Blog 12: Closing Time One Last Call for Alcoh….**Advice

Courtesy of giphy.com
Courtesy of giphy.com

I always feel a little weird giving advice because I’m usually like why should I know better than anyone else about something? But, if there’s anything I’ve learned throughout the course of this class, it’s that you’re capable of so much, and you know more than you think you do. We’re always the hardest on ourselves, but you won’t know or realize how capable you are at first. That’s what this class will do for you. It will force you to come to terms with your capabilities, recognize them, accept them, and ultimately, push boundaries once you begin to understand them. Once you realize you’re not actually a completely inept and incapable human being, both in terms of your writing and life in general, you’ll feel more comfortable branching out to try different forms of composition. Your projects will rock, you’ll surprise yourself, and it will feel bizarre actually wanting to put so much effort into school work, not even for the grade, but for the sheer idea of being able to take pride in something you’ve created. Effort into school work for quality rather than the letter grade itself, WHAT IS GOING ON? DO YOU EVEN GO TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN?

So, if there’s any piece of advice I can give to you, my young and newly declared Sweetland writing minor sweethearts, it’s to let yourselves come to these realizations and to have faith in your capabilities. I don’t care if you’re an English major who has always dreamt of writing like Shakespeare, or if you you’re in Ross and you thought this minor would be a “valuable skill that would make you a great asset to company,” you’re here because you want to be here, you deserve to be here, and I swear you’re capable writers, that’s why you’re in this minor. You might not realize how capable you are of producing video or audio or photography, and right now you might not even realize that all of these things do, in fact, constitute as writing? <—- NOTE: (this question is still up for debate, and will not be fully answered, but you’ll come up with your own interpretation/solution, and you’ll rock on with your bad-self from there.) But, once you dabble in these various forms, you’ll realize you can do it- even if you can’t do it that well. This class will ignite your passions, spark your fires, and inspire you in all different ways. It’ll show you your capabilities, and it will force you to confront what you think are your incapabilities, no matter how much they scare you. Yes, I’m fully aware of how cheesy and preachy this all sounds. Isn’t this is just a class after all? But, I can’t help it. It might be just a class, but it’s a class that has done more for me than I could have ever imagined, and it will do all this for you too. You just have to trust that it will.

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.

Textual Healing

My love affair with the semicolon began back in my high school days.  I had already learned about the saucy minx in middle school, though I had yet to learn just how saucy and minx-ish she (because that curvy figure and sense of mystery could only belong to a lady, let’s be real) could be.

It was in my freshman Introduction to Literature class; our teacher had decided to spend a day going over common grammar errors, and had just opened up the floor for questions when it happened.  One student asked if we could please go over that “half-comma-half-dot-thing.”

Teach responded with “Oooh yes, the sexy one.”  And wrote the following sentence on the board:

“I ate the whole pie; I barfed.”

Rawr.  Am I right?

She then went on to explain that the reason semicolons are so very sexy as follow: they join two independent clauses in a snuggly, intimate relationship.  That’s hot, right?  I mean, I say that as a fiercely independent little bookworm, so I suppose that it stands to reason verbal four-play (or, if I may, textual healing) between two self-aware subjects might turn me on.

That being said,  I hate commas.

Commas are like my least favorite people: so indecisive!  You can use them in far too many ways: linking dependent clauses, appositives, lists…I don’t see why they can’t just take a leaf out of the semicolon’s book and find one path and stick to it.  Also, they enable dependent clauses to continue their reliance on perfectly lovely independent clauses; and if that’s not messed up, I don’t know what is.  I mean, come on, dependent clauses!  Go find yourself!  Get an ankle tattoo, travel to Europe, try spending more by yourself, just do something besides leaning on independent clauses for personal validation.  And commas, quit allowing them to live such an incomplete life.

You sicken me, commas.

But even though commas are terrible and I still forget how to use them from time to time, I can live with them.  Though that’s largely due to the fact that I have semicolons in my life; they get me through tough times.