November 8, 2010
Reader, the author would like to offer her condolences for the boredom you might endure through reading this material. Plausibly, you brought this boredom—or any other negative feeling—onto yourself through electing to read this piece of writing. Purportedly, you choose where you look your eyes and to what you avert them. However, there is always the possibility that someone else is subjecting you to the misery of reading this text, say, for example, a teacher or parent or overly pushy friend who you may not recall how they attained “friendship status” in the first place and may want to demote to mere “acquaintance status” after you realize what they are making you read. As for the teacher subjecting you to this dreadful reading, you may want to consider dropping the course, if it is not too late. If you have a particularly strong aversion to boredom, then you may need to take more drastic measures and actually consider withdrawing from the class. If your mother is making you read this book out of some mistaken idea that these words will enlighten you and catapult you into the highest academic institutions, then tell her that the author is flattered. Again, I apologize for subjecting you to any boredom you might experience in reading this and would like to warn you that this material may or may not help your chances of academic success, but this reading surely will not prevent your entrance into aforementioned academic institutions.
On the other hand, you may cherish the text that you are about to read. You might find that the work brings you peace, health, and happiness. You may find the words and rhythm of the sentences likeable, and maybe even enjoyable—or even beautiful! The themes discussed in the work might strike a chord with you. The text might give you chills down your arms and make the hair on your head stand up straight. You might sleep better after reading this text. But, I can’t promise that. Angels might come down from the sky and take you to heaven. Again, I can’t promise that either. In the case that you do enjoy this piece, I take back my apology. Forget about it. You can thank yourself (if it was indeed your idea to read this!). Or you could thank the teacher, friend, or parent who gave you this text by telling him or her how much you enjoyed it and maybe recommending something in return. You will all come out better people (feeling both valued and valuable) and the world will be a beautiful place.
…of, course, it all depends on whether or not you like the text.
 Reader, beware of the ignominious “W” that would appear on your transcript should you withdraw from your class. Though, arguably, not having to read this piece might be worth the punishment. The choice is yours. Or is it?
Posted by Grace Kohut: Still Not Dead
What can be written that hasn’t been written before?
This always pops in to mind when I’m asked to write something thoughtful or original. It’s not that I always feel like I’m plagiarizing, but I do feel that I am stomping on already beaten paths…
And the Robert Frost reference comes in…three…two…one…
I do; I really do want to take the road less traveled by. If it makes a difference or not, is really not my call. But then again whose call is it? And, better still, whose road is it? Maybe a herd of cattle gallop along in the morning causing the wear on the path. Maybe some alien life force shoots laser beams down at it to make it look used. I really don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t matter if we take the path that is popular. Then again, I’d like to think these things (the cattle and the aliens) because then it would allow me to write all of the cliché things that I find in everyday life and say that I, the Bill Shakespeare of the 21st century, is a genius.
But I am not. Actually, I don’t think I even come close to being a “good” writer. I probably write more for myself than anybody else. I’m like a self-texter, reassuring myself with small phrases that everything will be okay. I aspire to write for the therapeutic benefit of letting it all out.
The beaten path, as a symbol of the literary tradition, is in fact not where I want to be at all. (No matter how much I convince myself that this is where I should end up.) Even these words typing now, clacking away, is more a purging, instead of something like “look at me.”
So with that said, I return to my question: What can be written that hasn’t been written before? Well… that depends on whose reading it. All of you who are reading (skimming is more like it) don’t really care about this post. It doesn’t matter to you.
You aren’t going to be analyzing my symbol of Frost or determining whether or not I use ellipses correctly. You are reading it because you are in a class about writing, and the nice thing to do in such a class is at least give fellow classmates the decency of reading their work, as it still has very little to do with what is going on in anybody’s life but mine.
So what I got a reject letter today. Who cares? I can guaran-damn-tee you that this post like the rest of them will have absolutely no effect on anybody—probably not even myself.
Like I said, I am writing because it releases some of the emotions, the tension, the little demons that float around in my subconscious. A therapy session, thank you very much.
Go read somebody else’s work.
by Carol Shih
There is no point to writing. Really. The words just vanish off the page and the second you read this, you’ll forget everything that you’ve read anyways. If you’ve already read this far, I apologize for wasting your time; I should have told you sooner.
You can stop here, if you’d like.
If you made it past the dotted lines, I cannot help you any longer. Well, if you’re still reading, then you might as well. This is where I start telling you interesting things. Thoughtful things. Things that you’ve never heard before and things that you will probably forget soon after reading this. I will make a bold statement about the world and how you and I are intertwined–interconnected–whatever–
I’ll talk about me and all my transgressions and bring up shit that you don’t even want to know but you do want to know so you can feel like you know me. I’ll write to you like you’re my best friend and try to include you in the conversation, but it’s really just a ploy because the entire essay is about I I I I I I mememememe I I I I I.
And maybe, as you are reading, you will feel increasingly more brilliant. Your brain cells feel like they are multiplying and your brain will probably be too big for your head fairly soon, because you think every word is genius, pure genius. You will be fooled into thinking that this essay is about life and you’re reconsidering how you see life. And you’ll resolve to CHANGE. (Whatever that means.) You’ll decide to write down every stupid thought that comes to your head after this, and maybe write an essay like this one that displays your pure genius.
Really? Let’s be honest. All you’ve done is read a couple hundred words and wasted your time. Just imagine yourself with those extra five minutes you just wasted reading these pointless words. You could have depleted the world of fresh water with an extra long shower, yelled rude things to your neighbor who lets his dog pee in your yard, put on some deodorant instead of… not, prank-called your boss and told him to shower more, walked in circles until you felt too dizzy to walk anymore, cooked your kids a good breakfast with eggs and bacon instead of handing them a Jimmy Dean sandwich (who died just recently, by the way), and cleaned the mold on your toilet.
Instead, you’ve decided to read this.
Posted By Andrew Brown
Posted by Zeewan Lee
Fact: An asterisk (*; Late Latin: asteriscus, from Greek: ἀστερίσκος, asteriskos, “little star”) is a typographical symbol or glyph. It is so called because it resembles a conventional image of a star. The asterisk is derived from the need of the printers of family trees in feudal times as a symbol to indicate date of birth.
Fact: This is how I am starting this piece. Why? You’ll see. Hope you can see.
Fact: Monson devoted a whole page in his book to explain the significance of an asterisk. Supposition: 1) Monson cared about asterisks that much and 2) he hoped the use of asterisks would help his pieces of writing comment on their own making.
I have used asterisks here because I am hoping they would help† me comment on the process of my own writing. No. I am hoping they would make me think like Monson and write like Monson, or make me write like I think, and think about what I think at the same time about what I write. What am I thinking? I am thinking about writing something that can comment on its own making. What am I really thinking? I am thinking about commenting (the number indicates a footnote; see below) on whatever I am writing. What am I writing? I am writing about what I am thinking. What am I thinking?
— You know what, Monson was quite right. An asterisk is an opening†, something rushing quickly toward me, or an indication of my going into that something. Regardless of what I was thinking a second ago, whether it was about how to comment on my own writing or Ander Monson’s writing or how to synthesize 500-700 meaningless yet meaningful-looking words for this week’s R assignment, I feel like I have to stop my train of thought here and write about something else. I feel like I should let myself fully succumbed to the power of the asterisk — My asterisk? No. The asterisk — and have a brand new start†. Now, do I really want a fresh start? I have already written this much and my writing has commented on itself more than it has ever done so. But I have put an asterisk and it’s making me start all over.
Fact, sadly: I started this piece determined to make a full use of asterisks but in a way, asterisks are using† me. Controlling me.
Supposition: Monson did not want his readers to know what just happened to me had happened to him too. Hah.
What date is it tomorrow? I know. It’s my GRE day. 11/10/2010.
R…7? R8? How many R’s have we written so far?
I go to the website to see if there are any new R posts for this week. Yup there are. Gosh these early-birds. R9: Not for you, R9: dreams and reality, R9: Whatever. Ok. R9 it is.
R9: The Process of Their own Making
Am I supposed to capitalize “own” in there? Oh who cares. Hope Professor Harris doesn’t notice.
There it is. A brand new start. Now what? What am I going to write and how should I make it respond to itself and its own making? My head is overflowing with ideas, but none of them are crazy enough to expand into a 500-to-700-words long nonsense. This is a problem and now I finally see it. Asterisks are openings, and they keep sucking me into the beginning of something new that has no end. Frustrated and unable to put a closure to this mess into which the asterisks have dragged me, I force an asterisk after an asterisk into my writing, but the asterisks are mere openings just as they have always been and they do not provide an end. And I cannot go on babbling like this.
What should I do now? I know —
That’s right. No more asterisks. Whatever I have written so far may not have an ending, but it’s not forcing you to move onto somewhere new anymore. From here, whether you keep on going or not is totally up to you. If you ask me, I say “STOP.” Please. Stop.
 How? What? Why? Do I really have to do this?
 Most of Ander Monson’s words, like these ones to which I have felt a need to insert a footnote, are written not for you but for himself, almost. I say so in that these words of his (initially) make no sense and indulge in points and concepts that you really can — and would very much like to — do away with in living your life. But if you care to understand what he’s trying to say, or have enough time to waste on this matter,
—You do have time to waste since you are already all the way down here reading this footnote—
try doing exactly what he does. For instance, write something on your notepad and scribble an asterisk below and resume writing below it. Do you feel like continuing on with the previous bs you have written above? No. There’s something about the asterisk that discourages you from doing so. You are bound to start a new paragraph with a new idea, or at least take a new stab at the idea you’ve explored before — all because of the damn asterisk that has just pulled you away from your babbling and slashed your train of thought.
Posted by I. I posted this. I am Margrette Kuhrt.
There. I opened the Word document to write this assignment. I did it. It matters that I opened this blank document because I told you about it. Otherwise it would have just quietly happened just like you just quietly happened to stumble across this self-important bit of writing. Or you probably didn’t stumble across it. You’re probably in my class. You’re doing this assignment, too. You’re writing about I, too. Not my I but your I. Not writing but typing. If I was writing I could make myself less important; I could use a lowercase I. But I’m typing. My computer thinks I’m so important that it reminds me every time I forget to capitalize myself. My I.
Fact: Because you started reading this and have read this far you feel like you have to finish reading what I have to write. If you stop now then why did you even start? What if I have something brilliant to say? (I do, to me, I suppose, but you will only find out if you continue to read). So you do. You read about I, about me, about yours truly, numero uno, the big kahuna, yo, je (or j’ if your verb starts with a vowel). Whatever I type, you read.
I get nervous about being the I that I am now. What if down the road I turn out to be more important than I am now? (Not down the road as in down the street- a fraternity section lives in the literal down-the-road location. I don’t want to turn out to be suddenly more important there). People could look up to I, to me. They would want to know how I am who I am. They might quietly happen to stumble across this.
Fact: If in fact you aren’t reading this anymore does it exist? Like when a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it blah, blah, blah. Maybe I am doing this assignment only for it to cease to be. I will look at it every once in a while to make sure that doesn’t happen. That this wasn’t a waste of time.
I don’t have to waste your time and warn you that this isn’t a memoir. I didn’t really tell you anything. You still don’t know much about I. Except that I am in a class with some other Is. Fact check me. Checkmate- I win; I am telling the truth. I am in a class with some other Is. Check, mate. You’ll see. I am right. I am writing.
But I’m not anymore. I’m done.
I’ll be back to confirm the existence of this moment of my I later, so don’t trouble yourself.
Posted by Erica Lin
I have wanted to sneeze for the past hour or so. Even now, I feel some foreign particles irritating my nasal lining. It is not always like this; I can recall incidents during which my body did expel such irritants from my nose. It used to come naturally. I would feel the particles tickle my nostrils, and in two seconds, I sneezed.
A while ago, the best remedy for inducing a sneeze was inhaling a pinch of pepper, whose fine particles irritate the nasal membrane until it elicits a human response that expels all: whatever tiny pieces that are inhaled every time we take a breath. The corticosteroid nasal sprays can’t quite compare. It lacks the natural quality, and its use can cause drug dependence. Perhaps looking suddenly at a bright light can compare, but I haven’t tried it yet.
The way to induce a sneeze by pepper is to just sniff. The preparation is easy to do. Pour a few large particles of pepper onto a cutting board. Grind it with a mortar and pestle. Place a layer of cloth over the now-fine particles. Inhale. One unfortunate potential consequence of this technique as a result of a large particle entering your nostrils is the phenomenon of burning, where the spicy piperine irritates your nerve endings. The result is a bout of sneezing and a runny nose, and neighboring individuals assume (usually erroneously) that you are contagiously ill. It’s an easy enough leap to make for those unfamiliar with the notion of winter allergies. Theories for the cause of winter allergies include dust and mold particles that are sent scurrying into the air as soon as the furnace is turned on.
Does any of this make sense—
The desire to sneeze is what is currently leadings me to perform facial convulsions. The simulation of a sneeze. Inhale deeply. My voice starts to ah…ah…ah. Who hasn’t, one time or another, attempted to produce a sneeze by imitating this human response?
The creative flow of writing is like a sneeze. Writer’s block keeps the typewriter frozen, the computer screen permanent, the pencil still. The essay finds itself in motion, suddenly. The words typed and written flow out of our fingertips while the keyboard clickity clacks. Or the pencil tip blurs in hurried movements. We think of our ideas emerging continuously, but like a sneeze, our thoughts are restrained and then released finally, finally.
This is reassuring, that writer’s block does not last forever, that we will not be sitting motionless in front of our pencils and paper. So every writer’s block we have has a time frame of its own. Perhaps the time frame, the frame of time, is that time that occurs when our thoughts are in process, incomplete, not ready, and the end of this consists of its completion until it can be typed and written on paper, understandable by me, you or anyone.
This should be reassuring for writers of fiction in particle. No matter how much they think the plot development has reached a standstill, it has not, not really, not likely anyway. A fraction of writers might throw in their towel and give up here. This is a fraction not worth mentioning. The characters, no matter what type of individual has been introduced about, will appear to develop themselves. It is temporary, this obstruction. The most we can ask for is for a short time frame, until the flow of ideas rush back into our heads.
posted by Dayo Oshilaja
This is the first sentence of my five hundred word treatise on my life so please bear with me as I try and make it witty, funny and so entertaining, you want to keep on reading, to find out exactly what I have to say. I’ll try not to bore you, but that might be a challenge. There is only so much a twenty-one year old college student can say that hasn’t been said many times before, by better writers than me. Suffice it to say, that this is a piece about me. Actually, if I am being completely accurate this is a piece about how to write about me.
It is never easy writing about yourself which is such a paradox because you’re always told to write what you know and what subject do you know better than yourself? But still, I stare blankly at the page trying to figure out what to say. I think the biggest problem is where to start. Already I have written 170 words (well now 174) and you don’t even know my name; so let me pause and introduce myself. I am Dayo Oshilaja. Ok, now that I have gotten that out of the way, I guess I should tell you some basic facts about myself. But what do you want to know, my gender? I am a woman. My age, I indirectly (and quite cleverly) told you this in the first paragraph. I also told you that I am in college. But I have to be careful because THIS IS NOT A MEMOIR! (I put this section in CAPS and Bold font so that you would believe me. I am not arrogant enough to think that I can write a memoir.) Maybe one day in the distant future, I will attempt it.
My third paragraph and my piece is dithering; partly my stream-of-consciousness at 11:07 p.m. on November 9, 2010 and partly my semi-humorous attempt to follow in the illustrious footsteps of writers like Ander Munson and David Eggers. I suppose this would be the moment for an anecdote— some vividly-described, coming-of-age moment— where I show my readers how I learned some important life lesson. This brief but powerful anecdote is peppered with quirky and memorable characters with names like Axl and Lennox (characters from a TV show I just finished watching). The anecdote is also serious but it still manages to have its moments of comic relief. But most importantly, after you read it you will know even more about Dayo Oshilaja.
I love even numbers (even though all the significant dates in my life, like my birthday, month, day and year are all odd numbers) so this will be my fourth and final paragraph. Traditionally, last paragraphs are supposed to leave you with powerful, insightful and slightly disturbing quotes that you remember long after the piece fades from memory. Unfortunately, all I can say is that I hope that you know me better now, than you did five hundred words ago.
Posted by Janet Li
Note to reader: You will be glad to know that there are no surprises. The results of my quest will not make you blind, it will only make you momentarily unable to see.
CLICK THIS LINK BEFORE READING ON: http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/mot_mib/index.html
(I’m not sure how to create endnotes in a wordpress blog, so treat this as endnote #1: try it on full screen. You can even adjust the size of the dots, adjust the speed of the blue crosses, and add bars to explore the illusion.)
First discovered by Ramachandran and Gregory in 1991 (Perceptual filling in of artificially induced scotomas in human vision [PDF]) , MIB (motion induced blindness) is an illusion in which visual stimuli disappear – just erased from your eyes….
Maybe you didn’t see the disappearance of the dots in the above link. No worries, you are probably a tiny percentage of the world’s population with really, really, really, really, really, really, really perfectly good vision that makes you normal and the rest of us weird.
Drawing upon Monson’s words, I too have “wanted to vanish,” though not “for a very long time” as he does, but intermittently throughout my twenty years of life. You know those stressful times? Making a presentation in front of thousands of people. Or those embarrassing times? Falling down flights of stairs. Well, those are the times in which I have wanted to be those yellow dots (scroll up and click on the link above in case you were too lazy to click it the first time you skipped my words above). The flashing green dot would be “me” to the world. Each aspect of me could represent the yellow dots. The moving blue crosses behind the yellow dots would be the world (always a moving blur). As people glance in my direction, one or two or all of the parts of me will simple vanish for a few seconds (milliseconds, in the illusion)…. I would be there, yet I would not be there.
A perfect illusion.
I sent in my computer to Duke’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) Service Desk because it continued to spit out the following blue screen of death: Unmountable Boot Volume (JPG). Today, I came across the following email –
Your computer failed diags it appears that you have a bad Hard Drive. [omitted some of Durrel's email]
OIT Service Desk
I am quite fond of computers. The computer I carry around (SONY VAIO EA Series) contains some of the most valuable images, documents and words that belong to me. Now, my images/documents/words certainly have disappeared into thin air.
This time, it is not an illusion. I suppose I have vanished in some way. Some part of me has vanished, but I suppose not in the way I had wanted to vanish from the world.