An original contribution to the collective scholarly body of knowledge? Yeah, right. It took up until the last week of class for me to come to terms with the idea that an “original contribution” does not have to be a solution or even a clear-cut answer. It can be as simple as looking at a familiar situation in an original way. And yet, this is not exactly a comforting revelation, because seeing something in a different light is not as simple as following formulas and obeying natural laws in Calculus or Chemistry. It involves an act of creation, of connecting into creative patterns dots that others perhaps did not even realize were there. And thus each time I begin to write there exists the distinct possibility that nothing will come, that no ‘aha’ moment will save me from the abyss. But when I overcome the uncertainty and do find the connections, I am infinitely more proud of the resulting work than I could ever be of a completed problem set. In this paper, I had an intuitive grasp of each assertion I wanted to defend – the puzzle pieces I needed – but struggled to explain how they fit together. It took the arduous act of articulating my conclusion to have everything fall into place as a whole, but correspondingly it is my favorite part of the paper. Perhaps the sense of pride would not be so great if I had nothing to overcome, if I had not first faced that abyss.
My writing has grown over the years as I have reluctantly but steadily dragged myself away from the Tolkien-esque prose that still captures my definition of what is truly artistic, truly beautiful. However, this class gave me the framework to understand why this is a good transition. The elaborate language of Tolkien and Shakespeare may seem at times like poetry, but it is also widely known as difficult to understand. Persuasive writing exists to change the reader’s mind, yet this is not possible if he or she cannot untangle the logic. Instead, a paper is a chance to guide an audience through the same evolving thought processes that convinced you of your conclusions. Showing off a command of fine words is beside the point and runs the risk even of confusing and alienating those with whom you wish to relate. Over the quarter, I focused on channeling a direct, conversational tone, knowing that the freedom of college papers allows room for other outlets for artistic license, like questions and epigraphs. Knowing this makes it less frustrating to cut the intricate language because it awakens me to the fact that there is another style of art – one in clarity, strength, and rhetoric.
Kat Gregory is a proud member of the Class of 2016 and is interested in Human Biology and Computer Science. She hails from the distant town of Portola Valley (by distant, read that it takes more than a half hour to run there), where she attended Woodside Priory. Kat loves to run, as well as to travel, swim, ski, adventure, and laugh. And she continues to feel smug because she got away with writing about pirates and outlaws.