Just thinking about my earliest writing elicits cringes and pained contortions from secondhand embarrassment. I remember being so proud of my audition portfolio, thought I was the next writer with God-given talent discovered at a young age. Perhaps immediate scoffs when reading my earliest writing isn’t the best reaction because that embarrassment and shame I feel when reading my clumsy prose and cliché poetry lets me know that I have evolved as a writer.
Early in my writing career, I believed fiction was completely divorced from the writer and poetry was always angry spoken word or dramatic Edgar Allen Poe rhyme. I didn’t understand that my personal truth could come into play with either of these genres because creative nonfiction itself was a genre and that’s only where I could let the reader know about my life. The result of trying to keep my prose and poetry sterile, free of personal information, was something safe and cliché, showing technical promise but no real depth. It was only after taking a speech/oral interpretation class I realized that one’s personality and experiences can come into play with poetry and by extension, fiction. That class gave me permission to take a published poem and make it my own with stylistic choices and intonation and most of all, relate to it, live inside the piece, let it live inside me for a while.
With this revelation and newfound confidence under my belt, my writing began improving. I began writing more consciously about things I was passionate about. My fiction held more clues to my personal life and my poetry became distinguished from usual teen poetry as I learned to become more comfortable in my skin. Oral interpretation broke my shell, and an advanced poetry class during my junior year gave me permission to ooze out. Junior poetry class forced me to be naked in front of my peers in a way normal critique groups didn’t- I now had to write from very personal places without the guise of fiction protecting me. My peers had to read the details about my life I couldn’t even previously utter, and then critique it, tell me what wasn’t working, but also, what was working, what they were interested in. Having this renewed confidence and nakedness oral interpretation class gave me, I’m now learning how to make my fiction as personal as my poetry. I’m writing thematically about things I never would’ve even given the time of day before and my voice as a writer has become infinitely stronger because of this. Diction and syntax that is unique to me has emerged. Fictionalizing my personal truth, my heart beating and bleeding on the page, is a process I’m still learning to create fiction that is still uniquely my own but easier to write about. Once I got a taste of personal truth permission, it was all I could write about, so much so my prose would veer into creative nonfiction, my poetry a diary, so now I’m reeling it back in and being more selective with my personal truth. My earliest writing was good for my age, but now it has improved in strides I’d never believed to be possible, and it’s still improving.
–Gabriella Christenson, Poetry Editor