Monday, July 05, 2010

Words Written Down - The School Days

What things do we write that stick with us? Well, it's probably not a terribly important question for most people, but for those who fancy themselves writer types (me being one of those), it's pretty important.

For the purpose of this missive, I'm interested in looking back at the writings of note (you know, to me) that I did in school.

High School - not "The Wonder Years", but still a time I wrote some stuff that I remember to this day. As an aside... I was a voracious reader in elementary school and think it not a stretch to proclaim that the foundation of my interest in writing.

Two things written in High School I remember...

- An extemporaneous writing assignment for Yearbook Class. While it's true that I didn't do much else there, I do remember having my paper brought up in class as being really good. Who knew?

- My admission essay for University of Puget Sound. The topic was Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" and I recall being told by the interviewer that it was one his favorite essays on the book. Maybe he was just humoring me because I didn't get into the school (course, I also blew off their social mixer), but I did like being told I could write well.


College - needs to be separated into Undergrad and Graduate writing.

As an Undergraduate English major, I recall a couple of things...

The process I would follow to write Freshman English papers. First step would be to do a free write on the topic... elapsed time, 4 hours. Next would be to take what I wrote and write a new document based on the original... elapsed time, 4 hours. Final step would be to rewrite and revise this new document... elapsed time, 4 hours. Now, perhaps I'm remembering spending more time than was the case, but that's how I recall it. Guess the lesson here is that it takes work to do good work... a concept written about in my last blog post.

Literary Theory class was another one that I remember for the writing. To generate papers for the class I would read something, take a specific nugget from it and then figure out how to write about that one sliver in a larger context... hopefully a completely different context than others might consider. While this was the process I enjoyed, the topic I remember being most interested in from this class was Jacques Derrida and his writings on "difference" vs "differance"... a very cool look at context and meaning.

Also have found memories of a paper I wrote for a Native American Studies class. For the content of the piece, I basically copied an encyclopedia entry on the native tribe in question, but did so as if I was telling a story through the eyes of a village elder. One might quibble and consider this a form of plagiarism, but I instead think of it as a preamble to my interest in historical fiction.


As a Grad Student, I recall most fondly an essay I wrote in class as part of an exam. I don't recall the exact assignment, but I know the end product I wound up with was a paper on how Major League Baseball at the time appeared to use business strategies taken out of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War." Only problem was that MLB seemed to be using multiple strategies against themselves... not a great way to run a business. Was fun to write and yea... I was recognized for it which felt good.

In summary of the words on pages portion of my time in school: producing stuff you like to write and having people appreciate it... both very worthwhile things.