How bad does modern society wish to begin each sentence with, “Since the dawn of time,” but this academic institution won’t let us. If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that academics are the most sarcastic group of individuals I have ever had the honour of knowing. Although we are chastised for using broad sentences to begin our papers we are praised by the outer world for our eloquence when we speak about the evolution of the human condition.
While the common person gawks at the University of Toronto student questioning the keynote speaker on the validity of their facts at the world’s largest medieval festival, they also believe it’s a personal attack. A war on the battle field of Academia. Little do they know, the speaker and the questioner are buddies just bouncing off on each other’s ideas. We are now plagued with the reputation of being “show offs” when we write big books and long papers. We bring prestige, honour and integrity by making sure our works cited entries are at least in the double digits.
But what have I actually produced in writing in ACMA01? If it were up to me, I’d print it on golden paper and put the first letter in diamond encrusted calligraphy because it was that good. Good not for content or even arguments sake, but good because I have read my articles, I put in my hours of work. But effort and production aren’t always an equal equation.
As a student, I believe it is easier to write while in a mentally and emotionally unstable state. That way I could spit out the random thoughts in my mind pertaining to the subject area in some feigned effort to declutter the emotional instability. A running joke is to write drunk and edit sober, but it stopped being a joke when student’s can appreciate the warm feeling in their stomachs to calm the nerves they have of writing their very first university paper. The same one that their parents will ask them how they did on to assess whether or not their child can really “make it.”
In music, there’s a term called “ghost writing” when a person would write a song and sell it to a famous person like Justin Bieber or Beyonce and the world will never know who they are, but they would bask in the royalties. I think academic writing may be the opposite. We find our subjects. We analyze them. See what makes them tick. And we tell their stories even if they are unaware that they were part of them and we end up with the royalties. So yes, we are “ghost writing”, but the ghosts have already moved on. We as writers play catch up so that we do not always make something for future generations to enjoy, but for them to contemplate and remember. For people to look back and say “ah ha! I’ve missed that point!”
Of course this is very hard to do. Very hard in deed. And so I think it’s true that it is very hard to handle a challenge, but it is also hard to handle opportunity. Here in university, that is all a student has. An opportunity to learn. An opportunity to get feedback on their work. An opportunity to discuss and grow as a person. The hard part is saying “yes.” The hard part is going to tutorial knowing that you spent 3 hours trying to write the one paged essay outline in your hand instead of the 6 paged finished essay draft that was expected of you. But still going anyways. Still going to tutorial knowing you totally screwed yourself over, but in reality entering a safe space for learning. Where even the smallest of ideas/thoughts can be built upon with friends, peers and mentors. All of whom I am so grateful for and entirely indebted to.