Want to write? Scared about what will happen to your writing in your twenties? Max Rettig, a young man in his (early) twenties (so he hasn’t yet reached the HOLY CRAP I’M IN MY TWENTIES phase yet), explored the Writing in Your Twenties Panel and has written a piece about it.
Late last night, well into the darkness of a late October evening and as high as one can go in Kent, I looked through the window onto an angled but clear view of a well-lit Butler, where just two nights ago, I had spent eight hours working on my first submission for my nonfiction creative writing workshop, the first class in what will likely become my major. Ah, Creative Writing…this was the topic, and host department, of last night’s discussion about writing in your twenties.
The panelists have been, or are currently going through, “that kind of awkward part” in their lives, according to moderator and fiction professor Stacey D’Erasmo. Those panelists were: Jenna Johnson (CC’99, editor at HMH), Jennifer Miller (MFA fiction ’11, author), Josh Edwin (MFA poetry ’14, GS advisor, UW Fellow), and Chris Prioleau (MFA, founder and editor of Apogee). Each panelist had a chance to speak about their twenties experiences, sometimes slightly directed by D’Erasmo but mostly free to say whatever they wished. Chris Prioleau was the first to speak.
Chris’ main theme was that, with writing, unlike for every other profession, there’s no switch that flips and suddenly you understand your life. He made a strong case for developing a very good work ethic, but also not necessarily writing every day. His reason? “Once you’re out of school, no one is asking you or chasing you down for a workshop submission.” Chris drove that point home by mentioning “the bubble”. We, as undergraduates, think of the Columbia bubble as a geographic location. Chris thinks of “the bubble” as an idea, in which we are protected by professors and advisors who care if we are successful or not. Outside of that bubble, save for our family and friends, no one cares. He finished by suggesting that writers get out of their own box and try every type of writing possible.
Next to talk was Josh Edwin, who described his twenties as “untethered and adrift.” His main theme was solitude, and, helped by quotes from James Joyce and others, he went on to discuss the pros and cons of being alone as a writer. Solitude is both his best friend and worst enemy. A positive aspect, he felt, is the absence of people telling him what he should read and the absence of a syllabus of reading assignments. This allowed him to explore hidden gems he wouldn’t have found otherwise. As a con, he mentioned the lack of a community with which to be excited about and get feedback for your work. His most striking point, however, was that “the world doesn’t give a shit, especially about poetry.” Take yourself outside your work, he encouraged, and look at it from a new perspective.
Read more from someone in their twenties writing about writing in your twenties after the jump!