I'm not sure it matters either way, but if forced to choose, I'd say unjustified.
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Messages - Burhop
heh...you'd think I was from somewhere other than smack-dab in the middle of the US. ;-)
I'm tentatively formulating a presentation for our PNW regional Writing Center conference based on some of the work in this here thread--immortalized, you all are!
(Yoda ain't regional, he's universal)
hmmmm...my impression has been that folks are assuming that they have written something unique & that will stand out, & are shocked to realize their uniqueness isn't so much so. Thus, I don't think it's hesitancy most of the time--I think it's a knowledge deficit. Hence, this thread!
I want my last sentence to be powerful and to convey
I'm not sure that it says what you mean it to say... "succumb" doesn't just mean 'give in'--it usually indicates giving into a desire--like succumbing to passion, or buying an ipod. Hmmmm...So someone who *does* succumb to challenges might be someone who can't help but take them on, and someone who does *not* succumb to challenges never takes challenges on?
Holla if my reading of this sentence is baffling anyone.
I think there is another reason why these things tend to be formulaic --
Chuckle--that's a pretty big safety zone, then, eh? I'd argue it's not that people are playing it safe--I think people are writing about the very first thing that comes to mind instead of doing a brainstorm in earnest and a few hearty drafts. It ain't cuteness, in other words--it's effort! Writing in the same pattern as everyone else shows a lower level of effort than someone who takes the time to figure out the whole PS thing and craft something more memorable than the typical ABC.
Some of the most inspired PS's I've read have been from non-humanities writers, actually--they tend to have not been overexposed to common writing patterns, and thus are less susceptible to them.
Hey! Well, I'd recommend you choose a topic that will focus mainly on you--anything that focuses too much on "they said this to me," or "They think this about me" will move the focus away from you. Think of it this way--the best PS's are about things a person has done, done well, and can write enthusiastically about. Often, the most...misguided...statements are about something that happened *to you.* This means you won't be active in the PS--you'll be passive, just observing and recording whatever craziness is affecting you. PS's that essentially sum up as "look at how crazy/annoying/weird/sad my world is!" won't work all that hard at selling you as a law-ready candidate.
The PS is your opportunity to show what you do when you're in charge, how you make decisions, lead, etc. Anytime you consider writing about something someone has done/said to you, it had better be a whopper--and I mean the size of "my dad turned out to be a woman" or "I grew up in the circus."
I think what we've got here is a formulaic vs organic dichotomy--does the initial idea naturally come full circle, or does the writer cram it back in there because "that's how it's supposed to be?" It's like the 5th grade 'hamburger essay'--you remember--bun, lettuce, tomato, beef, bun--this simple structure can be used beautifully, but it can also serve as a crutch to poor writing--as if connecting these basic dots is *all* it takes to create an essay. One doesn't have to write a three-sectioned iambic tetrameter montage in second-person to stand out, but it would behoove a candidate to do a little strength-searching & acknowledge the most common essay patterns before committing to a PS wholly.
We're not all brilliant writers, but I'd argue we all have our moments of brilliance. It's the right energy, the right tone, the right story--all those intangibles. I'd rather help writers find their own moments of brilliance than say to everyone "well, you'll never be all that brilliant, so just do the basic essay tango and call it a day." We know we're not Ken Keseys and Toni Morrisons. But you don't have to be, to be fairly interesting and engaging for two pages.
I'm so pleased there's so much input in this thread! Y'all are gonna be some kickass lawyers.
Did it ever occur to any of you that the reason everyone's PS's sound the same and are so 'mediocre' is because at the end of the day, most people simply do not stand out in many ways?
I'm with my pal redemption--kevdog, no one in here has advocated for having the world's most amazing anecdote--we're just pointing out common patterns one can choose to avoid if they know *everyone* is using the same essay pattern. A good story can have the crap beat out of it by poor/uninspired writing technique.
I'm not a believer in "good enough"--never have been--and most aspiring law students seem to fall in that category. Writing can be revised, stories can be told with more verve. One just has to commit to the process.
I'll toss in a few more names--Bill Bryson always kills me--also:
Amy Fusselman--The Pharmacist's Mate
Lenny Bruce--How to Talk Dirty and Influence People
...I suppose one could read books on 'how to write' as well--couldn't hurt--but my argument is that reading a good memoir might get one in the mood to write about their own lives with flair & joie de vivre. A How-to book can give a skill set, but not a mindframe, I'd say. And it seems like a lot of us need our mindframes rattled a bit to shake out our latent individualism.
no problem! And a *bump* for those currently working on their PS's, who might benefit from the notes herein.
I had another thought--this one might be nutty--but to get in the right mindframe to share life stories, would reading some quick passages out of a good memoir get one in the mood? As students, we spend a lot of time with dry subject matter--that dull tone might leak its academese into our pens and the joy out of our stories. Reading some funny/touching memoirs might amp up the writer in our heads, and get the right 'tone' in place.
I'd recommend these memoirs, should this idea strike anyone as clever. At the very least, I could see this helping those who are blocked when it comes to writing about themselves (I know I was!)
Mary Karr--The Liar's Club
Richard Feynman--Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman! (This one is my fave)
Danny Wallace--Join Me!
Dave Eggers--A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (AHWOSG, ya know.)