Mar 18, 2009

I am a Writer, Am I a Writer?

For the first time in my A-student, excellency-first life, I handed in a crap paper. It was nine pages of writing that I knew wasn't up to Chavi Quality Standards (CQS), but I handed it in anyway. In the past, I've done this, but it was only that "I rushed, it probably isn't so great, but I'll do well" sentiment, and I always managed to fly by with As on such papers. But this paper? I knew when I was writing it that it was disjointed, unfocused, miserable in form, idea, and execution. And when I gave it to the professor, I said about 30 times "please let me know if this isn't what you're looking for."

I knew it wasn't. I knew it was crap. And I handed it in anyway.

So I wasn't surprised when I got the email this morning. My alarm went off, I grabbed my Blackberry, I opened GMail, and there it was, the first email sitting in my inbox. Let's meet, it said. What a horrible way to start an otherwise (might-have-been) good day. So now, my long day -- where I go from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. without room to breathe -- is clouded by this meeting I have in an hour, where surely I will be told "you're really bright, but ..." And I know I deserve every criticism.

I'm a good writer. At least, that's what people tell me and I need to prove to myself that I am a good writer. As a copy editor, I know what good writing is meant to look like. I know how the words should flow, how even in academic papers the prose and flow is important. Words should not feel harsh or disconnected; they should have a rhythm and be fluid. I read too many academic papers that read like math textbooks, and I refuse to be one of those academics. I want to be a writer. A good writer. An amazing writer who people read and say "Damn, I wish I could write that well!" But most importantly, I need to feel like I am a good writer. Being a good writer in other people's eyes is worthless when you can't love your own stuff.

This blog, this entire ridiculous volume of ether that I have spewed for nearly three years, is my baby. It's what made me feel good about my writing. It's what said, you aren't just an editor, you're a writer! Go for it! And so here I am, writing, again, venting, stressing, wishing I could crawl into a whole and delete that damn paper. It was a literature review, papers on the validity of the Bible, scholars who say it's a Hellenistic composition, the historicity of the stories of the Bible and how it all isn't just novel-y crap. And that's fascinating to me. It's important and big and special. It's my area of study. And I just pushed out nine pages of crap.

So maybe this is what I needed. I've felt completely out of time, out of focus this semester. I feel like I'm not doing enough, but always doing too much. So maybe I needed to be knocked off the confidence pedestal. I found out earlier this month that I had two papers accepted to a conference in April, and I found out this week that I was accepted to the Middlebury Language School's Hebrew summer Ulpan-style program. These are two massive, important achievements, and I've been riding on their high for a while now. Now? I'm deflated. Disappointed. Wondering if I'm really cut out for all of this. So maybe this is what I needed to really put it all in perspective.

Note to self: You start too many sentences with "So..."


Larry said...

I'd give myself credit for writing nine pages of anything.I hate writing. I have lots of interesting thoughts but can't convert them into words very well.

Anonymous said...

Chavi - I feel your pain. This kind of thing really knocks us high-achievers off our rails for a while, but it does make us more determined to do better next time. I know when a piece of work I've done hasn't cut it. Nobody can be perfect all the time (nope, not even you :) ) and we are all just human. If the professor is a goodun, he/she will help point you in the right direction, I'm sure. And as for not 'feeling it' - I know it only too well - why d'you think I've been away from my blog for the past few weeks!

Hope the meeting wasn't too distressing! And chin up!


Chaviva said...

@Larry I'm not sure that makes me feel better. :) I wish everyone had my passion for writing. But hey, everyone's gotta be good at something?

@Rachel The meeting made me feel better, actually. Which makes me quite happy. But having to rewrite the paper? Not so much fun. Hopefully I can feel it this time around ... otherwise? I'm up a creek without a paddle. And glad you're back, btw!

Anonymous said...

Good luck with the re-write - aagh! And thanks!


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