Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Caroline Boncan
Prof. Sherri Winans
English 101
Essay 4

The Endless Struggle

From day one, writing has always been the most difficult subject for me. I can remember back to my language arts classes and how they used to be my worst subject. As a younger child, I despised the class because for the life of me, I could not get a decent grade without slaving.  When I compare it to this current English class, it is safe to say that not much has changed. I'll sit here staring at the computer blankly with all these thoughts, but none of them seem to fit together to make a nice paper. Of course, when I get the feedback back, it’s never as bad as I think I is. In fact it is always quite the opposite. So why do I judge my writing so critically? Now that I’m back in school, I once again face this writing obstacle. I find myself encountering the same hardships that I did before and I wonder why? Why is this such an endless struggle for me?

When I think of myself sitting down to write an essay, I see a clear visual. I envision myself, hands posed over the keyboard ready to start pounding away at the keys to get all of my thoughts typed up. However, the process of writing an essay is never that simple. When it doesn’t work out the way I expect it to I start to feel disappointed and I ask myself: what’s wrong with this picture? I have all of these topics to write about and these ideas to back them but the problem is, how do I get this all down on paper? How do I articulate my thoughts into words that make up an essay? I question myself, how do I choose the correct words, if there is such a thing, to portray my vision? The hardest concept for me when it comes to writing an essay, is not coming up with a topic or idea but rather supporting that idea with my opinion.

I often wonder why it is so hard for me to write down my thoughts and feelings when I can voice them so readily. What is the difference between the two forms of communication? Then it clicks. Janina Morrison, who was one of the students featured in Harvard’s Shaped by Writing video said “Once I had realized that someone was reading my paper, then all these other concepts became open to me.” The realization that you’re not only writing for yourself, but also an audience changes things completely in my mind. Instead of just having your own opinion, you have to wonder if what you’re writing will please the crowd. Of course, you should mostly be writing for yourself, as it is an important  factor to feel connected to you writing. But when you know that you will have an audience you can’t help but to ponder what the reader will think of your paper. Harvard’s writing director, also shown in the video asks “Do you really mean that?” She continues to say “No they didn’t really mean that. They’re writing in a way they think they should be writing.” I find that this issue is one of my biggest obstacles. Do I share the same views in the paper I’m writing or did I just write that for my audience or because I think that it’s the proper thing to write? To worry about the audiences’ judgments? Or not? That is the question and one of my biggest barriers to getting my words down on paper.

A professor featured in the Shaped by Writing video says, “First thing to do is get a topic, the second is to ask a question. What do you really want to find out?” Getting a topic and forming an opinion is easy. But then there’s that question lingering in the air, do I really want to write about that? Or is that just something I am able to write about? “I came in as a pretty shy student in terms of what I want to contribute to my writing” says another Harvard student. She stole the words right out of my mouth. Another struggle for me is what I am willing to offer in my essays. Sometimes I may feel like taking the easy way out and writing about what I already know but the better essays are always about what I’m willing to dig for. Or what I’m willing to take a second look at and analyze. Taking the rougher road always lead to a more fulfilling end.

As I make myself just write, I begin to take on a sense of what I actually feel. I start to establish a sense of what I truly want to write about and eventually I lean toward one direction instead of having all of these thoughts jumbled together. Professor Mark Kishlansky of Harvard says that “just getting exactly the right words in exactly the right order, that is the hardest thing to do” and I completely agree. However, to even get to that point you have to begin somewhere. Starting an essay is definitely the hardest part, but once you get over that hump something just clicks. My words start to fit together and my mess of confusion starts to level off into an understanding.

A teacher once asked me if I was holding back in my writing and perhaps, I do have a tendency to do that. To remedy that, I need to explore my own opinion more thoroughly so that I have no doubt in what I’m saying in my own paper. It could be that one of my strongest fears with writing is that there is no specific description of right or wrong. There is no one right answer and the possibilities are limitless. I’ve asked myself a lot of questions in this essay, but I feel that the questions are all right. It’s my way of organizing my thoughts into something that fits together. I suppose the struggle is just my own personal step in the writing process. In a sense, the struggle is needed to make something out of my thoughts.

Works Cited

Shaped By Writing: The Undergraduate Experience. Dir. Nancy Sommers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Expository Writing Program, 2002. DVD.


copyright 2011, Caroline Boncan

Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA