Becoming Eliza

Eliza Lambeth's Gravestone
Eliza Lambeth’s Gravestone

During last semester, I was given an assignment in my Intro to Creative Writing class that involved writing a dramatic monologue. I scratched my head. A dramatic monologue? Isn’t that a theater thing? I admit that poetry is not my strong suit. Other than the angst-ridden poetry that I wrote during my Goth days in high school, I haven’t spent much time with it. Which is hilarious, by the way, because I hated writing short stories in high school, and that seems to be all I do these days. Anyway, this is why these complicated poetry assignments were freaking me out.

Needless to say, even after my prof lectured on the elements of a dramatic monologue and how I should pretend to be someone else, I spent quite a bit of time searching Google for further help. This was a portfolio piece after all, and I wanted to make sure that I only submitted my best work. I started by writing a poem as a homeless teenager. I could write a decent amount about that topic, no? It was a big issue in my hometown.

I let my boyfriend read what I had written so far. “I don’t like it,” he said, honest as always. I asked why. “Because you’re clearly not passionate about this. There’s no feeling behind it.” He had a point. I could definitely do better. More head scratching. What the hell was I going to write about?

And then it hit me. I searched frantically through folders upon folders of pictures saved on my laptop for the ones that I took in Kentucky while on a road trip. There it was: a photo of an old gravestone. You’re probably asking me how the fuck any of this makes sense. I should probably tell you that I love traipsing through old cemeteries and value the amount of history that can be found in them. As I was walking through this particular cemetery in Bardstown, KY, something about this stone smacked me on the back of the head. The stone, which belonged to a stranger named Eliza Lambeth, seemed to be calling to me, and it prompted me to take a picture of it for use in a later piece of my writing. I found that piece in my dramatic monologue.

The writing happened so seamlessly then. I wasn’t stumbling around in the dark looking for my next verse. The words kept pouring out naturally, with only a little effort on my behalf. At that moment, I was Eliza. I showed my boyfriend this new version. “Now this sounds more like something you’d write,” he said. Thanks, Eliza.

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It’s a Wrap

For the past three months, I’ve been busting my ass in an Intro to Creative Writing class and a Blogging class. Seriously, I’ve never written so much in such a short span of time. If I didn’t have grad school apps going out while I tried to stay on top of my work, I might have complained a little less during the semester.

That doesn’t matter anymore, because this literary form of boot camp was just what I needed. I’ve come a long way, in many ways. A writer needs confidence, and that was an area that was lacking for me. But when part of your grade involves standing up in front of a class and reading your first drafts out loud to a class of twenty, you get over that faster than one would think. Especially when you witness other people being ripped apart. I no longer feel the urge to throw myself on top of a rough draft anytime someone walks behind me or peeks over my shoulder. Let it suck, and let people tell you what sucks. It makes the next round of revisions easier.

The Holy Grail most sought after by rookie writers- that “perfect first draft”- really is just an object of legends. They just don’t happen, and they really don’t happen when you only have a day and a half to write a new 2-6 page magical realism story either. Oh, you’ve never written magical realism before? Ha.

So now I’m going to stop here, because I need to go fix this personal statement that’s due tomorrow, even though I’d rather get root canal done sans Novacaine than work on it.