First Days are the Bane of My Existence

In honor of moving back to my university’s campus tomorrow, I thought I’d write a bit about my thoughts on first days. If the title of this post is any indication, first days are just…awful. No matter how many I suffer through (and as a now junior in college, I’ve had a lot), I never enjoy them. And I know why: the primary reason being I don’t like change.

First days are made up of change and new, and my poor little routine-loving self can hardly cope with it. I like knowing what to expect–to an extent. But with first days, you don’t have that. Now, I don’t need to wake up at exactly 6:02 a.m. everyday or know that every time I walk to my British Lit class I’ll pass the same guy with his earbuds in, blasting some indie rock song. That’s a little too routine, even for me. But doing similar things everyday and seeing the same people allow me to familiarize myself with my surroundings and better connect, and that provides me with a sense of comfort. First days disrupt that.

The irony of this is first days typically lead to routine; that’s why they are called first days. Literally the first day of a new routine. Because after Day 1, everything falls into place and a new familiar–a new comfort–is set in place. I suppose what bothers me most is this new first day disrupts the routine derived from the previous first day and so on. It’s a vicious cycle. Everything always turns out just fine, though (relatively speaking) but being the anxious individual I am, I always, always, ALWAYS nervously anticipate whatever is in store for me.

I attribute most of this worry to people. New people. I promise I do not hate people or meeting new people, no matter how many of those introvert myths tell you otherwise. But again, this originates back to not knowing what to expect. What kind of person will they be? Are they nice? Will they accept my all-around awkwardness? What if we have nothing in common? What if our personalities completely clash? What if…Pretty much the rest of my worries from then on pertain to crazy “what-if” scenarios. Things I’m sure most people don’t worry about. At least at my school. We are of the calm, collected, and optimistic sort. I don’t know if this is an introvert thing are just a Quinn thing, but to feel truly comfortable and connected with people, I need to get to know them over a period of time. And sometimes even then I don’t fully connect with everyone I come into contact with. Again, having endured so many first days, I admit that most people I’ve met, like 99.99%, are actually awesome in some way or another, or at least halfway decent, even if I don’t fully get on well with them. But because I’m me, I must worry. Even though it’ll totally turn out okay, like it always does. Seriously, the people at my school are known for being waaaaaay nice. So… what do people with non-first-world problems stress about? (That’s a rhetorical question. Please don’t guilt me by actually answering.)

Though there are certainly other, smaller reasons contributing to my disdain for first days, my lack of enthusiasm for change in routine and new, scary people secure the top items on The List. As I’ve iterated several times in this post, and am about to do again, everything works out after that first day. My brain apparently just likes to stress for fun. What do YOU think of first days? For those of you who don’t mind them, what do you recommend for managing intense worrying? (Those questions were actually sincere this time. :))

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Where Would I Be Without Criticism?

Something I’ve noticed about the writer’s world is people who fall within this realm tend to treat their writing much differently than those who don’t. They take it seriously like a musician or an athlete take their music or performances. Because like a musician’s song or an athlete’s performance, a writer’s work is like their baby. Something they’ve placed days if not weeks or months into to perfect (well relatively speaking–all writing can be improved), agonizing over every last detail and worrying how others will react upon the first encounter. Then the mother writer releases their baby writing out into the world to be either welcomed or mauled. A week’s or month’s work that can be torn down in mere seconds. No pressure there.

Those who don’t wish to be the next bestselling author or award-winning journalist most likely don’t feel quite as much is at stake–not to say they don’t want to do go a good job, but dispassionate writers probably don’t stress out over using the “right” metaphor for love or which details to include for a dreamed up character’s backstory. Actually I don’t know if even the serious writers do that, could just be me… The point is an individual’s stance on writing influences how they’ll react when faced with the task as well as how they evaluate written works.

As an English major and lover of words, suffice to say I perceive writing as a very serious matter. Sometimes too serious (I once spent seven hours writing a two-page paper. I wish I was kidding.). I put a lot of thought into my work, whether it’s a paper or a journal article or a blog post, and it shows; I’m organized, argumentative (in a good way, hopefully),  and always make an effort to include my “writer’s voice” if the situation allows. When I’m brave enough to share my work at school, I usually receive lots of vague “Omigosh, you’re writing is so good!!!!” comments. While that’s great for building my self-esteem and instilling confidence in my writing abilities, this sort of feedback tells me nothing about what I can do to improve my writing.

I do attend a liberal arts school so I take a lot of classes that don’t directly pertain to my field of study and subsequently I work with a lot of individuals who aren’t English majors. And that’s totally fine–I’m all for major integration! So my class of biology, math, and exercise science majors spends the day critiquing each other’s work and the only things anyone says about my writing is “it’s good.” Okay, where does that leave me? Let me tell you accepting negative feedback becomes realllllly difficult–especially when those negative comments come from professional writers.

Recently, I received a writing-based job in a field I had not previously worked before but was eager to try out. Coming from a journalism background, I innately treated my first few assignments like feature articles, incorporating extra details and smooth transitions (often referred to as “fluff”) to make for a more interesting piece–everything I had been told I was good at. While this is perfectly acceptable when whatever I’m working on demands that I grab the reader’s attention and entertain while inform, it is less recommended when trying to remain neutral and professional for a large audience. Basically, I learned not all writing has the same rules.

When I received my first few articles back, I saw red. Literally! That furious red font my supervisor uses to note her feedback pretty much annihilated whatever I had written on the page. Granted not all of the red was bad–there was good feedback too–but the overall response stung. I had never received negative responses on my writing before, of any extremity. But ultimately, I’m glad. For the honesty. For the fact that my boss took the time to explain her comments and guide me through the next few drafts until my articles were finalized and published. Because someone cared and was honest (okay, maybe she’s required to care), I learned about different writing styles and how to apply those to my own writing; I learned how to improve. That’s all I had ever really wanted since deciding I wanted to be a writer.

Now, several months later into my position, I’ve gained a lot of constructive insight on my writing, but I know I still have much more  to learn. By no means have I grown deaf to all negative remarks on my writing–my baby–but I am learning to cope with the idea not absolutely everyone will always 100 percent love my writing. Though I had a rough beginning  with my writing for this job and still continue to have rough days here and there, I will be forever grateful for this first, real curve ball from what us college kids like to call the “real world.”

To answer my title question of “Where would I be without criticism?,” I’d say probably a lot more happier, but also much more naive. As previously established, getting your writing–or anything you love, really–literally or metaphorically torn apart can feel like the world is ending, at least momentarily. It’s difficult, but I advise you, dear reader, to work through it. Work through all those flustered emotions and trial-and-error periods, and show the “real world” you’re not to be totally decimated but its criticism. Where would YOU be without criticism? I don’t know, I can’t speak for you. But I can say that with negative commentary, you’re going to become a better writer/musician/athlete/whatever-you-want-to-be because of it.

NOTE: I am not in any way trying to demean biology, math, exercise science, any non-English students and their writing abilities. I was simply attempting to make a point, and referenced these areas of study at random.

Well, hello there

Hi! If you’re reading this, then awesome! Welcome! Don’t let my I’m-about-to-tell-you-what’s-what-so-take-a-seat title scare you. I’m reallllllly nice, I promise. And actually quite a bit…timid. So I thought it was high time I succumbed to that new (old?) trend of creating and maintaining a blog. Here’s why:

As a proudly proclaimed introvert (Trust me, I have NO problem telling anyone and everyone about my introverted ways which kind of negates my claim of being an introvert. Although if you ever have the privilege of meeting me, you’d find just how true my claim really is. But I digress…) I prefer to reflect internally on what I see and hear before reacting to the situation. A lot. Which, to the observational eye, can cause me to appear aloof and uninspired when in reality I’m just processing the world around me. However, as a result of attending a small, liberal arts university that thrives on classroom discussion models and all-around verbally sharing thoughts and ideas, I’ve begun to gravitate towards ditching my reflection periods and vocalizing my thoughts more immediately. Or rather, trying to do so. Can’t exactly change a personality trait that comes so naturally. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to change who I am (Introverts for the win!) but my tendency to reflect and attempts to internally sort out the jumble of thoughts in my head have in the past led to disorganization of disaster proportions when trying to voice those thoughts. You’ve seen this around the internet I assume?

HowISeebackground

Yeah, that’s me most of the time even when I have something I want to share with others. All of this is to simply say I think writing through my thoughts will be a good way to, well, sort through my thoughts and encourage more thought-sharing in and outside the classroom (hence the theme of this blog).

Also, I really, really, really love to write. Like, a lot. I keep a journal, I hold a feature writing position, hold an editing position for a student publication for my school, will hopefully hold a staff writing position for the student newspaper this coming semester also for my school, and of course because I am a student, create academic papers for my classes. This blog is just the latest in my writing endeavors.

So what you should gather from this little welcome post is:

  1. Welcome!
  2. I started this blog because I want to better vocalize my thoughts and opinions and I simply love writing.

Alright, I think you’ve read my writing enough (equivalent to listened to me rant) for one day, so I’ll let you take a break. I suppose… But there will be more to come! Until then…