Infinity mirrors

Good afternoon, dear readers! Well, the first month of 2020 is almost over huh? It’s been 26 days and my vision still hasn’t become perfect, so I’m about ready to pack this whole thing in and start 2021. This attitude has nothing to do with two movies I finally got round to watching this week: I do want to post about them, but I’m going to save any potential reviews for my Journalism module this term so I don’t accidentally self-plagiarise. At least I can confirm that cinema still survives and thrives in some dark corners.

So then, for this month’s post I shall be writing about writing. To be more specific, I will be writing about writing about my writing. Still with me? No? Yeah, me neither. Please brace for some major semantic satiation…

For one of my modules last term, I had to write a reflective essay about the creative pieces I submitted. This was about as confusing for me as the previous paragraph is to all of us: writing about writing is weird when you’re not sure you even know much about writing. I had submitted four short stories for the module, and the reflective essay had to ideally cover all of the following (and more):

  • My inspirations for each piece
  • What themes I covered and why
  • What form(s) I used for each piece and why
  • Any similarities in the pieces, as well as my aim for the collection as a whole
  • My own writing process, including:
  • Redrafting, peer feedback and the important role these played
  • Some theory from established authors or other relevant source

Some of this was quite simple. For example, my tense sci-fi story Breach was hugely inspired by “Who Goes There?” and more so by its legendary John Carpenter adaption “The Thing“. As I read a lot of sci-fi in my spare time, I also had plenty of additional sources of inspiration to chuck in. In terms of form, any that deviated from normal prose were again directly inspired by something I’d read: I discovered the dash-dialogue form through Donald Barthelme’s “RIF” and did my own take on it with a story called Got to Dash.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. How did I structure the bloody thing? Did I need to spend precisely the same word-count on each of the four stories while still hitting each point, like an academic essay? That made sense, but then my flat-mate told me that was a terrible idea because I’d never get all the points done. One absolute angel sent me her short story and accompanying reflective essay as an example; but that was all about one story, not four like mine. Even more confusing was the advice from lecturers, which boiled down to “There’s no set way to do these, but also hit all these points or you might get marked down”.

The worst part, once I got the structural issues out the way, was writing about my writing process. Each piece had been written because I saw a prompt or form I’d liked that week in class, had an idea and just started writing until it was done. It was incredibly difficult to  make that sound fancy and reflective: In the first draft, I’m pretty sure my process paragraph started with “Each week I picked the prompt I had an idea for, and started writing” or something equally asinine. While we were allowed some leeway compared to an academic essay – I snuck in a few sarcastic remarks to amuse the moderator – the previous sentence is hardly insightful. I might as well have followed up with “If you pour water on stuff, it often makes it wet” and called it a day.

Despite some of the mental gymnastics required, in the end I really enjoyed writing about my writing. It made me sit down and take apart my processes and ideas a little and figure out a little bit about how my brain works (sometimes). I’ve also enjoyed writing about writing about my writing, but I think I’ve written enough about that and given us all a headache so for now, goodbye!


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