Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Essay of Doom

Being a writer, I am normally pretty good a writing essays for tests. Sure, it's a little different, and harder, than creating characters, giving them magical abilities, putting them together, and seeing what kind of story ensues, but I'm still pretty good at it. Also, being a writer, I'm very in tune with the flow of sentences and the sounds of words. I'm the kind of person that can hear the music of a paragraph and know when it would be better to say things the long way. I'm the kind of person that can spend several minutes deciding which of two words to use when most people wouldn't be able to tell that there was a difference. One of the things I most enjoy about my novel, which is told from the point of view of two different people, is the fact that the diction changes whenever the viewpoint changes.

The essay I just wrote for a test took all of that away from me. I thought the essay for my Eng 252 class last semester was bad, but this was the Essay of Doom. (I might say the Essay From Hell if not for the fact that it was written for a religion class.)

And unfortunately, I'm not exaggerating. At all. I wish I was. Trust me, after writing that essay, I really wish this wasn't true. But it is all true. The Essay of Doom does exist, and I have stared it in the face. And I would have run away if the thought of another failed test wasn't even more frightening.

Before I even get into the actual essay, there is the fact that I couldn't understand the instructions. I'm a pretty smart girl if I do say so myself, but these instructions were beyond me. I had to read them five or six times before I started getting it, despite the example. I have never felt so lost while reading something written in my beloved English. I've felt that confused with Spanish, sure, but never English. And even when I did understand, I kept forgetting exactly what it was I was supposed to do, and I know from experience that when I have to refer to the instructions for an assignment continually like that, I'm in for a bad time.

Once I got past the realization that the essay was Chaos put to paper and was actually able to focus on starting my essay, I ran into more problems. So, I was supposed to read these two passages, look at the key words listed after each passage, and write an essay using all of the words, using prepositions to show the relationships between the words. Apparently I was to be graded on my choice of prepositions, as well as the accuracy, relevancy, and other stuff, all having to do with the prepositions. Oh, but then I'm told I'll be writing paragraphs instead of a bunch of sentences. But... but...

Yeah, at about this point I was reduced to whimpering. It took a good five to ten minutes of staring out the windows and thinking about questions from the 100 Hour Board having to do with the Testing Center before I was able to actually start writing. But as soon as I started, I had questions. Many questions. I forced myself to write a whole paragraph before I allowed myself to give in and make my questions known - by writing them in the margins. As far as I can recall, by the time I was finished, my margins had all of the following written in them:

*Was I missing the day we were told the essay would be like this, or were we just not told? I wish I had known beforehand, because I have questions. If I write a beautiful, flowing essay that shows relationships but doesn't strictly follow the 'word-preposition-word' formula, will I get marked down? Will I get full points if I follow the aforesaid formula, even if my essay reads like doggerel?

*I am normally very good at essays. But this essay makes very little sense to me. I feel like a school kid writing lines. If I somehow do this the "wrong way," I'm going to have to have words with someone.

*This feels more like a fill-in-the-blanks assignment than an essay.

*This is not [bobtheenchantedone]'s essay, this is [bobtheenchantedone] the Robot's essay.

*Oh! Darn! I put my own ideas in there! I FAIL!!! (This is in reference to the 'accuracy of prepositions' above; if I remember correctly, we weren't supposed to add anything that couldn't be inferred from the text. I wasn't sure if this was 'reiterate the text' or 'don't think too deeply about it, just write' or if I was missing the point entirely. I'm the girl who wrote a paper comparing Canterbury Tales to a Pokemon episode, so I have no sense of what can be inferred from the text.)

I did finally finish the essay, about 45 minutes after I started it. And for someone who can write a two-page paper in half an hour, that was pretty bad. And the essay itself was pretty bad, too. It did, for the most part, read like doggerel, and yet I still didn't really use the formula. At the end, in the big empty space between the closing sentence and the edge of the paper, I wrote "I quit!"

Of course, I didn't really quit. I still had a whole 'nother essay to write before I was done with my test. But I won't go into that... I've done enough re-living memories of pain and anguish for one night. I'm just going to sit here with my Jamba (a treat for getting 93% on the multiple choice part of the test), and think happy thoughts. With time, I will recover.


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