Monday, February 9, 2015

Peer Writing Consultant Amanda Relick on Why She’s Not Afraid to Make a Mess

Amanda Relick '17, Creative Writing and Sociology Major

You always hear people talk about when they learned their greatest life lesson—the moment where they figured it all out.  For me that moment either hasn’t happened yet, or I’ve just taken it all wrong.  Nevertheless, one of the greatest lessons I have learned thus far in my life is that it is actually ok not to have anything figured out.  My high school perfectionist self would gasp in horror as I admit that there really is no right path or wrong path, no yes or no answers, because in reality, life is messy and really no one knows what they are doing.  College is a time to make mistakes, and in making those mistakes, you figure out who you are or who you would like to be.  Funny enough, like most things in my life, this lesson has transferred over into my writing.  Writing, I have learned, just like life, is quite messy, but it is in that mess that the real fun begins. 
In high school I was taught to have a general plan for my essays before I began writing.  I was taught that each paragraph needed to start out with a distinct purpose—a purpose that I needed to know before I had even gotten any words on the page.  I would labor over my outline, making sure that I had every concept covered so that writing my essay became like a fill in the blank worksheet. This strategy trained me to write what I needed to, to carry out my plan, nothing more and nothing less.  I viewed writing as a way of telling rather than as a way of creating.  I had always wanted to write stories in high school, dreaming that one day I would write my own book, but I could never wrap my mind around how to go about it.  Then, in college, when I was finally exposed to a different type of writing other than your typical five-paragraph essay, it all clicked. As a Creative Writing major, I was exposed to writing poetry and short stories, and I even became a staff writer for Her Campus Bucknell and began to write articles.  There is no outline format for writing a poem, no five-paragraph archetype to stick to when writing a short story or article.  And once I took a deep breath and threw my plans out the window, I realized that having a plan only holds you back from creating anything worthwhile.
So I really just began winging it with everything that I wrote.  Formal essays, research papers, you name it, were all started from a place of Oh my god I have no idea.  Now, some people may think that is not the smartest approach, but I beg ever so humbly to differ.  Writing is too often overlooked as a means of thinking, as a way of figuring things out.  The reason why I could never write anything above the standard in high school was because I was limiting myself to my first, rationally and logistically planned out idea.  What I have learned is that your first idea is generally not your best, and if you allow yourself room to think, you will come up with even better ideas.  I believe that the best things in life happen when there is no plan, so why shouldn’t it be the same for writing? Going in with no plan allows me to make a mess on the page with all of my ideas and thoughts.  It is from those points of uncertainty that I have written my best pieces of writing.  In getting over that need to have everything figured out and allowing myself to make a mess, on the page and in life, I have surprised myself with what I am able to create. 

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