I’m Sally Seitz, and I am the Young Filmmaker Program Director at Austin Film Festival. Hate to brag, but I have the best job at the festival. Why, you ask? Because I get to help students tell their stories! My job involves overseeing our Summer Film Camp as well as teaching our Digital Storytelling Curriculum in schools. Obviously, schools are not in session right now, and I miss working in the classroom. However, I’m thankful our Virtual Filmmaking Classes which are still giving me the student interaction I need while providing an outlet for youth creativity in this time of social distancing. That’s truly been a positive experience for me. I’m so grateful for the students’ willingness to try something new as they adapt to online learning.
I’ll admit that I’ve done a little bit of online learning myself. Typically I’m a playwright, but I just finished an online course hosted by Story Bar all about writing personal narratives. The autobiographical essay has always been a medium I’ve wanted to try, but for one reason or another I’ve strayed away from it. Telling stories from your own voice seemed so scary to me when compared to translating your thoughts and feelings to characters. Yet, David Sedaris is one of my favorite writers of all time, and I’ve always been curious as to what it would look like if I started to retell the stories from my own life.
Inspired by my students’ ability to try new things, I wrote my first non-fiction comedic essay for the course. It’s not polished or perfect, and of course, nowhere close to Sedaris, but I’m excited about it. Since writing it, quarantine has become a time of writing for exploration as opposed to writing for an end product for me. Writing just for writing’s sake, if you will. I’ve been able to explore the difference between what I feel I should write, and what I want to write. As a result, I feel that the act of writing has begun to feel less like an obligation and more like something I look forward to. Not to mention, with fewer distractions I’ve been able to devote more time to it.
Obviously, not everyone in this strange time has the privilege to devote time and effort to new projects. I am not currently commuting to work, nor do I have any children of my own. These factors certainly free up some personal time in my daily life. But for those of you with the time and the interest, I sincerely encourage you to write. Furthermore, I encourage you to write what you want to write. It’s been a helpful way for me to process my own thoughts and to turn anxiety into reflection.
Besides, you never know, Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague.
For those of you who want to, I hope you find your plague play.