by Kayleigh Thiel
As a novice, a newbie, a rookie (or any other synonym for “enthusiastically clueless”), I begin my internship duties forgetting to breathe. I wish writing were like riding a bike – but unfortunately, writing is not even something that continues effortlessly while you are in the act. Because of all the unseen and forgotten edits and the peremptory – yet unwanted – 20-minute intermissions when ideas are on break, the act of writing is a personal experience, meant to be thrust under the eyes of judgmental strangers. Why do writers do this to themselves? Well, when I write, all of those descriptions and ideas that distract me from my classes finally have somewhere to go – call it a subliminal defense mechanism against schizophrenia.
I often wonder if other writers feel this same way – that there are so many words and pictures floating around in his or her mind, and it all must get on paper in a way that sounds a little more educated than gibberish. Normally, I turn to my favorite pieces of writing to inspire me, which is never a good idea because then I decide that there is no way these successful, award-winning writers feel anything like me. They most likely spew brilliance, and then edit tiny grammatical errors. Their literary richness is to Jay Gatsby as mine is to Oliver Twist. So one day, after having read an excellent short story in a literary magazine, I decided to praise the author. I wanted to link my world with hers, to wave and lock eyes with royalty while I stood-by on the street. Nervously, I typed an email that described how much her story had inspired me; I praised her cleverness and imagery; I told her that she should never stop writing because I had already read all of her other works and needed more. Then I clicked send.
I imagined her literary agent flippantly deleting my message, as there were obviously more important messages from the New York Times and international publishers to read. Or, I pictured this author scanning my email, then lighting a cigarette and smiling with a “well isn’t that cute” attitude as she deleted it. So imagine my surprise when the author herself wrote me back within the hour. She was as enthusiastic as myself, matching my bright-eyed praise and smiley-face icons with exclamation marks and blushing thank you’s. Adding to her humble humanity, she told me that my message came at a great time because she was suffering writer’s block – her ideas were on break like mine! Maybe, they were on break together.
Immediately, I realized that this was what I had forgotten. Writers are the only ones who know what and how writers think. By simply engaging in the act of writing, writers become a community. This togetherness and understanding comprises the encouragement that keeps us going. There is no royalty in writing – we are all common people with profound ideas. Though there are novices and published writers, the only difference between the two is perseverance. And this is great news because it means that award-winning writers have been just as enthusiastically clueless as myself.
I am so proud to be a part of the MTSU Write Program for this reason. Established writers humbly accept the challenge to guide new, genius writers who will no doubt grow from their mentors’ camaraderie and support. There is no hierarchy or class system because we are a community, collectively shaping our craft and passionately sharing our experiences.
Kayleigh Thiel is a senior at Middle Tennessee State University. She is majoring in English and has published two works, including a short story in the Collage Fall 2015 issue. Kayleigh is the writing intern for MTSU Write for the 2016 Spring semester.