Monday, March 26, 2007

Victory via Victorians

I've said it before and I'll say it again: when faced with a choice in law school between exam and a paper, always take the paper. That said, I hate writing papers. No matter how many times I latch on to inspiration and wrestle a conclusion out of a paper, the same creative struggle resumes with each new assignment. (The obvious upside, of course, is that this struggle doesn't have to play out in only three hours.)

If there's one trick I might suggest, it's a change of perspective. This can be taken literally - I often find leaving my apartment and relocating to the local Starbucks makes for a healthier more conducive environment. (Note, under no circumstances would I recommend the Curtis Building's library.) But more importantly, it's necessary to understand the overall perspective: you're writing a 25 page paper which, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that much. For instance, this site has 322 posts, averaging 250 words per, and double-spaced essay page has roughly 350 words... so essentially I've written a 230-page essay with no discernible thesis and scattershot citation.

Of course, like any writer, I ignore my own advice quite frequently. This Entertainment Law paper (about my struggles as a screenwriter) has proved no easier after a Grande dark, a Long Americano, and, to shake things up and because I like it - an Orangina.

No easier, that is, until I got a new book: Ben Wilson's The Making of Victorian Values. (It's the book with the boring-sounding title but hilarious cover that currently occupies the equal opportunity music/book java-powered showcase in this blog's sidebar.) The fact that I love the subject matter isn't the point here (though, as an aside, I find Victorians, as an historical segment of society, endlessly amusing and my favourite Shins lyric has always been "Just a glimpse of an ankle and I / react like it's 1805.")

The point is that Ben Wilson, with his immense vocabulary and amazing essay skills - is only 25. He's my age, and he's written an essay twice the length of this entire thing with a far more reliable system of citation. So, I read the prologue of this book last night and I instantly went back to my essay. Not surprisingly, I found it much easier to write: my advice, read what you like, then write what you want.

Man, I really should have been charging for this advice over the last three years.

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