Are you willing to write a rotten essay? How about discuss literary theory like a novice? ‘Be willing to do something badly’ got my attention one hectic day, while trying to clear my mind between projects. To gain a minute or two that had no intellectual demands I decided to do an internet search on the phrase ‘how to be happy.’ ‘Be willing to do something badly’ was a welcome, laugh out loud, piece of advice. Isn’t it a witty way to say the pleasure is in the process, or if at first you don’t succeed…try again? Those adages are apt proverbs at this stage of the academic term. Contemplating them is encouraging, and helps highlight accomplishments as studies progress.
English Studies was completely new to me when I enrolled the University of London International Programmes. It was a little while before I became comfortable with the course requirements and expectations, but that is just fine – I am a late bloomer. For the first year or so I would read theory and criticism over and over, and not understand much of it – Eagleton, Butler, Barthes, and Vickers come to mind. I read literary texts multiple times, and still felt clueless about using them to answer exam questions. Analyzing questions and developing arguments was difficult. Linguistics, grammar and its rules was challenging.. Lucky for me I was very willing to do things badly. Actually there was no other choice! If I was not willing to do things badly I would never improve, and would not try many new things.
Improving is the key, and the reward. We all bring different skill sets when we start our program of study, and we all study for different reasons. For me, relocation to a small city where none of my interests were available meant both a career change, and the need to develop other interests. In addition to changing careers, I always wanted to learn how to write, and felt my understanding of literature represented a gap in my personal knowledge that I wanted to fill. Those three things are a lot to take on at once, but that is where I started from. This program has given me the opportunity to do all three, certainly with an ease and degree of success that exceedes my expectations.
Just as we all study for different reasons, and we all begin the task with different skills, there really is no choice except to start where we are. That means we will do some things badly when we begin a new course of study or even a new term. Studying in the English and Comparative Literature program with academic direction provided by Goldsmiths’ College, provides me with both the flexibility and structure necessary to accomplish everything I set out to do. It provides the frame-work where I might start by ‘doing some things badly,’ but improvement comes steadily, and I make progress happily towards my goals.
So here we are! Enjoy blundering through some theory this weekend– Eagleton, Barthes, and Butler are now some favorite reads, and Vickers and I are coming to terms over the Shakespeare Unit. Sit down and write a rotten essay on a really hard topic. Find somebody to read lines with you, and revel in giving a perfectly awful dramatic reading of a play or poem you are studying. Be perfectly happy to do something badly. Remember, just because something is difficult does not mean we will not become ‘good’ at it. Go ahead and do something badly, and study happily.
Caowrites is studying our BA English by distance learning in the USA.