A Brief Essay on Relearning to Write Essays

When I began my MFA in Creative Nonfiction, I sat there in the first class and tried not to visibly sweat as my classmates went around and summarized their ideas for their full-length book – our dissertation for the course was to be a 60,000-word book.  I was panicking.  When they got to me, I stammered something about a book of essays about body image, despite knowing that books of essays by unknown authors almost never sell; it was all I could imagine myself writing. I had never written anything longer than 7,000 words, and I didn’t think I had much more than that in me (anyone who knows me well would guffaw at that, given my propensity to hold forth at dinner parties, especially if they involve more than two glasses of wine and/or my provoking father).

Anyway, as most of you know, I did write a full-length book in the end, and apparently it wasn’t too bad, because it got published (I still get all giddy when I realize that).  And this year, I doubled down on my efforts to finish my second book (it’s…going).  But in recent years, as I’ve worked on yet another full-length book, I’ve also been trying to relearn how to write short-form pieces, to get my writing out there and diversify my skills – I published two pieces on A Practical Wedding, but that’s where the submission success ends, for now.

In fairness, I haven’t submitted much, mostly because I haven’t managed to finish very many essays to a good enough standard.  But there have been a couple, such as this rejected submission to the NYT Modern Love column – rereading (and updating) it a year later, I can see how it’s not right for that column, but I still think it’s worth something, and I hate to see it languish in a folder on my laptop.

This is all to say that from now on, when I finish an essay or short story and submit it to a few places and it doesn’t get picked up, rather than let that short piece die in obscurity I’ll add it to my collection of Writing Things here on the site!  I hope you enjoy them.