Mine are rattlesnakes. Their yellowish-brown, curling, muscular forms. The image of them rearing to strike. Their sound of dry leaves running over stone. Completely unsettling. A deep fear.
What’s unsettling and fearful for you? When did you confront this? What happened? How did you find equilibrium and safety after?
I thought of rattlesnakes and fears while reading a writing exercise from editor Sherry Ellis’s Now Write! and thought that I might make some suggests that play off of this exercise for your application essay.
The rattlesnake exercise comes to us from writer Michelle Brooks. A friend found a rattlesnake one night in a dresser drawer getting a t-shirt for bed. She attempted to dispatch the snake with a shotgun, missed, destroyed the dresser, and saw the snake slithering off, not to be found. It so unsettled the friend that she had trouble sleeping for the next week wondering where the serpent had got off to.
Brooks suggests that writers think of their own metaphorical rattlesnakes, particular objects that force us to be unsettled. In a narrative, be it fiction or non-fiction, focus the arc of the story around some object that forces the narrator to stop in the tracks and reevaluate his or her situation.
Playing off of yesterday’s blog where I began to discuss the need for finding personal focus, I suggest that you start by making a list of objects and experiences that are unsettling, unnerving, fearful and make you break out in the cold sweat. Then, from the list, think about writing a story of the time that you dealt with this object, and most importantly forced yourself into evaluation of yourself because of it.
Good luck with the snake wrangling!