I'm trying to change things up and try something different so I took a week long class at The Loft on Writing the Short Personal Essay.
Here are things I learned so far.
1. The Short Personal Essay is not what I thought it was. I thought it was the entry I'm working on for the Real Simple Essay contest. Turns out it is more "literary" than that. We are reading essays from a book and using them as examples. They are reflective, lyrical and sometimes poetic. We talk about form and structure.
2. To be observant. Yesterday we went out on our own and observed a person we saw and wrote about them. Today we walked around the neighborhood on our own and observed a sound, a found object and a symbol of the past/future.
3. I have a hard time sitting still for long periods of time.
4. I am finding it easy to share my work in class. I'm normally pretty shy so maybe the last couple years of sharing work in class and critique groups has made me more comfortable sharing my work in class.
I have to admit that I felt a little like Harriet the Spy yesterday when we went out to observe people we saw walking on the street. It was fun and I think even if I never write a personal essay that I may use some of these exercises next time I'm facing writers block.
The form is short. The book we are using sets the limit at 2000 word. In picture books the limit on word count means every word is important and has to really mean something. I feel like that is true in the Short Personal Essay so maybe there is more in common between the two than I think.