I had my first Writers’ Fest sophomore year. Admittedly, I didn’t know what to expect. I was still developing my craft during that time and hadn’t broke through that creative surface. I struggled with accepting my writing as my own, creating stories and stories that didn’t entirely tell my truth.
When I arrived on that early morning, I was cold and tired. It hadn’t dawned on me that I was about to be in the presence of amazing writers who wanted to share their expertise with my classmates and me.
I hadn’t accepted that this event was for me; I really hadn’t accepted that I was a writer. I had made notes about workshops that I was interested in and took notes while I was in those master classes, but the experience didn’t really hit me until I attended a workshop with Ira Sukrungruang.
I went to his workshop, originally, because I enjoyed his personality on stage when all of us creative writers were introduced to the authors. He was bright, funny, and incredibly genuine. I wanted to see how he was able to be himself since I struggled with doing that – in other words, I was seeking out personal truth. I didn’t know this was what my creative brain was reaching for, but looking back, that is exactly what it craved, subconsciously.
In that master class, I learned about the depth of creative nonfiction – a genre that boggled my mind because I hated writing anything about myself.
I was exposed to a bigger issue within myself. I was closed off and felt unworthy of expressing what pained me and what made me happy. I wanted my stories (both fictional and not) to have nothing to do with me; many of my stories told of the fantasies I wanted my life to be filled with. Writing, for me, was always a very solitary and self-fulfilling practice in those years. I never thought about the reader; I was my only reader. I never wanted to express the journey of my characters because I knew, somehow, it would get too personal.
As I have gotten older, I have realized how damaging this can be to one’s craft and one’s own journey of healing.
In that master class, Ira told us to write something true. Something that affected us deeply. He said no one had to read it but you. That was the first time I ever wrote something honest about my insecurities. After we all took that time to write, he allowed some people to share what they put down.
That space became incredibly vulnerable. He even asked if anyone of us had nervous habits; I opened up about how I picked my nails or cuticles when I was sad, angry, or nervous.
Overall, that entire experience was shocking; the things I shared surprised me. I had always been uncomfortable with vulnerability because I had been so used to bottling my problems, but that experience taught me to let yourself live; to allow truth a voice. By allowing your writing to capture a personal lens, the reader can relate to it. If not for the story or nonfiction piece, in the very least, do it for yourself.
That Writers’ Fest, yes, taught me about writing, but it mostly taught me about humanity. I lacked so much humanity and understanding in my life because I was taught it didn’t matter. I was used to keeping it to myself because my pain didn’t matter; what made me live and hurt didn’t matter.
I am happy to say I consider myself more of a writer than I did, then. I am a lot more mature, vulnerable, and I understand the importance of personal truth. I try to live by my truth every day; I am more myself because of it. By allowing myself access to my humanity, I have been able to connect to the humanity of others, even if it’s just for a laugh or moment of empathy. I strive to be as genuine as Ira and it has helped me grow tremendously. I am not as scared to be myself, anymore.
Granted, I still struggle – there is always doubt when I decide to write something that puts my vulnerability out there. I know there is a reader, though, who may resonate with what I say; maybe through my words, they will find their own.
– Reece Braswell, Senior Art Editor