Today’s piece is written by Elaine Figueroa, a college student studying abroad.
I’m in Paris right now studying abroad for a French degree I’m not sure I’ll get anymore. And I blame it all on my love for writing. In English.
It’s my fault really. I’ve loved to write since 7th grade when I immortalized one of the best summers I’ve ever had in a journal. And I’ve written since then in a total of twelve journals, two binders, 4 separate online blogs, and even in my school notebooks amongst math equations and historical dates. The act of writing stemmed from my love of books and film. The works of J.D. Salinger, of Buster Keaton, of Flannery O’Connor, and of Stanley Kubrick–they all inspired me to write and to make movies. I wanted nothing of this world, of this life, than to join the never ending procession of artists that I adored. To be one of them.
Fast forward to my junior year of college double majoring in Cinema (focus on screenwriting) and French at San Francisco State. I was accepted to study abroad in Paris for an academic year. If my number one dream was to be an accomplished writer/filmmaker, then my number two was to live in Paris for a year. The timing was perfect: I was young, my parents were supporting me and very supportive of studying abroad, and I didn’t think I’d get to travel much after college because I planned on moving back home to LA after school. The plan was to finish my French degree abroad—thus taking a break from cinema—then come back to finish the cinema degree and graduate. I felt like I could take a break from film and writing and get to focus on French, and I even started to like the idea of this hiatus.
When the time came to gather some recommendations, I went to my screenwriting professor, Joseph McBride (see a nobody film student like me can namedrop too!), who wrote the script for Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and published biographies of John Ford and Spielberg to name a few, and he suggested I read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast for inspiration. He also gladly accepted to write me a recommendation because he knew what an opportunity like this meant to a student. That summer before I left for Paris, I returned the favor by writing a letter for his tenure and promotion.
October. Two months have passed since I settled into Paris. I was happy, but in a lot of ways, I wasn’t. I loved this city, the monuments, the art, the fact that Hemingway lived up the street, only ten minutes away. I was inspired every day, but I was depressed. And confused. And the only way to deal was to write. And what better place to write than in my blog that I started specifically for my study abroad year, Paris For A Year (http://parisforayear.blogspot.com/).This was my crisis. My plan of “taking a break” from film and writing to focus on French wasn’t going over so well. I was writing in my journal and posting on my blog every day. All in English, my langue maternelle, the only language I’m truly comfortable with. I was thinking of new film ideas during French class, my notes cluttered with shot descriptions and dialogue. I was going to the cinema down my street seeing films that I have never had the chance to see projected (Pulp Fiction, The Cameraman). After all this, it was slowly becoming clear: I no longer wanted to learn French. At least, I didn’t want to major in it anymore. Coming to Paris was never about the French major. It was about cinema. And writing. It was always about cinema and writing, the two go together like crêpes and nutella. The dream was to write and live in Paris the way my neighbor Hemingway did. Not to conjugate verbs or translate texts. That was all just an excuse to come here.It took me two months in a foreign country to realize that I couldn’t take a hiatus from what I love.
I wrote about my whole epiphany in my blog. I wanted people to know why I was acting the way I was, and I wanted my Mom to read it because that was better than me telling her over the phone. This is why I write. I write because I don’t know how else to express myself.
I write because I see these images in my head that I don’t want to forget, because I hear words that need to be in ink. I have to get these things down because it’s torture if I don’t, and lost to oblivion if I’m unlucky and without a pen. I write because nothing satisfies me most than turning my words into images on film with the help of my film friends, and then showing my complete work to my peers for their enjoyment and criticism. I write because I’m not very good at speaking.
I write because it gets me to avoid things I loathe like vacuuming or even a French paper on Gustave Courbet that’s due next week. I do it because after a page or two of writing my heart out, I feel like I’ve lost pounds. I write because I know this is the best gift I have to give and that someday, maybe, I can use this gift to pay my parents back for financing my year of writing abroad.
Thank you for reading this and for giving me a reason to write why I write.
(NOTE: After much deliberation, turns out I will be getting my French degree after all.)
WHY WE WRITE is a series of essays by prominent – and not so prominent – TV and Film writers. Conceived by Charlie Craig and Thania St. John, the campaign hopes to inspire and inform all writers. If you’d like to comment, or tell us why you write, visit the Why We Write WordPress site or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.