When I was a teenager, I had braces, but quickly stopped wearing my retainer after the braces came off. Now, twenty years later, I’ve sorely regretted my lack of diligence. It turns out that teeth have a long memory about where they used to be, and wander back to their original starting position. So I visited an orthodontist for a consultation, and sheepishly alluded to my vanity-oriented goals. The orthodontist gave an answer that was immediately empathetic: This wasn’t a superficial concern. It was one of well-being.
In his answer—in the practiced manner he delivered it—I could tell this was an issue he had to address with many patients, a shame that adults in particular may have in seeking non-essential treatment. It reminded me of how I find myself addressing student writers (of all ages) who are often reluctant to write about themselves—they believe they have led ordinary lives that would bore others.
In an essay at Glimmer Train, writer Katherine Vaz tackles this issue in part, when she discusses an assignment that is given to every student at her university: to write about “the most important thing ever to happen to me.” Immigrants may have breathtaking and heartbreaking stories, she notes, but what about the average student, a “So Cal surfer guy”? Vaz asks:
What’s the nature (or even the point) of truth-telling here? [One student] wrote that the most important thing ever to happen to him was…the night he and his pals got drunk and knocked down the mailboxes in the neighborhood. The easiest thing would have been to dismiss him out-of-hand. But I asked him if this was indeed what he wanted to write about—he did—so I asked him to tell me more about that night.
What Vaz discovers is that the act of writing each story can be a vital exploration about the nature of truths you might not even know you carried. Read the entire essay.
Also this month in the Glimmer Train bulletin:
- Why I Shouldn’t Be a Writer by Courtney Knowlton
- How to “Write Science” Without Becoming a Lecturer by Stefani Nellen
- Daily Momentum: A Little Progress Goes a Long Way by Andrew Roe