I’ll admit, the cold weather did try its best to steer me from going, but I had never gone to the literati book store, and I was interested in what a professor would have to say about writing. So I doubled up all my winter gear and made way for the cold. I have to say, the trip was worth it. Not only did I get a chance to see a really cool bookstore, but I also got to listen to the refreshing words of Maria Cotera, a professor in the Women’s Studies department.
One thing seemed to stand out among others.
As Cotera spoke about her mother’s influence as a writer who “wrote on the margins of knowledge”, she described how her mother would write in McDonald’s while her children played. She attributed her mother’s dedication to her passion. Even despite the fact that her writing was supported by grants in a “bootstrap” way, she continued on to write two books…BY HAND. Cotera said that this was what drove her to write as well. She was always looking for “a story that hadn’t been told”. This was what led her to search for undiscovered transcripts of a Latina author who had been forgotten over time.
For Cotera, writing is more about a communicative art, as an avenue to tell the untold, forgotten stories of the past. She writes whenever she can, unlike the white ivory tower image of writing in a special room, and although she agrees that academic writing can be boring, she says it shouldn’t be. If there is passion, it should seep into the writing and make it through to the reader.
As I was listening to Maria Cotera, this whole passion seeping in through my writing really spoke to me. Many times, I think of writing as that white ivory tower experience. And when I don’t write in that situation, I almost feel cheated, or like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Many of my writing desires stem from wanting to tell stories that I’ve come up in my head. While the telling stories part is similar, it’s different from Cotera because she is focused on real stories that have been buried in the past. To me, that sounded fascinating, almost like following a treasure map for untold aspects of the human life. To be honest, it made my reason for writing stories sound kind of selfish. But it also made me wonder what it would be like to be that passionate and driven about my writing, or writing for a purpose beyond myself.
I always tend to write random stories “for the sake of writing” because as long as I’m writing, I should be getting better, or so I think. But this probably explains why I get so easily distracted when I’m writing, or why I am prone to giving up on what I’m writing. Maybe if I were to find or create a story that I was so passionate about that it was gnawing at my conscience daily, then I would be able to make it through and finish a project. Professor Cotera reminded me that I can’t just write mindlessly. I have to write passionately. Until then, I have to find a story that really captivates me.