I’m kind of a rambler. Annoyingly, I sometimes remind myself of politicians giving speeches. You know when they’re asked a question and they respond with everything that they can think of besides the answer to the question? I often catch myself doing that accidentally. A friend will ask me something and their question will remind me of 15 other things I wanted to say. By the time I get through those, I’ve forgotten what the question was in the first place.
I’ve noticed this happens in my writing as well. I start off with a good outline, and a strong idea of what I want to communicate overall in my essay and how I want to say it. But as I get into the writing, I start enjoying myself a little too much. I think of stories that are interesting to describe, and scenes that I’m excited to paint for the reader. I write 10 pages of this junk when I only need 3. Then when it comes time to tie it all together, I forget what my point was. I find myself in a situation where I have lots of good writing but very little purpose for it. So generally what I’ve done in the past is slap a pretty conclusion on it and call it a day. Even when I’m not sure that I’ve said what I wanted to.
This happened to me last year in my English 325 class. I was writing about my relationship with my grandparents. We have a lot of problems that I had never really thought about up until then. It felt so good to get it out on paper.
I realized I was okay with how my step-grandpa and I’s relationship had deteriorated over the years:
I had always assumed that the reason my grandpa didn’t like me was because I was too different from him, and I’d let that go a long time ago. He saw through my lame attempts to love fishing and insects, and I didn’t let it get to me that I wasn’t his favorite, partially because I had never been close with him, and partially because he wasn’t my actual grandpa. Even though we tried to make it feel like he was family, he wasn’t, and deep down I think that’s why I was okay with it.
I also was starting to understand that my bigger struggle was accepting all the problems my grandma and I had. I didn’t want to give up on her, she was family. I was torn between loving family unconditionally and letting shitty people go.
My first draft of this paper was discussed in full-class peer review. Ultimately, I had ended the paper by saying I would give her another shot, and keep trying to be a better granddaughter.
Next week while we’re catching up over breakfast burritos, I’m going to forget about impressing this crazy grandma of mine and just talk.
My classmates were a little annoyed by this conclusion. I had spent the whole paper basically describing how ready I was to be done with her. Re-reading it now, you can feel what my conclusion should have been- I was sick of giving her second chances. And yet, I was being lazy and failed to read through my work to see the direction it had gone and the subconscious thoughts that had emerged. I stuck with what I thought I wanted to say at the start.
For my second draft I changed this. I said how I truly felt and it fit so nicely with the paper as a whole. It did what a conclusion is supposed to do- it wrapped up my thoughts and gave words to what I’d been saying all along.
And now, here we are at the capstone and I’m doing it again. The section I just wrote was about art and it was a mix of personal anecdotes and history. I really liked the directions it was going, but I feel like it was going too many places. At the end I wasn’t sure what I was trying to say overall. So since it was a draft I put a nice clean conclusion at the end and didn’t think further about it. I don’t even think it made sense. But I’m glad I re-read that paper from 325 and reminded myself how shitty it sounds when you don’t think through your final paragraphs. I need to push myself to not make that mistake again.
I’m looking forward to revisiting the section with fresh eyes in a few days. I’m going to figure out what I really meant to say and SAY it.