An Active Journey
Writing this essay, in and of itself, is a lot like writing the blog posts on which it is built. A huge problem I had initially was anxiety over how to start them. A fear over the uncertainty of their composition and structure led me to believe that I was not ready to write one. A fear of being unable to correctly execute the task given to be froze me and prevented the execution of the task like a self fulfilling prophecy. At the time it did not occur to me that the point was to try the first post anyway despite the possibility of failure so that I could learn by failing what to do for the future. Out of fear I prevented myself from growing in a natural and meaningful way. I could resort to blaming the environment around me for cultivating a sense of fear for failure and encouraging procrastinating behavior but that does not help me. By acknowledging my mistake, I’m allowing myself to know what I’ve done wrong and to think about what to do differently to create more favorable outcomes.
The only thing outside of my own personal mistakes I would direct blame to is how school has focused me on getting good grades over growing as a person and improving my skills as a writer and as a student. By prioritizing what I am expected to write over what I personally wanted to write, my own growth was limited and the exercises of this class were far more difficult and daunting than they would have been otherwise. That all being said, I did end up writing my blog posts, and I did end up growing as a writer, if in spite of myself. My biggest regret is not leaving more time for myself to write blog posts so that I could improve more, and more consistently. After reading the novels, and going through the process of writing my blog posts, I feel a sort of camaraderie with Essun. Obviously I don’t mean to compare my suffering or ordeals with hers, she clearly has the worst of it there, but I feel as though we both have a sense of being lost. I am lost in my writings, desperately attempting to anchor myself with some structure but having great difficulty. Essun is living in a formless world, with no clear place for her to continue living, as society has decided that she should die and thus forces her to live the life of a refugee. I feel as though this aimlessness connects us, and connects all of my writings as a result.
For me, writing as an active process rather than a pre-constructed argument taking one side and defending it is unusual. While naturally my writing tends to evolve as I write given that I think more about what I’m writing while writing it, for most of my time as a student I was taught to have a more pre-constructed approach to writing. I was fighting this method while writing blog posts and I think that shows in the “The Link Between Worlds (and people)” with talk of hypothesis and the argumentative tone that it takes. A real weakness of the post is its over-reliance on summation of the book’s contents without devoting enough words or thought to the subtext of the links that orogene’s share or its importance to reality. This, especially my use of summary, becomes an ever-present theme until later posts. Some aspects of strength that the post presents, keeping in mind that this is the earliest example of my own writing is that it is a good first step despite its failings. Being uncertain of exactly what I should write about in my posts would naturally lead to a reliance on summarizing the books so I can forgive myself this sin for now, but it also makes admirable efforts to tie an example of social interaction unique to the world Jemisin has created to real-world analogues. Going back I would expand upon this by providing more concrete accounts of the social bonds of blacks in slavery in order to better compare the magical ties made between orogenes in the novels, such as how slaves often established strong communities based on their extended families or even non-relatives when their other family was sold away from them. At that point I was basically guessing what I needed to be able to write for a blog post. It was scary, the proverbial leap of faith. Nothing was gained from going nowhere though, and I gained a great deal from trying. The aimlessness that I felt in making this post in particular can be traced to a lack of confidence in my ability to write a blog post, or indeed anything that might satisfy the expectations of a blog post. My first post was not perfect by any means, and no post I ever write will be, but by writing this post at all, no matter how far it was from what it should be, helped me to gain confidence to move forward in my efforts.
I could pretend that by releasing my first post before my second, that I had already started the process of posting before Professor McCoy’s gentle push in the form of the collaborative blog post. That wouldn’t be very honest though, as I had posted my first while the process of completing the collaborative blog post was underway. This collaborative effort was extraordinarily helpful in establishing a foothold in blog writing, that is to say it gave me an idea of what a blog post might look like. It gave me the confidence to start gaining confidence, rather the opposite of a vicious cycle. Every once in a while, you need to be able to lean on someone else to get where you need to go, and I would say that I definitely needed to be able to lean on that group to be able to really get into my blog posts. The same can be said of Essun, who comes to greatly rely on those around her to the point where she purposefully distances herself from others in order to preempt them either dying or leaving her. She relies on Alabaster to show her how to properly be an orogene, free from the Fulcrum’s influence. She also relies on Castrima, to give her somewhere to belong but most importantly, she relies on her daughter Nassun, to give her something to live for beyond simply surviving. As Essun relies on those around her to build her up, keep her going and give her something to live for, I needed this group to put me on the right path. Perhaps it seems like I am exaggerating, but it is my honest opinion that this group activity was vital to me moving forward from then on.
The limited amount of time that I left myself to complete all of my blog posts was impactful on the quality of those posts. It is a poor habit of mine to leave assignments and tasks to the last minute of completion and accepting whatever negative effect that has on my work easily. Many of the lesson that were taught to me in the group blog post needed to be restricted, such as the extensive use of sources outside Jemisin’s novels, or being able to slow down and more carefully explain my thoughts. I think that even in the face of this my posts carry not totally insignificant merit. Many of the themes I explore are thoughtful and constructive to the narrative Jemisin is presenting, such as the study of allegorical ties between the story of Moses and Alabaster and subsequent comparisons made between orogenes and Israel. However, as Professor McCoy suggests in her comments on this particular post, there was far more to dig into that I was able to cover in “Castrima as ‘The Chosen People’”. I could have continued my examination beyond the story of Moses and seen the orogenes as a disparate people that are mistreated the world over. I could have compared accounts of Jews that were persecuted to those experiences of Alabaster, Essun or any of the roggas. There was so much potential that was squandered by my hesitation to start earlier or more sensibly pace my posts, and the one who ends up losing out the most is me. This isn’t a tale of flagellant self-pity though, because in losing what could have been, I am able to recognize what I could have in the future if I can adjust the way I approach similar situations.
The value that my blog posts have is more than the sum of their literary parts. As I have come to understand it, there is no point at which I can be completely confident in my writing. I will never produce a piece of literature that is perfect and could not be improved no matter what I did to it. Writing is not an end, but an active, living process of continually improving what you can put onto paper. I may not be able to make a perfect blog post which encompasses all possible analysis of any aspect of Jemisin’s novels, but by making these posts I’m sure rusting better at it than I was when I began. Building ability, cultivating potential if even only fractionally what I could have done, and gaining the confidence to write and publish what I can in order to take steps forward. I can’t walk this journey without taking steps, and even if those steps are off the path, or lead me to stumble and fall into the dirt, I’ll still have made far more headway than if I never lifted a foot in the first place.