Rachel Schlotfeldt, Unlearning Literature


My journey with literature, consuming it with the intention of eventually crafting it, has been a process of unlearning. As with most things in my life, there came a point where rather than accept my instinctive attraction to narrative and absorb its allure, I ran away from it. Afraid to proclaim myself as literary minded, not willing to allow others to perceive of me in its light, I feared that if I willingly vocalized its intoxicating and cathartic qualities it would somehow become external to myself, dampening the quiet intensity it burned in me.

My whole life I’ve collected notes. Notes on topics I’d like to write about, reflections on life ranging from multiple pages of prose to single words, sentences I’ve thought were beautiful without any narrative context. All of these things have been scrawled on scraps of paper around my room, inputted into my phone, furiously typed onto my computer, or translated visually into sketches. I had always thought that this pile of half thought out story scraps meant that I wasn’t truly a writer. It wasn’t until I was halfway through graduate school that I realized the only person who needed to validate my secret space of reading and writing was myself.

Losing yourself in your craft connotes the notion of getting swept away with passion, losing oneself in the art of creating. However, I’ve started to realize that this journey of losing yourself can also mean becoming lost in a frenzied confusion amidst the unmapped canals of the mind. I think this journey in frustration starts with the recognition of the internal fire burning brightly within. Losing yourself in your work and honing the creative force inside forces you to feel everything all at once, all together, without pause or time for mediation, which for me creates a sometimes sporadic and random, yet gracefully instinctual, space of play in the mind. Perhaps going forward then is about getting back to that silent force within that made you aware of its presence from the beginning – learning to soak up and appreciate the confusion and intricacies of its imperfection and eventually going back close enough to the source to begin understanding how everything has percolated and come full circle.

Written by: Rachel Schlotfeldt