while starting the MFA program was to discover (or rediscover) my creative writing voice. After years of academic writing and writing for popular non-fiction venues, giving voice to my inner self has become somewhat lost, blurred, or buried. I believe it’s time to find that voice. Whether this means I rediscover my former writing voice, or find a new voice all together, is yet to be seen.