Why I’m Glad I’m Not Mozart

There’s something about hearing professional, full-time authors talk about their writing processes that is extremely comforting to me. It is encouraging to me as a writer to know that they don’t always have it together and that they don’t always write good first drafts. I like that both of these women can sit there and say openly that they dislike their first copies of their best selling novels. I am also encouraged by their recognition that there is no one way to write. As we have been exploring and discussing the writing process in class, I have come to realize that my process doesn’t always line up with what the professionals are doing. However, hearing Kate DiCamillo and Kathrine Patterson, two of my favorite childhood authors, say that they don’t have one specific writing process was relieving, to say the least.

Kate DiCamillo says that many people are under the impression that if you are supposed to do something, it is supposed to come easy to you (3:21). She then goes on to talk about how there is only one Mozart born a century, and that he isn’t you or me. In my opinion, hearing those words allows a lot of freedom as a writer. If I can learn to let go of my expectation of perfection, and the acclaim that goes along with it, I can get to writing what I want to write.

Mozart composed a lot of amazing music, however, he didn’t compose the soundtrack to a Target commercial. But, someone did. Maybe someone who loves Target, or commercials for that matter. That person was allowed to do what she wanted to do. The same goes for writing in my mind. Once I understand that I am not Mozart, I am free to write children’s novel, or Young Adult fiction, or a dissertation on the collected works of Plato. Whatever I am called to write, I can write safe in the assumption that I don’t have to be perfect or critically acclaimed.

Famous authors like these two inspiring women have a lot of advice to offer a young, inexperienced writer like myself. And what they said about their writing processes, or lack thereof, was helpful to me because it showed that not everyone writes the same way. Their processes were different from each other, and mine is different from both of theirs. The example of Mozart was thought provoking. There IS only one Mozart born a century. And I think that is comforting because it gives the rest of the population a chance to explore what they want to do. I don’t have to be Mozart to do what I love.

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How to Eat Dinner in the Bon

Dinner in the Bon is a daily occurrence, even though some evenings I wish that it weren’t. Now, depending on the time I decide to go to dinner, my process may look different. At times when the cafeteria is packed full of hungry college students, getting dinner is significantly more chaotic than it should be. However, for the sake of this blog post, let’s assume that it is not 6:30, and that it is fairly easy to move around and get what I want to eat for dinner.

The first step in acquiring dinner in the Bon is to walk in and have my card swiped, while doing this, I always check the posted menus, to start developing a game plan. I then walk into the cafeteria, and pick my line based upon what each station offers. Sometimes one line is enough, but often I like to pick and choose from different places. So, say I grabbed some chicken from the main line, but I wanted pasta to go with it. I would then make my way to the island station and get some noodles and marinara sauce. After getting some water from the soda fountain, I would head out to the salad bar and make myself a yummy salad with all the toppings available. Finally, I would start looking for a place to sit, hopefully with some friends!

My method of getting dinner is the most logical because I try to go in a circle around the Bon, avoiding walking back and forth through the masses of people that can be there. I don’t want to be one of those people constantly cutting through the line to get a soda, or taco toppings. I try to have a plan once I walk in, that way I can be efficient and effective while grabbing my food.

When using this method, I am assuming that there won’t be a ton of people in the Bon while I am there. The implication is that I will emerge from the Bon victorious, with a plate of food that I find desirable. While the quality of the food doesn’t always meet my expectations, my method does! Having a plan before entering the cafeteria helps me to be efficient while getting dinner, and this makes my method the best way to get food.

The Pennington House

I love it here. No, not this exact physical location, though that’s nice too. I love being here, the atmosphere, the people. The Pennington House is beginning to feel like home to me. This place inspires me, it motivates me to work hard. There is a lot to be learned within this house, and I am excited for these upcoming years. But I am amazed by what I have already experienced here.

The paint is peeling, the glass is warped, and the floor creaks like you wouldn’t imagine. But despite its outward appearance, this place is of high integrity. In it, some of the wisest people I have yet to meet, both professors and students, come together to discuss the works of wise people I will never meet. Two years ago I never would have thought that I would be sitting around some giant table with twenty opinionated people discussing what the “darkness” was in Genesis, or whether or not the gods of Greek mythology were rational. We’ve already covered some serious topics, from why God does what he does to wondering if there’s any merit to Plato’s creation story.

These ideas above are serious, thought inducing subjects. But there have been many other, lighter conversations as well. Bible study on Monday nights, in the Pennington House, offers a chance to build fellowship and get to know the Lord better. It offers laughter and song and the chance to experience life together. I love having a place to come hang out, a place to watch movies on the weekends, and do homework in between classes. There’s a community here, and I love being a part of it.

A year ago I had no idea that this community existed. I had never heard of the William Penn Honors Program. But now here I am. It was a long road here, from applications to scholarships to finding the motivation to finish my senior year of high school. When I applied to this program, I knew what I was getting at face value, but I never could have guessed what I would truly get out of this program.

What is Success?

The American culture is focused on the idea of success. As Americans, we place a lot of value on the things that we accomplish. By the time we’re 30 we are expected to have a certain package of achievements, a college degree, maybe even a master’s degree, a career, a spouse, and maybe a kid or two. Different careers define success differently. A successful CEO is looked upon much differently than a successful small business owner. But how is success defined as an author? I think that is a tough question to answer, and it’s certainly one that changes from person to person.

In my opinion, success as an author depends on the purpose behind whatever it is being written, and whether or not the writer is satisfied with their work. The amount of effort put into the paper, as well as the response it receives could also be a measure of its success. When I am writing a paper for school, I define its success on the grade that I get. However, if I am writing a journal entry, my success is measured by how I feel about the writing. I think that both of these types of success can be satisfying in different ways.

In fact, I have kept extensive travel journals on two missions trips that I have been on, and I think that they are very successful. Now, I know that in places, the writing is rudimentary at best. But they helped to express myself on the trips, and they continue to help me remember the trips now. To me, remembering my experiences was the purpose of those pieces of writing. Regardless of their style or grammatical correctness, they serve their purpose, and that is successful to me.

Success is a funny, subjective thing. I think that different people measure success differently, and that can be good or bad. Looking at success only through the lens of a published author can lead to a lot of strife and heartbreak regarding the act of writing. However, I think that if a writer can manage to look at the act of writing itself as a success, they will be happier, and more willing to write. And happy writers make the world go round.

Gifts

Gifts are funny things. They are an ancient tradition, from offerings to God to the dowries of brides, to modern birthday and Christmas gifts. Gifts are given everyday, and I think that we often forget the reason we give. The act of giving can seem nonchalant occasionally; I don’t always think through the gifts that I give. I know that I am more likely to give someone that I don’t know as well a gift card instead of a hand painted canvas featuring their initials. I forget that gift giving is an expression of love and thought. Good gifts show the recipient how much the giver cares about them. Luckily for us, God isn’t as nonchalant as I am. He always considers the gift he’s giving, and he always gives it with love.

God gives different gifts to everyone, and for that I am grateful. I went to bible study last Monday night, and towards the end of our time together, we were asked to share one area where we thought God had called us to use our gifts. And it was awe-inspiring for me to think about how much thought He put into each person around that table. Everyone had a different answer, and the more I consider each girls’ answers, the more their responses meshed with their personalities.

As each one of us talked about our respective God-given gifts, it dawned on me that God gives all of us different passions in order to further His Kingdom. One girl feels called to serve overseas in the medical field. Another has a real heart for children who have been raised in Christian homes, and yet another loves children in Africa. These are all different things, but each one of has been uniquely gifted in order to bring joy to others.

As I consider all of these different paths that each of us could take, I am amazed to think about how we will serve the Lord. The gifts He has given us each individually will be turned back to Him. As each of us gives to others, in the end, we are giving to God. And that is the best gift there is.

An Aside

“Aside” is a theatre term that describes when a character breaks the fourth wall, the one that separates the audience and the actors, and directly addresses his or her audience. They often involve revelations that the character has during the show, and oftentimes they are very humorous. I’ve seen many theatre performances, and witnessed many asides. However, the idea of an audience in writing is not one I had ever really addressed before this week.

Reading about the whether or not the audience is addressed, or invoked, or some combination of the two has really opened my eyes about one aspect of writing that I don’t know much about. The theory that an audience is imagined took me by surprise. How could it be that my favorite authors didn’t picture me reading their books? Or maybe they did. The more we read and discussed the role of the audience in class, the more I began to see that they play a large part. The more I thought about it, the more I considered my own audience. Who were they, and where did they come from?

I think I have taken for granted that my audience is always just there, almost like a shadow. It’s something that I acknowledge occasionally, but often I just forget about. I assume that my audience is always the same, unchanging, even though I knew subconsciously that they were not.  While in school, who I am writing for definitely influences my word choice and the thought I put into my writing. I know that certain teachers and professors expect certain things from me, and so I cater my writing style to fit what I know they want. Different assignments have different styles, and to me, that meant they had different audiences.

Regardless of how often I took my audience for granted, there is one time I distinctly remember thinking about who I was writing to. Every student in my Senior English class was asked to create one single character with likes and dislikes, careers, and different backstories. Many girls chose to create, or rather remodel, princesses. But I wanted something different. I wanted to write something I would read. Someone wholesome, but who also had inspiring adventures. Someone with good friends and an entirely full passport. And so, Ruth was born. She was the female equivalent of Indiana Jones, but 23 and with a degree in art history. She had two stereotypical sidekicks who secretly liked each other, and she constantly found herself stuck in dire situations with only her wits to save her.

My Ruth Stories never really developed beyond our few short assignments in my English class, but of all the other characters that were created, she was one of my favorites. This is one of my few moments of actual acknowledgement of my audience. I wrote to a girl who was tired of young adult fiction books. I wrote to a girl that wanted more than teenage romance and vampires. I wrote to a girl that would be inspired to learn new things, travel, and meet new people.

I think that I did imagine my audience while writing those short stories. But I’m alright with that, because I wrote to a girl like me.

Five Things I’ve Learned in the Last Ten Days

I think it could be argued that the first week of college is one of the biggest adjustments young adults will have to make. For the first time, they’re living on their own, they have to manage everything themselves, from making sure they’re eating to doing their own laundry. On top of that, the first few days are exhausting, they’ve just said goodbye to their families and syllabi can be scary. However, there are a lot of good things that come out of these days and weeks. New friends, interesting classes, and opportunities they didn’t know existed.

As a first week survivor myself (When did that happen?), I know that I’ve come a long way from where I was last Tuesday. A week ago today I was told that I would have to create and manage a blog. And today as I reflect on the past few weeks, I would like to share some things that I have learned these past ten days.

1. Saying Goodbye is Hard. And that’s OK. I knew going into Welcome Weekend that I would have to eventually say goodbye to my parents. I had already said goodbye to my siblings and friends, and I had made it through that alright. This wouldn’t be so bad, right? Wrong. I said goodbye, then came up to my dorm and cried and moped until I needed to go to my next event. But saying goodbye is the hardest part. I talk to and text my parents and siblings and friends frequently. And we are all OK. Even though it sucks in the moment, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It does get easier.

2. It is Alright to Say No. At George Fox, Welcome Weekend is packed with late night grocery store runs, informational meetings, worship sessions, and so much more. Add into this mix exhaustion, both mentally and physically, sometimes going to one more thing seems impossible. I know they tell you to do as much as you can, but sometimes, the best thing is to head back to your room and take a nap. I know that I certainly did!

3. Sleep is Important. Before I came to college, I was generally in bed by 10 o’clock. I know this is early even for most high school students, but it’s what I did. I think I had underestimated the importance of sleep before I got to campus. Now that I’m staying up until 11:30 just trying to get reading done, I know the value of those few precious hours of sleep.

4. You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers. This is actually something that someone said to me more than a year ago, but in the past 396 days, I haven’t thought about it even a fraction of the time I’ve spent thinking about it recently. When I get stressed about how much reading I have to do, the amount of time in a day, and whether or not something will be on a quiz, I’m reminded that there are thousands of people who were freshman before me. I am certainly not the only person ever feeling any of these things. I’m not expected to have all the answers. And I am so grateful for that.

5. Honor the Sabbath Day. This is something I’ve been pondering for a few months, rather than just the last ten days, but I’m really beginning to grasp the importance of these words. God commands us to observe the Sabbath, and that can be a struggle. But in the craziness of these last few weeks, being able to take time off and do the things that bring me joy and rejuvenation has been such a blessing. Sitting at the Coffee Cottage (Or any small coffee shop for that matter…) and sipping cold brew coffee is one of my favorite things to do. It gives me something to look forward to during the week, and I’m grateful for that!

I know this has been a long post, so thank you for sticking with me on this one. I am by no means the expert on how to be a college student, but I’m learning as I go along, just like everyone else.So, now I turn to you. What are some things you’ve been learning recently, and what advice do you have for a new college student?

Why I Write: A Short Summary

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Ask my mom and she’ll show you the short stories that I dictated to some kind, patient woman while I was in preschool. I’m sure that somewhere in my parent’s house are the scrawling, disorganized writings of a nine year old Anna. Writing was always one of my favorite parts of school. It was a chance to be who I really was. Was I being graded on my writing? Yes. But could I express myself more in my writing? Absolutely.

The actual moment of my revelation that I could indeed be a writer is not one that I can pinpoint exactly. I think that it stemmed in part from my frustration with my high school’s newspaper. I remember reading the articles and cringing over the terrible use of grammar and the missing comas and apostrophes.  I remember thinking that I could have done so much better.  The realization that I could do a better job than the authors of those sad articles sparked in me a desire to pursue writing as a career path.

My love for travel has also become an inspiration for my writing. I have been fortunate enough to travel to some awesome places with some amazing people. My desire to preserve my memories from these trips and to share them with others caused me to journal extensively while overseas. And while I recognize that travel journalism is arguably not the best or most instructive type of writing there is, it did force me to practice my writing. Looking back on my short writing career, those journals are some of my favorite things I have written.  My love for travel combined with my love of storytelling has played a major role in my consideration of writing as way to do “What I love and love what I do.”

A writer wears many hats; journalist, storyteller, teacher, and counselor, to name just a few. I can’t say when the exact moment to express myself in writing came upon me. Regardless, now that the flame has been kindled, not even a flood of biblical proportions could extinguish it. I don’t know where the twisting path called life will take me. But rest assured that you’ll know, because I’m sure to write about it.

 

The Beginning of the Journey

Welcome to my brand new blog, Dirkse Daughter. This is a new venture for me, and I’m excited to see where this will take me. This blog will chronicle  my daily journeys through my life as a George Fox University student.

But, before we get started with all of that, here are some things one should know about me. My name is Anna Dirkse. I am a Freshman here at George Fox University, and I am loving every minute of my college experience.  I’m from the small farming community of Denair, California, where I have lived almost all of my life. The coolest exception to that statement is the time when I lived in Germany for two years.

I love to travel, I’ve currently visited more than twenty countries across the globe.I enjoy being outside, and exploring this beautiful country I live in. I love to draw and paint, and generally do whatever I can to depict God’s creation.  I also love reading, and I am a member of the William Penn Honors Program, where I have the amazing opportunity to study the great works of literature that have shaped our Western culture.

I think that being responsible for managing a blog while also managing my life could be a challenge. I think that when push comes to shove and I have no time left in the day, that I will have to deliberately sit down and make myself do this. However, I am excited to see how keeping a consistent log of blog entries like this will improve my writing. I think that this will be an interesting journey, and I am excited to look back on a semester’s worth of writing and see how far I have come.

See you on the flip side,

Anna