Jemisin explains in her afterward, “Where there is pain in this book, it’s real pain; where there is anger, it’s real anger; where there is love, it’s real love”. (416) The same rule applies to my reflection of her novels and the course as a whole.
I’ve always struggled with taking myself seriously as a writer. For the longest time, I refused to re-read my work. I would sit down, write an essay, and then refuse to think about what I wrote because I had a wall up against putting true effort into my writing. I think this was my defense mechanism against criticism. Like Syenite, I was only functioning as a part of myself. I didn’t want to think about any of the issues that defined me, or how I evolved into the person I am.
My refusal to reflect and think began when I was 14. The summer before high school, I—like Damaya—was shaken out of my youth and shoved into a strange purgatory between adolescence and adulthood. Two of my friends were in a horrible car accident, and one of them died shortly after. I and my friend group spiraled into a strange depression. When we weren’t raising money for the family or hospital, we were getting involved in all the usual teenage things; perhaps because that’s what we thought living was. Maybe seeing someone our age die made us want to experience our teenage-hood to the fullest.
We did just that—however, for me, it was more about conformity than anything else. I stopped practicing the cello. I stopped caring about writing. I stopped caring about almost everything. I didn’t realize how unhealthy I was. Syenite was haunted by the memory of Allia, while I was haunted by this event and my own dreams. I began having nightmares about my own mortality, and I simultaneously let my figurative dreams fall through the cracks. Eventually, I quit the cello and turned to writing, only to make a similar mistake…
All of freshman year, I didn’t realize I was grieving. I isolated myself and began to hate myself for being awkward and antisocial. Self-loathing was already becoming a damaging theme in my life. I stopped writing near the middle of sophomore year. I did this because I looked at my writing, and just felt… foolish. I threw all of my writing in the trash and refused to take my writing seriously from that point on. While Syenite/Essun was destroying towns and cities, I was demolishing parts of myself that used to mean everything to me.
I haven’t been this motivated to change this habit until now. Possibly because these blog posts were my first perceived failure since high school. Trying makes you vulnerable to critique, and that was something that I was avoiding. However, I think the feedback I received on the blog posts forced me to wake up from this sort of trance that I had made my reality.
So, let’s talk about these blog posts! I’ve broken my 10 blog posts up into a series of phases. The “Stone age” represents my first and underdeveloped attempts at writing blog posts:
The Stone Age of my writing
These posts were all mediocre in there own unique, somewhat pathetic ways. I wrote these in a haze of confusion and frustration. I was just trying to get them out of the way for the sake of getting them out of the way. I really thought I could just cruise by… but that was not the case.
These blog posts were a learning curve for me. I had no idea what was expected, or even what a blog post should look like. It would have been wiser of me to look more closely at example blog posts on the website. Instead, I kind of just skimmed them for the sake of time and then was shook when I looked at my grades.
My first post, “Blue Eyes as a Bad Omen”, was only 267 words. I know that while it is not size that matters, I needed to add more substance to this post. I had one brief quote, a plot summary, and then a fudged allusion to colonization and the evils of white supremacy and what not. This blog is kind of like the donut that the baker forgot to fill. There’s a shell of something, but the heart of it is really just empty.
Social justice is a topic that I am very passionate about. I become so passionate, that sometimes I forget what my purpose in writing the blog is. Sometimes, I forget to establish my ethos as a writer and fill my blogs with empty statements. I need to be cognizant of the fact that I’m writing a literature-based blog, not a manifesto.
“Excavating Old Rock Layers” and “Is Hoa a Stone Eater” were both wimpy posts. I didn’t have any quotes from the book and was rushing through them. Rock layers hardly surpassed 300 words, and I provided no textual evidence for why I thought Hoa was a stone eater. I was putting minimal effort into my blog posts because I saw them as an obstacle rather than an opportunity to grow. I was BSing them and then not proofreading because I didn’t want to be faced with the task of cleaning my own s***. I underestimated the time and effort it takes to write a blog post, and began to realize that I needed to change my approach.
Luckily, the anger kicked in. Much like Essun, I’m motivated by anger and feeling the need to constantly prove myself. This leads me to my so-called “Dark age” in my evolution as a blog post writer. This period of my progression is dark more-so because of the anger that I channeled to write the posts. The only set back that I experienced in this era was how I wrote the midterm exam. The midterm is more conceptually aligned with the actual dark ages, while the posts resemble the progress before setback.
- Standardized Revisionism in Progress
- Midterm—Actual Dark ages
- American Optimism— Post-dark-age experimental enlightenment
“Waste” is a post dedicated to my frustration with college. After being honest with myself about how garbage my early blog posts are, I felt angry. I wasn’t angry about the class, however. I was angry about the fact that I’m an English major, and have never taken a class that has asked me to think critically about my own writing. What am I paying for? I’ve always known, on some level, about the weaknesses in my writing, but this is the first class where I’ve been pushed to fix them. I’ve coasted through much of my academic career, always being surprised at the grades I never felt I deserved. This class has been an eye-opener for me, mainly because it makes me face reality. I appreciate how much I’ve been pushed by something as simple as a blog post, and part of me wonders how I’ve gone two years—with the exception of one class—without experiencing a real challenge that affects my writing and thought process.
“Standardized Revisionism in Practice” is another blog post fueled by anger. This time, I was connecting my anger at the fulcrum to my anger at the inequities in America’s public education. Education and equity are issues I have very strong feeling about, and while reading the books, I felt Jemisin was creating a commentary about these issues with the way the fulcrum is designed. I believe the fulcrum has one-size-fits-all testing methods and teaching strategies that are very similar to the standardized testing methods used here in America that jeopardize the future of children of lower socioeconomic classes. I was able to finesse this blog post because I am very passionate about these issues and worked very hard to make a detailed comparison.
The midterm thinkING essay was a bit of a setback. I felt overwhelmed by all of the different aspects of the paper, and let my anxiety control me. I had half of it written, and then I tried to explain the prompt to my friends without realizing how, in a class as interdisciplinary and intersectional as this one, it’s very hard to explain what I’m doing to people outside of the class. Long story short, talking to them made me second guess my whole paper, thinking that I wasn’t doing enough, and then abandoning it entirely. I wrote the whole thing the day it was due, giving me little time to reflect, and it was mediocre. So, I vowed not to make the same mistake twice and got an early start on this final.
The Golden Age of my posts is when I began taking the lessons I learned from previous mistakes and applying them to new posts. I took a less angry approach and began to focus on the pathos, and what the issues Jemisin writes about really mean to us as human beings.
Golden Age: [innovation, love, and progress]
I am very intrigued by the solar punk aesthetic and concept. I am also very interested in American history, which sometimes can feel like the very opposite of the solar punk concept. I get the feeling that this caught Jemisin’s attention too because she put these two opposite concepts together to give us Syl Anagist. I found it interesting how the Sylanagistine empire’s attempts to control Thniess people eventually led to its downfall and the start of seasons. I connected this to the roots of institutional racism in America and immediately thought of “The White Man’s Burden” by Kipling.
This imperialist poem was in reference to the U.S. invading and taking control of the Philippines, but the parallels in logic can be seen through the system of American slavery. It captures an idea of civilizing “the uncivilized” for their own good. A condescending concept of doing the work for others that they neglect to do for themselves, which ignores cultural practices and beliefs. It is brutal ignorance, disguised as heroism. This is what the Sylanagestines attempted to do, which caught my attention as someone who is interested in history and decolonization. This post also allowed me to find some of my own writing style because I was able to write about things that are often on my mind as a history minor.
In a similar fashion to the way Essun worked with Hoa, Lerna, and Tonkee in an effort to return the moon to father earth, I worked with several peers to accomplish the Group blog. The prompt was to pick a natural disaster or geologic event and to write a blog post connecting it to Jemisin’s work. We accomplished this goal by communicating effectively and showing each other respect.
“Last Wishes” was a post based off of Jemisin’s afterward where she writes about what it felt like to write The Stone Sky as her mother was dying. This is where she writes, “Where there is pain in the book, it’s real pain, where there is anger, it’s real anger, and where there is love, it’s real love”. This quote changed the way I look at Jemisin and my own process. It made me realize that pain, anger, and love a part of a larger process of self-actualization after a loss or a difficult event. Jemisin and I both dealt with a loss that affected our writing and thinking processes. Jemisin turned her grief into literary art, while my grief made me want to live life to the fullest.
By pushing me to reflect, this experience has put me back in touch with my younger self, who was more reflective and less adventurous.
Before being faced with challenges as a teenager, I was always writing and reflecting. After living through challenges, I became less conscious and self-aware. I believe that opened me up to more opportunities, and now that I am learning to reflect and think clearly again, I will be able to accomplish more than I would have in either mindset alone.
Writing is essential to progression because writing is how I think and make sense of the world. As I begin to reconnect with writing, I’m hoping to improve my reflective methods and thought process.