Monday, October 22, 2012

If You Can Finish Those Oreos, You Can Write a Stellar Essay

by Lilly McGee

One of the most widespread lies about writing is that some people are born with a natural talent for it. As much as the straight-A students in your writing classes would like you to believe this is true–––that they were born with superior line-editing skills and a propensity for structuring paragraphs–––it’s not. Oh, it is so not.

Those people with so-called “natural talent?” They weren’t born in the Year of the Typewriter or under the star of Thesaurus. They’re not inherently more skilled or intelligent, they just practice excellent self-discipline.

Self-discipline–––who needs it, right? “I don’t have discipline.” Oh, I beg to differ. Have you ever forced yourself to eat the entire scoop of ice cream that Coldstone gave you because otherwise “it’d be a waste?” Have you ever sat through a full episode of a show you loathe just because you need to find out whether Susie murdered Tom, and why on earth did they go back to that island? You have discipline, my friend. You’re just applying it to some wacky things.

“I’m just bad at writing.” If only it were so simple. Just as there are no naturally talented writers, there are no naturally untalented ones. Your self-underestimation is probably coming from one, simple mistake: you’re confusing your thoughtful first draft for a bad, final paper.

This is where the discipline comes in. You can’t just write a single draft–––you’ve gotta write several, because nobody’s first draft is good. Read your piece aloud. Show it to a friend, a writing center consultant, or even your professor (it can be intimidating, but getting advice from the person who’ll eventually grade your paper is priceless).

“I’m not up for that.” Well, it’s certainly not easy. “Writing isn’t my thing.” During the editing process I feel the same way. When I’ve finished restructuring my outline, however, a wave of satisfaction runs through me. When I can read through the final paragraph without bumping into awkward sentences, my fingers get straight up tingly. After I’ve run that final spellcheck? Joy explosion.

Handing the paper to my professor is inherently nerve-wracking. After all, the fate of my work is no longer in my hands. Despite that, there is truly something to be said for the satisfaction of a job well done. Knowing that I worked my butt off and wrote a paper that, in my opinion, could cure cancer with its textual beauty (slight exaggeration due to mental damage from the joy explosion) feels a lot better than handing in a paper written in an exhausted rush the night before. 

While it fails to provide the rush you get when your paper is due in an hour and you don’t have a thesis, drafting makes for consistently better papers. Consider your academic discipline a practice round for the next time you and your best friend decide to finish an entire container of Oreos.


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