Essay by Sarah Brentyn, a member of the Congress of Rough Writers.
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I’m in awe of “raw”.
This tiny three-letter word is like a super hero. I’m a word nerd and I love that this petite power house can describe so many items, objects, and states. We use it to talk about food (uncooked), the weather (cold and damp), skin (red and sore), emotions (intense and unrestrained), fabric (unfinished, unhemmed)…
My favorite definition, from the depths of Google’s dictionary, is of “a material or substance”: in its natural state; not yet processed or purified. It also provided some marvelous synonyms: unrefined, untreated, natural, unedited… That, to me, is raw literature.
And that is all I write.
I’ve been scribbling stories since I was nine years old. Probably younger, but that’s when I remember completing my first fictional tale. Have I moved beyond that? Of course. And no.
Because that’s what children do. They write.
They color, they build, they read.
I think back to what was important to me during those times.
When I colored? The feel of the crayon, the choice of color. No consideration of palettes and hues and color wheels.
When I built things? The placement of blocks, the satisfaction of knocking them down. No concern over whether the blocks were positioned correctly or, if it were to scale, would hold the weight of cars.
When I read? The pure enjoyment of a story, the sparking of imagination. No analysis of plot, character arc, or dialogue.
As for writing, there were no thoughts of revising or editing.
Maybe I never grew up.
I have a style. It’s stream of consciousness. It’s how I’ve always written and all of my pieces, whether they were for school or websites or newsletters or blogs, started out that way. Most of them stayed.
I was never very good at changing my style to fit into a box for academic papers or employers.
I’m capable of it, of course, but it’s not as enjoyable. I can tailor my style for an audience. It’s one of the things I taught my students. It’s one of the things I asked my clients. Who is your audience?
It’s important, regardless of whether you’re writing for a magazine or for yourself. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.
But, when I’m in the zone, that strange and fascinating Writing Zone, I don’t think about audience.
As my bio says, “I bleed ink.” That’s basically what I do.
I recently found something I wrote three years ago, in March 2014:
“first drafts have an amazing combination of raw emotion and the writer’s real voice.”
First drafts bring freedom. To dance like no one is watching. I write like no one is reading.
I connect with my Self. My inner thoughts and emotions. This kind of writing presents a vulnerability and genuineness that is not often found in a polished piece. It is found in the raw, unrefined writing that travels from heart to head to keyboard.
By connecting with your Self, being vulnerable and genuine, you connect with readers. The veil is lifted.
This is me. Writer unplugged.
* “Unplugged” is a reference to musicians playing their music (usually live) without electronic instruments or enhancement. It’s not, like, a toaster or computer or something. It’s a musician, sitting on a stage, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing while you drink your ice cold beer.
Sarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi.
She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them.
When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies.
She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.
Blog: Lemon Shark
Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at firstname.lastname@example.org.