The Birth of an Essay

When someone asks, “How long does it take you to write an essay?” I want to answer, “My entire life.” First, I’ve lived through the experience, or witnessed an event, or inspiration sparks through some random fairy wand sprinkling glitter while I sleep. Then I marinade. Sometimes stowing the idea into a brain box, promising, I’ll write about this.

My process is less than consistent. While the idea sits alongside other boxed experiences in my mind, I garden, cook, organize drawers, de-clutter freezers, all the while sorting these boxes. At times, the situation picks at me, like a tiny angry bird needing feeding. Other times, the experience bursts onto my journal pages, squealing and hollering, reminding me to keep my writing promise.

An example of my process might look like this:

  1. I lived through childhood sexual trauma. It messed me up. It damaged my future relationships. It damaged me.
  2. I spent years in therapy unpacking anger and self-inflicted harm (more anger).
  3. I’m still in therapy.
  4. I write around these events, write through them, turn them into poetry, eat them in meals.
  5. Years later, I interview a couple regarding their intimate life.
  6. Here’s the link to that interview: Our Voice – Intimacy Segment
  7. After interviewing the Cramers, I opted to undergo the same procedure, The Mona Lisa.
  8. After the procedure, something unexpected happened, bursting that tucked box.
  9. I dusted that box, opened it, grabbed a pen, and wrote.
  10. Soon after submitting my work, Entropy published the piece.
  11. You can read it here: Mona Lisa by Rebecca Evans

This is one path, one birthing passage of an essay. The road to an essay is not singular or linear or even sensible. Sometimes I avoid the road and that serves me the least, leaving those boxes stacking in my mind, gathering dust, gathering.

Published by Rebecca Evans

Bio: Rebecca Evans is a memoirist, poet, and essayist. In addition to writing, she teaches Creative Nonfiction at Boise State University and mentors high school girls in the juvenile system. In her spare time, she co-hosts a radio program, Writer to Writer, offering a space for writers to offer tips on craft and life. She served eight years in the United States Air Force and is a decorated Gulf War veteran. She’s hosted and co-produced Our Voice and Idaho Living television shows, advocating personal stories. She’s also disabled, a Veteran, a Jew, a gardener, a mother, a worrier, and more. She has a passion for sharing difficult stories about vulnerability woven with mysticism and hopes to inform, in a new way, what it means to navigate this world through a broken body and spirit. Her poems and essays have appeared in Narratively, The Rumpus, Entropy Literary Magazine, War, Literature & the Arts, The Limberlost Review, and a handful of anthologies. She’s co-edited an anthology of poems, WHEN THERE ARE NINE, a tribute to the life and achievements of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Moon Tide Press). Her full-length poetry collection, a memoir-in-verse, TANGLED BY BLOOD, will be available in 2023 (Moon Tide Press). Evans earned two MFAs, one in creative nonfiction, the other in poetry, University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. She lives in Idaho with her sons, her Newfoundlands, and her Calico.

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