Sometimes traversing a certain road takes on a different implication than its mere geographic location.
Take, for example, “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” New U.S. Congressman Mark Sanford, then governor of South Carolina, gave that destination as his lame excuse to his state and his wife for his whereabouts when he disappeared for a few days in 2009. Four years and one ex-wife later, the woman he was “hiking” with at the time is now his fiancée and his political career is back on track (or trail, if you will). That destination as a euphemism for infidelity is now in our lexicon (here in the Washington, DC area, at least, and I’ll bet in South Carolina, too).
My own upcoming journey involves “driving to Iowa.” More literal than the above example and not at all prurient (and no threat to my husband of one week), my destination is a playwright intensive at the location of the famed Iowa Writer’s Workshop, at the University of Iowa.
Established in 1936 as the first graduate-level creative writing program in the U.S., the prestigious MFA degree program has been a breeding ground for fiction writers, producing Pulitzer Prize-winners such as Philip Roth and famous writers across the years from Flannery O’Connor post-WWII to contemporary author Anne Patchett, with the iconic Kurt Vonnegut Jr. somewhere in between. The summer writing festival of weekly and weekend writing classes, with a faculty made up of Iowa Workshop MFA graduates, is a chance for us mere mortal writers to exercise our art and dream big.
It’ll also be a lot of work. I received a full page of instructions from the teacher for pre-workshop prep, and participants will be expected to have a first-draft play written by the end of the week-long session. Hence, the “driving” part.
So, I’ve been driving myself hard in the countdown to next week: channeling my undergraduate theatre studies and experience, re-reading classic plays and analyses of each, researching the psychological condition of my main character, and writing and rewriting my first scene.
The convergence of events that led me to Iowa makes me grateful for the opportunity to exercise a creative vision born many years ago. And so I am driven to succeed. I can’t guarantee this play will ever see production, but I can make sure it gets written. I can’t guarantee that it’ll be perfect (or frankly even very good) but I can make sure that, butt on the seat, it’ll get on to the page and out of my head where it’s lived for so long.
So wish me luck on my trip. I’ll be waving as I pass by, wishing you luck in realizing your creative dreams, too.
And in the interest of full disclosure, that wave will actually be from the window of an airplane.