To produce quality writing, you need to mess up A LOT. Draft after draft, scrap after scrap. The second component of quality writing is evaluation and review. Sometimes we don’t realize our mistakes, and that’s where your lovely friend, the peer reviewer, comes into play. While some may say getting over 100 people to look at your essay is a bit much, I actually don’t think it’s a bad idea. Besides, a larger sample size produces more accurate results. The issue with having 100 people look over your essay is what, out of all of those responses, will you listen to?
Another note, I would not consider my blog posts as “quality writing”. This is a medium to share what I feel in the moment that may transcend into the future, but for the most part are just whimsical musings that you can take or leave alone. Edits are made here and there, but this is as raw as my writing can get! The beauty of expressing yourself in a medium such as a blog is that you’re exposed to anything on the internet. Whether it be love, hatred, disgust, wonder or ambivalence–there’s some affect that results (and no, I did not make a typo, although I suppose it could work either way if you think about it).
Why the interest in talking about quality writing today? Well, I have been stuck on my medical school personal statement for a long time. My very first draft was a total disaster (of course, when writing it, I thought it was so amazing and beautiful). After having my first pre-health appointment discussing it, I was totally crushed and cried afterwards! No, the pre-health advisor wasn’t mean or anything, but it comes off as this on face value. The fact of the matter is that the pre-health advisor is there to guide you on what is ideal and steer you away from the common mistakes that people make on the personal statement or other parts of the application. Thank goodness I’ve improved my GPA (especially science) for the past 2 years…not sure how you’d fix that in a jiffy…but luckily writing is a malleable form that anyone can improve on.
The second draft I attempted was completely different from the first draft. I steered far away from anything that could be said in other parts of my application (experiences, extra-curricular activities, good GPA, etc). I focused more on my intent to pursue medicine, touching on my experience living with eczema and volunteering to teach health education with my pre-medical club. I had a lot of help from an MD/PhD student here at UIC (she’s so awesome and very encouraging) who spent a whole day helping me hammer out ideas for my personal statement. It was super fun! And that draft was nice…but I wrote it this past summer’s cycle and reading it again now gives me a nice feeling, but not the feeling that I want to feel when I read it.
What do you feel when you read something amazing? I recall listening to personal statements being read during high school at the beginning of senior year, and the best ones I felt were the ones that made me tear up inside (happy and sad tears at the same time). They made me feel like I was lifted from one place to another (a better place). However, complete separation of whatever struggle mentioned in the essay never appealed to me. And, I think that’s my issue with my current draft of the essay. I don’t touch on what I want to say about eczema and how it has affected me as person, my schoolwork or how I continually deal with it. And then, the strength that I gained from realizing these issues and applying this towards why I want to be a physician…it’s not totally there (and such little space to say so and build up that wonderful argument), but I’m going to try and hammer it out at least 10 more drafts before school ends at the Writing Center and possibly a few professors who know me well to see what they think…the drafts I had to write for my personal statement in my Fulbright application were incredible. I really think I went through over 15 drafts of that essay and multiple visits to the Writing Center (and I work there! xD). But wow, every time I read those essays to myself, I get chills. I just can’t believe I wrote something so amazing and it lasts. It really lasts. The feeling.
There’s no secret to quality writing (or really anything for that matter in this world). I think if you work hard at something, you’ll achieve greatness in all aspects of your life. Of course, the support system needs to be there. I can’t imagine doing well in a school that lacks resources or doesn’t care to see me become successful. All in all, put your best effort in, evaluate as you go, and you’ll know where and who you want to be.
Happy April! Sure doesn’t feel like it with the weather and all, but hey, I’m never surprised. Love Chicago! <3