Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Writer's Block

I have a serious case of writer's block. I have been trying , for weeks mind you, to start writing my personal statements for the graduate programs I am applying to, and the creative juices are dry, as in the Sahara Desert dry. In college I loved to write, albeit I would tend to write my papers the week they were do but that was because I had TOO MANY ideas and needed to sort through them. Now I can't even get a single idea to make its way into my head.

What happened to the me in college?

The me that felt so intelligent and was doing so many things in one day I often forgot to sleep more than 5 hours a night?

The working world is what happened to me. A world where I was told that I shouldn't think because I couldn't possibly know what I was talking about because I was under 40! I was never expected to do more than be an assistant and make spreadsheets. No one ever tested my intellectual boundaries and pushed me to or beyond my limit. I swear I am beginning to forget how to spell!

When ever I sit down to write anything that has to show an ounce of intelligence I go blank. Words used to come to me so well. Some of my friends and colleagues have an amazing ability to write creatively, while I do not possess such writing capabilities I did, at one time, have the ability to put together a very well thought out paper or essay. Even as I try to sit and write this blog it is hard to find the words to describe what I want to say.


Here is what I have to write about:


1. Write an autobiographical essay describing how your life history has contributed to the development of the person you are today and to your decision to pursue graduate education and training in clinical psychology...Limit your response to five, double spaced pages

So of course one would think this should be easy because, duh, it is an essay about moi! But then the last line of limiting my response to 5 pages is what gets me. Of course this should be detailed, but 5 pages, that means I need to dig deep. If I am digging deep the words have to be just right, and since the words aren't even flowing, Houston, we have a problem.

2. Imagine that you are working with a family that is considering divorce. The parents are concerned about the impact on their two children, a boy who is 5 and a girl who is 9. The couple wants to discuss whether it would be better for the children if they remained in the marriage until the children are grown, or whether an immediate divorce would be less problematic for the children. How would you address the family's question? We are not interested in how you would treat this family, but rather your critical analysis of the situation and the issues you would consider. Be sure to articulate your position and substantiate your point of view. Please do not exceed 1,000 words in your essay.

Kindly refer to my 4th paragraph and you will see where the issue is, THEY WANT ME TO THINK! Egads...I am not sure if I remember how to do that. Plus, I read this situation and immediately the answer pops into my head, like a light bulb going off. So, I think to myself, "self, is the answer that easy and because you can formulate that answer so quickly you are meant to be helping people in these types of situations, or is the pure fact that you immediately thought of an answer mean that you aren't looking at both sides and therefore you will fail?!!"

3. Briefly discuss your professional goals and what you would like to learn in an MA Psychology program.

Again, they want me to think. There is hope, the fact that they used the word brief means that I should be able to answer this question in a much easier manner, once the writer's block goes away.


1. Please include no more than two typewritten pages covering significant influences and events which have developed you present values and approach to life. Include ways in which these factors may contribute to preparation of a psychology profession. Also include your personal interests and goals, and your professional objectives.

This all sounds very similar to college number one, so this should be a breeze, right? WRONG! One school wants me to give very detailed accounts, while the other wants me to sum it all up in 2 pages! Herein lies the problem, do I write the abbreviated version first and then try and expand upon it to write the longer version? Or, do I write the expanded version and then try and take key parts from it to write the condensed version? Gonads and strife.


this one is intense, and the scariest of them all in my eyes:

The Goals Statement is an important part of the Phillips' application process. You are required to submit a three-to-seven-page, double-spaced, typed essay. The statement should address both (A) and (B) as delineated below:

A. Choose one of Phillips Graduate Institute's six core values with which you most identify. These values shape Phillips' character and culture: (they all give a brief definition but I am not going to spend the time typing them out)

1. The Challenge to Grow and Develop
2. Collaborative Involvement
3. Integrity
4. Creativity
5. Appreciation for Diversity
6. Contribution to Positive Social Change

Describe which of the values you feel best defines you or means the most to you. Share with us an experience in which you displayed (or did not measure up to) this value and tell us what you learned about yourself.

These people want me to write 3-7 pages about myself in relation to one of their core values yet I can't even figure out how to write an autobiographical essay about my life! Not one of those six values sticks out to me in the sense that I could really write a compelling paper. Maybe I am not cut out for this like I had originally thought for the last few years.

B. Current personal, intellectual, professional interests

Describe your current personal, intellectual, professional interests and activities, giving particular attention to the nature of your work, studies and current reading, areas of special interest, and career plans. Indicate your reasons for seeking a degree from Phillips Graduate Institute. Include the following information:

The nature of your life now and how the master's level study will be integrated into it. Why you want to obtain a master's in this particular area of study, and why you want to obtain this specific level of degree. How you came to know about and why you choose Phillips Graduate Institute.

Wow, I think the only thing they don't want is a blood and urine sample. Ok, Ok, I know that these schools aren't going to take in just anyone off the streets and educate them, but I am paying them cold hard cash in exchange for their knowledge. Reading their goals statement requirements just overwhelms me. I have forgotten how to take something so challenging and look at it as something fun. Yes, I said fun. I loved college, because in a way it was fun. Not fun like having a bbq at the beach and downing a few beers with your homies fun, but fun in the sense that you were going to accomplish a task, that at times, you felt you might fail at. A high of sorts.

So friends, you see my dilemma. This girl, who used to have a plethora of ideas flowing into her blond-haired head cannot seem to find an ounce of passion to begin writing some very important papers, V.I.P.s if you will. These V.I.P.s are what will open the door to the next chapter of her higher education as well as her professional career. The pressure is on, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.


Cake Face said...

Jenelle my Dearest,

First off, I am SOOO HAPPY that you have left "the office" and started to think about graduate school. I remember when you used to throw around the idea when we spoke; and I always hoped it would be something you would decide. That office was a demoralizing place; and I can relate to your experience of being made to feel inadequate. We wore the same shoes for a year or two, and I know how tired your feet are now that you've taken them off. ;o)

My advice to you is to CALM down as you start looking at these writing prompts. You don't need to start at the beginning. I always tell my students to start writing (no matter how disorganized or messy it comes as first) and ORGANIZE AFTER. Sometimes that means starting in the middle or even the end! Connect the parts later if you need to. Most writers will tell you that they spend more time revising and re-writing than actually writing. Writing is Revision!

The trick is to flush out your ideas, then tame them. Get it off your chest, then work on parring it down and disciplining your work by eliminating unnecessary wordiness, deleting trains of thought and ideas that steer away from the essay's purpose, and rearranging paragraphs. Ask yourself, "how does this sentence or paragraph contribute to my paragraphs goal?" If you can't answer that question, you've steered away from the road.

I have some really helpful little handouts that I give my students and if you want, I can send them your way. But I suspect that you don't need simple fundamentals like that as much as you need a pep talk! You need confidence more than anything here!

As for spelling... FUCK SPELLING. Don't let something tiny and technical prevent you from writing. Those things are easily fixed with proof reading.

If there's anything at all that I can do (even if it's going over a rough draft), let me know.

I'm glad you left that place. I know from experience how small-minded people who came through there could be. I'm glad I left, otherwise I would have come back to this island explaining how all the stereotypes about people in the states are true. lol. Good luck friend. You can do it!

Starting is half the battle. I promise.

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