“Driftwood, nah. Lay the wood, hell yeah ,” are the fragments I wrote on paper two years ago. It was my first day of writing class and I was a freshman in college.
Various objects were lay across the circular table, which around 30 students and I sat around. Professor Hunt asked us to describe the objects displayed in front of us. A football, piece of driftwood and an iron cross, tarnished from time, is what i had to choose from. My ADD infested mind and I looked at the objects then observed all the students writing.
At the end of our ten minutes, I frantically scribbled down my disabled sentences. Professor Hunt asked us to stand up and read what we had written, and as I listened to everyone’s detailed, well structured paragraphs a great sense of “damn” grew over me. They drew the objects using only words.
When it was my turn I stood up and hesitantly read, “Driftwood, nah. Lay the wood, hell yeah .” The class laughed as expected as I stood there laughing along trying to hide the embarrassment. “Tremendous”, Professor Hunt yelled in his deep New York accent.I looked down at my jokes of a sentence with relief and disbelief. That was when it clicked and I could see. Everyone’s perception of something, may it be an experience, relationship, or inanimate object like a piece of wood is unique.
Towards the end of class Professor Hunt assigned us an essay on any personal experience we had grown from, and was to be due the following week. A week prior to the due date, I had recalled many experiences, but attempting to write them down on paper was strenuous, I was not able to portray the stories to my satisfaction. The clearest memories and sharpest details I could recall were incidents I was not proud of and unable to write about, much less to share with the class. I erroneously tried to write about a trip my family and I took to New Jersey. After reading over what I had just written, I was disappointed. The essay reminded me of an entry from an encyclopedia. I successfully retold the events of what happened but the essay itself was extremely boring.
Twenty four hours before my essay was due and I still had nothing that was presentable produced. Not knowing what to do I emailed my professor asking for help. His response, I had to relive. I ended up describing a vivid memory of a incident in the locker room after a close loss. As the songs on Pandora passed one after another I wrote more and more sentences, sentences turning into paragraphs and paragraphs into pages.
I remember feeling like I was inside my high school training room. The same feeling of alleviation as if I had slipped into an ice bath after an exhausting lift rushed over my body, submerging me in satisfaction. As I wrote I experienced the same excitement I felt before running out of the tunnel before my first Varsity game. I could not and did not stop as I painted my manuscript, which became more vivid as the hours went by.
That was the ordeal of the first essay I wrote for my Freshman English class. When I was finished writing it was as though I had left the field and closed the locker room door and in my hand were several pages of excellence. It was as if my essay was printed in gold ink and the cover page was bedazzled in diamonds. I was holding these pieces of paper which seemed so simple but on them were words and phrases which portrayed my image of events and emotions. I did not simply ingeminate what happened, but rather attempted to show a heartbreaking and sentimental experience.
Professor Hunt’s tenaciously tried to instill in us throughout the semester “to show rather than tell.”12 minutes early for class with my paper in tow, I could say I was prepared. Professor Hunt, as promised, had each student read their essay at the podium in the front of the class. While listening I was astonished at the quality of many of my classmates stories. Days prior to hearing these students, I had an immense respect towards and idolized “real” writers.
Reading a book or article that had been published which might have opened my eyes or altered my perspective on life, I would assume the writer had been blessed with the inborn ability to write brilliant forms of text. I believed the big time, published, “Oprah’s Book Club” writers were unlike my classmates and myself and greatly surpassed us due to their ability to create climatic scenes, relatable characters, and bewildering beauty and elicit emotion through their writing. However, as I listened, especially to one young woman’s story about the tragic death of her father, my view changed. The young woman and I were in a preveious English class together and I remember disliking her for being confident, which I saw as cocky at the time, and always seeming to know the answer. But as she read, with a quivering voice that had a slight rasp as if she was holding back the cries from her heart, a description of her father’s funeral service, I was moved.
Through her imagery, choice of vocabulary, and the immense surge of emotion that flooded from of her story I was able to visualize her experience of bereavement. I was touched. This was the first time I understood the capability of someone’s voice and the potential to allow others to experience events they’ve never endured through writing.
In hindsight, I laud the effort Professor Hunt made showing me the power of our personal experiences and how they not only have an affect on post events but also our ability to illustrate through writing.