Essay Fragments

Essay Fragments

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Does your writing sometimes exist in fragments for months at a time?

I have so many ideas for essays, titles, little pieces I’ve written here and there, observations, journal and free-write entries that might eventually become something. Many of my essays come into being sprawled across multiple notebooks and on pages stuck into my folders at school. Once I have an idea, I muse on it for quite a while, and it comes to me in flashes, which I write down fast, pen flying, and then I take a long break, knowing that I’ll eventually . This makes sense, and I think it even makes my writing better, because I’m often dealing with multiple ideas that get twisted up into what I hope becomes an interesting yarn.

I’ll share a couple of my fragments with you:

i.

The probable site of my future wedding is Providence City Hall. 

I feel not tied down to this idea, but excited. Rhode Island has welcomed me and I’ve made it home, so much so that I feel like putting down money for a house; so much so that I want strings of lights in the basement for the many Christmases I’ll spend here. I can imagine walking hand in hand with my little ones down these streets, and meeting them at the library when they’re old enough to go on their own. 

I like that I can smell salt water and drive to the ocean. I like the way people know and honor each other. I like that this place welcomes and values me; that I am not a stray but a refugee seeking haven, that I have found a way to envision futures away from where I came from. 

ii.

At times it seems inevitable. When I tell people I’m a high school English teacher (even in bars; especially in bars), they will look a little sheepish. “I wasn’t very good at English in school,” they will say. And they will follow this with a confession that they either hated reading or writing, or both.

I’ve grown interested in the catalogue of reasons to not read: books never captured their interest, they found all the class books boring, they liked reading as kids but somehow school took the joy out of it, they had learning issues, a disability, ADHD, or were just slow at reading, and they couldn’t keep up. Or they just had better things to do.

My students often hate reading too, and they tell me. Some seem adamant that I will NOT like them, because they DON’T like reading. They’re defiant at the start of the year, and though I wish I could say that every kid in my class learns to love reading by the end of the year, I know that many of them leave for summer and won’t crack a book’s spine for months. As an educator, it’s my responsibility to care about the reasons kids aren’t reading, and to intervene when I can. But as I explain to my classes, I am not personally offended. I intend to make the argument to every teenager I meet that reading is awesome, but if they resist, I do not wither and die. I do have a life outside school, and enough of a solidity in my love for reading that it can resist a little shoving around. I know what books mean to me.

 

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See, I have to have hope that someday (maybe someday soon, as I’ve been paying a little more attention to prose this week), I will take up these fragments in my hands and lovingly fit them together into something that makes sense. And then, once I have a whole picture to look at, I’ll probably add a frame to my mosaic, then a title, and then smooth out the surface into something beautiful and telling.

 

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