Posts Tagged With: internalized critics

Day 728: I Write Like ___ ______

Yesterday,  I discovered the website I Write Like. After I had finished writing a blog post — like I have been writing here on WordPress every day for the past two years — I spent some time checking out which famous authors I Write Like thought I wrote like.

Here are the authors I Write Like told me I write like, after “reading” several of my blog posts:

David Foster Wallace

Cory Doctorow

Mario Puzo

Dan Brown

James Joyce

H.P. Lovecraft

… with  David Foster Wallace and Cory Doctorow getting the vast majority of the write-like votes.

Here’s what I’d like to write, like myself,  about those results:

  • While I’ve read things written by James Joyce, H. P. Lovecraft, and Dan Brown, I’ve never heard of Cory Doctorow.
  • I’m particularly pleased that James Joyce was written into that list, since he and I have the same birthday.
  • Yesterday, I kept entering samples of my writing into I Write Like, hoping to find out that I write like some of my favorite writers, like Jane Austen, Anne Tyler, George Eliot, and Joseph Heller.
  • Who knows how I Write Like writes like they can tell how you write?
  • I’ve heard of the late David Foster Wallace — whom I Write Like thinks I write the most like — but I haven’t read anything he’s written.

I have some reactions about admitting that last point, which now reminds me of the following story, which I’ve told friends, but have never written, like, before today.

A True Story I’ve Never Written, Before Today

by Ann

When I was a senior at a fancy-shmancy, hoity-toity college majoring in English Literature, I wrote my honors thesis on my favorite author, Jane Austen.  The name of that thesis (as best I can remember and write like the 61-year old person I am) was:

Perception and Judgment in the Novels of Jane Austen

Two faculty members from the English Department of my college read my thesis, and they gave me significantly different scores  — a very high one and a lower than average one. I guess those two readers had very different opinions about what I wrote like.

However, my course grades and other criteria were good enough to put me solidly on the road to graduating

Magna Cum Laude

from

A Very Impressive University!

Near the end of the school year, my Senior Year Advisor told me that — because there were too many people with high grades — the English Department had decided to add an additional requirement, for the honors candidates.

The new requirement was an Oral Exam, where I would be questioned by three faculty members.

My advisor told me that  my personal Oral Exam Board would be:

  • an expert on American Literature,
  • an expert on Celtic Literature, and
  • an expert on Renaissance Literature

which didn’t exactly match my specialty, 18th Century English literature.  He also told me that those three people on my orals board were …. not very nice.

Nevertheless, I entered the room, the day of my oral exam, with hope and some amount of confidence. I mean, I was solidly on track to graduating

Magna Cum Laude

from

A Very Impressive University!

Here’s the opening dialog, oh so many years ago,  between me and the Orals Board:

Orals Board Examiner:  I see that you did your thesis on Jane Austen.  Did you know that Mark Twain said that she should not have been allowed to die a natural death?

Me (trying to look like I thought that was a good question): Yes, I’m aware of that. Mark Twain also praised a friend’s library just because he did not have any of her books.

Orals Board Examiner:  So?  What do you think of that?

Me: (pause):   I would rather not talk about Austen that way.

I remember seeing displeasure written all over the faces of the Orals Board. And the experience went downhill,  from there. It’s written, very clearly in my memory, those three saying things to me, throughout the exam, like:

You’re an English major HERE and you haven’t read THAT?!??!

To this day, I am grateful that I did not cry in front of my Orals Board. However, as soon as the door closed behind me after I left the room, I burst into tears.

I remember people I knew at school not believing me when I told them I had failed the oral exam miserably. (Apparently, people thought I wrote like somebody who did well on exams.) One friend, who knew somebody on my Orals Board, said, “I’ll talk to him. I’m sure you did fine.” I remember the look written on my friend’s face when he returned with the news that yes, indeed, I had failed the oral exam miserably.

That’s not the end of the story I’m writing — like a WordPress blogger — today.  I advocated for myself, by going to the Chairman of the English Department to ask for another chance. I remember, very clearly, this dialog with him (and the expressions written on his face, also):

Me: For whatever reason, I choked during that Orals Exam. I got really scared and my mind went blank. I don’t express myself well in those kinds of situations. All my other grades show that I deserve a Magna Cum Laude. All I’m asking is that you give me another Orals Board, with people on it who are specialists in my area of expertise.

The Chairman of the English Department (with “no” written all over his face): I don’t think so. You’re expressing yourself very well and articulately now,  Ann.

Me: (thinking about that for a moment): How about this, then?  The two readers of my thesis gave me very different grades. Could I have another reader for that?

The Chairman of the English Department: No.

That was all (s)he wrote. So, I did not graduate

Magna Cum Laude

from

A Very Impressive University!

Instead, I graduated

Cum Laude

from

A University that Was Then Less Impressive To Me

which is still quite honorable, don’t you think?

A few months ago, I wrote this blog post, which helped me let go of any lingering regret, disappointment, and feelings of injustice, from that long-ago experience.

Unfortunately, something else has lingered, from that day. Whenever I admit that I haven’t read something by somebody famous like David Foster Wallace, I can hear and see those three people on that Oral Exam Board saying

You haven’t read WHAT??!??!?!

… with looks of utter contempt, written all over their faces.

Perhaps, my writing like this, today, will silence those particular internalized critics, forever. And, perhaps it will rewrite my sensitivity to the expressions on other people’s faces.

Now, my dear readers of what I write like, here on WordPress, I am going to re-visit I Write Like, enter this here blog post on that there website, and find out which writer I Wrote Like, today.

Aha!  I Write Like does NOT think I wrote like David Foster Wallace today. Instead, that judgment board thinks I Write Like

H. P. Lovecraft

who, according to WikiPedia, writes like an influential writer of horror fiction.

Well,  I’m glad that I Write Like is not writing that I write like an influential writer of horrible fiction.

I wonder if there’s also a website called I Shoot Like, which could tell me which famous photographer takes pictures like these:

IMG_4241 IMG_4244 IMG_4246 IMG_4250 IMG_4252 IMG_4254 IMG_4256 IMG_4258

IMG_4261 IMG_4269 IMG_4274 IMG_4279 IMG_4280 IMG_4283 IMG_4284 IMG_4285 IMG_4298 IMG_4299 IMG_4301 IMG_4305 IMG_4307

Do any famous writers on I Write Like use music, like I do?

(Don’t know much about a lot of things, but the official title of that song — found here on YouTube — is “Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke, who wrote like Sam Cooke.)

Feel free to write like you do, to tell me who or what you thought I wrote like, today.

Thanks to everybody, everywhere, who writes like they choose, which includes you, of course!

Categories: inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , | 52 Comments

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