According to the nice people out there in electronland, an analysis of the text of my last (non-tweet) blog post indicates that…

I write like
Chuck Palahniuk

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Unfortunately, the only one of his novels I’ve read was Diary, and, entertainingly slash embarrassingly, I only grabbed it because I got him mixed up with Chuck Klosterman, so imagine the dissociative shock when I actually started reading it.

(That said, of course I finished reading it. It’s a good book. Maybe I’ll go re-read it now and figure out what it is about his style that I also share that should make random interwebs strangers point out similarity. Does he also abuse parentheses ruthlessly like I do? (I’m seriously trying to quit it, at least in my academic writing. You don’t know how hard a habit it is to break, dudes. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until I look at a printout of the first draft and go “what the shit is this?”))

I need to go write something right now, as a matter of fact. Having completed my walking tour of Union Station and writing up my notes about that, I have a homework assignment to write 1500-2000 words on it in a historical context. The instructions for this class’s assignments are pretty freeform, so paradoxically, that paralyzes me: in the absence of actual instructions, I throw my hands up in the air and stare at a blank Microsoft Word document page while a blinking cursor whispers, “j’accuse!”

Specifically, the direction for today’s assignment is: “Historical places: A discussion of significant venues and how they characterize a city and its people.” So. Yeah. How does Union Station characterize Chicago? Well, all the people in the food court getting bad takeout after 3PM are in a big fucking hurry, and god help you if you’re between them and the escalator. Does that say something about us? What would Carl Sandburg or Nelson Algren have to say about that? Or maybe it’s just a lesson for me; I can ramble on quite happily and (relatively, if you forgive the parenthetical asides) coherently for a couple thousand words on any random bullshit that strikes my fancy, but give me a vague topic and I’m a helpless fourth grader struggling with a book report for Where The Red Fern Grows. Bit sad, honestly, for someone who likes to yap so incessantly. Also, I’d like to introduce it with a line of verse about trains or something, but all I can think of is “Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation,” and that feels a little dirty, like cheating due to complete obviousness.

Worse yet, though, than the prospect of turning in another shitty essay — I turned in my first essay with the comment that “this is stream-of-consciousness crap, and I’ll happily revise it if you give me some feedback on what you want” — is the fact that I have to get up and read it in front of the class tomorrow night. I don’t mind public speaking, and I think I’m even halfway decent at it, but when I’m going out in front of people like that, I prefer to say things that are not crap. So if this essay is crap as well, then, well, bummer. My mad spelling skillz are great in print and have served me well in my academic doings thus far, especially contrasted with others’ pieces that didn’t benefit from use of spellcheck, but I’ll lose that slim advantage in speech. Unless I can create some sort of imaginative piece (what? Comparison essay? Short story? Dry historical recounting of the building? Continued ranting about the food court?) I’m going to be stuck out there talking about the fact that the lamp standards in the Great Hall are really neat, and leaving people wondering what the hell a balustrade is.

Of course the reading in front of the class is only step two. For our final project we’re supposed to prepare one of our homework pieces and send it off for publication somewhere. So, no pressure, then. I’ve got two more assignments that will have possibilities to use for that: the “liminal and sacred spaces” assignment, wherein we’re supposed to write about a place “where heaven and earth meet,” and the “a place for art” piece, where we’re supposed to either watch a place-related film or visit a distinctive location and write a short story set there. You know, I read the syllabus before I even registered for this class, and I said, “Yes! This is the class for me! I love Chicago, and I am a decent writer. I can totally take a class that is all about writing about Chicago, for it will rule.” But now that I’m actually in the class? Everything seems like this crazy difficult undertaking. It’s not the length requirements; they’re not even that much. (Hey, this blog post is about half the required length of the essay so far, and I’m not even trying.) It’s, like, wanting a perfect execution of what is assigned, to get that delicious, delicious A grade — only, without specific instructions I’m sort of hacking away at a guess and hoping for the best, and I hate that.

It is entirely possible that I am just blathering on here as a way to avoid actually writing the stupid essay. I should probably stop doing that. But first, I need to just polish this post a bit before clicking “publish”… .