Challenge Journal 1: The Lateness Here is Symbolic

My writing process is generally a bit of a mess; I recognize that’s not a particularly optimistic way to begin a genuine reflection in preparation for a semester-long capstone project, but it’s the truth. Every writing assignment I’ve ever had has included the following stages: stress about the prompt, thinking about the prompt, thinking deeply about the paper that I could write if I started right at that very moment, stressing about the fact that the paper isn’t written, and then typing very, very fast in a desperate attempt to get the assignment turned in on time. I do not recommend this method. Unfortunately, it has worked very well when my goal is a “good” grade. It has not worked as well in creating work that I’m proud of.

When I think about the work that I feel proud of, the work that might not be technically perfect but helped me learn something about myself and my writing, I automatically think of my pieces from English 425. The class was centered on immersion memoir, and I found that my rushed attempts to write a full rough draft before workshop actually forced me to be more vulnerable and honest in my work. My words only began to flow when an upcoming deadline forced me to stop thinking so much, and just write. I would always look at the work I had written at 4am in a bleary eyed panic with new, caffeinated wisdom and realize that there were actually some interesting, new developments that I could refine into something that might actually mean something.

My hope for this capstone is that I can find that space where I know enough to just write relatively quickly so that I have time for the necessary revisions. I’m concerned, though, because my topic feels like one where I need a certain amount of knowledge before I can start. In my production plan, I acknowledge that I have that tendency and am trying to schedule despite it so I can hold myself accountable for just starting without completely chickening out every time I think about it. I’m also worried because this project doesn’t really have anything to do with me, but I’m vain and I love writing about myself. Most of the policy writing I read is important, but boring – it leaves me feeling uninspired, and that’s not how I want my audience to feel as they go through my project. So hopefully I can figure out a way to do this right!

2 thoughts to “Challenge Journal 1: The Lateness Here is Symbolic”

  1. Hi Areeba! The first paragraph of your post accurately identified the key insecurity I face with any writing assignment. That is, my writing assignments are not my other assignments. Unlike translation activities in my introductory French classes, or outline summaries of assigned textbook chapters, I do not write for the sole purpose of obtaining a good grade. I write for the purpose of progress, to create a portfolio of work that somehow represents my transition through my college curriculum. At the time of graduation, I want to be able to look back on my first writing assignments and see growth.

    Unfortunately, growth never makes first priority if you are constantly chasing deadlines, something I’ve sadly learned too often.

    Though, similar to your own experience, I’ve sometimes found that chasing deadlines produces better-than-average work. What are we to do then? When the emotional and mental toll of chasing deadlines produces satisfactory work, do you even bother to change your method?

    While I don’t claim to have an answer for this question, I like to think that someday I’ll feel confident in a finished product that hasn’t been completed under high stress situations. Maybe that will happen this semester, maybe it won’t happen until I have left the stress-filled hell that is undergrad…either way, I know it won’t come automatically. So I’ll keep trying and trying until I stumble upon that day. And I somehow feel okay about that.

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hi Areeba!!!

    I’m really glad I read this. I remember having a conversation with you about this, about how we both go through this weird lack of urgency and then do something that is good enough. But this doesn’t work for writing. It doesn’t work when we care about the product more than we care about the grade.

    I wish I was a person who put full effort into everything I did, regardless of it I was personally invested or not. I know people like that, who really try to do their best possible work, even if it’s just for the grade. I know that it’s dumb to say that I wish I was some way instead of just trying to be that way. I digress.

    I really care about this final writing project. Not about the grade (I mean, yeah, about the grade, but) but about the work that I produce that is a reflection of me, that is my last *big thing* in college. It’s something I got to choose and that I get to create from the ground up. It’s scary.

    I’ve found the same thing happened to me sometimes as happened to you, that when I would wait until irresponsibly late to write something that I’d be forced to just write down the cold hard truth. (none of my truths are cold or hard). But not having time to curate the portrayal means that you just have to be open, which is really interesting.

    I hope you’ve figured out a way to tackle the project in a way that works for you, that you’ve figured out the happy medium in your time and deadlines and that you’ve become interested and inspired. Thanks for this post.

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