Unsettling Contradictions

The first set of claims I felt uncomfortable making, mainly because of their contradictory nature, had to do with the genre of writing I most closely identify with: creative nonfiction. A large portion of my essay deals with my transition away from creative fiction writing and toward creative nonfiction writing. In my essay, I explain that creative nonfiction writing, for a number of reasons, has become the writing I love and enjoy most, as well as the writing I am best at. Toward the latter parts of my essay, however, I blatantly contradict my claims. As a former intern at Hearst, I have gained access to the corporation’s editorial database, one that allows people within the Hearst community to submit creative feature stories to potentially be published by its national titles. Thus far I’ve submitted three stories, none of which been picked up. Instead, I’ve received a “declined” notification alongside my submissions- time and time again. How can I confidently and truthfully claim that I am “best” at a particular writing form, if nobody of higher status (aside from a professor or two in an academic context) has validated this notion? I leave this issue sort of unresolved, as my contradictions do not make much sense.

The second set of claims I felt uncomfortable making, also because of their contradictory nature, was the evolution I underwent as a seven year old when my parents told me, time and time again, that I was a talented writer. At first, I claim that these moments of direct and positive feedback were moments of transformation. My parents telling me I was a talented writer gave me a sense of identity in the world. It helped me to believe in myself and more clearly view myself as a “Writer” with a capital “W”. Later, however, I contradict myself, claiming that these moments were not true moments of transformation; rather, they were simply moments of encouragement. I then go on to say that the times I truly learned, changed, evolved, and became better was when I received criticism or suggestions or some form of feedback that made me revisit my writing, or even rethink my interests in and passion for writing. Not only are these claims contradictory, however, they are also sort of unsettling. Can we only become “better” if we are told we did something wrong, and taught how to fix it? Can we become “better” through mere praise? In retrospect, I do not feel I found time in my essay to illustrate the latter: positive evolution through positive feedback.

One thought to “Unsettling Contradictions”

  1. Hallie,

    Regarding your first contradiction, I don’t believe that your lack of success at writing a piece that has been accepted for publication means that you aren’t great at a specific style of writing. In fact, I’m sure that lots of great writing is skipped over for publication, while much of what is published is not necessarily the best piece that was submitted. Its ok that your work hasn’t been selected yet, because that’s not the only gauge of whether something is truly well-written. Moreover, if you feel that a certain style of writing best exemplifies your talents as a writer, then that extra verification is not needed. Plus, while you have definitely evolved in your writing, you have plenty of time to continue evolving and improving to be the best.

    Regarding your second contradiction, I also believe that it takes both praise and criticism to become a better writer. While this might seem contradictory, nobody can improve if they don’t feel confident or if they don’t have knowledge of specific ways to change their writing; confidence comes from praise, while ways to improve inevitably come from criticism. However, I think that these seemingly contradictory statements can be reconciled in your essay, since any feedback can include both praise and criticism together, so long as that criticism is constructive.

    I look forward to seeing how you work through these contradictions in your next draft.

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