I have tasked myself with writing another personal essay for a contest. On top of learning to write a personal essay, there’s an added degree of difficulty involved with this one in that I will be putting more of my emotions on paper. I’ll be the first to admit that the first essay I wrote and entered into a contest was a bit restrained on the emotional side.
I’m not an emotional person. I don’t like to get emotional. I don’t share my emotions freely (aside from happy) with people. And though it’s easier for me to explain myself by putting words on paper, I find that I still have an emotional block.
This is a problem. The essay that I’m working on, the one that I would like to submit, needs emotion in order for it to work. It’s about an emotion. Without putting real feeling into it, it’s going to come off as sterile as a research paper. And what good is that? I’ve written my share of research papers. Not the same as a personal essay.
And I struggled mightily with this during the first draft. I wrote it in bits and pieces, out of order, which isn’t the way I normally work. When it comes to writing, I seem to do better going straight from A to B when working on a first draft. I then assembled the bits and pieces I wrote into a coherent form and found that when put together…the draft was definitely less than the sum of its parts.
It was pretty frustrating.
The individual bits, I felt, contained the emotion the piece needed, but when the bits were put together, it lacked the emotion I wanted and instead came off like a soppy mess. It wasn’t saying what I wanted it to say and it wasn’t evoking the emotion I wanted it to evoke.
It was, to put it nicely, garbage.
So, I put it aside and decided that maybe this wasn’t the essay I should write and maybe I shouldn’t be writing personal essays at all. Fiction is my forte and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I let that crappy first draft sit and in the back of my mind wondered if there was anything I could do to salvage it because I hate to say that I’m going to do something and then, for whatever reason, I don’t do it. I don’t like giving it up. And I wasn’t quite ready to give up on this piece. I knew what I wanted to say, but I didn’t say it in the first draft because I was holding back, no matter how pretty those bits and pieces were.
The idea for the fix came to me when I was scribbling away in my journal. There I can go on and on about my emotions without fear of exposure and judgement. That’s what I needed to do for this essay to have a chance at working. I need that feeling of safety and freedom.
So I wrote a new first draft in my journal. This draft came out a whole lot easier and a whole lot better. I’m still not sure I can make it into something worth submitting. That’s a different battle.
But to get that first draft out, the draft I knew I could write and the one I wanted to write, was quite a relief.