Inspired By Marina: An Essay On The Writing Life

Monday, February 15, 2016

Today I'm sharing something from my journal. The date on the upper right hand corner of the page is May 3, 2015:

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I just finished Marina Keegan's book, "The Opposite of Loneliness." I was impressed by the words her teachers said about her work as well as what she accomplished in her short lifetime. We were both born in 1990. We both liked to write. We were both goal setters, thinkers, and had a desire to be encouragers. I think that is where the similarities stop. I grew up on the west coast in a tiny town. She grew up on Cape Cod with all of its advantages and opportunities. She achieved so much with her pen. As I read I kept thinking, "This is it. This is all that's left. She's gone." Knowing how her story ended (in a car accident a few years ago) before I ever knew anything else about her,  really gave me perspective as I worked my way through this book that her parents and teachers had published after she had already died.

The book has a speech she gave (I think it's a speech, but maybe it was an article) called "The Opposite of Loneliness." It was addressed to her fellow graduates at Yale in 2012. That piece was followed by works of fiction and then non-fiction. Each section was introduced by a short piece of poetry that was also written by her. In order to get to know her and to get inside of her head, I decided to go to the back of the book to read the non-fiction first. I'm so glad I did! The very first thing I read was the story of her first car which she called "Stability in Motion." I loved that piece. Hers was a 1990 Toyota Camry. Mine was a 1988 Honda Accord that started out in GA and somehow made its way to WA state...There was an outline of an Atlanta Braves bumper sticker faded into the black bumper. I hated that car and loved that car and it was its story and that bumper sticker that changed my mind. Anyway...As I read that piece, I thought to myself, "These are the things I want to write! I could have totally put this together." And I decided that maybe I would learn a lot from this book.

As I made my way through the rest of the non-fiction section, I skipped bits and pieces. The fiction called for even more skipping. She wrote pieces that were unguarded, raw, and 100% honest. She may have had a different view of the world and life and a brutal way of communicating, but over all, it was good. She loved the word "profundity" and used it every chance she got. She was always thinking about things' opposites and using them as springboards. I think she had some things figured out, but that a lot of life left her so confused.

In the introduction, her teacher shared emails that Marina had sent as well as a story from the first time they met. Marina questioned a writer as he was speaking by blurting out something that made me think of a similar event in my own life, "You can't really mean that?!?!" Marina had a notebook that she used to keep track of descriptions of things such as, "a waiter's hand cab driver's eyes...strange things that happen to me, or a way to phrase something." And she called it "Interesting Stuff." Eventually, she started using a Word document and filled up "32 single-spaced pages."

When she didn't make it into some club at Yale, she decided to use the time to write a novel - 12 hours each week. 6-12 on Thursdays and Sundays. I think of making time like that to WRITE too! Her teacher said that she was a re-writer. She would work on a piece over and over because "there can always be a better thing."

Marina is gone and I am here. We are so different, but I want to remember that I must write. I must take the time to write and to re-write. And once it happens, I must hand it over for people to read. She died and people went through her things. That's one thing about dying that kind of scares me - people will go through my things and I'm afraid that they'll be very disappointed.

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Most of a year has passed and Marina is still on my mind. I've mentioned that I plan to write and write some more this year and I made reference to a writing workshop that I created for myself. The journal entry that I shared today is just one piece of inspiration that I'm taking with me. Stay tuned for more details on that workshop, my writing goals, and what it takes to write and write some more. 

Who has inspired you with the kind of inspiration that sticks around? 

Do you have anything specific you want to hear about when it comes to writing? 


  1. I love this post! Thank you for sharing this little "insider" piece of your mind and writing :) It's very inspiring! I've been wanting to read this book too but now I think I'll bump it up to the top of my list and read it sooner than later. Sounds so good!

  2. You make me want to read more about her. And thinking about what I'm leaving behind.


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