Last semester I took a course at our local community college. It was a creative writing and poetry class that I chose as a vehicle to process my emotions around my cancer diagnosis. It was a choice I made between a college class for $46 dollars a unit or several sessions of therapy with a psychologist. While I fully support and believe in the importance of counseling, for me the choice to learn how to write fictionally about my experience with a cancer diagnosis made more sense. I have been a student for many years and I am always interested in learning new skills. Besides, who hasn’t thought about writing their memoir?
So off I went to class with my notebook and textbooks on writing fiction and a desire to learn how to write an engaging short story. During the course of the semester I would face many difficult memories and emotions, almost dropping the class because of the intensity of my feelings.
The class was challenging and frustrating (especially the poetry section) but by the end of the semester I had learned a lot about the craft of poetry and storytelling. I can tell you that writing a fictional story or poem is not something that flows like writing in a personal journal. The task of bringing your fictional pages to class to be shared with other students in a workshop format felt like exposing myself to strangers because that is exactly what it was. The feedback I received from my fellow students was helpful yet felt strangely invasive. I had poured my heart out onto the page and to hear my story critiqued made me feel overly sensitive and raw. What I learned from the workshop experience was to let my story go; just let it go. My story is personal but it is just a story. The gift I learned from my writing class was how to step back and see my personal story as one story among many. I learned that everyone has a story to tell and that all stories have value just like all lives have value.
What can I say to others about the experience of writing creative fiction at Junior College? I can advise you to write about your life. The good, the bad, and the mundane. It all makes for good copy.
I know many friends who journal on a regular basis and received a few beautiful journals from special people when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014. I think journaling is a great way to process your emotions and document your life. I have kept journals in the past and from time to time I will read back through my journals to remember situations I faced and emotions I experienced. Journaling has helped me get through a lot of things in life and is a useful way to release anxiety and jumbled emotions.
There is something cathartic about getting things out of your head and onto the page of a journal. Sometimes it affords you clarity and can change your perception of a difficult situation. I want to encourage you today to start writing down your life experiences. You are important and your life perspectives have meaning.
Peace & Light!
a poem by Traycie Mitchell
My butter cream colored
French lace bodice
Whisper weight tulle veil
Covers my face and hair,
And flows over my shoulders
Down to meet the floor
The last few rays of sunlight
Penetrate through the stained glass windows
And cast a kaleidoscope of jewels
Across the altar table
And down the aisle
My hands grip the communion rail
The shiny gold band heavy around my finger
Squeezes and obstructs the flow of blood
I turn my head
Peer out beyond my veil’s creamy haze
And see a drop of perspiration
Down the temple
Of my Beloved
Grasp the rail next to mine
Knuckles white with nervous tension
The gold of his ring glows
Warm in the evening light.