Tell Us As You Write Your Story: Your Electrifying Insight Right Now
The first U.S. presidential election in which I voted included the primary at the end of my sophomore year of college when I was 19 and the general at the beginning of my junior year when I was 20. I felt energized about casting my vote. I saw it as a way of expressing myself and having my opinion be formally counted, even if it was a drop in the bucket with everyone else’s. Knowing that some people had fought hard for the right to vote, I also believed it was important for everyone who had this right to use it.
It was the year 2000. Unable to see one year into the future, I couldn’t predict what would define this particular presidency. I cared about who would win, but I was also excited merely by the abstract idea of casting a vote.
Other young adults are highly motivated to drive (this terrified me) or drink (why would I care)? I was more excited to vote.
As a writer, I feel a similar excitement any time I write something important to me. I decide what to say, and I create for myself the opportunity to be heard. My essays are like my votes. I want to write them.
The Insight Is Already Alive
People sometimes assume that writers need to find our great insight to describe it and that finding it is our major task. I don’t think of the process quite that way. An insight isn’t so much a treasure to be found as a feeling to be followed. Often that feeling is a moral imperative. I don’t necessarily bring the insight to life; just as often, I feel as though the insight is already alive, and it electrifies me.
If you have a sense of what’s sustaining you right now, that’s your electrifying insight in this moment. It’s an excitement you can pursue. When you write your essay, you use the fuel of your own fascination.
That doesn’t mean it’s not work or that it will be easy or fun. It means that the thing you bring forth isn’t separate from you. It’s about who you are, what you believe, and how you think.