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' poems and essays have appeared in The Rumpus, Entropy Literary Magazine, War, Literature & the Arts, The Limberlost Review, Tiferet Journal, and The Normal School, to name a few. Her work has been included in several anthologies. She’s also served on the editorial staff of The Sierra Nevada Review. With an MFA in creative nonfiction and another in poetry from Sierra Nevada University, she's completed her full-length poetry collection, Tangled by Blood, and is editing her essay collection, Body Language and memoir, Navigation. Evans 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, and now co-hosts a radio show, Writer to Writer. She currently mentors teens in the juvenile system and lives in Idaho with her three sons, Newfoundland, Chiweenie, and Calico Cat.

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