On Writing Papers: Every Time is the First Time
No matter how many times I have to write a paper for class, there is always a point at which I sit in front of my computer, stare at my screen, watch that little line blink and wonder “how do I write a paper again?” Cue the reviewing my notes from that semester, looking over the syllabus for what must be the millionth time, and texting my writing buddy in a panic, only to receive their “sounds like school” response. Thanks friend (JK, you give great advice bruh & are half the reason I maintain content 😘).
Whichever the case may be, I often find myself in the position of needing to write a paper, and not having the slightest idea of what to write it about. I’m the type of person who likes to plan ahead, so ideally I like to start working on a paper long before it is due. Unfortunately, life often gets in the way, and so I end up leaving things to the last minute and I end up with only a week to work on a paper that needs to be more like ten to twelve pages. I hate feeling rushed, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. At this point, the papers that I am currently working on are my paper for my witchcraft course and my paper for my independent study.
My witchcraft paper is coming along fine — I decided to write a paper that explores the demonization of the witch as an illegitimate practitioner of magic in the ancient near east as compared to her counterpart, the ašipū, or exorcist, a scholarly priest and legitimate practitioner of magic. This was a bit of a struggle to start because there isn’t much literature on the subject — mesopotamian witchcraft is a small subject in an already small field, and my professor is one of the only people who has explored it with depth in the English language, and unfortunately I do not speak German. The paper doesn’t have to be exhaustive, and it’s not actually a research paper, but it does have to be ten to twelve pages, and so I am needing to make sure that I come up with enough meaningful content to fill that space.
My second paper is a bit trickier, for a few reasons — namely, that it needs to be longer and that this one is a research paper. I also decided to change my topic from what I mentioned last week, because as my writing buddy pointed out, trying to research the influence that Harry Potter has had on young adult literature is like trying to research the influence that the Beatles have had on popular music. Needless to say, that’s not really going to fly, and so changing the topic was pretty important. Luckily, what’s due next week is only a draft, so I’ll have plenty of time to improve on my new topic, which is to investigate how fan production as transcreation can be combined with original content to create an engaged community that transcends the original material and becomes an enterprise in its own right. Specifically, I am examining how the Harry Potter series and its online community contributed to the rise of the Nerdfighter community via firstly the Accio Deathly Hallows music video and later engagement with the Harry Potter community, particularly the Harry Potter Alliance. I will also explore how the vlogbrothers have incorporated other narrative works along their original material into their community, including the Emmy-award winning adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries; Hank’s band Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers; and the status of both brothers as published authors, particularly John as a well-known author of several New York Times bestselling young adult novels.
The nice thing about my second paper is that the draft that is due a week from today is only a first draft — while it does need to be complete and cohesive, it doesn’t need to be as polished as my usual standards dictate, and so that leaves me with a bit of breathing room, which is good given that my stress levels have been extraordinarily high lately.
Once I finally started to write these papers, I enjoyed the process. I just needed that little push, and in that respect, every time is like the first time. I think that I can’t do it, and then I do anyway, and realize that this has been me my entire life, and soon school will be over (for now) so I’d best enjoy it while I have it.