Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writing, reading, the first year and stuff

'Tis the end of the semester. This was my first full year at Cedar Crest and I'm excited to continue. There were many times I didn't think I could do it. Next semester I'll be taking a full course load. I hope to graduate properly in 2013. First Bachelor's Degree: Age 39. It's exhilarating and depressing at the same time.

PAPER WRITING (otherwise known as "The road to Hell is paved with semi-colons")

I had my head handed to me in my first course this year. I got a "B-" on a paper. I'd never gotten a "B-" on anything, let alone a paper. What a blow. I had two ways to deal with it: stagger backward and fall OR figure out why I was a bad writer. Now please understand that a "B-" is pretty darned good. When you are intent on establishing yourself as a writer of any sort it is NOT good. But this is college. I'm here to learn. I suspect I'm just like others out there...horribly jealous of those who write so well so easily. For me it's work work work.

Here are the bad things I did:

1. Passive voice. The more I read my work from years past the more I realize I write in passive voice. After having it pointed out to me a couple of thousand times this past year I have started to recognize it the minute I start to type. I hit the delete button and start the sentence again. ACTIVE ACTIVE ACTIVE voice. I am going to write better (or is that well...fewer? less? two? to? too?).

2. Punctuation. Ugh. It's better now but Rome wasn't built in a day. Colon. Semicolon. Comma. Independent clause. Dependent clause. Santa clause. I used to use commas ever other word. Now I use them sparingly though still incorrectly (should there have been a comma in that sentence?). I just gotta keep on keeping on and keep on getting corrected. It'll penetrate my thick skull at some point.

3. Organization. Oy. Several of the early comments on papers were about organization. Just like in math: what you do to one side you do to the other. Compare A...remember to Compare B. So now I have this little checklist called, get this, an outline. I use it now, too!

Lessons will continue to be learned. Eventually the gallons of ink needed to make corrections in my papers will reduce to cups (or dare I dream...thimblefuls?)


Aside from writing, I have discovered some very important things this year. I've discovered that I don't love English Literature as much as I thought I did. I really dislike (no no no, I won't minimize...hate) William Wordsworth. Respect him as an artist but don't like his poems. I don't think I can focus on Brit Lit if I really hate reading this guy. I actually prefer his sister's work over his. I won't list the "don't likes" as many were discovered, but there are also a great deal of "likes." Kipling, Keats, Byron, Wilde (of course), Lewis, Doyle, Wollstonecraft, Forster, Shelley (as in Mary...Percy is in the "no" category) and Stoker (who is technically Irish).

I don't like Modernist literature; American or British. Sorry. I'm a bit more traditional in taste. I find it brain scrambling and a bit unnerving in a good way but it's not something I want to spend a great deal of my personal time reading. Out of curiosity I will read Mrs. Dalloway. That is my goal for the summer. After that I feel I will have done my bit for king and country and read Modernist literature only when required at this point in my life. I won't say I won't ever read one on my own, of course, but not right now.

I will focus on American Literature. I will focus on the Transcendentalists and the American Romantics. I will focus on Puritan poetry. I will focus on American Industrial Revolution works. I will focus on Poe, Hawthorne, Perkins-Gilman, Harding Davis, Bradstreet, Thoreau, Longfellow, Emerson, Whitman...I could go on and on and on and on. This is where I belong. These writers awed me. I don't take that lightly.

Wow. I like poetry. I mean I LIKE POETRY. I like to examine and read closely. I like to try to unravel the word puzzles. I have read all that was required avec pleasure (well, there is that little Wordsworth issue) and gone on to purchase books by specific poets, compilations of different poets, poets I've never heard of... I had a few that I really loved such as Leonard Cohen, Charles Baudelaire, Poe, Kipling and John Clare but I discovered the worlds of Whitman! Eliot! Bradstreet! Sassoon! to name but a simple few. Wow.

Creative Writing

"There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.
Books are well written, or badly written. That is all."
~Oscar Wilde

Sorry Mr. Wilde, but "badly written" was what was on the menu this past year.

I'm not good enough. My writing is simplistic. Aside from grammar and POV issues I don't feel it is sophisticated in the very least. I have such a hard time coming up with story ideas. I just try and draw from my own life but people are eventually going to get sick of my mental illness/broken me subjects. My poetry is weird and unconventional. It doesn't really resonate with anyone but me. It isn't graceful or lovely.

I am a hack. It was, however, pointed out to me that hacks can make a lot of money. Hey, I could be the Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyers of my graduating class.

I may have won second and third place in the college writing contest but I'm not sure I deserved the nods after I read a bit of the other author's other works.

I think I need to take some more creative writing courses.


And there you have it. A brief recap of this wonderful first, glorious, brain busting, painful, tense, exhilarating, year of being an official English Major.

(A parting bit of humor)

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell. She decided to check out each place first.

As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."

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