One thousand words or less, please.

A seven to eight-page paper shouldn't, and doesn't generally evoke fear and panic in the minds of most college students. Give an assignment for a 20-page research paper on genetics and you'll see a few tears, but an eight-page paper? Piece of cake. Especially for a student who's at the tail-end of their college career, writing is an accepted way of life. A five-page paper here, a ten-page paper there, and you get pretty good at cranking those suckers out. You see, much to the chagrin of most professors, college students excel at the art of word-vomit, meaning the ability to just sit down the night before and write a paper about obscure topics. You might need a few breaks here and there but for the most part you can just sit and write, not stopping until you're through. We've all done it before and occasionally those papers are actually pretty great.

However (and it's a big, fat however), I've lost all ability. Trust me, there once was a time when I could sit and write structured essays. It was a lovely, beautiful time. Occasionally I dream about those times and wake up, a smile on my face. And it's only after then I break into the sweats because I realize that time, the time of multiple page word-vomiting, was long, long ago. It was prior to my college career, prior to my education where I was taught to write right-to-the-point, only-the-nitty-gritty, I-don't-care-about-the-fluff articles in usually a thousand words or less. When you're writing news you're not worrying too much about the analytical approach to the topic of social mixing in Austenian fiction. You're worrying about who, what, where, when, how, and who told the copy editor she could take a lunch, and since when is submitting an article in Word okay, and WHEN IS DEADLINE?! And after three years of this being ingrained in my mind the reversal process is hard, causing moments of major headaches and holding your head in your hands.

So when I sit down at my laptop, cocoa and notes in hand, and begin to write, it's frustrating when I'm hardly being able to get past two pages. Maybe three if I'm trying hard, writing rather eloquently and profoundly and using big words that take up space and require a thesaurus to understand. But if not, I hit an invisible mental breaking point at the two page mark where I can't go on. It's almost as if my fingers get a little too tired, my brain realizes there just too much text on the screen, or nothing is in AP Style, and everything shuts down.

But perhaps I should just be grateful my mistake of deciding to take an upper level English course "for fun" is almost over.


a.b.c said...

I like writing long papers...as long as they're about the Black Death.

Funk Master B said...

Watch "Finding Forrester", then just write baby.