There’s just something about essays written for school that, except in specific instances, makes them feel unpresentable. I’ve been writing them since high school, and 3/4 of my way through university, there’s still few essays I’ve written for class that I’d be comfortable showing off. Why?
Part of it is the process by which I write essays. If I’m writing something for my personal use, I’m much more invested in creating something really strong: Not only researching my topic, but things that could wreck my carefully-developed thesis. If my intention is to research and learn, I’m usually happy to put in the extra legwork. Meanwhile, if I’m writing for class, I’m typically noncommittal and prone to procrastination. I will do the bare minimum, unless I’m hooked in by the subject; and even after that, once I’ve received a good mark and feedback, I’m still reluctant to share it, because I built it to survive a grading. I don’t typically perform for class at the level I would feel comfortable performing at in the harsh light of the public eye, even if nobody reads it. My methods for class are so full of holes, even if they work out, that I wouldn’t feel comfortable publishing them without major effort put in to verify they were accurate and took everything relevant into account. The time crunch and other duties mean I rarely look into my sources, even as I know they’re generally reliable and published. And even with a good mark, I’m rarely proud of them.
My Ugly Betty vs. Just Shoot Me paper was different because it was largely based on my own reading of the texts, and I could easily be ‘wrong’ (have someone disagree with my reading) without making an ass out of myself. I also achieved a high mark with that paper; it’s possibly the highest grade I’ve received on a substantial assignment, though in judging it your mileage may vary. I’ve looked at papers written for classes and considered publishing them here, but I’m really not comfortable sharing them.
I think the ultimate problem is that I didn’t build them coming from a place of learning, but out of a place of fulfilling a set of requirements by a deadline. I’m rarely, if ever, proud of them. They’re almost always first drafts with a handful of polishes, aimed at large, general subjects with non-exhaustive research to back them up. They’re also typically in a field in which I’m not particularly versed, or knowledgeable about where/how to seriously research the topic. I know scripted television, particularly these past few years, and I’m generally on top of the critically-acclaimed series that get the big press.
Which is why y’all won’t be hearing my essayed opinion of Margaret Thatcher, or my overview of espionage in the age of the internet. That is, until I decide I’m ready to do the legwork and give you something worth your time. Classwork, as important as it is, is proving you were paying attention in class and can use the information to progress. Out here, you’re proving you’re worthy of someone’s dedication and time. And I’m not going to give you a piece I’m not a little in love with. Of course, sometimes this means those pieces never get finished, but that’s something I’m willing to risk for quality control.
And those essays weren’t a wash: they gave me the practice to write essays I am proud of, that are in fields I can write on with any degree of confidence. Just like those six bad specs you write before you get gold.
How do you feel about essays you wrote in university and high school, and their fate to rot in the bottom of your desk drawer for the next ten years? Do you ever get the chance to put them to good use? Do you ever go back and re-read them years later?