I’ve spent the last few days at the Making Literature Conference at Taylor University. It’s a small conference at a small college in a small town. It’s an undergraduate conference, with sessions featuring undergraduate work read by and to undergrads. I lingered at the edges, an English major half a decade out.
It was three days filled with things I love: small things like new books, and their smell; slick new folders and coordinating pens; book fairs and branded tote bags (I have a weakness for tote bags).
There were deep conversations and thoughtful moments: a perfectly turned sentence; a powerful, bite-sized poem; an hour-long lecture on the thought that goes behind the translation of a single phrase.
It was days full of things that matter to me—discussions on feminism, privilege, justice, conservation, creativity, language, beauty.
I’ve been left exhausted, depleted—the feeling from long days spent among many strange faces, the introvert’s battery-drain.
I feel the overwhelm from new ideas piled thick—with dense, thoughtful literary analyses trimmed and skimmed to fit three to an hour; with clutched handfuls of poems read back to back to back, leaving audiences scrambling to absorb and recover from each image while the next is already forming.
And I’m left with a strange melancholy. When was the last time I read good literature, or, God help me, a poem? These are things that used to bring me happiness. They still do, but they’ve been missing. Why have I let them slip away from my everyday?
My life has felt filled with an ugliness (small but seeping) for some time. There are good things, big and small, of course—a warm house, a business thriving beyond expectation, a partner who loves me; my favorite sweater. But what’s been missing, among the broken interactions, self-doubts, and misinterpretations, is a sense of beauty. A sense of meaning.
For a few days, it was a relief to re-enter a world where these discussions and these moments matter, where the act of making is believed to have value and give value, and where meaning itself can be made and found.
It’s a small thing. But sometimes it’s everything.
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