"A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories:” and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation." - Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Proud Moment

As a general rule, I don't like nighttime. There's just something about the darkness that gives me a physical urge to go home, crawl into bed, and stay put until the sun comes up. Some things make it bearable, like watching movies or curling up with a fat novel or talking with friends late into the night, but as soon as you subtract any of those comforts and replace them with, say, homework, things get ugly (and sleepy) very fast.

When I started writing a paper late this afternoon, I was full of dread at a long evening of mangled sentences, redundant ideas, and marathon-staring-out-the-window sessions. Except that there wouldn't even be anything to stare at because it would be dark. Not only that, but I've just finished, or almost finished, over a month of writing and revising personal statements for grad school applications. I am not in the mood for sitting in front of a computer or writing or coming up with brilliant ideas. All my brilliant ideas have gone and left me.

As a side note, my reasons for being in such a predicament were pretty valid - I took a break mid-afternoon to go buy cheese - but that didn't make the task any less daunting or the approaching darkness any less ominous.

So I was more than a little surprised when I sat down to write and found it to be not that painful after all. Maybe it's the comparison with writing application essays. Trying to argue that Molière is a brilliant playwright is a hell of a lot easier than trying to argue that I'm a brilliant person. I guess from another perspective it's kind of the same thing - in one case, I'm trying to convince my professor to give me an A, in the other, I'm trying to convince a committee of strangers to give me thousands of dollars. Sort of the same thing. But personal statements make you literally state that you are awesome. Academic papers allow you to be more sneaky about proving your intelligence and worth.

Plus, I never really got into the habit of thinking in terms of a direct correlation between writing a paper and earning a grade, at least not enough to dislike writing papers. I quite like writing papers, as long as I'm interested in the subject, and this one happens to be about a subject I'm fascinated by at the moment - the meeting points of the comic and the serious. What I don't like is writing papers at night. But apparently, that's gotten a bit less dreadful now that I've whipped myself through three years of college paper-writing and a month of application essays. After a few hours, I'd written half a draft of the paper and was happy to put it aside until tomorrow.

I've learned to write papers at night! Happiness comes in the strangest of ways.

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