On Sunday, August 30, I had the great privilege of taking a writing class with the People’s Poet Tony Robles. For those who don’t know, Tony Robles is a poet from San Francisco who is now the Carl Sandburg Home Writer in Residence & Resistance. On Sunday, he offered a virtual class titled “Writing out of Quarantine.”
I consider it a privilege to write and study with literary role models whose work I have admired and looked up to. In my short time as a budding writer, I have been fortunate to be in the company of writers such a Tony Robles, ZZ Packer, Kristen Valdez Quade, Patricia Powell, and so many brilliant, creative minds, that it is humbling to ponder on the luck and fortune that has shaped my writing trajectory.
On Sunday, I was expecting Tony’s class to be an opportunity in which I honed my poetry skills, since poetry isn’t my strongest genre. I know that writing poetry inherently improves literary craft techniques such as imagery, rhyme, metaphor, simile, etc. My prose writing could benefit from this experience. Instead of learning lessons about poetry, I actually learned a more valuable lesson about writing.
In the beginning of class, Tony asked us how the quarantine affected us. There were about a dozen people on the call and for the most part we all expressed the same feelings- we couldn’t write. We felt it took more time to accomplish tasks. There was an overall sentiment of despair. Many expressed grief- from the loss of a life to the loss of motivation of the things they once loved to do like paint, write, hug. It was sobering but empowering to relate to complete strangers.
When it was my turn to share, I expressed that I had felt the same sentiments and that I have had lingering feelings about the direction of my writing. Lately I have been investing more time and dedication to my blog, that I have neglected my other writing projects, specifically the short stories I have been writing for the last four years. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing. In fact, on my blog, I’m writing 4-5 times a week, about 30 minutes to an one hour, sometimes more depending on the topic. While I’m not actively writing my short stories, I’m still actively writing- on my blog. Does this make me less of a writer? I know blog writing is not the same as literary writing, but it’s still writing. I still put in the time to craft sentences, phrases, and I’m particular about certain words and details. I apply the same craft elements as I would in literary fiction such as developing imagery, tone, theme and sometimes character and setting. And while I’m not publishing a book, I hit a little button 3-5 times a week that says “publish.” I share my work with others and sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll get encouraging phrases like a “like” or a comment. With all that is going on in the world, on my blog I try to write about the positive aspects in my life, and this is done intentionally because I need an escape from the pain and sorrow I’m feeling every day. This blog is saving me.
I know one day I will return to my short stories. I haven’t abandoned them completely, but for now my blog is what I need. It’s a place that I can simply write and be proud to be in the company of bloggers, readers and writers. While some might argue and suggest that blogging is not writing, I will respectfully disagree and say writing is writing. Like breathing is breathing. Like walking is walking. Sure we all do it a little differently, but at the end of the day, we all exhale and inhale, take step by step, put words together, one by one, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. Am I a blogger? Am I a writer? Maybe I’m lucky — I’m both.