Writing In New York

writing in ny

It appears that after two weeks, I’ve gotten into a routine of sorts here at the writing program at NYU. I wake up in the mornings and have breakfast while doing homework, head to class for the afternoon, have a bite to eat between five and six when I usually do my very best to socialize with the other kids, and then each night I attend a reading (by a poet or fiction or nonfiction author) at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writing House on 10th street. I return to my room to continue doing homework (did I mention there’s a LOT of homework?) until I find myself so useless that the bed is the only thing that will have me.

By falling into a routine, I’ve been able to manage the new environment I’ve thrust myself into. The consistency of a schedule is something I rely on when other things still feel foreign—like the thousands of unrecognizable faces I pass every day on the street or the infinite number of restaurants on each block or the lack of open space—or any space at all, just by virtue of living in the city. Whenever I experience big change in my life I tend to fall into routines that frame my days in order to give them structure and keep me focused. It’s important however, to not get too obsessed with routine and always feel free to keep it flexible. Maybe a better way to describe the routine of my days is to refer to them as guidelines. Yes, that seems to be more fitting and much less stifling.

Which reminds me that I’ve learned through experience that it’s possible to become comfortable just about anywhere. Before arriving, I was terrified to live in a dorm, thinking it would be claustrophobic. After the first night however, I realized it wasn’t so bad, even if the mattress was uncomfortable and the bathroom smelled funny. I needed a place to rest my head at night and that’s what my room has become. Oh, and the place where I get all that damn homework done.

And I don’t even mind all the homework to be honest. It’s pushing me to develop a critical eye and my skills as a writer quickly and intensely. Because the program is so short—only four weeks long–we have been submerged into the writing world since our first day. Unlike my usual way of approaching new things–by easing my way into them, like dipping my toe into the cool water of the pool on a hot summer’s day—there was no choice but to dive straight in to this program. With all the money we’re paying to be here, there’s not a minute to waste.

I’ve been exposed to such a great amount of talent, both in its quantity and quality.  My professors are both published writers who have proven that people do make a living as a writer (as hard as that is to believe) and who push my classmates and me to work toward our potential. The authors that I hear read each night also prove writing can be a successful career path, which is encouraging to remember in a world that just doesn’t seem to have the time to appreciate their art. These authors’ readings have been equally educational as inspiring and I can’t express my gratitude enough for those who have taken time out of their schedules to read for all of the students in the program. The advice and insight I have learned from them is invaluable.

However, the talent isn’t just from my professors and the authors I hear. They are only a small portion of the talent I witness each day. Most of it comes from my fellow classmates and writers who have also chosen to embark on this crazy journey to become part of the writing community. I am constantly impressed by the insight my classmates have on pieces we read for class and the discussions we have about these works. I am even more impressed that they WANT to talk about the work. Their passion and eagerness to learn is admirable and again, I can’t express my gratitude for the people I have shared my classes with, who have helped me grow as both a critic and a writer even in these first two weeks. On the first days of class, I felt nervous about sharing my opinion for fear that others would disagree and somehow make my opinion wrong. Now, I feel comfortable sharing my opinion even if others disagree. I am finding my voice and sticking up for what I feel strongly about. No professor can teach that. It has to come organically, and by virtue of being thrown into this writing world, I’ve had a quick turn around time to develop this skill.

The program ends next Thursday, which feels unbelievable to me as it seems I have just arrived. As I try to absorb as much as I can in the next week, and continue working my butt off (remember all that homework?) I can’t ignore what has brought us all together—teachers, students, and authors. Our desire to write. Our desire to be happy. Sure, writing can be extremely frustrating at times but like the author Adam Haslett said at last night’s reading, “The only thing worse than writing is not writing.”