Getting Better by Getting Messy

I never thought I would be getting down and dirty with Hillary Clinton.

No, not like that.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

Don of the Pantsuit Mafia, one could say.

Alas, here I am, ready to charge into the thicket that is Clinton’s life.  I’m ready to navigate through her ever-changing image, to trudge through her muddled past, to try to make some sense of the complicated woman who lurks behind the Blackberry and sunglasses.

As I wrote the first draft of my re-purposing project, I was concerned (to put it lightly) that people wouldn’t understand what I was saying.  My argument made so much sense to me, but I was afraid that it would be convoluted and bizarre to others.  I’m a neat person; I don’t leave dishes in the sink, and I don’t like leaving messes in my writing either.

And as it turns out, I did a good job of keeping my draft nice and tidy.  People seemed to hear what I was saying loud and clear, and I was glad for that.  But I still couldn’t help feeling that my job hadn’t been done as well as I would have liked.  Maybe the reason that I expected people not to understand my piece was because the topic really is confusing and sloppy, and maybe it made sense to people only because I had oversimplified it.  Maybe readers should be a little bit puzzled by what they were reading.

And then Professor Manis put it perfectly: “Hillary is such a messy person–why don’t you get messy with her?”

Now, this is a bit of a novel concept for me.  It wasn’t so much the getting messy part that posed a challenge; as Type A as I might be, I can let loose my inhibitions once in a while and muddying my writing with the best of them.  No, what will be more of a struggle for me will be finding a balance between complexity and composure, finding a way to really make readers think critically about the confusing concepts they’re reading while not letting them get lost in the process.  I want to strike a balance, to find a way to make Clinton’s use of motherhood in her campaign both nuanced and approachable to readers.

Sounds easy enough.

Yeah, or not.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to expand my piece so it more broadly addresses some of the gender issues around why using motherhood was/is necessary to both female abolitionists and Hillary Clinton.  I think that doing so will complicate the piece in all of the right ways, making it more thought-provoking while keeping the language and argument clear.  Like I said, this will probably be a bit of a struggle for me; I wouldn’t call myself the most subtle writer, and I tend to like telling readers exactly what is on my mind and leave little to choice (this is kind of a bad thing, I know.  I sound like a dictator).  Hopefully practicing this sort of writing in my re-purposing project will make for both a better piece and a better writer.

Additionally, I’m really grateful for the feedback I received in the class on Monday, because I think it’s helped me see some of the flaws (and also some of the good things) in my piece.  One of the best points that a few people (I think specifically Cole) brought up is that Clinton’s voice seems to be missing from my piece.  In a story where she’s the protagonist, some quotes and soundbites from her are absolutely necessary.  It was also nice to hear people’s ideas about how those quotes could be creatively integrated into the piece (like by putting Clinton and abolitionists’ language side by side), and I’m really excited to start a Wix page and begin playing around with layout.

I know Junebug, I’m trying.

So I’m excited to start getting into the messiness of Hillary.  My hands aren’t used to being covered in dirt, so my digging might be a bit confused at first, but I think looking for the complexities of this topic will ultimately make for a more rewarding piece.  I really believe that this piece is unique.  The topic is little known but still relevant, and I would love to see if my article could find its way into some sort of online publication.  I know it’s ambitious, and I already feel sort of guilty about thinking so highly of my idealized, final piece, but that’s my goal.

And if there’s any non-enigmatic lesson I’ve learned from Hillary Clinton, it’s that goals should always be big.

2 thoughts to “Getting Better by Getting Messy”

  1. Michael,
    There are obviously a myriad of opinions when it comes to analyzing the behaviors and actions of political figures of her caliber: what’s the harm in adding one more voice inside the tempest? While this may appear that I am demeaning your project, it’s actually the opposite: I like how you plan to get messy with Clinton. When it comes to this type of information, people generally focus on the superficial issue at hand, and don’t dig deeper into the matter. The fact that you plan to assimilate all of the information into one piece that analyzes the complexity that is Hillary Clinton and her take on certain issues makes me excited to see just how far you will go in terms of content. Also, I like how ambitious you are about this project; while it may come off as idealization, there is nothing wrong with trying to make your project the best it can be. Go big or go home.

  2. Hi Michael,
    Your piece sounds fascinating, and I can’t wait to read it! I think there’s something really rewarding about digging into a person or subject to figure out the crux of what you’re trying to figure out. I really like that you’re planning to do your research before you come to a final opinion. Analyzing an issue is one thing, but analyzing a person can be a whole different ballgame. People are inherently complex, they change their minds, they have personal biases. To explore these ideas sounds both challenging and exciting. Good luck!

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