In many ways, the work of a critic is easy.
In the summer of 2022, I was living in Chicago. I didn’t know anyone I was living with. Over the course of the summer, I got very close with my roommate but, the summer was mostly miserable. I had already decided to apply to the Admissions Blogs at some point during freshman year. My roommate Jenny B. ’25 was a blogger so I would often talk to her about her blogs, and see her post them. It was always an event. Our other roommate, Nora and I would race to comment first. Around that time, I also realized that I liked writing; the blogs seemed like a good platform and the bloggers, a good community.
Then, began the process of writing three blog posts, pieces of writing that I could call representative, of myself, my personality, my writing and my voice. I decided to make the three posts different in some ways, one more so a narration of events happening, one more reflective and a third, which was maybe a mix of both.
The thought was always to create something large, something big—to write something that meant something—something touching, something real.
We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment.
There is something strange about writing for the public. You are giving up pieces of deep thought and stories, things that you may not even have told close friends. When I write semester summaries, I feel this deeply. It’s what they say, the mortifying ordeal of being known.
Perhaps because there is no direct way of getting criticism on the blogs, I am usually my own critic. I feel like I have a lot of freedom over the content and frequency of my blogs. I do not have to force-write posts if I am in a writer’s block and I do not have to force-write posts about things I don’t care about.
We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.
I am always evaluating myself on how I am doing. I am usually not writing very consistently, which I would ideally like to fix.
Even when I am writing, I write out of the itch, the feeling that I need to write about something in particular. Sometimes, the words just flow together and sometimes, I am stuck with the same feeling for months, never quite finding the right words.
My literature professor once said something along the lines of, I am not a writer, I am a critic. I appreciate the process, but I just can’t do it.
When I am not a writer, I am a critic. I look over everything I have written, deeming it inadequate in both quality and quantity. I am reminded of the fact that I always wanted to write at least one great post, one piece that I could be proud of, one piece I could hold in my hands and say, you, yes you, are my great work.
When the critic ruffles through pages of my old posts, everything is average, maybe not bad, but not great either. When the critic looks at old works, nothing stands out. There is truth in all my writing, and the writer would like to believe that there is meaning too, but will there ever be something truly great?
But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.
When the colors of the critic wear off and the words come into reach, the smallest of ideas feel significant. Beads of words, strewn together to express the simplest of concepts bring joy. Pride, even. When the writer writes, the average posts recover ownership. All my posts, all representative of me, my writer self, who makes mistakes and thinks about small things and makes bad decisions and goes back for a hundred visions and revisions.
Perhaps, my average piece of junk, too, carries meaning. More than I would care to admit when I am the critic.
I want to want to celebrate mediocrity. My own. But, deep down, there is always a clash between the person who wants to write and the person who wants to write well and I am still trying to find answers on how to balance that well.
But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defence of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends… Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. quotes from the Ratatouille movie
I took the poetry workshop class because Alan Z. ’23 and Tooba S. ’21 recommended it to me. I was excited to bring my poems to class, to hear what my classmates would think and to see what they had been writing. I kept writing poetry because I was doing poetry workshop with Alan and other folks over the summer. And, then advanced poetry workshop. And, then winter poetry workshop… I kept writing because of the people who would point out phrases and lines that were also close to my heart, who would find the meaning I wanted the reader to find.
And, it kinda, sorta always comes back to communities, doesn’t it? English is not my first language. I did not know what iambic pentameter meant until freshman fall. A lot of the times, when my friends use phrases, I stop them and ask. I stutter through words and often use the wrong words.
But, I still write. And, I want to write. And as I am writing this, I am thinking maybe it is enough. To only ever write and never be a writer.
In many ways, the work of a writer is easy. We deliberate a lot, offering ourselves up to people, yet enjoy the sweet taste of knowing something more, smiling mischievously at the thought of being an insider. We thrive on explorative destruction, which is fun for writers and readers. But the bitter truth we writers must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of our writing is probably more meaningful to us than readers finding it so. But there are times when a writer truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the *new*. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.
- quotes from the Ratatouille movie back to text ↑