Today I thought I'd get the momentum going by first explaining why it is that I hate sharing what I've written and why I don't even let my closest friends or family read most of it.
Well actually, this isn't true. If I write a stellar paper that causes my professor to gush ink all over it, yeah, I'm probably sharing that with whoever wants to see it. Academic papers and standardized essays (think SATs) have always been my strength. I have the ability to churn them out with little to no planning, outlining or revision (although for the first time in my career as a student I'm really seeing the point/beauty of revision) in record time and earn a nice little grade for them. This is something I've always been able to do, and something of which I always used to be proud. It's a constant joke among my friends...if it's the day before a 10 page paper on Bleak House (or, insert some other obscure and unnecessarily long novel here), most people are freaking out. If I try to freak out, I get laughs, along with, "Okay, Michelle, you'll have that done in two hours."
The sad thing is, I probably will. And I have.
But is this really something for which I should give myself a little gold star and a pat on the back? I'm rethinking that all the time. Sure, it's super helpful...only needing half a day in the library to produce a 25 page research paper that's worth most of the semester's grade has its merits. But there are a few negative repercussions to this:
1. Great! I've finished a huge paper during finals week...but wait...everyone else is still in the library, and now I'm lonely.
2. Usually, if it's the day before a paper is due and I've just begun, I'm not so shameless as to be able to call or email my professor if I have a question. The problem with this is that although the papers seem to be pleasing them, I know that if I needed clarification on a point, getting that could just give what I'm trying to say that much more credibility, or make the paper that much more engaging. (Note: I did once try to call a professor the day before a paper was due, to talk about, of all the unchangeable-at-the-last-minute things, my thesis. She said it was far-fetched and impossible to prove well, and ended the conversation. It sucked, but I will say the paper I turned in the next day was a damn good one as a result.)
I'd say the biggest problem stemmed in all this neurotic self-analysis is my observation that what I'm writing is lacking in creativity. This has been a recurring problem since I arrived at Williams. I think it probably started when I became the Sports Editor of our college paper. Disclaimer: I love being Sports Editor for the Record. But that doesn't mean that sports journalism does to your mind what a film by Guillermo del Toro does to your mind. And I've been doing it for so long that now I'm afraid there's no going back.
Here is a good place to insert one of my goals for the upcoming year, which will be appearing
periodically scattered throughout my blog.
Goal #1 For the Upcoming Year: Come up with really engaging, inspiring, invigorating, controversial, challenging, amusing, and touching sports features! As Campus Athletics Editor (that's different than Sports Editor. Really.), my main job is to develop, research and write human interest pieces on athletics at Williams. I think I've come up with some alright ones so far, but as one of my many history-references-to-come Oliver Cromwell once said, "He who stops being better stops being good."
I digress. Back to my point, if I was even ever making one.
So, since I've brought up the issue of creativity, I suppose I'll leave my ponderings on my academic work for now and sidestep into this next category of writing: my poetry and prose. Despite my growing dissatisfaction with the way in which I produce papers, at this point I think I can modestly say that I'm good at them, and therefore I don't really have a problem letting people see the finished result. The same doesn't really go for my fiction. I've never really known if I was a good writer or not. Which is unfortuante, since it's what I've known I wanted to do since I was tiny. As my confidence grows with my analytical and nonfiction writing, I've begun to leave my fiction behind. The last time I really wrote anything was in my high school creative writing class. And while the feedback I received there was positive, I do have to stress without sounding like an old pomp that it was high school, and I don't think my feedback here at Williams would be quite (read: at all) the same that it was back then. This has bothered me for the last two years (not coincidentally the length of time I've been in college), because I feel that as I grow as a person I should be able to let go of whatever restraints hold me back from my writing and just go for it, and it's frustrating to me that that isn't really happening yet. I did start writing something the end of last spring, and I was really excited about it for awhile, and then I did what I usually do which is I got too hard on myself, decided it wasn't good and stopped.
I'm not really sure why this recurring problem keeps happening to me. I'm certainly not an egotist, but that doesn't mean that I'm lacking in any self-confidence. I'm not even sure if, when I decide that these pieces aren't good enough, it's a result of projecting what I think others will think of it. It's really just self-inflicted. I'll write something and think it's okay, and then read something by Edith Wharton or Ayn Rand or Nancy Mitford and just scrap the whole thing. I guess I'm like Ariel in the Little Mermaid, and still in the process of finding my voice.