A Novel Novelist
“Creative” writing and pleasure reading have trinkled to a stop for me. College courses and the work that comes with them proving that college is demanding; I give all of myself to my schoolwork. College has left me with no time to read for pleasure or write creatively, and I feel like I’ve become an essay producing robot—one who runs on three hours of sleep and dreams of getting a restful six hours. However, Dr. Saengers course had creativity built into the syllabus; it integrated assignments of entertaining and thought provoking reading and writing. The structure of these reading assignments created space in my schedule for me to actually read every word (and absorb the meaning). This schoolwork had the feel of something more that I wanted to do instead of something I had to do. Reading Katie Gutierrez’s More Than You’ll Ever Know helped to pull me (at least halfway) out of this slump and come to the realization that the time for creativity is available. This novel “forced” me to take the time to enjoy and deeply analyze literature. I thoroughly (and guiltlessly) enjoyed completing each of the reading assignments over Gutierrez’s book, as well as the thought provoking class discussions that followed. The realizations provoked by Gutierrez’s writing and the discussions pertaining to it were incredible in themselves. But then the professor of this course, Dr. Saenger, invited Gutierrez to visit our class in person. This experience multiplied the value of each discussion and tabbed book page. What better way to acquaint myself with the most remote crevices of this read than to talk to the author herself?
The entirety of this visit left me reeling—to be frank, this was one of the coolest things I’ve ever had the chance to participate in. Gutierrez managed to keep a calm composure, juggling friendliness and professionalism with ease—her explanations to our questions, done intelligently. I tend to put authors of books that I like on a pedestal, and this case was no different. Except that I was now able to talk to her. After our class ended, she was kind enough to autograph my book, and the short conversation that we had was so wonderful that I decided to attend the Authored by Alumni event. I idolized her, seeing her in a certain fictional hue. But her openness about the process of writing a book and the trials and errors of doing so cast her into a real light.
When the audience asked questions about staying inspired through the completion of such a daunting project; her advice was honest and motivating. She said something along the lines of: “An artist shouldn’t pursue their work professionally if they could imagine themselves working in a different field.” She finished with words of support and encouragement to the questioner. I’ve doubted myself and capabilities during my pursuit of the career that I dream of, but her thoughts on the matter struck me. I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I reminded myself that I do have time for improvement—no one starts at their best and is stuck there. I am incredibly grateful that the cards played out in a way that led to my meeting someone so impactful. This opportunity reiterated a valuable bit of writing advice that I learned in DRAFT, the writing program offered by Southwestern, over summer: write your shitty first draft. Time for improvement can be achieved, and either way, not every sentence has to be a profound one-liner. Even now, fingertips humming from being flown and smashed into the keys of my keyboard and cursor blinking, I have to remind myself that the fact is that life leaves no breathing room—regardless of how much you cram to stay ahead. So it’s vital to make the time to take a break and do something that you love, to express yourself.