Monday, May 23, 2011

Papers Are Worse Than Dog Shit

We all get excited when we finish something difficult. We think to ourselves, "finally, the last time I'll ever have to do that!" For me, this feeling has accompanied big papers...about eight million times. 

It started in my senior year of high school when English culminated in a giant paper and presentation. Knowing I was going off to college for a major that was very much not English, I thought "Ahh, my last big paper!" 

Well if you've been reading my blog for awhile you'll have noticed a recurring theme which I have once again illustrated for you: I'm a fucking idiot.

Here's Some More!
I immediately realized the graveness of my error when I became familiar with gen. ed. credits. Noticing a lot of science and history courses thrown in there I thought to myself, "Oh god.." Sure enough, the very first class I went to in college included two small papers and one large one. 

After that semester was over I thought. "Well, I don't have to take any more history classes, so this time I think I really am done with papers!" I was a stupid, stupid son of a bitch. 

I looked over the gen. ed. requirements some more and realized I needed to take English credits. Not only was I not done with papers, I wasn't even done with English. I was fairly certain I already knew how to speak the language pretty well, but begrudgingly signed up for the ol' English 101 anyway. 

Not to be confused.

We were quickly told by probably the oldest teacher on the planet that there were to be five papers completed over the course of the semester. GOOD. FUCKING PILE THEM ON. After checking through some old mythology books, curious as to what ancient deities I had pissed off to deserve such treatment, I got to work on the readings and papers. What were we reading? Books about jury duty. Because if you take the most boring task in the world, writing papers, and combine it with the most boring subject in the world, you get something exciting right?! YES. LET'S WRITE ABOUT JURY DUTY. AWESOME. PARDON ME WHILE I SHIT INTO MY OWN MOUTH. Here are some topics I would've preferred to write about:

The Story of the Dude that Sat in a Room for a Few Days

Reading Books Backwards. More or Less Fun?

Taste Testing Piles of Shit in Various States of Decomposition.

The History of Assessing the Reliability of 9/16" Bolts Vs 1/2" Bolts with Regard to their Use in Car Batteries that are Used For Display Purposes Only in Museums that Nobody Goes To

So I read the books and did the utterly boring papers, one of which I actually typed in the hour I had between classes. You can imagine how that one turned out. I affectionately titled these five papers the following way:

So after I finished my favorite class in the whole entire world ever, I wised up and only briefly and half-heartedly entertained the idea that I had just completed my final paper. I knew I was in for one more English class in the category of "Writing Intensive."

A Bit of Hope
The class I ended up taking, Foundations of Literary Analysis actually, get ready...

made English kind of fun!

How could this be? Well, it turns out if you combine a brilliant and engaging teacher with straightforward expectations, with someone like me who was actually learning to grow the fuck up a little bit, some college classes can actually be rewarding. If any of you out there are attending the University of Maine and Steve Evans is still teaching, I highly recommend taking one of his classes.

Still though, we had to write a bunch of papers.

Although the papers were on more interesting topics, and encouraged and rewarded critical thinking, they were still big stupid dumb papers and I hated them. But hey, once those were over, surely I was finished with papers this time! I was a music major. We didn't need to write about shit! 

Fucking, Yes We Did
Music history classes involved papers. Advanced theory classes involved papers. I ended up taking a philosophy class for an elective, and had to write more papers. It just never ended. And now that I was somewhat of a responsible adult, I couldn't help but try to do well on these papers, and that just ended up causing frustration when I neared the end. Rather than close the paper on some half-assed conclusion that didn't flow well with the rest of the paper, I actually tried to think things through and make sure the papers existed as some sort of cohesive unit. They usually needed lots more revising. This took time and energy, and made me angry. 

Now I'm a graduate student, where basically every class is taught seminar style, so grades are based on discussion, and you guessed it, papers. Usually one giant one at the end of the semester. No more 5-10 page assignments. No, now it has become 

1. Choose a topic that kind of relates to the class.

2. Write every single fucking thing about it you can possibly think of.

So now I'm going to break down my paper writing process for you.

Step 1: Outline.
To write any good paper, it is generally a good idea to make an outline from which to draw. That way, you'll see how the points relate to one another, and recognize any redundancies in your thought process. This should help you avoid writing yourself into a hole later.

Step 2: Fuck Step 1.
I usually skip the outline bit. What a god damned waste of time.

Step 3: I Shouldn't Have Skipped Step 1.
I'll usually realize what a mistake it was to skip the outline fairly quickly. So alongside my paper I'll end up doing a half outline. Every time I think of some way to relate certain points to others, I'll quickly right them down in notepad or something before I forget. In the interest of time, I'll write an abbreviated note to myself with the intention of going back to it later.

Step 4: What The Fuck Do All These Notes Mean?
It turns out my little notes were a little too abbreviated. I'll have no idea what to make of phrases like "Remember connectivity" or "Differences in experience", so I just keep plugging away.

Step 5: Cruise For A Bit.
Usually after a page or two I've got a pretty good idea about where I'm going with this paper and I can bang out a couple of more pages pretty quickly. 

Step 6: What Have I Done?
After the cruising portion, I'm maybe six pages into a ten page paper and hit a wall so thick it's probably responsible for the loss of most cell phone reception in the Northern Hemisphere. I have no idea how to stretch my points any further and end up taking a break for awhile.

Step 7: Get Drunk.
Fuckin' might as well.

Step 8: Back To The Grind.
I was so proud of myself for getting so far when I started typing, that I probably got cocky and let several days pass, and now the paper is due in less than twelve hours. Desperation tends to breed creativity in my mind, so I start making wild ass points and cover up their utter lack of relevance using sound rhetoric I've developed over the years.

Step 9: The Thesaurus Is Your Friend.
My sound rhetoric I've just mentioned can only get me so far, so now I need to start using big words to throw the professors off. By now I'm pretty burnt out so I'll often stop mid sentence, recognize the opportunity for the perfect word, and fuck me if I can ever remember what that word is. Even with the thesaurus it will probably take several minutes and a bit of luck to find the word that "sounds right, but I don't think it was the one I was looking for, oh well. FUCK IT."

Step 10: Home Stretch.
After a couple more hours of slogging through the mud it's time for the concluding paragraph. This part is easy. Just remember your main points and try to combine them all into one sentence. Repeat yourself unnecessarily a few more times and hope that by then you've got a sizable block of text that is valued more for how much space it takes up than for its actual content. 

Step 11: Proofread.
Haha, just kidding.

1 comment:

  1. Writing that many papers must suck ass. At least you're talented in the writing you do