This is the final reflection written for the University of Vermont course, “Writing Across Disciplines”, taught in spring 2020 by Dr. Caitlin B. Morgan. The essay was written in May 2020–Thus, when it says, “this semester”, “now”, etc., it refers to January-May 2020.
In the start of the semester, I wrote that I would focus my efforts on writing a piece centered on a food systems story for my Writing Across Disciplines course. Moreover, I stated that I would allocate time for daily writing. Now in the future (May 2020), which, like Luis Rafael Sánchez says, “always comes dressed as the present”, I can say that I have not followed my plan thoroughly. I wrote the food systems piece, but it has yet to become what I want it to be. I allocated time for work, but found myself often not writing on such times. Nevertheless, I have written what I wanted or what I was assigned to write. In this present-future I can say that my structure is an unstructured one, and it works. This semester allowed me to be more aware of it. I am now more clear on how to position myself, in order to write what I have to and want write.
I wrote more than I expected: the piece for the class―right now I am working on draft 4―, I also wrote the second chapter of my dissertation, a grant, a book review, a piece on how visualization helped me present my dissertation proposal, a short story, and an Op-Ed. All those pieces have two things in common. First, they were written outside of the times I allocated for writing; second, their first drafts were written in one day―except for the dissertation chapter, of course. Writing for me is the process where I materialize what I have written in my head.
This semester, and most of my time in Vermont, I focused so much energy in structuring myself, in having a schedule, a place, a routine… no more, I say. The time in this course served me to become aware that I write, and that I do it in a way that works for me. I found that when I let myself be, I just write like a leaf in a stream. Sometimes it gets stuck, but eventually, the flow of water carries it on.
When I go back to the day I wrote my writing plan, I feel that I did it mainly to please what I think was expected of me, what I thought the academic structure wanted. Even though I know that I am a hummingbird in a forest of woodpeckers―thanks, Elizabeth Gilbert―, sometimes I stop on a tree, and try to make a hole. The writing space that this semester provided me has allowed me to be more aware of my nature. And now, when I stop on a tree, before I hit it, I take a deep breath, and fly to a flower.
Certainly, the experience in this course has led me to ponder on some questions. Do I really want to write in English? Are the pieces I write in English for me, or do I write them to get noticed by the woodpeckers? Before this course, I did not pay attention to how my writing emotions manifested when I wrote in each language. When I write in Spanish it feels like hovering on top of a yellow flower. On the other hand, English feels technical, unnatural, heavy. Ana Lydia Vega calls that, pulsear con el difícil. Nevertheless, through reflection, I remembered that I wrote one piece in English―published in Science―that felt like hovering on a flower as well. I remembered writing it in my head in English, it felt genuine. I think that part of my unstructured structure is to let intuition be the decisionmaker on whether I write in Spanish or English. Moreover, the type of piece that has to be written plays a key role. For example, most of my scientific and technical writing (which I do not enjoy much) is written in English. And most of my literature writing is done in Spanish. Thus, I am now more understanding of how the type of writing, coupled with the language and my intention with that piece, manifests emotions. Anyways, I always end up translating everything I write. Furthermore, though English may be a language that is foreign to me and sometimes makes me feel cold when writing it, it is the language of many people I love and admire.
Moving forward, I do not see myself leaving this forest of woodpeckers just yet. Nonetheless, my experience in this semester has solidified my desire to fly into a meadow full of flowers, to leave this forest. Instead of stopping on a tree to do schedules, agendas, routines, and so on, I will let my unstructured structure guide me to the meadow I long for. Given that the future does not exists, and that it will come dressed as the present, I will continue to write in awareness of my own nature until I find myself in that meadow. This reflection, this yellow flower, is a glimpse into that present.
Picture credit: Watercolor of Puerto Rico’s green hummingbird (Anthracothorax viridis) drawn by Luis in summer 2020