Earlier this month I took a step in a new writing direction. I submitted a personal essay for a contest.
I’ve thought about writing personal essays before, because if there’s one thing I love, it’s talking about myself. I wasn’t exactly sure HOW to write a personal essay, but I’ve never let lack of knowledge stop me from trying anything.
I read several how-to articles on writing personal essays. Lack of knowledge doesn’t stop me from doing things, which includes educating myself so I don’t end up looking like a fool. While I learned, I jotted down ideas in a notebook. In November, I decided to try my hand at it. During a marathon day waiting in the hospital while my dad had surgery, I ended up writing two essays in my notebook (along with meeting my word count for Nano that day, reading two magazines, and killing my phone; it was a REALLY long day). Once Nano was over, I typed them both up and picked the one that I thought would be the best to enter into the contest.
I don’t expect to win. I think the essay I submitted is a passable first legitimate attempt and I think it’s good enough to encourage me to keep doing it.
In fact, it’s given me an idea.
There’s a definite theme to the two essays that I wrote and the ideas I’ve been putting in my notebook. It’s developed into a new project for me. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, whether I put it this project up here for free or self-publish it. I may try submitting more of the essays I end up writing if I can find places in that market.
At any rate, it’s a project I’m going to continue to work on and develop. It uses different writing muscles for me. It’s like blogging, in a way, but there’s far more emotional content to it. There’s definitely more refinement than my typical blog post and more of a narrative need, like fiction-writing. It’s a challenge, particular the emotional part. Sure, I like talking about myself, but I like to keep it superficial. Digging out those emotions and putting them out there for other people to see is a little daunting, but it’s something I have to do if I want the essays to be good.
And I want the essays to be good.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to suddenly stop writing fiction. I think it’s good for me to explore and experiment. It builds up the writing muscles and helps me get better.
And in the end, getting better is what I really want to do.