So my job is to come up with 27 essays on writing for undergrads and graduate students - one for each letter of the alphabet, plus one for 0-9. But pretty much all I want to do the next few days is hang out at the graduation parties various friends are throwing.
Seriously, I'm not even sure I can come up with something for every letter of the alphabet.
The tricky letters are easy. X is a no-brainer. (See X is for XXX: What adult theme can teach you about good academic paper writing.)
But J? M? P? These are not inspiring letters.
So why not hang out with friends? On a rooftop? Drinking this beautiful little drink called a caipirinha - lime, sugar, and Cachaça on ice, with a couple of mint leaves thrown in just to make it summery and extra yummy? Wow.
(Always drink responsibly.)
But there's a lesson here.
The lesson is that writing is about a lot more than…writing. It's about logic, aesthetics, attitude. It's about whether we let assignments get down to the wire because we'd rather hang with friends, or whether we get them done ahead of time.
And it's almost always - for almost all of us - about anxiety.
Clearly I'm not the right person to offer advice on anxiety and writing. Come to think of it, I don't know any writers who are. (And, whatever - you can get with your therapist next week.)
But there is one thing I can say for certain about writing well, once you actually get down to it: you have to care about what you're writing. And you have to care in a way that goes beyond the grade.
College students get endless tips for making their writing stronger. Things like ditch the passive voice, check for parallel construction, always outline first. And yeah, that's all exactly right.
But those tips can only take you so far, because writing is an intimate act--and a demanding one. You have to commit to it, even when you're writing things you really wish you didn't have to write, or maybe especially then. You're either in or you're out when it comes to writing; and if you're out, it will show.
On the other hand, if you can find one way to care about every paper you write this term - whether that means picking a research topic you care about, or doing the first draft of an essay in the form of a letter to a friend - your writing will improve. Guaranteed.
And just for the record, I cared about all 27 of these. How could I not?! I care about writing, and - just like the folks who asked me to do the essays - I want you to care about it too.