Part IV: Imperfect Symmetry
Part III: Pretending to Sleep
Part II: Back to the Drawing Board
Part I: An Open Can of White Paint
The other day, I was tutoring a student who was working on creating an outline for a speech course. He was crafting a speech around the topic of a Liberal Arts education. His stance: a Liberal Arts education is useless, worthless, and a waste of time. He didn’t understand why, as a political science major, he had to take math courses, or learn about nutrition, or know why it was so important to be able to write a critical composition.
When I was first headed off to college, my conservative father thought a liberal arts education was a some sort of hippie-brainwashing, politically-liberal, Truth-Justice-and-the-Bash-the-Republican-Way experience. I’m pretty sure he was worried that I would taking courses like “How to Properly Hate George Dubya Bush 101.” The only reason I know this was probably his thought pattern back then was in taking to my sister, who once said, “I don’t want to go to a liberal arts college because I’m a republican.”
He, much like the student I tutored this past week, didn’t quite understand that a liberal arts education is not just so haphazardly thrown together collection of useless, yuppie courses. Harvard College’s Office of Admission has this posted on their website under the heading, The Value of a LIberal Arts Education:
It heightens students’ awareness of the human and natural worlds they inhabit. It makes them more reflective about their beliefs and choices, more self-conscious and critical of their presuppositions and motivations, more creative in their problem-solving, more perceptive of the world around them, and more able to inform themselves about the issues that arise in their lives, personally, professionally, and socially […] A liberal education is also a preparation for the rest of life. The subjects that undergraduates study and, as importantly, the skills and habits of mind they acquire in the process, shape the lives they will lead after they leave the academy.
Reading that excerpt, all I take from that: tools for effective communication. Isn’t that what 100% of jobs in the world require as a skill? You must be able to communicate effectively, to be articulate, to be understanding, to know how to navigate the rigors of whatever task is presented to you, no matter what field you’re entering into.
That’s the crux of writing.
So when this particular student was going on and on about writing courses being useless, it took all of me to sit composed and professionally explain to him the reasoning behind needing to be able to communicate, especially at this point in this student’s life, as he was taking a speech course and studying PolySci, which indicates that he’s interested in trying to communicate effectively as a future JOB.
One of my duties as a tutor, and more so as a professor, is to explain why knowing how to construct an effective essay is one of the most important skills you will ever learn. Knowing how to express yourself will allow you to be able to communicate orally with others, whether socially, academically, or within the work force.
He didn’t get it.
He was just frustrated that he couldn’t figure out how to organize his speech. He also wasn’t sure how to say that a liberal arts education was worthless without, you know, saying those words explicitly.
When I was sending out my manuscript to agents last year, I was convinced that it was INCREDIBLE. I was sure that it would change the face of publishing as we know it. I was completely oblivious to the fact that I missed my target by a few dozen miles. I was unwilling to think that I needed to revise. After all, I had revised, rewritten, and scrapped this damn thing a total of ONE BILLION times before.
I had gotten it right this time, right? I thought.
When it finally hit me that I needed to change the foundation of the entire manuscript, sometime around this past December, I knew why I hadn’t gotten anywhere with my querying.
And then I remembered: Writing is a process. If I wasn’t effectively communicating what I set out to communicate with this manuscript, then I was doing myself an injustice as a writer, a storyteller.
Why didn’t I see this earlier? Why couldn’t I take the advice that I had been dishing out to my students? Well, it’s a whole helluva lot easier to see fault in others than it is in yourself, that’s for sure. It’s hard to look in the metaphorical mirror and say, “Gurl, you need WORK” and know that the work is going to take a long time to take effect. Especially as a writer.
My 240 page manuscript wasn’t go to revise and edit itself.
I had to sit down and look at the scenes, rearrange them, rewrite key points, write a new beginning, work on changing the tone to something a little lighter, all while keeping my original vision in tact.
The revision process was a bitch. But it was a fun. I discovered more of myself as a writer. I found fault in my own words and I learned a lot from myself and my mistakes.
I finally finished revising somewhere around March of this year.
But I still wasn’t ready to send it out.
I needed someone to read it and tell me where they could find my faults. That’s the thing with writing; because it’s such a process, it’s easy to become oblivious to mistakes and holes and pieces that were missed during revisions.
Sometimes, all we need is a fresh set of eyes.
Sometimes, all we need is an outsiders perspective.
Sometimes, all we have to do is sit back and let somebody else open our eyes for us. Otherwise, the output could feel forced. We need to know what works and what doesn’t. We need that feedback.
And boy, did I need some feedback.