Thursday, February 19, 2009

Risky Business

I don't make New Year's resolutions. I see nothing magic about the date, January 1, and I always let it pass without a single vow to give up sweets or exercise every day (as if either of those would ever happen.) Apparently, somebody didn't get the memo, however, because a resolution has forced itself upon me. I'm calling it my "Risk Resolution" because at every turn for the past couple of months, I have been faced with one challenge after another that requires me to take a risk - hold my breath, make the dive, and hope for the best.

The year began with a major change - Steve and I decided as a couple to change churches. This was not a decision we came to lightly or quickly, but once it was set into motion, it snowballed into Risk 101. Suddenly, I find myself going to church with 500 people I've never met. I'm going to Bible studies and small groups and dinners with total strangers. While no one who's met me would ever describe me as shy, the word reticent might come to mind. Just like when I first started at Converse four years ago, I find myself making little deals in my head. Okay, Sarah. Just speak out at least once during this get together...even if its only to ask where the bathroom is.

Then there's grad school. Sure I wanted to go to grad school. And yes, I planned to apply before the school year was out. I've been working on my manuscript for Senior Seminar, and I planned to use that for my grad school applications. Then about a week ago, I got an email about a scholarship opportunity. While I was thrilled about the possibility of being nominated for a scholarhship, this did accelerate all my plans. So I'm meeting tomorrow with Professor Tekulve to go over my manuscript as it stands to see if it's grad school ready. Scary. I have to send my baby (my manuscript) off to total strangers who will tell me if they think I am good enough for their school. No pressure.

Apparently, I decided I didn't have enough risk in my life, however. I had an essay due tonight in my Creative Non-Fiction class. I decided to expand on something I wrote for a previous blog entry (see "The Secret Life of Cupcakes.") I am intrigued by the lyric essay, and we read a wonderful essay for this class that also followed a more experimental structure (See "The Pain Scale" by Eula Biss.) So I sat down to write a lyric-style essay using my blog entry and weaving it with some additional writing. By the time I was finished with my first draft, I was practically in a cold sweat. Professor Howie said he would reward those who took risks, but what if the essay was so bad that he couldn't even see what I was aiming for? I frantically called a writer friend and asked her to read the essay. She generously did so and gave me her comments and suggestions. After working some more on my essay, I was still terrified about turning it in. (This was a reflection on my writing, not Martha's wonderful advice.) As my panic reached its zenith, I sent my email to the long suffering Professor Howie. A portion of the text follows:

I'm freaking out just a bit about my essay that I'm bringing in tomorrow night for next week. For some reason that I can't even remember right now, I decided it would be really exciting to try a sort-of-lyric arrangement for my essay. I just didn't want you to think that I thought it was good. I just decided to experiment, and, now, I'm just going to have to go with it. I know this email is getting more bizarre by the minute, so I'll end it before I start sounding too needy.

Though Professor Howie was very comforting, class tonight did little to allay my fears. Very few of the people in class are writers, and as we workshopped other stories, I found myself disagreeing with most of the things the non-writers said. Next week's workshop of my story may end up a blood bath, but, alas, I have offered up my story as gift to the writing gods, and I shouldn't whine if I get a little singed. I took a risk with the essay, and I'm going to stick to it. It may be a cliche, but I'm going to say it, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

1 comment:

  1. Trust yourself...I bet your essay is better than you think. Anyway, it's always good to stretch yourself as a writer and try new things.