Phần 1: Múa bút
CHƯƠNG BỐN: MỘT, HAI, HÍT... THỞ
Trong phần Cắn Bút, tôi đã giành quá nhiều thời gian về những cái Không Nên Viết. "Now what?" bạn hỏi, "Còn gì còn lại để viết đây?"
Câu trả lời rất đơn giản, "Một, hai, hít... thở" Sẵn sàng
Trước hết, nên nhớ là không có chủ đề hay dở, chỉ có bài luận hay dở. Nhiều khi, văn hay là văn nhại lại những cách nói cliché nhàm chán. Bài luận của bạn không cần phải "khám phá," hay làm người khác giật mình, hay gắng để được cái tiếng khác thường. Đơn giản, bài luận chỉ cần dùng giọng văn riêng của bạn để cho adcom tự họ hiểu thêm về con người bạn.
Và ai bảo rằng chỉ có 12 câu chuyện nguyên bản trên thế giới? Sau khi nghe giáo sư Harry Bauld giảng đạo về các chủ đề cấm ngặt của college essays, một học sinh đáp lại như sau:
Recently, I spent a day being told that my life is one big cliche. The assembly that morning concerned the writing of the college essay, and the speaker, a former English teacher, proceeded to explain to a once-eager-but-then-doubt-riddled teenage crowd why every essay topic they had ever conceived was taboo. We couldn't write about our summer trip, our dedication to extracurriculars, our views on world issues - in essence, our life up till now, because it has all been done before. The admission officers, upon reading our humble compositions, will let out a long wail from beneth his pile of boring, cliched essays, toss that humble composition in the corner and drown himself in Heineken. Hm.
Later that day, someone told me about a theory that there are only twelve stories in the world, and every story I hear or tell is a variation of one of those twelve, thus eliminating any possibility that I could write something you haven't seen before once every twelve applications. Oh.
In my Dostoevsky class, we discussed Raskolnikov's fear that life means absolutely nothing unless you are Napoleon or some other person that everybody keeps talking about. In other words, unless you kill a lof of people or discover another element, you have to resign yourself to a life full of rush-hour traffic and bank deposits and take-out Chinese food and tax returns and sitcoms and other things that are ridiculous just because everyone does them. Yes, yes, that's so true, concurred my English class. Ugh.
Ladies and gentlemen of the admission committee, I have a dilemma. I have been told that my life is one big cliche, and I don't believe that's true. But how can I express this to you? How can I get you to say "Yes, Miss Sharon Isaak, we want you to come to Princeton, you are a wonderful example of non-cliche and we want you to come add your non-clicheness to our academic community"? I don't think I can accomplish my task in the frienzied atmosphere of this ominous piece of paper. No, ladies and gentlemen, I think I shall invite you to dinner, and we shall see what happens from there.
Let's make it a Sunday; Sundays are good because it gives you a whole weekend to recuperate from the all nighters you pulled the week before (you while reading essays, I while writing them). No need to dress up, though you'll want ot wear sweaters because dinner will be outside, on a wooden table beneath a tree. I think each of us should bring a part of the meal, to put some personality into it. I will be bringing guacamole, of which I'm quite fond, so make your selections accordingly.
Once we sat, we can start talking about ourselves. I'm sure that after a good meal of guacamole and whatever, we'll be able to get beyond the problem of the cliche'd existence, for I know that there's more behind the title "we as admission officers," as I am sure you know there's more behind my green and gray resume. I'll tell you some stories, like the one about the time some friends and I baked chocolate chip cookies on an iron propped between a pair of sneakers at Exeter Summer School or about the game of strip poker I won because I was wearing a lot of jewelry, leavin the editor of my school newspaper in his long underwear during a 40-degree-below-zero frostwave.
By that time we have dessert and coffee I am sure you'll see that though the world would love to include my life in the long list of already-been-dones (and no matter what I say, the world will always try to do so), I'm much more fun to spend time with than your run-of-the-mill, self-conscious statistic. Hey, the things I do are new when I do them, aren't they? Thinking that way sure makes life a lot more fun than spending a lifetime as a generalization.
Anyway, I look forward to your visit. (R.S.V.P by December 15).
~ Essay copyrighted from Harry Bauld's On Writing the College Essay.~
Adcom thường không thích các bài luận viết về những mối lo sợ khi nộp hồ sơ đại học, nhưng bài luận này dễ thương đến nỗi ông gửi hẳn một lá thư riêng đến cho Sharon. Đến ngày 15 tháng 12, cô nhận được tờ RSVP mong muốn: "Welcome to Princeton..."
See, you have everything, anything to write about.