Monday, February 25, 2008

Notes from Advanced Composition

Not part of the 23 Things, so you can skip this if you're there for that.

I enjoy the act of writing, the arranging of words in a sentence and then on a page. However, I've never been a creative writer or even, really, a writer about anything personal. This here is an exception I'm making because I do try to challenge myself and reach out for the uncomfortable once in awhile. This post will probably be a rare exception to my usual professional and library related posts that may relate stories as they happen to me, but rely mostly on anecdotes or research.

Why do I find creative or personal writing so difficult? I tried my occasional times as a youngster, but I still remember the dismay on the face of one of the people I showed my writing to. I might have been 10, but I still knew when I reread the 4-5 sentences I'd shown her that I had too much of a filter-- I can't remove myself. Everything I write is so subject to a time and place that it is painful to read if you are not of that time and place, inhabiting this body, this mind, these feelings. Even then, it's pretty suspect.

With that knowledge in place, I also find writing too permanent. I'm having a hard enough time with my evolution over the years; the documentation of that change is maybe something that is too much for me. The inability to closely examine my feelings or thoughts at a particular time may be a personal weakness or it may be what allows me to go on-- I need to believe that my experiences are strengthening me and teaching me something and I can't handle all the proof shoved in my face that I am still the same foolish girl that started out in this world, living the same life that millions have before and will in spite of me.

After discussing creative writing recently, I did go and find some poetry I wrote for a seminar class that I had in college. I had tried to get excused from the class because I knew that a component was writing poems, not just reading them, but I failed in that endeavor, so was forced to do some creative writing for the first time. I had remembered the bulk of the first poem I wrote for the class because I had those lines composed hours before the rest of it was complete. Ten years later, the poem was possibly more awful than I remembered, and it included some classic naivety masquerading as bravado that I can't believe I managed to defend in critique. I think my professor must have been too engaged in wryly pointing out that my poem complaining about my lack of rhythm was composed in fairly accurate iambic pentameter.

In contrast, the semester immediately preceding that, I unexpectedly fallen in love with Advanced Composition. I wasn't even sure I was comfortable with that depth of writing, but I quickly learned that it was the type of writing I was already doing. I am still grateful to that professor for the advice he gave me and the amount he improved my writing.

One of the signs I was more successful at composition involved the section of the class dedicated to vocabulary words. Our professor introduced these words into the class as means for students to improve their grades in the event that their hard work never resulted in a grasp of composition basics. Towards the end of the semester I met with my professor to discuss my work in the class, and he frowned slightly while he informed me that I was one of the first students ever to have my grade lowered by the vocabulary tests. If I had been graded on writing alone, I would've faired better. I guess most people that know how to write are better at memorizing flash cards than I am.


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