Heartfelt Hooey on Humanities

Published September 28, 2016 by Maggie Williams

As an English major, I have a pretty open field for the classes I can take while in college. Unlike pre-med or engineering people, I don’t have a set track (or high chances of getting a job after graduating, but that’s another post altogether. Just take pity on me when I’m poor and living under a bridge somewhere). I can be all loosey-goosey and take a bunch of really dope humanities courses, which is what I did this semester. One of the most fascinating things about my classes is that I can connect everything to something else I’m learning: Honors English connects to Gothic Horror connects to Greek and Roman Mythology connects to Western Civilization.

It’s been a great pleasure for me to draw parallels in all these different areas of the Humanities. It’s incredibly inspiring, and beautiful in a way, to think about the ways people all throughout history are connected to me today. And one day, people in the future will hopefully look back and wonder at the fact that I am connected to them. I don’t know, it’s just a cool thought I’ve had recently. Storytelling is so much more than entertainment- it’s history and emotion and connections. It makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger.

Think about that the next time you’re asking yourself why you bother with this art crap because it’s not like it’s going to make you any money. What you’re doing is bigger than money, bigger than the here and now. It’s part of one of the oldest human traditions, and that’s pretty awesome when you think about it.

Okay, I’m done with all the heartfelt hooey now. You may return to your normal lives.

I’m a Terrible Critic

Published September 21, 2016 by Maggie Williams

I was sure that this post was going to be about how much I hate “reading work to the class” or just having anyone read my work in general. And that’s definitely part of it. I’ve hardly had to go through any workshops in my life, so it terrifies me when someone looks at what I’ve written with a critical eye. And it only makes it a million times worse when I have to read it out myself. My voice starts to sound super nervous because I apparently forget how to breath correctly or something, and then soon enough, I sound like I’m actually crying. That, in turn, just makes the whole situation awkward, on top of nerve-wracking. But I realized something else, besides how cringey I am, during the two workshops I endured this week: not only am I terrible at listening to critiques, I’m not good at giving them either.

Don’t get me wrong- I can catch grammatical errors like *insert name of famous baseball player* catches baseballs. It’s just the more in-depth stuff that I have trouble seeing, especially in things my peers wrote. I can tell that there’s something I don’t like about papers when I read them critically, but I can’t ever A) figure out what it is or B) tell someone how to fix it. Add on top of that my hate of confrontation, and my less-than-average speaking skills, and you have a recipe for a critiquing disaster.

So I would like to take this moment to formerly apologize to every classmate to whom I have given poor advice, or no advice at all. I literally have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m sorry if that negatively impacted your paper. Good day.

I’m an Impostor

Published September 14, 2016 by Maggie Williams

One of the first things we were warned about at college orientation was “impostor syndrome”- when you are surrounded by tons of brilliant people and decide that there is no way you belong among such genius. The honors orientation leader informed us that it was something that honors students especially tend to feel. Being the self-congratulatory person that I am, immediately after he mentioned it, I knew that I probably wouldn’t experience it. I looked forward to college because it meant finally having scholarly discussions that I had henceforth only had in my head.

I was all but certain that I wouldn’t experience this phenomenon, and I didn’t in some of my classes. I can keep up with philosophical conversation in Western Civ pretty well, if I do say so myself. I can easily grasp concepts in my Gothic Horror and Greek and Roman Mythology classes. But even still, my brain was determined to prove the orientation leader right in unexpected areas.

As an English and Creative Writing major, I was obviously most excited for my English class and my writing seminar. I thought I was prepared for them, but it only took until two classes in for me to feel like I didn’t belong. The people in my English class had incredible insights into the short stories we were reading, whereas I could only think along the lines of, “I liked this” or, “It was boring.” For the first assignment in my writing seminar, so many people had really creative pieces, while I played it safe. And thus, I was graced with impostor syndrome.

Let me just say that it sucks to be humbled, but it is completely necessary. When you think you’ve already learned everything you need, that you’re already great at what you do, you tend to not try as hard. But when you figure out that you aren’t all you thought you were, it pushes you to do better. In my case, it pushed me to look deeper into what I was reading, and to not take the easy way out when writing. It doesn’t help you to ride the middle- you have to constantly be striving for better to beat impostor syndrome.

The feeling that I’m but a peasant among lords has faded for the moment. I have completed other assignments where I actually really tried to be better, and that has helped me feel more worthy. But this coming week, we are workshopping the pieces, and I will see other people’s work in all its glory. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before the impostor syndrome is back with a vengeance. I guess I should enjoy my ignorant bliss while I can.

The Queen of Excuses

Published September 7, 2016 by Maggie Williams

So college is a thing that’s happening to me right now. It’s been going on for nearly three weeks, which is crazy to think about. My life is just flying right by. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the fact that so far, college makes me think that I can get away with not writing anything.

I mean, sure, I do have more homework and studying to do because of college. I’ve had readings out the wazoo, not to mention lots of interesting, in-class discussions about said readings. There’s been an adjustment period to all of this, so I’ve allowed myself some time off writing. But I feel like at this point, it’s been too much time.

I am the queen of making excuses not to write. I always get it into my head that I don’t have time, and then I proceed to watch movies for five hours straight every night. I’m really annoying, guys.

So, yes, starting college has been my latest excuse to not work on any of my projects (aside from continuing to write weekly blog posts, which is actually a major success for me and I will pat myself on the back). I feel like my brain is so weird because I want to write things all the time, yet I still manage to procrastinate. It’s not a matter of motivation, so I have no idea what this anti-writing disease is, aside from supremely irritating.

Do any of you have this problem? Am I just crazy? Are we all crazy? I guess, keep tuning in as I try to answer these questions (most likely in the affirmative).

Things I Don’t Care About

Published August 31, 2016 by Maggie Williams

The world seems to collectively care about a lot of things- some that seem utterly ridiculous to me. Here is a list of things that matter deeply to the general public, but that I have no ounce of feeling toward.

Let’s start off as controversial as possible with the queen herself- Beyoncé. Now, it’s not that I have any hard feelings toward Beyoncé. I appreciate her as a symbol of power in the industry and everything. I’m just not into her music, or obsessed with her as a person. I’m here to proudly say that I couldn’t care less about Beyoncé.

Next we have horoscopes, and astrology in general, which so many intelligent people I know seem to believe in whole-heartedly. Maybe I should just start posting links to the Wikipedia page for “Barnum effect” as often as people tweet about their signs.

Next are a few older ones that people aren’t as actively caring about at the moment. They were huge for a while though. Frozen (lame villain, average songs, not as female-empowering as people like to pretend it is), Breaking Bad (I got super bored during the first episode and didn’t watch another), The Walking Dead (learn to use comedic relief, please), and The Exorcist (people seem to think it’s the best horror movie of all time, but come on. We all know it’s pretty shit unless you’re religious).

Now let’s bring it back to current things. I listened to the first five songs of Hamilton and wasn’t interested. I haven’t watched even a measly gif of the Olympics and I don’t feel patriotic toward America’s team. They could cancel the Olympics and I wouldn’t so much as shrug.

And a little political- I don’t give a single shit if the NSA is spying on us (hi guys). They don’t care what kind of porn you watch or what weird things you Google, as long as they aren’t illegal.

And finally, above all else- I don’t give a flying fuck who Taylor Swift is dating. She could be dating my dad and I still wouldn’t care.

What are some popular topics that you couldn’t care less about? Do you want to fight me over any of my topics?

My Writing Fatal Flaw

Published August 24, 2016 by Maggie Williams

Entire lives pour out of my fingertips on a fairly regular basis. Letters form into words that describe entire worlds… Well, they used to. Description used to be second nature to me. When I first started writing, entire books could have been comprised of descriptions of a club or the physical appearance of the love interest. I could paint a picture of the narrator’s room better than I could configure a plot. Gory scenes could be written in such vivid detail that you could almost forget the fact that every single one of my characters talked like a fourteen-year-old girl.

Nowadays, I like to think that my plot-development and dialogue-writing abilities have grown tenfold. But I seem to have traded one (or more than one) problem for another. My ability to gauge a good description seems to have vanished into thin air.

I’m bored with describing people’s hair and eye colors. I’m tired of adding in details that aren’t necessary to the plot. I think I’ve also been scared away from description a bit with the harsh critique that I received almost a year ago in which the critic told me that I was using too many adjectives.

All of this blows, to say the least. Well-placed description is essential to a good book. It sets the scene and the mood, it builds characters and worlds, and it makes the reader feel like they’re inside the pages. It isn’t something that I can brush off- I have to be just as good at description as I am at everything else if I want my books to go places. It’s the one thing that I’m really working on right now. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that it used to be my favorite part of writing.

How about you? What is your fatal flaw when it comes to writing? Have you had a similar journey in your work?

The Guilt in DNF-ing

Published August 17, 2016 by Maggie Williams

When I was younger, I always had to finish reading books. That was just my way- if I picked up a book, I was going to finish it. It didn’t matter how much I hated the book, or how long it took me to finish it. It didn’t even matter if the book turned out to be wildly inappropriate for my age (I distinctly recall reading a vampire book where every other word was a swear and the narrator mentioned giving a blow job in the first chapter. I was eleven and I didn’t even know what a blow job was, but I knew for certain that it was something that would never happen in Twilight, the peak of high-brow literature). The young me would absolutely balk at the current-day me. And not even just because I am not currently married or pursuing marriage to Robert Pattinson.

Nowadays, I do not finish books all the time (DNF-ing, as people savvy to BookTube call it). Sometimes I give a book until at least halfway through before I give up on it, but other times it only takes a couple of chapters. I fling unread novels left and right, happily skipping through my TBR, and ridding myself of the overrated BookTube books that I am easily hypnotized into buying (on sale, because paying full price for anything gives me a migraine).

Despite how common this has become for me, I always feel regretful that I didn’t make it all the way through these books. The elementary-age version of me still has her hooks in me a little, and this shows up in the fact that I tend to leave bookmarks in my unfinished reads, in case I ever decide to return to them. So they just sit there on my shelves, little flags of guilt waving in the air-conditioned breeze.

But no more, I say! I am done with feeling guilty for not finishing books that I’m just not into. What’s the use of suffering through a book with a main character that drives me to drink, or a plot that I completely call in the first three chapters? Reading should be an enjoyable experience, and if I pick up a book that doesn’t follow this simple guideline, I am giving myself permission to put it down and not feel like I just single-handedly destroyed an author’s dreams. Cool, self? Cool.

So what are your feelings on not finishing books? When do you usually figure out that a book just isn’t for you? What’s the last book that you had to set aside? Let’s discuss it in the comments.