Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Which is it?

Over the course of my college career (which is coming to an end much sooner than I want it to), I have had a variety of majors. I started out thinking that elementary education was the one for me. Then I jumped to journalism, which I have always been interested in. Next I hopped over to English and am sticking with it. Going to grad school to get a Masters of Art in Teaching is much easier with an English degree than a journalism one and they overlap quite a bit in the professional world.

Until today, I hadn't really noticed how much each one of them influenced my writing style. Journalists have a straightforward edge in their style of writing that great poets and literary writers have never felt the need to recreate. Somehow I am stuck in the middle with no clear idea of how to integrate the two methods.

During my sophomore year here at UNC, I took a news writing class. For 3 hours on Mondays and Wednesdays beginning at 8 am, I was forced to write news articles with speed and accuracy with little to no room for creativity. Adding to the stress of this was the problem of trying to eliminate as many words as possible because newspapers have to pay to print based on the amount of words in an article. In fact, the best grade I ever got in that class came on a day when I felt so defeated by the blunt way of writing that I failed to put any personality into my article.

However, English classes require basically the opposite of that writing style. Ever since taking that newswriting class, I haven't quite been able to get a grip on the creative writing that I used to love so much and did without realizing it. I'm still stuck thinking about ways to eliminate words and stick to an unbiased view on the subject when my writing should be full of personality and spirit.

Yesterday, I worked on and completed a paper that's not due until tomorrow. It was a close reading of the final paragraphs of the book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. Partially trying to show off and trick my teacher into thinking I am more of an overachiever than I have ever been in my life, I quickly became humbled.

After looking my paper over, his response was "It's a great start but..." and told me all his criticisms of the paper. The first thing he told me was that my paper was too coherent and clear. TOO COHERENT AND CLEAR?! I didn't even know anyone could complain about that. He explained by saying that my writing just wasn't analytical enough and that if to make this paper more elaborate and introduce new ideas, I had to sacrifice some clarity in the paper, he would fully understand.

So now I'm sitting outside at one of my favorite places in Chapel Hill, Foster's Market, trying to figure out how to make my paper more obscure and less orderly. It might be the most odd task I've ever had to perform on a paper.

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." - Confucius

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