Reflections (Or Lack Thereof)

In a little more than two weeks, we will be turning in our e-portfolios. Excuse me while I run around my dorm room in a state of panic.

This is not a mood conducive for much reflection beyond: Where did all the time go? What have I been doing with my life?  Why wasn’t I working on my e-portfolio in February? How am I going to make it through the next few weeks? Add a few more swear words to those questions, the sound track to Inception, the expression on the captain’s face when he realizes the Titanic is sinking and you have my mind state right now.

Still, I am not completely incapable of reflection. This semester has been the semester of little papers. Every week I’ve had around two 1-2 page papers that basically functioned as “Did you do the reading?” and “Can you think for yourself [but not too much; we don’t want to contradict the professor] ?” checks. I’ve only had to do short pieces at a time.  We’ve proceeded so incrementally with our projects for Writing 200,  that I’ve rarely had to sit down and work on a single essay for a long period of time (by long period I mean six hour- the paper is due tomorrow- kind of binge writing) as I’ve done in the past. Instead, I’ve worked bit by bit. I’m not sure which is better for my “process” if you will. I think there’s merit in sinking it to your writing, and really focusing and developing your ideas. At the same time, bit by bit allows for more distance and reflection. It puts you more into a reader’s mind frame. A writer knows what they’re trying to say and why they’ve made their writing choices. Often it is hard for writers to see what they’re actually writing and the effects of their choices without bias. Working on something bit by bit allows you to take breaks and forget what you’ve written so you can see it more like a reader. This can make it easier to spot problems and fix them.  However, I feel like some of my best ideas come from immersing myself in the topic. One thought leads to another which leads to another and so on, until you have that moment of inspiration.  To be completely, honest, it isn’t really much of my choice about which style I use. Most of the time, it’s determined by the due date.

Weirdly enough, what I really remember helping my process this semester is not anything philosophical. Getting out of my dorm room seems to be the secret for getting writing done. That and Caramel Frappuccinos.  This is supposedly something I learned freshmen year. Yet, I still think that I’m past that and I can get work done in my room. Mostly because I am to lazy to go trolling around for Central Campus for an empty table and wifi.  Getting out of my dorm room to write helps because being around people helps me stay focused. Or at least makes me feel ashamed when I open my netflix. The other thing that has helped my writing is keeping a notepad handy while on my lap top. For some reason, physically writing down my main points on paper and then writing the full essay on my laptop has been helpful.  That and making a reverse outline. Basically, you write whatever you like and find the point of it all, and then compare it to the points you intended to convey. If that makes any sense.

Ultimately, I think I’m too in the thick of it to give the best reflection possible. I have a crazy amount of writing to do in the upcoming weeks:  a script in Japanese, revisions on three essays (Re-purposing an Argument, Re-mediating and Argument, and Essay 4), all the writing necessary for my e-portfolio site, a 12-13 page paper on museums and a few short essays.  I think I’m just going to not think about it too much and dive right in, like this guy: 


When Do You Let Go?

Am I the only one whose heart speeds up whenever my cursor nears the submit button? In the five minutes before, that moment I can be perfectly calm, confident, even, that my paper is finished or at least sure that there’s nothing more that I can do. Yet, facing the prospect of finally submitting my piece, I feel a burst of panic.  It is then that I question almost every aspect of my paper and every choice I made, searching for weaknesses and inevitably finding or inventing them; I find myself thinking if only I just had a little more time. I could rewrite my entire paper or at least reread it once more to make sure there aren’t any typos. I could make it perfect.

This is of course delusional thinking; there is no such thing as a perfect paper. Writing isn’t like math, where there is a single answer. There are many answers, which can all be radically different but still excellent. There are many methods, which all can create a great result; some are more successful than others, sitting in a quiet room, making an outline, following a fluid structure of claim, evidence and interpretation, but I’m sure that there is someone who actually succeeds in writing beautiful, argumentative papers without any planning while watching television, texting, and eating chips. I just know that person is not me. Lord knows, I’ve tried to be that person.

So, it’s a matter of writing a good enough paper, one where you’re confident enough to press that submit button and let go. I have a philosophy that at a certain point, I can only make small changes that don’t really make a difference or I can completely gut my paper and rewrite it, undoing every choice I made. That is the point I turn it in. I suppose it’s about commitment to my writing and confidence in my skills. Yet, I still wonder, what if I made those big changes? What if the changes I think are small, would actually make a difference?  At that point, however, those huge changes would be half-baked, without enough time to execute them. As for the small changes, I grow weary of reading my own writing.

To be honest, I don’t have any conclusion on this issue. I know other people struggle with not having enough time and go straight up to the deadline.  Other people confidently click that button. Sometimes it’s not whether or not you’re confident with an essay but whether or not you have five other things to do. Yet, I think or at least hope (selfishly) that I am not the only one who doesn’t know when to let go of an essay. How do you guys know when you’re done with an essay or other work and it’s time to turn it in?