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i have no idea what to write about for this essay

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I have no idea what to write about for this essay. Sorry. Considering that this is the last writing piece we are doing for the trimester, I wanted to do something that would stick. But instead I’m just stuck. I could come up with some artsy-sounding quotation and write about it, but what is exciting about that? Sure, maybe I could make some points that are interesting but I don’t want to write analytically about creativity; that’s like writing the word blue with an orange marker.

The fact that I’m writing this essay with absolutely no idea what my direction or point of view or thesis is actually shows how my approach to writing has changed over this past trimester -- I think (hope) for the better. I’ve always thought that the best writing is natural sounding and easy to read, and the most interesting writing is unique to the way a writer speaks; that is, when you can almost hear in your head the dialogue that you’re reading, you have a good writer. I used to think it took work to make writing sound effortless. Of course it does take work, but perhaps a different kind of work than I was anticipating.

When writing analytical essays, I used to plan out every sentence in every paragraph to conform to a specific structure I believed an accurate essay needed. Every essay needed a topic sentence; that you write first. Then you find the lead-in to your more specific argument. Then you introduce your quotation. Then you analyze the quotation, usually commenting on the author’s wording. Then you state how this piece of evidence proves your point. Then you move on to your next point. Ok, sorry to insult English curriculum in virtually every school in America, but could there be anything more boring to write, boring to read, and let’s face it, boring to grade? The answer, ladies and gentlemen is -- no!

As someone who has claimed she is “interested in writing” I certainly didn’t know how to write interestingly. Seriously. Following this method made all my essays sound similar. I never liked what I wrote because I knew that by staying within the constraints of what I thought I needed, I wasn’t really getting to the heart of any matter. And also, as I grew older, teachers became gradually less interested in my essays. Oh sweet lord, the first time I got a B on an English essay (which was the first trimester of this year by the way) was the most shattering wake-up call I had gotten as a writer.

It’s actually funny: on the first day of this trimester’s class, one of the students told me I wouldn’t do well with you as a teacher. When I asked him why, he said because I was too technical and methodical; I always thought there was a right answer. And though I was completely insulted by what he said, he was, in a way, largely correct. For the first few classes I was trying so hard to impress you that whenever you were speaking I would always try to decipher what the underlying point was to what you were saying. After a while I realized, maybe he doesn’t really have one. Maybe he’s just letting thoughts enter the room and seeing which direction the thought would take; something I had, without realizing it, completely forgotten how to do. I had gotten so focused on defining myself as a “good English student” that I forgot how to be an actual writer -- which of course is the part that I loved to begin with. ‘

You see, in my eyes there’s a difference between being an English student and being a writer. An English student writes for the approval of the teacher who will give comments and a grade, in order to finish the assignment when the paper is due. A writer writes for the purpose of getting his or her thoughts into the world in, hopefully, an interesting way. I just made this definition up right now, on the spot, so I guess this “revelation” is something I learned from the class, not a recollection of something I forgot.

Well after this student told me that I wasn’t going to do well in this class, I, the good little English student I was sought to prove him wrong. But in doing so, something happened. I always claimed I loved creative writing because I’ve always defined myself as a creative person (mostly because I tend to think and do things in a different way from other people. Including theater.) When it came to writing for this trimester, I think I allowed the word “creativity” to trick me into approaching my work in a different way than I had in the past. I figured if I’m a creative person writing about creativity; I can't approach this like any old essay about Pride and Prejudice. What a waste that would be.

When we were assigned to write about creativity, a topic on which I knew I had a lot to say, I got so caught up in thinking creatively that I didn’t even realize I was writing analytically. I was writing in the first person and openly writing as if I were talking, something the English student me would have cringed at. Because I could relate the essay topic to myself, I ended up telling anecdotes and then relating them to what I believed the definition of creativity was; I was basically telling a story. I was somehow writing creatively and analytically at the same time. How the hell did I manage that change? Take that, overly technical, boringly methodical, uninteresting former English student me!

I approached the second, and now I suppose the third, essay in a similar way. In the second writing assignment, I decided I didn’t even want to write an essay. I wanted to go so far out of the box that I found myself writing in verse. I wanted to write a poem, tracing the path of my confidence as a singer as I grew up and trained. I made an outline, as I always do, and decided each stanza would be a different experience and would show a passage of time. Great. But what a pain in my ass.

I started writing the stanzas in paragraphs, without trying to make a finished product as I was writing. I liked what I wrote in my first stanza and decided to make that structure a recurring theme of the piece. As I proceeded I realized the outline I made was constricting me, restricting what I was trying to say -- the same trap I had fallen into before this trimester. But thanks to my revelations from earlier in this class I figured out how to get out of it. I said screw it! and just kept writing, only occasionally referring to my initial outline.

I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I had needed to write this essay earlier in the year, or even earlier in the trimester. I would have completed it as I planned. And I wouldn’t have allowed myself to write what I actually meant.

I have realized that you really can't plan everything you're going to write about beforehand, just as people don’t plan out everything they say ahead of time. (I mean, at least for me, I don’t usually have a clue what I’m saying until I’m halfway through the sentence. Probably a flaw in my makeup, but so be it.)

Take this essay for instance. I wrote this essay’s first sentence as a joke. I was making a list of all the random ideas and essay topics I could think of in this “Microsoft Word document” and, once I decided I had absolutely no desire to write about any of them, I just wrote, in huge block letters, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT FOR THIS ESSAY out of frustration. Then I decided maybe I should do what this class has taught me to do; I just shut my brain off and wrote the first thoughts that came to mind, hoping it would give me an idea. As it turns out, that was the idea.

On the first day of class you said your main goal for us was, when we write, to shock and amaze ourselves. I guess in a way I’m trying to say thank you. You reminded me why love to write and let me realize, on my own, how I can actually do it. It’s the ease. The real link to creativity isn't through searching for it. It’s shutting your brain off and just allowing yourself to see what happens. Thank you, Mr. Sternstein. By teaching me about the creative process, you taught me to be a writer.



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electricpogostick said...
Feb. 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm
This was a very good article! If I may ask, what grade did you get on it?
 
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