“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours.”—Frederick Buechner
“Make it more obscure,” a student says in an undergrad poetry workshop. This after the assignment says be specific, always specific, and avoid abstraction. And cliché.
If I’d known what I was getting myself into, I’m not sure I would have done it.
For as long as I’ve been teaching, I’ve been giving the same assignment. I ask my students to write a story about their lives, a “personal narrative.” And when I explain the assignment, I’ve always, always, met with a chorus of “but nothing’s ever happened to me! My life is so boring!”
It’s always a long day at work, but today was especially long: a student meeting sandwiched in between two meetings with advancement at the college, and three lectures to prep, and the copier breaking down, and an article to publish. I customarily repair to a pub down the street a few days a week to wrap up my workday, right about when the walls of my small office start to close in on me. I try to go early and leave early, when I can. But today I didn’t make it here till almost seven o’clock. I still got a seat.