Friday, October 9, 2015

"A Little Bit of Sue Perb" by Sue Perb

“Every author, in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will.” --Goethe

When I first started writing, I was taught how to be a cookie cutter. If you fill in these blanks, they told me, you will get an A. And so I did fill in the blanks. But I was bored with that. So in between doing exactly what I was told, I tried to think of a sentence-one phenomenal sentence- that incorporated me into my work. As I grew older, my writing process grew longer. I particularly focused on getting rid of words I don’t need. I’m still growing as a writer today, and I still incorporate a little bit of Sue into everything that I write. From a young age, probably 11, I was taught formatting. Put the assertion up front. Write that in blue. Put the evidence in next. Write that in red. Your details go last. Write those in yellow. I have vivid memories of fifth grade color coded essays. Each student’s essay looked identical. I truly believed that that was how it was supposed to be.

It was around that time that I stopped enjoying writing. Writing had transformed from a hobby to a chore. In each essay, however, I tried to add exciting adjectives or maybe a sentence that, although it wasn’t on topic, added a little something extra, a little something Sue, to the paper. In ninth grade English, some diversity was offered. Mrs. Jewell told us to include our own ideas into our papers, but it seemed that I had forgotten how to do that. I had turned into the little boy from A Wrinkle in Time. I was still trying to bounce my ball exactly like all the other little boys, but there was something wrong with me. I was imperfect, and everything was at stake.

In the tenth grade I began my career in the writing center. Our first assignment was exactly this one. Use a given quotation to describe your writing process. Through that assignment, I discovered my love-hate relationship with writing. I would jump for joy when a new project was announced, but I would soon be in the gutter when I realized that thinking in a new way was harder than I expected. When discussing academic writing, I simply stated “Writing is not my friend.” And my 14 page Writing in the Discipline research essay was about as far from a friend that I could get.

When discussing personal writing, however, I used positive adjectives such as “pure” and “perfect”. I felt overjoyed when I got to interview Keith Naquin, a local artist, for a profile piece. I was so excited and nervous that I was probably glowing, just so that all my energy had somewhere to go. In my writing reflection, I discovered that there were some good parts of writing and some bad parts. I also discovered that I liked writing when it was easy, but if I couldn’t relate to the topic or the topic didn’t interest me, I got discouraged easily, and became negative. Although my reflection about my writing offered fresh ideas, it was sloppy. It seemed that after madman, I touched on architect, lingered on carpenter, and skipped judge all together. Nothing about my paper seemed holistic. I had a million separate thoughts, none of which related to my topic. I was like I was a kid in a candy shop, frozen with sheer excitement at all the possibilities.

Throughout sophomore year I continued to grow as a writer, but I kept skipping over the crucial architecture step. I was so attached to what I wrote that I never wanted to leave as much as a word behind. Every word written was a major victory after an uphill battle. When junior year came around, writing took a back burner. I became detached to the idea of writing. I didn’t even attempt to better my writing process. I hardly put effort into my personal pieces. I was just so uninspired. I was too overwhelmed with the quick pace of a busy life to be inspired. I took challenging classes. I was captain of the soccer team. I was head tutor of the writing center. I got tutored twice a week. I got my first and second jobs. I took five AP Exams. I babysat about once a week. I was so busy with other things that it seemed that I lost my voice. But although I had to force myself to write each word, I included some touch of Sue in every piece.

While my enjoyment of personal writing drifted further and further away, academic writing became less of an obstacle. Most of the writing we had to do was forming opinions about social issues. Even though the social issues we had to discuss were of little to no importance, like weather or not the US should continue to make and use the penny, the essays were easier to write. Where I had struggled so hard my freshman year, I was excelling now as a junior. I did have opinions! And it was, in fact, easier for me to voice my opinions through my pencil than through my tongue.

By the end of my junior year, I was writing better at the sentence level, but as a whole, my paper still lacked flow. I still was jumpy as a writer and I had too many ideas for my own good. I realized the more I put into my essay, the more I would get out. But I also realized that the more I take out of my essay the more focused it would be. So I started cutting out words, lots of words. And my essays weren’t the only thing that got focused. I realized that I would have to care more about my writing if I wanted it to meet my own expectations. I also realized that I would need to spend a lot more time writing to get better at it. Of course the epiphany came at the end of the fourth quarter. I was also still not going through the necessary steps to turn a draft into a final product. It seemed like editing was the only way I revised my work, if I even bothered with that. I never went back and revised what I had written. I never checked for ideas that didn’t fit or ones that needed more developing. Repetitiveness and lost ideas were constant themes in my writing.

But each paper was my style, my tone, and my slightly mundane diction. I was developing my own recognizable work. This year, I hope to go through the steps of revising for each piece I write. I want to get attached to my work as a whole, but not each word or each sentence. That way, I can focus on the main idea, which will help me establish flow. Finally, I will continue to develop my own style of writing and show small pieces of who I am though everything that I write.

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