This is part of my application to a summer writing camp at the University of Iowa. The prompt is:
In 1-2 pages, tell us why you want to participate in the Studio and what you hope to accomplish here. You may want to discuss your writing sample or talk about writers that you admire. This is a chance for us to get to know you a little bit from your own words.
“Statement of purpose”. I must say, when I read that phrase, I was immediately intrigued. The assumption that there is such a thing as purpose, and it can be neatly stated in a two page essay- if anything ever struck me as a challenge, that did. Mostly because I struggle with word limits. But also because to write my own statement of purpose I would first have to figure out what that purpose was. I’ve so far been unsuccessful in finding any sort of purpose to life. In fact, it only has served to confuse me. With each new piece of evidence to examine, I seem to come even closer to the conclusion that life has no purpose.
Writing, however, is different. Purpose is central to writing. From the early days of elementary school to high school courses, it is drilled into us that whatever write, it must have a purpose. Purpose itself is the purpose of writing. We write to find meaning in a muddle of meaningless events.
The closest thing to purpose I’ve ever known is writing. I started writing when I was in 6th grade, and I haven’t stopped since. I’ve stopped plenty of things- playing flute, watching Disney Channel, procrastinating on my homework. I’ve started a lot of things- high school, piano, getting Bs (that was a hard one to start). Sometimes I feel like a computer program, constantly going through updates, adding new features, and fixing bugs. But the one thing that stays constant is writing.
My vision in coming to the Studio is, ultimately, to improve my writing. I’d like to learn how to make characters that a reader will latch on to. I’d like to be able to construct plots that are more than just a two-dimensional sequence of events. I’d like to study syntax, and the parts of a beautiful sentence. Maybe I’ll create a few beautiful sentences myself.
At the Studio, I would meet other teen writers, which is a rare occasion for me. Most of my friends are going to end up as doctors, scientists or lawyers, not authors. Serious writers are almost like mythical creatures.
Not for me, though. I’ve met more published authors than I have lawyers, and I am intimately familiar with the lives of many famous authors. Leo Tolstoy, for example, who is one of my favorite others. He didn’t have the most stable personality, yet his books have a certain allure that can’t be found elsewhere. He disarms assumptions, seeing the world as if for the first time. It’s not that he’s rational or that he sees the world the way a scientist would. There are many times when his writing doesn’t make logical sense. But it is at these moments, when he lets go of the reasoning of this world, that he is the most insightful. He is able to grasp both the sense and nonsense inherent in life.
I don’t expect that in two weeks, I can learn how to write as well as Tolstoy. That would take years. I do hope, though, that I can begin to understand how Tolstoy summoned the inspiration and courage to write his great works.