This week, my creative writing students are working on submissions to literary journals. Before our class, most of them didn’t know what a literary journal was; in fact, most of them didn’t know what an essay was beyond the kind they wrote for school. So this exercise is a practice in hope for them and for me.

Sometimes, in writing (and of course in life), hope is what draws us forward through the swamps of words (and situations.) We pour our words onto the page and realize that they don’t shimmer crystal clear. Instead, they are cloudy and convoluted. They need to be cleansed and sifted, run through the porous rock of revision, pushed through the weeds of drafting to be purified. Yet, we know that the impulse to write is true, and we know that if we keep at it, the clarity will come.

Here, then, is what I hope for my students. That they will learn the value of revision, in words and in life. That they will see how hard work and perseverance give their own rewards. And of course, I hope that they get published, too. But most of all, I want them never to give up hope in themselves, their dreams, and their words. They need, we all need that little light of hope to guide us through the swamps that surround us.

Swamp Lights