by Nate Gill '14
Well, it’s definitely October. Jackets, overcast skies, pumpkins everywhere, and, of course, Halloween decorations. Now, everybody has a soft spot for Halloween—we all like a good scare every once and while. Or so we think. Many of us happily break out our favorite horror movies or visit some haunted or horror-themed site, relishing the suspense and nervous excitement. And yet for all our love of the macabre, we are far more frightened of something that confronts us all the time—writing.
Of course, we don’t spend our entire college careers living in fear of writing (or at least most of us don’t). We find ways to adapt, usually getting a handle on the basic formula we’re most often asked to produce: the thesis-driven essay. Still, like the hapless victims in every horror movie we’ve seen, things tend to go horribly wrong just as we think we’ve got a handle on the situation. Crashing through the wall comes an assignment for a purely descriptive essay, a question-driven paper, a lab report, or--chainsaw roaring--a work of fiction or poetry. Since we don’t have the option of getting cut in half and calling it quits, we have to find a way to confront these demons head-on.
In keeping with the season, then, we can try to bring some of that excitement we have for the scares of Halloween to our fear of, for lack of a better word, unconventional writing assignments. I know this seems like a stretch, but bear with me. If we enjoy being a little frightened by a film or some guy in a costume at the local haunted attraction, why not get the same thrill from knowing we have to write something we’re a bit afraid of? I know, I know, an assignment sheet doesn’t get the adrenaline pumping quite like a vampire attack, but just think—that sheet of paper is very real, unlike (I hope) all the vampires you encounter around Halloween. What better motivation than the need to slay a real monster?
But at the end of the day, there’s only so much terror you can take before you just want it to be Christmas already. The best solution, and really the only solution, is to become the monster. After all, we don’t spend all of October 31st just being scared. No, on Halloween we dress up and have a good time, and nobody wants to be conventional. This is the way to approach your frightening question-based paper, your short story, your poem. Embrace it, and welcome the chance to be a little… unconventional.