It’s 5:52 PM on a Sunday evening. I’m in the Asia Library on the 4th floor of Hatcher, in a room set a ways back from the rest of library. It’s outfitted with a number of comfortable (but not too comfortable) chairs, there’s a little blue and white mock Ming style vase in the corner, and there are even windows that afford a lovely view of the asphalt on top of the building and the icky-looking grey sky above it. This is a surprisingly awesome place to get stuff done. So, why is the document open on my screen still blank?
See, I’m writing my Statement of Purpose for grad school applications. These really aren’t hard: you say why you want to go to grad school, why you’re qualified to go to grad school, what you want to work on, and who you want to work with. There. Simple. Shouldn’t be a problem. Right? They wouldn’t be if I didn’t have to write them. I haven’t moved from my spot in 5 hours, and still nothing’s set in digital ink. While I know I’ve probably done worse in the past, this somehow brings my rocky relationship with writing to a brand new low; the longest statement required of me on an application is 3 pages (double spaced, no less). This sucks.
When I wrote my Why I Write paper last year, I focused my essay around how very much I hate writing. I know, maybe not the greatest move to open with for someone seeking a minor in writing, but hear me out. Writing is by and large the hardest thing I have to do on a regular basis with regards to academia. In my entire academic career, nothing has even come close to making me feel as stupid as writing does. There are no right answers (just better ones), there’s no handbook to tell you what to do (because let’s face it, Strunk and White are about as useful to writing as something absolutely useless is to…well…anything…see how tough this is?). There’s only you against yourself, and I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I’m kind of mean. You know that little voice you’re supposed to have inside your head that quietly cheers you on, saying nice things like, “You can do it!” and “You’ve got this!”? I think I got that little guy’s evil twin, and he’s never louder than he is when I’m writing. And now that grad school is in the picture, it feels like he’s talking through a megaphone. Why wouldn’t I hate this? Yeah, it feels nice to be done with writing, but getting there makes me question if its even worth it. As one of my personal heroes Dorothy Parker famous observed, “I hate writing. I love having written.” Shouldn’t things get easier with time and practice? Why does writing get to be different?
At the end of my Why I Write paper, I talked about how I felt like Sysiphus when I write, doing something painful, something futile, something oddly punishing over and over again for eternity. But there was a glimmer of hope in that statement, because maybe one time when I rolled the rock up the hill, it would stay put. That optimism is more or less gone. That’s not to say I don’t think I’m not getting better at writing, or that I think I’ll stop getting better. I won’t. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to hate it my whole life.
Joshua Kim is a future professor of English literature and composition. He fully realizes the irony of this, he promises.