I feel like my writing skills have definitely improved over the course of this past semester, though I think there are a number of interrelated elements that correspond to this upswing. My writing is only as good as the brain behind it. I think that much of my “enhanced” writing ability is in reality more a reflection of the more integrated view of the world I have with this past semester under my belt. My perspective of the world has broadened, and I feel I have developed more confidence and certainty with my writing voice as more genres have blended together to form a more objective view of the world at large.
To be sure, at times my views have been challenged and my surety left hanging in the balance. Wisdom, however, has taught me that often the most painful times—those dark nights of the soul—are when the most constructive growth takes place; indeed, growth rarely occurs without a certain amount of pain. No one enjoys having their values shaken to the foundations, but when they remain standing one knows that one is made of “tough stuff.” The parts that fall apart or filter down from the rafters have to be swept up, adapted, or discarded.
It is only in the worst moments that we recognize our true selves. It is easy to be generous and gracious when the money is in the bank and the bills are paid: to think that we’re such swell people for our giving spirit. It is a much true r test of the character to reach out when we feel like we’ve been broadsided by life, kicked in the teeth, left lying facedown in the dirt. Surrounded by the comforts of our modern age, we often fail to ask the right questions, the questions that truly matter. However, when we’re lying in the road in a pool of our own blood, our lives hanging in the balance, all the silliness and phoniness of our lives drop off in an instant. In that instant, we come into a brand new appreciation for what truly matters and what doesn’t in the brief lifetime in which we have to live.
For this reason, I rejoice in my times of testing for they show me the truth, and nothing whatsoever will ever happen without first confronting the truth in all of its barenaked shamefulness. And we will soon find that this wretched beast will be our dearest ally. This creature shows us the paradoxes of life: the folly of pleasure, the wisdom of sorrow, giving away to get, surrendering control to gain it, forsaking the search for happiness so that we may find it, dying so that we may live; ah yes, this hideous creature shows us what true beauty is really all about.
Not so long ago I fell in love with the truth. It hasn’t always been fun: certainly hasn’t always been romantic by far. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, and I have cried out in agony more times than I care to count: cried out with the frustration of knowing I had no choice but to continue on. Never would I find a better partner, and what’s more, I couldn’t
leave. She would never desert me even if I tried to desert her. She would haunt me until I came back to her: having once tasted of her embrace, I could never go back to the way things were before. Though at times I find myself standing alone and at times I find myself shouldering burdens I am compelled to carry (for no one else will), I cannot, nor will I, turn away from her for long. Instead, I have come to love that ugly face, finding it softening and growing more beautiful as I continue to pursue it.
Whenever I write, I try to keep her face the focus of my thoughts. At times, I lose sight of her and my writing flounders because of my fallibility. Yet when I fix her face in my sights, I find that rather than people seeing her as being a creature of scorn, misfit and grotesque, instead they seem to see a beauty there, the beauty I have grown to love. Some will brush away a tear, or feel her fire stir the cold emptiness inside into a flaming fire that ignites a spark in their hearts they long since thought had died. They can feel her warmth envelop them, and almost without realizing it, they stand a little straighter, hold their gaze a little higher, and move with a freshly stirred courage to her irresistible rhythm.
There are a few, however, who bristle with hatred and animosity. They gaze into her face, but they fail to see the beauty that lies within. There is a reason for this. You see, the face of truth is a mirror that is reflecting their soul, and all they can see is the ugliness deep inside themselves they are unwilling to face. Instead, they blame the face in the mirror, not realizing it is their own self they are condemning. They fail to find comfort in the level gaze of truth that refuses to condescend to flattery, so long have they enveloped themselves in deception. The truth does not lie, nor does it flatter, nor put on airs, nor is it pretentious, and that is why some hate it so, while others like myself have come to love it so, even though it can be the most hideous face one will ever behold.
To be sure, there are other ways my writing has improved. My punctuation skills have definitely been strengthened in large part due to The College Writer’s Reference
My choice of words and versatility has been enhanced by reading different genres in Reading, Thinking, Writing
my other textbooks in other classes, and my extracurricular reading from the Internet and other sources. My views have been challenged by my reading, writing, class discussions, and peer interactions. In short, I am always learning, always growing, always improving—and always seeking the truth.
As to my aspirations when it comes to writing, the greatest thing I could hope for is that I make a positive difference in the lives of the people who read my words. I have always felt a strong desire for self-expression and view writing as a means to express my love of the things that I believe are important in life. I would love to pursue writing as a career, but making money is not my primary focus. I write because I love to write. I love to reach out and communicate no matter how that is accomplished. For that reason I am seriously contemplating a communications major. I am quite comfortable with words and find them fitting companions. I enjoy learning and have a hard time keeping what I discover to myself. I enjoy public speaking and feel a compulsion to speak up for what I believe. Indeed, it is very hard to speak or write either one without a feeling of genuine passion.
Of the two mediums (writing and speaking) I tend to prefer writing, as there is little risk in tasting the dirt under my toenails the way some speakers do. I can take as much time as I need to find the perfect words to set the perfect mood with perfect precision. I can write in the nude, after going too long without a shower, at six A.M. or midnight, or when I don’t feel like facing the world. I can transfer a moment of inspiration and passion into a timeless “treasure” that inspires the same in readers long after my inspiration and passion lie silent: indeed, long after I lie silent. I can publish my writing on the Internet to be read the world over, free of charge, in hopes that someone’s life somewhere will be just a little bit better because of something I had to say.
And yet, there is something to be said about speaking as well, something that writing cannot offer. When I speak, my passion and my presentation unite in a moment of time that never again can be repeated in exactly the same way. There is a certain chemistry between myself and my audience that the stale environment of the written page could never match. I feel fueled with an energy that animates me and alters my mood for longer periods of time. This vivacity is somewhat disarming to others at times, as it brings me out of my shell unlike anything else: that is, anything else but putting a musical instrument into my hands. Place a guitar in my hand (or sit me in front of a keyboard), give me a receptive audience, and you will see light-years drop from my countenance. It enlivens me in a way that speaking never could.
However, there is one aspect of the medium of music that I find somewhat undesirable. Music communicates a depth of passion unlike any other medium I know. A skillful vocalist can transform this passion into power, wielding the message of the song with a deft precision that has the ability to penetrate the most hardened heart. However, I am a very self-conscious vocalist, and no matter how good of a lyricist I might happen to be, until I find my wings, this medium will never carry the impact of my writing or speaking. And yet, perhaps I underestimate it. I think of truth in terms of the expression of concepts or ideas, but I also speak the truth when I pluck the strings or frolic across the keys.
There is something about this medium that defies my explanation. Perhaps I fear it, or rather fear my own ability. I can play well to be sure, but good enough? Haven’t I perverted it somewhere by wrapping too much of my self-worth in its performance? Maybe that is why this particular medium leaves me feeling so sad and bittersweet. It is tied to so many pain-filled memories, so many stupid mistakes, so much arrogance and prideful glory. I fear it. It is power I don’t understand, power I haven’t learned how to wield for a higher purpose. So why does it produce such youthful joy in its innocent moments? I suppose it is one of God’s creations I have defiled to such an extent, feared to such an extent, coveted to such an extent—you know, my own sudden change of ambivalent emotions startles me. What is about this medium that needs to be faced? Why does this subject often fill me with such melancholy? Indeed, why is this medium often so melancholy and somber for me? What does it tell me? I am trying to listen, but I can’t hear any words. It is saying something to me, I know: saying something deeper than words. But what?
I don’t know Professor Casey. I guess this has turned into one of those stream of consciousness papers. I don’t understand what has come over me, and yet somehow I know I should turn this paper in just as is (well, maybe with a bit of editing to smooth it out a bit). I have enjoyed your class, and I hope you have enjoyed having me. It is likely I will see you in Composition II, as I am signed up for the 4:00 class. So until then, adios. Now if you will excuse me, I have some strange emotions left to untangle. It seems I caught such a glimpse of truth that I nearly lost my breath for a moment. My music would be the only way I could communicate what I feel. Written words, sadly, fail me. Some things, it seems, simply defy explanation.