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Eek! Personal Thoughts! Help Me Out!

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Ok, I need some input. I have to write an essay that either tells about myself, or talks about my feelings of writings for my Advanced Creative Writing class. Why I'm taking an Advanced class when I have no beginner experience, I don't know. Our unit is about the personal essay. It's due tomorrow, and I'd love to have some input. Have at me!
(Can't believe I'm posting this!) I'll add a poll in case you want to anonymously tell me that it's terrible!


I am terrified of writing. Which is not to say that I’ve never written. I think just about everyone has done some writing. I’ve written school reports, kept a few sporadic journals, and even worked as a writer at a Public Relations firm. But I’ve never truly written, in a sense that I’ve never really written about myself or created something that could even remotely be considered literature or creative writing. The oddest part of my whole phobia is that I am an obsessive reader and if I could be one thing, it would be a writer. I would love to write things that people want to read. To me, writing would combine all of my greatest loves – solitude, creation, exploration. On the other hand, I just don’t know what to write about. I can’t imagine creating the depth of reality I find in the books I love, or being able to expose my own self to the world in more autobiographical works, or most of all, developing the organization of thought necessary for either.

\tEven this, now, is a struggle. The thought of writing about myself – what a nightmare! I suppose it’s a good way to get to know yourself, a kind of deliberate and structured introspection. But I’m not so sure I really want to study myself so deeply. I’m sure we all have a mental image of ourselves, inside our heads, that is probably very unrealistic. It’s like when you see yourself in pictures, how you look so different than what you imagine you look like. I fear that in writing deep things about my thoughts and feelings, I just might discover I don’t like myself at all! And that would be an awful thing! I don’t mean to say I don’t like myself; on the contrary, I like myself a lot! My fear is that too much self-exploration might lead to discoveries that my thoughts, ideas, or even me as a whole is really strange or more self-centered in a less positive way than I view my self-centeredness currently.

\tAnd worse, to be an autobiographical author, I’d have to share these writings with others. Otherwise, it would just be a journal and I wouldn’t be an author at all. I don’t know if it’s about how I was raised or where it comes from, but I am a deeply private person. I love to talk and debate and generally be sociable, but I choose what to talk about, when and with whom I share. I worry that my thoughts are odd, my fears make no sense, that I cannot rationally explain many of my ideas and beliefs. I think, well, I hope that this is normal. But how can anyone really know what is normal? No one can get inside anyone else’s head, and really know how and what they think and feel, so we really only know what other people are willing to share with us.

\tOn the other hand, I do want to know if others feel the same way as I do about different things. The tricky part is, how do you find that out safely? Without exposing your stupidity, how do you find out about everybody else’s thoughts? I think that’s what the essayist does, expose themselves and their innermost thoughts not only as a means of understanding themselves, but as a means of finding out what goes on in others’ minds. In people’s reactions to their essays, hopefully reactions of chuckles, smiles and phrases of agreement, the essayist finds out that others feel the same, share the same fears, self-doubts, bizarre theories, and whatnot. But how does the essayist come to the point where they can bare these private thoughts in public, to complete strangers, and simply wait to find out if they are alone in their ideas or not?

\tAnd now look where I’ve ended up. I did want to write a more personal essay, and I have started a few. In fact, this essay started out to be much more personal, but I ended up deleting a lot of it because it started to become strange and not make much sense. I began this essay as a personal essay that starts out on why I want to write and why I am afraid to write too personally, but then it got too personal, so now it has become an essay more about what I think of writing and what I hope to get out of this writing class, than an essay about myself. This isn’t the only essay I’m writing. Like most essays that aren’t solely factual reports, I tend to start many drafts, repeatedly write, delete, and rewrite, as well as have several different approaches to the topic. I am still working on a more personal essay, and at some point, I hope to develop it to a point where I stop changing it and might even share it. I think that I definitely need practice, a little toughening of the skin when it comes to self-disclosure and sharing of my personal thoughts. Or maybe I should just develop a good pseudonym and a disguise!
post #2 of 10

I like it. It really does expose a personal side of your feelings, even though you may not think so. As a frustrated writer, the piece actually speaks to me. I have zero problem cranking out an essay, a short piece for a class, or even a long paper. But when you sometimes think that perhaps a great piece of writing is inside of you, but can't find its way out, is pretty frustrating.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks Deb! It's nice to get some outside feedback before I turn this in!
post #4 of 10
I would make a couple of suggestions though. Take out the word writing that appears so much within the essay and substitute it for other words (got a thesaurus handy?) In the first paragraph you manage to grab the reader's attention and focus them on their own phobias for writing- so carrying that theme through and deleting some of the references to "writing" keeps their attention and makes your piece even stronger. For an example this one sentence

But I’ve never truly written, in a sense that I’ve never really written about myself or created something that could even remotely be considered literature or creative writing.

I would change to something like this: But I’ve never truly written, in a sense that I’ve never really created something that could even remotely be considered literature or came close to being called a piece of creative writing.

Do you see what I mean? And I really hope I have not tromped on your feelings here.
post #5 of 10
The content is good, I like it. It's funny how you are trying to avoid actually writing about yourself and yet reveal quite a bit.

Ok, here's the (former) English teacher coming out. A couple of things caught my eye. You have a few sentence fragments, especially in the first paragraph. Don't be afraid of long sentences as long as they are one coherent thought. Also, try to avoid starting a sentence with connecting words such as And, But and Which. Either find a similar word like However or Also, or make that phrase part of the previous sentence. You can use sentence fragments and otherwise break all the grammar rules in fiction to help create mood or suspense (Stephen King does this a lot), but generally not in an essay.

Sorry if I'm too nit-picky, but it's those little things that drive me nuts!
post #6 of 10
I think you did a good job of revealing your frustration, which is an aspect of yourself. I can completely relate to your desire to write, and your worries about criticism. I would love to be a writer, but have no clue where to begin.

There is a book called The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, which helps you tap into your creativity. I went through it a few years ago, and was amazed at the changes in myself. I think I need it again.

Good luck with your class.
post #7 of 10
I like it too, although the problem with it is what you yourself state it to be- it started out telling us something about you, and then ended up as a more general comment on writing. But perhaps this tells us a whole lot more about you than anything else. I could really identify with this too, I used to have a whole lot of trouble writing of personal things.

What I've found really helpful was what we were taught in our basic Writing Skills class. The first thing was the flow of consciousness- just pick up a pen, paper and start writing. It doesn't matter what it's about, if you jump from one topic to the next without finishing the first one, or if it seems silly when you read it later, if you repeat yourself, or anything. The point is to just write whatever comes to mind, and not think about what it's going to seem like when others read it. I think this would be a great topic to write like that! Of course this writing can be edited later on, usually the first few paragraphs seem so "stiff" that you delete them, but later the words flow.

The other method, for papers with a specific topic, was the mind map thing. But with this, too, don't think about it too much. Just put a word on the center of the paper that the essay should be on, and start writing words around it that come to mind. Nevermind if they're not "on topic", just let it flow naturally, connecting words and ideas until you're dry. I usually end up filling a whole paper in just a minute, it seems I can't write fast enough for the ideas. It's easy starting a paper this way, and once you get the ideas going, the writing seems to come naturally. Of course for me, it usually does anyway, if I have to stop and think while writing or edit a whole lot after it's finished, it's not a good paper.

Sorry if these things are old news to you, just thought I'd share in case someone hadn't tried them.
post #8 of 10
I caught the sentence fragments too, but I felt they were justified given the voice of the writing. The piece, to me, is written in more of a conversational mode, so the fragments seemed appropriate. Sometimes if you're writing in all standard complete sentences, the writing loses a bit of its personality. (That's the teacher talking, and trying to keep from wielding the red pen.)
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks a lot everyone, and no, I wasn't hurt by any feedback (thanks for all telling me so gently, though!).

Hissy, you're right about saying 'writing' too much. That's why I wanted others to read it, I think its hard to see things in your own work sometimes.

Val, my teacher's not too concerned with that, but I'll go through later and try to get rid of some of them. I need a break from looking at it, that helps me read it more objectively.

Bren - I'll have to look for that book, it sounds great, and I need all the help I can get!

Eeva, I'd totally forgotten about mind mapping! I'll keep in mind what you said when I take a 'fresh' look at it later.

Thanks a bunch to all of you, I really do appreciate your feedback, and it's helping me get over my fear of writing a little. I've already shared it with all of you, and nobody's said I'm nuts yet, so that's a good sign!
post #10 of 10
Is called writing down the bones by Natalie Goldberg. In fact, all of her books are very motivating and fun. Good brain stimulators to get your creative juices flowing. And besides what you tell everyone in your essay Ali, you CAN write and you do it well.
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