Learning to Re-Write

This might be beating a dead horse, bit at the end of the day, while the experience was disheartening and infuriating, I managed to learn quite a bit from being told to completely start from scratch and re-write my exposé.

The assignment was to write about anything we wanted as long as it related back to the sources of the class (in this case, a Japanese film called Doppelgänger, a Hungarian take on Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a literary and satirical re-write of the latter source called “Samsa in Love,” a novel by Italo Calvino called The Cloven Viscount, and another novel by Tahar Ben Jelloun called The Sand Child. We also had an introduction to French philospher, Henri Bergson, and his ideas on the mind.

I saw a great many connection to a great many things, which was my down-fall. I wanted to write about all of them. I wanted to map out each path that one idea that was not a source, and how it lead to each of the sources, and the underlining messages. That is absolutely fine – if you have around fifty pages to play with. But how do you get through all the ideas that I had, explain them in full, in the ball-park of ten pages?

Well, you can’t–which is what I promptly learned.

The part that really stung was saying that I hadn’t been scholarly about it, or that my paper wasn’t scholarly. That really bothered me, since I knew my ideas were good. Since scholarly is what I strive for, it was a harsh reality to hear that I had fallen so short. I was determined for this re-write to create something in-depth and of worth. Yet every time I thought of Word, or sat down at my computer and opened a blank Word document, I cringed. There seemed to be nothing scholarly about this program.

But why? This is a program that I cannot live without, that has been my best friend since I began writing stories. This program has never failed me, and has provided constant support and new tools for organization with each upgrade. Why is it now that I felt myself to be in such contempt of it?

I opened up my document with my former essay on it, and cringed inwardly. The large font, the double-spaced lines–it all seemed so childish. I wanted nothing to do with it. I promptly closed it.

From there I opened a journal, and remembered that once upon a time, I enjoyed hand-writing everything first, and then typing it. It was this method that got me some progress. With a nice sharp pencil and a blank spiral, I copied notes, poured reflections, and made comments on my own ideas to myself. However, this was short-lived. I still needed to get my scrawlings into a digital format, and the farcically juvenile words streaming from the cursor mocked me and shook rattles at me. There was no way that I could go into the depths of philosophy cemented by the linguistic artistry of Ben Jelloun with this!

All texts that were bound in the antique-scented pages of scholarly books had an air of sophistication to them without even trying. They held their own agency without even needing to be opened. Just what was it that warranted the write to be put to paper, yet my words did not?

The answer was simple. Stupid, even. Yet it worked. It absolutely worked. It was my own mentality that I was getting hung up on, and I just needed to trick it.

I formatted my document to Times New Roman (because there is no more appropriate font, ever), single-spaced and font-size 10.

That was all it took. I threw all my notes and reflections on the screen and began organizing and re-writing. I wrote three and a half pages in this format before I selected everything, double-spaced it and vamped it up to font-size 12, only to see that I had completed my 10 page mark. I shrank it back down and continued to work.

This to me was an excellent example of how words are more than words–that is, that words need to be more than just the sounds that are made when they come out of our mouths, or the symbols inked onto a page. They are the size, the font, the spacing.  The message isn’t just the letters, but the lay-out of the page, the implication behind the texts that they can be related to. There is so much more than simply pushing buttons on a keyboard.

I’m absolutely terrified to see what my teacher’s response is to my essay. While I know that I hit closer to the mark than with my last essay, I am afraid that she’ll see flaws that I didn’t see, that she will point out holes that I didn’t quite close. However, I can say that I wrote a piece that I’m prouder of. I can say that I did my homework, and put the energy it deserved into it, and I learned to look at things a different way as well. I know this is the third entry of me talking about this essay, but this experience was huge for me, and something I feel that other writers will come across in their lives, at one point or another. And I want to share that it is possible to get around it, grow from it, and that they shouldn’t be dismissed as the teacher being a harsh critic (though that is the case, there’s some constructiveness to be heard as well). I just hope that I can remember this for the essays I need to write in the future.


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