Not counting this post, I have written 10,217 words for this class in the past two weeks. I counted. (Well actually, my computer counted, but I compiled everything into a single Word doc to make that happen.)
I love writing. I have loved writing since I was a little girl. I used to want to be an author and write books that change people’s lives.
Sometimes I still do.
But over the years, writing has become increasingly hard for me. Writing a paper for class is like pulling teeth. Slow, and painful, because a lot of the time I have no idea what I am doing or how to get the argument I want to make onto paper or the words I want in the precise order I want them.
I have this problem where I’m a perfectionist writer and I can’t write crap sentences and come back to fix them later; I have to write perfect sentences and then never revise anything because the words I wrote the first time were so pristine.
This translates to blogs for me. I got my first blog when I was 12 years old and ever since I have had to write “perfect” blog entries. It takes me a long time to do a feelings dump because I want my writing to be good, and so while I’m paused trying to think of how to write a particular sentence, my mind races ahead to write the next and the next and then whatever good wording I had get lost, as I try to trudge back to the point I’m at without losing the stuff I just thought about.
That’s why keeping up with this journal was hard. I wanted everything I wrote to be perfect. I have so many drafts of entries I started but never finished because I couldn’t find the words to say. Finding words to say is hard. This is especially true when I have a million questions and almost no answers – for a while, I thought that whenever I wrote a journal entry here, I had to answer the questions I asked.
It took me a while to realize that wasn’t the purpose of the journal. Finding answers is great, but asking questions and thinking and processing things is better. Reflection doesn’t require solutions. It just means thinking about the problems.
I think because of this I’ve written as many entries in the last month than I did in the rest of the semester. Realizing that was freeing, because it meant I could just write what I needed to write because I needed to write it, instead of worrying of coming up with conclusions or whatever. I didn’t need to have a “proper” conclusion. A lot of my entries do I think have conclusions, but old habits die hard.
To write the final paper, I just started writing a blog entry that translated my jumbled thoughts into words, picked out some pieces from the readings to reflect those jumbled thoughts, and then translated all of that into a thesis. By the end of the blog entry, I had written 2048 words… over the limit of the assignment itself. I obviously didn’t use everything I picked out, but that planning and processing resulted in one of the least painful paper I’ve written in quite a while. The next time I write a paper for class, I will definitely be using this strategy.
So, thank you, Dr. Kafer. For giving assignments that make me realize I don’t have to be a perfectionist, and for asking us questions that we don’t have to know the answers to, and for assigning us readings that sometimes, I really need time to process. I wish I had more time to take another formal class with you to learn more, but if there’s one thing that Southwestern taught me, it’s that I am a lifelong learner and I don’t need to be in a formal class to read tough things that challenge my ideas and assumptions about the world.