This entire semester I have found myself faced with increasing apathy towards my classes when compared to my earlier semesters in college. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve hit a wall now that I realize graduation is closer than it seems, or whether I have gotten too comfortable knowing what the bare-minimum needed is for me to get by. The soft deadlines of the blog posts in this class were one of my first wake-up calls this semester that I had to try and find my motivation again.
Embedded within my lack of motivation was an initial struggle with setting the right tone and writing style for my blog posts. I did not previously have a lot of experience with writing in a casual tone, or with first-person in general. It was initially difficult for me to try and find the balance behind writing a post with substantive content while also trying to walk the reader through my thought process. When I start most papers, I begin with an extremely general idea and write my thought process out on the document. I find it a lot easier to think in writing when I can see the progression of where I’m headed written out. This usually ends up being a mini-essay in its own right, and by the end I’ve usually arrived at my thesis for a paper. I then go back for quotes and specific examples and writing the final version of a paper becomes a lot easier to write once I have my examples and a firm sense of what I want the paper to be. It was very difficult for me early on to break out of this habit, but I realized very quickly that writing blog posts was going to require a different method of writing for the tone I wanted them to strike and in general just to be able to finish them.
I did not write my first blog post until October 16th, meaning that I wasted over a month and a half where I could have begun writing. Looking back on that period now, I’m not sure exactly what took me so long, considering I had made the connection between The Fifth Season and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad relatively early on, way before I actually wrote “The Story of Misalem and Historical Revisionism”. Dr. McCoy often talked in class about being afraid of feedback, but I don’t think that was ever my problem. I wasn’t necessarily afraid of publishing a blog post, I simply did not take the assignment seriously enough until I realized how much time I had already wasted. My lack of motivation went into the timing of this first post, but I think it was ultimately my ingrained method of writing that influenced how the post came out. The early historical revisionism that appears in The Fifth Season in relation to the changing of Stonelore gave me the idea; however, I didn’t write it right away in part because I wasn’t sure how to go about it. When I usually lack motivation, I can still push through to get my work done but in the case of the blog posts, it was harder to motivate myself to both finish the work and to adjust my writing style. The more casual tone of posts mixed with the soft deadlines made my previous method inadequate; trying to have the idea of a post completely worked out before writing it did not work out and with no hard deadline there was nothing forcing me to form a new plan for the posts. This first blog post follows a very standard formula for me and while I still like the idea behind the post, I feel like it comes off a bit stiff compared to some of my later work.
However, in my second post I ended up striking a balance I would try to recreate later on without fully realizing what I was doing. I wrote “Stone Eaters and Mythological Creatures” during a burst of motivation. This motivation came from the fact that Dr. McCoy told me a question I had in class would be good for a blog post. I think the assurance that I was on the right track helped me to start and since this happened early on, I had a better sense of what could become a post later in the semester. What I like about my approach to this post is that when I sat down to start writing I wasn’t entirely sure where I wanted the post to go, which was not in line with my typical method. I reread a blog post Jemisin had written about her decisions behind making different races and species in the Stillness and used my wonder as to why I didn’t view Stone Eaters as mythological creatures to begin writing. I think this post succeeded because I had enough background knowledge about other fantasy properties to at least have a basis to begin to answer this question. My process for this post was to treat it as a more refined rough draft where I wrote through my ideas but in a more formal manner than I would have if I were starting a paper. This nice middle ground provided a strong basis for this post and became the new method I decided to use going forward.
However, my satisfaction at writing a blog post I liked caused me to lose motivation once more. Part of the problem was that I wasn’t aware at the time of why this blog post succeeded and I was still unsure of the ideas I had. It took me three weeks to attempt another post when I had a wake-up call that the deadline was fast approaching. In the span of three to four days I wrote four blog posts one after another. The frantic realization that I had wasted so much time forced me to put less thought into what the posts would be about. I picked any general topic and went back to things from earlier in the semester to formulate these ideas. The first blog post during this string of motivation was “Sympathy towards Nassun’s Motivations” in which I looked back at the “7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding” article to form my post. One of the most important things I did in this particular blog post was to insert myself and my own opinions into my writing. Rather than doing a strict analyzation, I wanted to connect the post back to my own thoughts towards the trilogy. Writing this post made me understand my own feelings towards Nassun better, which ultimately framed how I read the rest of the novels. Writing this blog post would serve as the basis as to how I would go about my future posts where I would start with an undeveloped idea and write my way through it until I arrived at a conclusion I liked. This helped me to not only write more casually but also required less preparation time which curbed my lack of motivation.
Coupled with a general lack of motivation this semester was a problem of prioritization. Maybe it’s because by this point I’ve been in college for a while, or perhaps it’s because I focused too much on extracurriculars this semester, but regardless of the reason, I got stuck in a method of finishing work that negatively affected my other classes. I subconsciously developed a priority system where I would only put effort into work with an upcoming deadline while putting everything else on the backburner. In some sense, I’ve always done this and I think it’s natural to prioritize an upcoming deadline but this semester it was taken to the extreme where I wouldn’t do readings for classes with the plan that I could make them up later on. This hindered my progress in all my classes as I often felt unprepared coming into class. Most weeks, no blog posts were written because there was a higher priority in my mind. The week of four blog posts happened because I had decided at the outset that those posts would be my priority for the week, and my work in all other classes was set aside. In some ways, this was a positive because I was completely focused on getting my work done for this class but it also caused posts like “Breeding in Science Fiction” and “Parasitic and Symbiotic Relationships” to feel forced. My method of picking a general idea and writing my way through it did not succeed as much in these posts as my others largely because of the fact that too little planning was done on my part beforehand when I should have either fleshed out the concepts a bit more, or spent more time on the actual research or writing process.
In my opinion, my most successful posts this semester were “The Connection towards Home”, “The Briar Patch”, the group blog post, and my midterm paper. I think what makes these posts successful is that they were the perfect balance between me going in with outside information and having a general idea of where I wanted the post to go, while also maintaining a casual tone throughout. I found it easiest and most productive to complete my classwork when I took the time to make connections to other information outside the class. The step of taking the time to relate the issues presented in the trilogy to real-life examples resulted in better posts and a higher motivation overall to write these posts. Whenever I felt I was making stretches to find an idea for a post like in “Reclaiming Language”, the final outcome was rarely as good as when I took the time to connect the readings to things I knew from my own life. A big part of overcoming my motivational issues was choosing to write on topics that I was passionate about. In other classes, I find it very easy to write a paper when I am confident about the subject I have chosen to write about, but when I do not feel strongly about a topic it is hard for me to finish. The Midterm paper was a project I felt motivated to complete because I had a firm idea of where I wanted the paper to before I started writing it. Once I was happy with my idea and the general direction of the paper, it was easy for me to fill in the blanks of the actual words and complete the paper in a reasonable timeframe.
I feel like my understanding of the needed writing style to complete the blog posts and to curb my lack of motivation culminated in my final post “Forming an Identity”; a post where I took a song that I like and applied it to The Broken Earth Trilogy. Choosing something that I don’t associate with schoolwork helped to maintain a casual tone throughout and my background knowledge allowed me to write a strong post. The blog posts as a whole made me a better writer because they introduced me to a new writing style than I was used to which required me to analyze what is behind my typical writing. I’ve been exposed to the same kind of essays too often and this set me in a specific method of going about my work that the blog posts forced me to exit. I understand my lack of motivation in a fuller sense as well now that I’ve experienced firsthand the difference in me being confident in an idea and only being half-invested. Preparation time, whether in the form of thinking about class concepts in my free time, or connecting ideas in class to my own life are critical for me being able to sit down and get to work without deciding to do something else instead. Going forward I realize the importance of choosing topics I care about and am invested in writing about if I want to complete my work.