Sunday, May 07, 2006

I should be writing that Langston Hughes/Toni Morrison essay...

...but I need a break.

I'm pretty well convinced that my brain does not work the way it should or at least in any sort of way that would make my life easier. First of all, let me point out that I see myself as a creative writer more than a scholarly writer. However, in the past 2 years I have begun to learn that there are overlapping qualities in both and I find great enjoyment when I am surprised my a merging of my creative and analytical selves. However, however, add intimidation and time restraints and I dissolve into a puddle of temper tantrums and tears. Luckily my husband is an English major also and is able to talk me through my worst episodes--such as when I'm laying on the couch with tears streaming down my face screaming: "I caaaaaaaaaaaaaan't doooooooooooooo it!" When this happens I find that I get really frustrated that I'm not like those people that so easily fit the mold and are able to write with hardly any effort. I start feeling like I'm stupid, like I'm a loser, and like a big fat drama queen. This is also the moment that I start seriously considering the notion of dropping out of school--even if I am just one week and a thesis away from graduating. So what! But then I remember: no degree, no teaching... and it promptly throws that option out the window. Damn. Ok--so eventually I buck up and make every attempt to celebrate the eccentric workings of my mind. This part always feels good, at least for the first 10-20 seconds before I start agonizing about the fact that I will never fit into academia--which is exactly where I hope to someday find a permanent job, teaching. And then the real low self-confidence kicks in...it sinks down deep and then expands.

And I think that's actually the point where I start crying and yelling into pillows and have to be talked down by my ever-loving husband.

So today I spent approximately 9 solid hours sitting in front of my computer. Yesterday I spent about 4 hours and before that I spent a whole lot of time reading and researching sources. I have 2 semi-polished paragraphs and a couple pages of notes to show for it, not to mention, a very sore ass--that's it.

The most frustrating part is how absolutely, passionately excited I was starting out. But now I have to take every thought I have had and every connection I have made and tweek it to fit into what's expected. I am attempting to discuss the beauty, the power, and the danger that language holds--but what it is quickly turning into is just a lame ol' comparison and contrast essay (since that is, after all, the assignment).

All the while Morrison's words from her Nobel Lecture are floating around in my head fighting for air. Things like:
"Underneath the eloquence, the glamour, the scholarly associations, however stirring or seductive, the heart of such language is languishing, or perhaps not beating at all--if the bird is already dead. . . She has thought about what could have been the intellectual history of any discipline if it had not insisted upon, or been forced into, the waste of time and life that rationalizations for and representations of dominance required--lethal discourse of exclusion blocking access to cognition for both the excluder and the excluded."

I attempt to say what I mean, but instead my throat is packed "like a pate-producing goose with unsayable, transgressive words." I become hyper-aware of the "arrogant pseudo-empirical language" that Morrison argues is "crafted to lock creative people into cages of inferiority and hopelessness."

Ugh--but you see, that is not what I meant to say either! What I meant to say had something to do with valuing language and recognizing its power to transform. What I meant to say uplifts the spirit and inspires. What I meant to say is that language is not innocent unless it breathes life into language by vigilantly "grappling with with meaning, providing guidance, or expressing love." But instead I am left with several messy pages of nothing and another overly-dramatic blog post.

I can imagine that after writing this essay, life can only get easier. My problem is that:
  1. I'm a perfectionist.
  2. I'm stubborn.
  3. I don't fit in.
I promised myself that I was going to finish this project by the time the apple tree in the front yard started blooming. Too bad, I missed the boat.

'Cuz around here it's just
one
word
at
a
time.

9 comments:

Amber said...

Who are these people who "are able to write with hardly any effort"? I think I would find it very therapeutic to kick their asses right about now.

I've been sitting at the computer (when I wasn't walking around the house talking to myself) since 10:00 this morning, and all I have finished is six pages.

Anyway. Keep doin' it, Jessie. I suspect you're better at this than you give yourself credit for.

Amber said...

You know what? Maybe my last comment wasn't as helpful as I planned. But I do feel your pain. And I do believe that you can do this, because you're an intelligent, articulate, dedicated person.

Good luck.

Endment said...

I'm a perfectionist.
I'm stubborn.
I don't fit in.
To me these are not problems they are gifts - treasure them, mellow them but don't consider them problems.
As amber says "You can do this!"

I really hope you find a way to be an academic without fitting int academia... My most challenging and life changing teachers didn't and don't fit and I am glad for every irregular eccentric bump on each one of them!

liz elayne said...

how i wish i could call and say, i am on my way over with tea, right now. you are going to finish. you are going to finish. and you are not alone. yes, i will repeat that one. you are not alone. this fitting in...hmmm...what is that exactly? i do know what you mean here but i also know that it is such a blessing not to be one that fits in. because when you don't "fit in" you are living your life not just sitting back and watching it. Living it.

paris parfait said...

I don't know any writers (myself included) who can do it easily. We all have moments of despair and angst, when we think we can't write a thing. The important thing is to keep doing it; be persistent. I think you're on the right track. I admire your honesty in your post!

Anonymous said...

Wait. Someone out there can do it easily? Who are these people? Let's go beat them up. ;)

Seriously. You will absolutely get this done and it will work. Just getting words on the paper (or screen) will help narrow you back down to what you want to say. Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

You finish your paper, I'll finish my math class and we will celebrate in some sort of symbolic long distance way. I can relate to the throwing of pillows and the screams of 'I can't do it'. I scored a 33% on a practice test after 3 hours of doing math problems. I too am a perfectionist. I too don't fit in and yet I want to get it right.
Hang in there. I know how utterly difficult this has to be for you. My legs are asleep from sitting here doing math.
Kristine

Pollard said...

If it makes you feel any better, your post was much more eloquent, complete, and effective than mine about a similar topic.

I'll be the first to admit that the paper I handed in was not what I could have done. But then again, it was what I wanted to do. I could have copied my notes directly to the page. I could have spewed out exactly what the professor showered us with. I could have said what he wanted me to say.

But I didn't.

And I paid for it. Paid for it with a big, fat C. Lowest grade I've ever earned...High school included. And ten minutes after I was informed of my mark, I had to finish another. The last thing I wanted to do.

It can be so frustrating. I'm not an academic writer, either. I mean, I have to do it, and I do, but not by choice.

Today I feel much better, though. I've analyzed those comments, run them through my mushy brain a thousand times already. And I've realized that it was just a speed bump. Just another obstacle to grow and learn from. But it is painful when you have to sacrifice your grade for what you feel is right.

Keep pluggin' away, and don't change for anyone. Be stubborn, and a perfectionist, and never fit in!

Dana said...

The words will come. They will. And you will read them and love them and cry not because you are upset but because you put them there on the page in just the right and most beautiful way.