One Rainy Day

Today is a rainy Friday morning, two weeks from the end of the semester. I am standing in from of my First Year Writing class, knowing that they realize full well that it’s a rainy Friday morning, two weeks from the end of the semester.

We are in the Personal Narrative Unit, the one where they can pick whatever they want to write about so long as they are able to show the before, during, and after of the experience/event and show why the experience was significant to them in some way. I do not have a formal lesson set out for the day, which is no surprise, so I decide the weather is a fitting excuse to show the twenty minute clip from J. K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech, the video they will need to watch to complete an extra credit opportunity I am giving them, an opportunity almost all of them need. For me, showing the video is an opportunity for twenty minutes of captive attention that will coincide nicely with the end of class.

I show the video because Rowling’s speech can be seen as a Personal Narrative where she discusses more than one experience/event and the impact on her life. Although my students only have to focus on one experience/event that is important to them, Rowling’s speech demonstrates the concepts we talk about in Personal Narrative: showing the significance through use of examples; who they are before, during, and after the experience; and, ultimately, the takeaway from the experience.

As they are watching the video, I too listen and watch the video. I am struck by Rowling’s mention of people who either peer into the metaphorical cage, unafraid of what they might see, or who turn away, too afraid to find out. Rowling’s praise of the power of imagination likewise impresses upon me, and combined with the other part of her speech, I am left mulling over the recent events in my life.

Approximately one year ago I left substitute teaching and the other positions I held in school districts that I had grown to think of as a hybrid between the space where I moved towards becoming an adult and my post-college purgatory. I left to end the year in another school district working as a Special Education Para-Educator, a job that would not only round out my experiences in Education but also mean a daily paycheck.

Approximately one year ago was also when my dad lost the job he held for as long as I could remember. In the loss of his job, my family lost our quasi-stable sense of security that was replaced by the sobering reality that the lifestyle we knew and were accustomed had turned into a ghost – a shadow, a specter attached to each of our lives.

Lastly, approximately one year ago was when I made the decision to attend the University of New Hampshire to pursue my graduate degree in English Literature. This decision meant that I would have to move up to New Hampshire to be closer to school, leaving my parents and the Boston area for the rural setting of the granite state. A state away and a world apart.

Approximately one year later I am sitting watching J. K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech, and I realize that I veil the past. Not hide. Not escape. Veil. I cover the past – my past – with the creation of this new life. New location, new friends, new experiences. This newness makes it easy to mask the past because this newness provides ample opportunities for distractions. Romantic interests, classwork, scholarship, even texting are each shiny lights that help lead me away from the past.

As I sit listing to Rowling’s words, I begin to register that I simply did not come to this new place in my life; I arrived here through experiences that span beyond approximately one year ago. Experiences where I not only peered into those dark cages, but also extended a hand to those stuck inside, hoping for someone to extend a hand to me.

The power of imagination was another topic that I was struck by in Rowling’s speech. I am a writer, but I am not the writer I used to be. Once I wrote for both others and for myself, creating worlds and narrations that were drafted because I wished to engage in the craft of writing. But in this new life of mine I feel I have become a passive writer, skillfully composing works because they are required of me instead of out of the enjoyment of allowing my unbridled imagination to seize my fingers and cast my attention into the abyss of inspiration.

Where is that individual I remember being? Did I shove her in one of the moving boxes neatly labeled with the contents inside and conveniently forgot to unpack her? Did I think I could erase her by becoming a new self in this new setting? Or worse, did I cut her up, using only those fragments I thought would look best with the new image I was creating?

Perhaps none of those possibilities. Perhaps she is shackled inside me, wanting to be set free from her cage. All the while I dangle the key in front of her – painfully, tauntingly – until a time when the pushes and pulls around me see appropriate to unchain her, one link at a time so as not to become overwhelming.

Today I choose to begin the process of unchaining her. As I write this, the key starts to turn and her wrists slowly move.



The Confession of a So-Called Writer

I believe in the act of personal confession.  Confession helps to ease the burdens we carry by sharing that which we try to hide from others.  Our failures, our shortcomings, our embarrassments.  Confession is admission of being human.

I am in the process of calculating out the final grades for my students.  My students who I told on the first day of classes that the goal of the course is to make them better writers, a goal they have all reached.  Reflecting, I suppose I too have reached that goal and continue to reach that goal.  See, after a semester of reading first year writing students’ work, I’ve come to appreciate my own writing.  I still am insecure about calling myself a writer or even talking about writing, but after reading students’ writing and seeing them look to me as an authority on the subject and in turn seeing the advice and suggestions I give them be used and actually improve their writing, I’ve grown more comfortable in my role as a writer.

Which leads me to confession.  So, here it is: the confession of a so-called writer:

– I unpublished the books I self-published/e-published on Amazon Kindle and Nook stores.  This was mostly due to me realizing that my life circumstances drastically changed from when I first published them, changed in a way that has caused me to admit that I can’t spend enough time on them/building their series.

– I suck at Twitter.  My tweeting could be best described as croaking because that’s how bad it is.

– I never finished my 365 reasons to be thankful under Project Thankful.  I made it to Reason #231, but then stopped.  It kind of just fell by the wayside.  Although I didn’t reach my initial goal of 365 reasons, the process DID make me more thankful for what I have and for the things around me, so I’d still say it was a productive project.

– Going along with that last point, I also used to have a Confessions of a Writer posting series, but that too did not pan out.

– Okay, I tend to start things and let them fall by the wayside/not finish them/not post enough with them.  And that’s OKAY.  Writing is a process, and part of my process is trying things out that may or may not work.  I need to try out a bunch of things to see if anything sticks or even to advance.

– I fully accept that I may never be on The New York Times Bestseller List or have my work published and be put in bookstores. I accept this and move on.

– I’ve also accepted this blog’s randomness.  Hey, it says at the top that the focus of the blog is writing.  I purposely kept the focus somewhat ambiguous because I have a lot of thoughts going through my mind at any given time of day/when the mood moves me to blog.

– Lastly, I’ve accepted that I could be considered “simple” by some.  I like the Muppets and Peanuts and Disney and dark chocolate is my favorite food.  I have a nice persona and can come off as goofy and silly in situations and to people I probably should try to come off as more serious to, but if I try to be more serious, I feel like I come off sounding pretentious and I’d rather be thought of as goofy than pretentious.

So, there you have it.  That’s my confession.  For now.

Writing Is My Addiction – Project Thankful #227

This week, I have two assignments due for my grad classes.  One assignment is to write a 400 word response to this week’s readings, 2 articles about the teaching of writing.  The other assignment is to write a 1000-2000 word blog post about another set of readings (different class).

I started off with the blog post.  At the time, I thought the blog posts had to be 2000-3000 words, not 1000-2000 words, so 2000 words became my goal.  About 1300 words into it, and I decided to re-read the assignment, realizing it only has to be between 1000 and 2000 words.  At this point, it’s going to be closer to the 2000 mark.

Then, there is the 400 word response letter.  At 587 words, I emailed the professor to ask if the letter can be over 400 words.  She wrote back that it can be “a tad over” but that she didn’t want to overwhelm us during the first week of school.  When I finally finished the letter, it’s 862 words.

My name is Lauren Rocha, and I am addicted to writing.

At Prospective Student Day for potential English graduate students, professors warned/gave the advice that there would be a lot of writing in graduate school.  Note: there is a lot of writing in graduate school (there is also a lot of reading, but that’s a subject for another blog post).  But here’s the thing: I love to write.  If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be a blogger.  Or self-published two books once upon a time (I recently made the decision to un-publish those books, but, again, a subject for a different blog post).  Or write in my spare time.

The point is, I love to write.  So, yeah, the blog post for the class and the response letter are technically homework assignments, but it doesn’t matter; they are still writing.

What I am going to do then?  I have two choices: I can edit myself; or, I can write on.

The sounds of my fingers hitting the keyboard answers the question.


Project Thankful: Reason #181: On Career Mistakes

I’m thankful to have made mistakes in my career.

I’m preparing to publish again at the end of this summer.  Two years ago, I published my novels The Hunted and Darkness Calls.  It was the first time I ever published, and since then I have looked back and noticed several points at which I could have stopped and rethought decisions.  I could have re-written some parts of the books, done more research on e-book covers, and better formatted the books and book covers.  I could have waited to publish them.  I could have not published them at all or waited until they were more refined narratives.  

I look back on all of these, and I’m grateful to have made mistakes in my career.  Mistakes aren’t just how you learn; they’re how you grow.  If you never made a mistake, imagine how boring your life would be; it would be static.  Some of my decisions might not yield optimum results, but the results are always interesting and surprise me.

Take this blog, for example.  I started this blog to draw attention to my writing.  When I first began blogging, I didn’t blog very often.  When I did blog, I would just kind of write about whatever, not really clear about the direction this nascent blog would have.  Underneath the title of this blog is “Spotlight: Writing.”  Back then, I didn’t know myself, as a writer, well enough to build a strong base for that spotlight.  I was too caught up with proving myself, desperate to have a large number of followers as well as to have people buy my books, to understand that what attracts someone to writing is writing, not selling.

So here’s to mistakes, to failures, to missteps, and to moving forward.

Project Thankful: Reason #145

I’m only human.

Every day, there are things that I just don’t get to.  Reading that book I started last month, responding to those emails, updating this blog, continuing working on my drafts…the list goes on.  And when I think about what I should do in a day, I feel guilty.

Then I remind myself that I’m only human.  That yeah, I should read more, and I should respond to emails sooner, and I should update this blog more, and that I should write more.  But what I should do above all is to bring balance to the day, and that means not getting to some things.  Because at the end of the day, I need sleep.  I get up at 5 AM to start my day.

Project Thankful: Reason #115: In Defense of Stubbornness

I am a stubborn person.

Most people would not call me stubborn.  I try to be as polite as possible and when I refuse to budge on something, it often takes them by surprise.

I think stubbornness is a good quality to have, both as a person and as a writer.  As a person, being stubborn means you stand up for yourself and refuse to give into others.  Similarly, as a writer, being stubborn helps you to stand firm in your writing, allowing you defend the integrity of a piece.

There will always be someone who disagrees with you, who tries to bully you, and who tries to change your writing in a way that makes you hesitate.  As difficult as it may be, when you come across that person, you have to show your stubborn side.  At the end of the day, you are the only one able to fully, one-hundred percent look out for yourself.

Project Thankful: Reason #96

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being a writer.  I currently have two books, The Hunted and Darkness Calls, published on the Amazon Kindle store.  I am also currently in the process of writing the sequels to both of the books.  As I’m going through this process, I reflect back on the books and a list of things comes to my mind stating all the edits, changes, and just what I would have done differently back when I first wrote/edited/published them.

There will always be things I should have done differently.  That’s just life.  In regards to being a writer, I don’t associate the things I should have done differently with regrets.  I don’t have any regrets when it comes to being a writer.  No matter how scathing that part of me that looks at the books and says “Yeah, it would have been better…” is, if I had a time machine and could go back and re-do anything, I would still leave the books as they are.

Mistakes, failures, errors, misjudgments…they happen for a reason.  When it comes to being a writer, all of mine have made me a better writer.  I’d rather start weak and become strong instead of starting strong and turning weak.