Wrestling with my words

Draft after draft, change after change, scene after scene…

At this point, I’m not entirely sure if a single word that was written for the original draft of my chapter in If I Leave Here Tomorrow will make it to the final copy. The time period covered — my college career — hasn’t changed, but most of the specifics have. The focus has shifted several times, and scenes come and go as they fit the new mold. And that’s okay.

Everything about this story has been a perfect storm in creating a challenge for me.

This has been a crash course in long-form writing, something I had yet to do during my short journalism career. During my graduate school studies, I’d either written stories for the student newspaper or research papers, entirely different styles than what has been asked of me for Invictus. Trying to craft a compelling narrative that reaches the 5,000-word mark has been difficult. In my early drafts, I would go on too long trying to explain everything and what it meant. Brad kept telling me to stop explaining what I thought it meant and instead just write about what happened. He keeps telling me that I’m acting like a journalist instead of what I want to be — a writer.

The other challenge is the one of the major themes of my chapter: opening up about myself. I’ve never been one for self-disclosure. It would be much simpler to try and write the tale of someone else rather than sharing my life story. Having to write about the events that shaped me over the past seven years hasn’t been easy.

But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This project has taught me more about writing than anything during my final semester of college. It makes me excited to try and tackle another one of these projects — maybe it just doesn’t have to be about me this time.

Over dinner a couple of weeks ago, Brad asked me what I want to do when I leave college. I hadn’t been sure of an answer up to that point. While I am pretty proficient as an editor, and have enjoyed the opportunity to work with every story that will make up this book, I don’t want to stop writing when I enter the field. I want to use some of my free time to find and tell stories, to create, to write.

That will be the ultimate lesson I take from working with The Invictus Writers. It will be the understanding that I need to continue to practice my craft if I want to be the best writer I can be. This process has showed me what it takes to be successful — the time, energy, and drafts that go into a polished product.

I also cannot wait to follow my six peers as we disperse and blaze our own trails. I can expect great things from them, and I look forward to reading the things they produce in the projects that follow this one.

For now, my journey with Invictus isn’t over. I go back to writing, looking for the scenes and words that will craft my story. But while it may be difficult, I am also embracing what this struggle has taught me.