My muse prompted me to fish out three highlighter pens and mark up the ten writing pieces I’m critiquing in advance of my first MFA workshop later this month.
The eleven of us come from all four semesters of the program. I’ve never met any of them.
But I’m meeting them through their words. Are they meeting me through mine?
I marked up each manuscript as follows – the yellow pen highlighted action, the orange background information, the pink introspection and insight. The writing instructor I had earlier this year would say the yellow and orange advanced the horizontal story, while the pink told the vertical story.
I then marked up my own manuscript. I saw very little pink.
As I’ve written here before, I’m new to Oprah-style sharing in my writing; as a journalist I tell other’s stories and kept myself out of the narrative. That was the approach I used in the short films I produced of creatives I interviewed on my cross-country road trip.
My 20-page submission chronicles part of that road trip, my experiences and interviews in Vermont and Connecticut. It’s mostly yellow, with a bit of orange.
The vertical story of my road trip is my awakening as a creative, and as the writing sample chronicles only my third and fourth states of a 35-state trip, I don’t have awakening insights to share in that section because I hadn’t experienced them yet. But that absence, that lack of awareness, needs to be conveyed to the reader.
I cheated a bit, sharing this submission first with my writer’s group. Last week these new friends told me my prose is rich with description and crisp in its utilitarian use of language. That’s my journalism at work.
But while my writer’s group colleagues liked meeting the creatives I profiled, they wanted more of me, of how these creatives affected me. They wanted to relate my experience to their own lives.
They wanted more pink.
It will be two weeks before my work is critiqued by my fellow MFA students. But I know in looking at their submissions that they all have their own balance of yellow, orange and pink. Some are almost all orange. Some are really heavy on the pink. I have more yellow than the others, but I’m okay with that, it’s part of my style, my voice.
They all have more pink than me. All of them. And while I am not trying to emulate someone else’s unique style, I am seeking to improve mine.
Thank you, readers of this blog. You’ve provided an audience for my experiment in sharing. This very post would not have been possible for me a year ago. Nor would a short work of creative nonfiction that is going to be published online this week by a literary journal, my first, modest success in my budding creative writing career. If that work were to be highlighted, it would also be heavily yellow, but that yellow prose “shows” the pink “tells” I include.
I have no illusions that folks out there are curious about my innermost thoughts and fears. But to the extent my thoughts and fears can connect with my readers and their insights and introspection – what my writer’s group members are seeking – I promise to put more pink on the page.