I do not regret the things I’ve done…

So I need a place to compose my thoughts. The irony is that I need to compose my thoughts about writing, by writing, when in truth I don’t like writing very much. I don’t know where this dislike for writing originated from, but as far back as I can remember I had trouble putting my thoughts down on paper. I don’t seem to have a problem with speaking, which befuddles me because that is also personal expression in words. I have a strong grasp on English: my vocabulary is extensive and I have a good handle on grammar and style (I have The Elements of Style on my shelf).

I don’t have any trouble forming an argument or communicating complex ideas. I am able to think analytically and I make powerful connections between different ideas. I say this because it’s true, and I don’t often give myself credit for it. Many of my professors would say the same thing about me and thoroughly enjoy having me as a student. I contribute meaningfully in class and am an active learner. I seek out knowledge regardless of the grade. One professor in particular believes that I am more than capable of acing my papers and seems to have much more confidence in me than I do.

This semester I have been unable to put pen to paper. I don’t know where the source of my mental block comes from, but the inability to start ruins any shot I have of doing well. I love the material and I’ll actively seek out and read literature that it alludes to or that alludes to the work. I can have a conversation about the works, compare and contrast them, and, if we were having a conversation, I would find passages to support my arguments. If there was another person there that wanted to talk about it, I would do it.

Why can’t I do the same thing by myself. Do I need a sounding board? Do I lack the confidence to say anything with certainty, so I say nothing at all? Am I afraid of being wrong? With another person we share the conversation, I give my view and they give theirs. Hopefully my view changes as I learn and see more and I am able to develop a deeper understanding of the work being discussed. When writing a paper, however, I am supporting arguments on my own. Often times I feel that I can’t support the argument that I’m trying to prove, and I get frustrated. The obvious topics seem too simple, because to me they are obvious, and I often assume that proving them in a paper would be stupid. Maybe I try to hard to prove something that can’t be proven?

In any case I feel generally overwhelmed when I have a paper due, for no apparent reason. I know it is due, and I will actively avoid working on it or thinking about it. I spend more time avoiding the paper than it would take to write the paper, and writing the paper isn’t difficult. I don’t have trouble doing the writing, I suffer a strange innate aversion to it. I can’t really describe it, but it is completely debilitating.

This problem isn’t new. It struck me in high school and has raised its ugly head several times since I’ve been in college. So far this semester I have missed two papers, a presentation, have not started on a paper due this week, and have not started a history research paper that will also be due soon. After ruining two weekends in a row with stress (and not doing the papers anyway, and losing countless hours of sleep during the week) I decided that it wasn’t worth it.

“I never liked writing in the first place,” I told myself, “I just thought it would be good to be good at it.” And it’s true. I do desperately want to be able to write papers fluently and with ease. I want the B.A. in English literature because I want to be recognized for my hard work and interest in the field. It was almost within reach, but I can’t seem to do the papers. It reached a point where I had to wonder why I bothered taking the classes if I didn’t want to do the work and I was ruining my ability to enjoy life in the process.

I take the classes because I want to be guided through the works by someone who has read them before and can expose nuances within the text and other background information that I would not pick up on otherwise. It isn’t unreasonable. Honestly it also isn’t unreasonable for them to require that I do outside work to contribute to my understanding, such as writing a paper. The purpose is not only to assess my understanding of the work, but to help me learn more about the work by asking me to support an argument or idea through the text.

I know it isn’t unreasonable. I know why I should do it. I don’t have an issue with that, I simply am not able to complete the task. And often times I have no problem with the consequences. I will accept massive point reductions on papers and hand them in during the last week of class to avoid failing. I will take a C in the class because I didn’t hand in a paper worth 25% of my grade, even though I aced the rest of the course. I know many people would look at me and tell me that I’m insane for wasting an A like that. But the truth is I can’t seem to write the paper by the due date, or sometimes at all.

I don’t know what I’m going to tell my professor at our meeting tomorrow. I know that she doesn’t want me to withdraw or fail the course, and is willing to do everything she can to help me write the papers. The prospect is so promising, but it doesn’t address the larger issue: even with all the leeway in the world I am still going to have trouble with the paper.

Somehow this is going to come out to be about 1250+ words. That’s five pages, double spaced, size 12 font. That’s longer than any of the papers I have due. I put thought into this (although obviously not the same kind of thought that I would put into a paper). It seems like the paper should be so easy (and as I say that the fear creeps over my shoulder again and infects my chest) but I can’t seem to do it.

I’m scared that this extends further into my life than I realize and that it will become a serious issue at a job. I’m afraid that I will have to try to conquer this demon when there is much more on the line than just a grade. I’m afraid, because even with all this anxiety and fear, I have no desire to change. I don’t want to do extra work, I want to coast along and graduate with ease. I want my senior year to be simple and straightforward. I want to get a 4.0, like I know that I can. I don’t see any of that happening if I keep going for the lit degree. My chest tightens when I think about the work and I relax when I think about dropping the classes. If that isn’t a clear indication of how I feel, then I don’t know what is. My biggest fear is that my feelings are wrong and that I’m going to make the wrong choice and regret it for the rest of my life.

I do not regret the things I’ve done, but those I did not do.” – Rory Cochrane

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