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Random Word Essays - A Creative Exercise

I have been struggling of late with how to contribute to the Devtome community. In the past I have largely posted scientific articles complete with references and research on my own part, however writing these articles is a laborious process. I am still working on several such articles, however devoting too much time to them has the effect of resenting the writing process and to a degree Devtome as a whole. I want to be able to contribute something of interest to this wiki, but I do not want to make myself hate the wiki in the process. Indeed, much of the content on Devtome these days seems to be superfluous in nature, with topics that aren't SEO tactics, but seem to be ripped straight from the pages of a management handbook replete with catchphrases, buzzwords, and clip art to boot. I am sure these kinds of articles are useful to someone somewhere, but they are not useful to me. And that is fine too - an articles does not need to be useful, but if it is not useful then it certainly benefits from being interesting. Otherwise no one will want to read said article, which will reduce both Devtome traffic on the whole and the individual income of the author of that article. Accordingly I was in the market for a new topic to write about, when it hit me - I do not need to write about anything specific to write a good article. I should be able to write about virtually anything with similar effect.

The Inspiration

This thought process is what led me to what is no doubt a wholly unoriginal idea. In essence, one simply needs to pick a random work (any part of speech will do, although nouns no doubt work the best in many cases). Then all that is left to do is write about it for at least 1000 words in a logical and preferably interesting fashion. As for where one should get one's random words, there are many online random word generators available, some of which are linked to below. Alterenatively, you can make it more interesting by pulling a book from your bookshelf and turning to a page at random while pointing to a specific part of the page, thereby choosing a word for you. While you could change the word you pullled, that seems to defeat the whole purpose of the exercise - if toy are choosing your topic of writing then you are not writing a random word essay and that is just fine as long as that is what you want to do.

There is something bizarrely liberating about writing about a topic that I have little control in the selection of. It reminds me of the process of essay writing for exams, like on the SAT or other college placement exams. You know you have to write an essay about something, but you have no idea what you will need to write about until the moment you see the topic, and then you need to start writing as soon as you have planned out what it is you mean to say. And like with the SAT or similar tests, the essay writing process is not about the topic. Not exactly, any way. In the case of the SAT the test administrators want to be able to gauge your ability to formulate and support an argument about whatever topic you have been presented with, even if that argument is ludicrous it doe not matter so long as you have clear logic that supports your ultimate conclusion. In the case of these random word essays, what you write about the randomly chosen word is not so important - instead you want to be able to show that you can say something of interest about anything. Obviously your words do matter in that they determine whether what you write is interesting, but you could say anything and still be interesting. For example, if you picked the word “North”, then you could write a technical description of the workings of magnetism and compasses, or a fantastical tale of life at the North Pole, or a cautionary environmental piece. It would not matter, as all of these topics are related to the original word, and they may all be interesting in their own way.

Without further ado, I have decided to include an example of my first attempt at a random word essay. For this essay, my randomly chosen word was “unreasonable”, and despite being an adjective rather than a noun I felt that I had enough to say about unreasonable things that I would write such an essay after all. So here we go, approximately 1000 words on “unreasonable” with any and all subjects being fair game for further writing.

A Sample Essay - Unreasonable

We have so many expectations of one another. Constant pressure assails us from all sides at all times and in almost all things, with our own internal resolve serving as the only bulwark against overwhelming expectation. Of course at many times these intentions are good and are even the best courses of action, but at other times they are thoroughly unreasonable and do little more than contribute to a whole host of negative outcomes. Those pressures are what will ultimately make or break you, and over time you learn to stand up in the face of unreasonable demands and steer your own course. Of course, sometimes the one making these demands does not exist, and you are merely driven by unclear internal motivators that have been engrained in your head, intentionally or otherwise.

When I was growing up and working my way through the public school system, there was a phrase that popped up again and again on my report cards - “conscientious and diligent”. All of my teachers seemed to agree that I was an intelligent and hard working child that seemed to achieve beyond the level of their similarly minded peers. Through fourth grade or so, I fully internalized that notion and expended large amoutns of time working my way through class work, even though no one was forcing me to do so. In that sense, fifth grade was something of a watershed year for me. My fifth grade teacher was renowned for his lax discipline and open ended approach to learning (factors that enraged school officials, who were only able to release him from his tenure several years later when he was caught in a DUI arrest scandal). In that classroom, kids could play gameboy games during free time, and writing assignments were not about specific topics, but were instead abstract and creative exercises. The one topic I remember distinctly was a series of stories penned by two of my classmates about the exploits of a decidedly evil and effectively immortal dog. In retrospect these stories seem to have been Cujo knock offs, but at the time no one in our class read Stephen King and these stories were exciting and imaginative, if a bit macabre. Samson the evil killer hound from hell was a mascot for the mindless excess that arose in that incubator of absurdity.

I doubt very much that I learned anything in that year in school from an academic perspective, though that is not to say it was a wasted year. In that disaster of an educational locale, I did meet two of my first real “friends”. Sure, I had had friends in the past that I would play with at recess or the like, but never anyone particularly close that I would see outside of class time. These guys broke that barrier, and our mutual love of Pokemon and of video games united us in a fashion that was up to this point unfamiliar to me. Of course, my parents were happy to see me with friends, as they had evidently grown concerned about my lack thereof, but they were not thrilled with the direction my education was headed. I received little homework, and I spent even less time on what I did have in the interest of electronic distractions. How my education was salvaged from that wreck of a year will never be clear to me, but I'm sure it was at least partly due to my innate aptitude for mathematics. When the time came for the math placement test that would determine our class level in middle school and beyond, I still managed to do well enough to land myself on the advanced track despite having learned nothing of educational value that year. And so, armed with my knew experiences in the development of friendships, I returned to a more academic mindset in the following Fall.

Once I was returned to the more complex world of actual learning, I found the adjustment difficult at first - I did very poorly on my first math exam as I had forgotten (or perhaps never learned) how to study for a test. But with some help from my parents I relearned how to study, and I soon rose to the top of almost all of my classes and was always a favorite among my teachers. When I moved on to high school, I had developed an extreme elitist mindset that began to alienate me from my peers. I was better than them when it came to school, and they were thus beneath me (or so I thought at the time). While I never directly stated such a thing, it became clear in my interactions with my peers that I felt that I was better than them, even though that is a comical thing to believe, looking back on it. In order to prove my superiority, I needed to be the very best in every academic scenario. I began taking advanced placement (AP) classes, which were the highest level of coursework available, and I found myself acing them all, in part by writing to what the teachers wanted to hear rather than what I wanted to write. I became a professional student, better equipped to succeed in school than to actually contribute anything to the world around me in a job of some sort.

I had to be the best, and In my senior year I set out to prove that definitively by taking a near record number of AP classes - 7 to be precise, and with only 9 periods of classes per day that was no small feat, leaving only one period for lunch and another for gym/study hall. Virtually every moment of my day was beleaguered by absurd amounts of information. Despite my desire to prove that I was the best, I only wanted to be the best inasmuch as it came easily to me - my work ethic had been permanently crippled by my fifth grade experience, coupled with some inevitable senioritis. I ceased studying for classes besides math (where a failure to study would be devastating) and Spanish, which had never come to me as intuitively as other subjects. When my Physics class distributed insurmountably difficult problem sets that required calculus that I was not well versed enough in to derive the answers to, I found those answers on the internet and copied down the work. I needed to be the best student at any cost, even though all I was really demonstrating was my superficial desire for knowledge. I didn't need to be the smartest kid - I just needed everyone to think that I was the smartest. Anything less than that would be a failure. When I graduated high school, I had made it to seventh position in my class on ~200, which was not quite as good as I had hoped, but was enough to reaffirm my knowledge that people knew I was better than them. There was a reason I had hardly any friends in high school, and those that I did have were of a similarly superior mindset (we were an unpleasant bunch).

Fortunately, going to college at a public university allowed me to recalibrate my mindset, as college does for so many people. With time I at least partially deprogrammed myself from my elitist attitude - I devoted more time to making and maintaining rich friendships with a variety of peple than to classes, and I did not seek out punishing classes to demonstrate my extreme intellect. Instead I sought out interesting courses that fit with things I was interested in - infectious diseases and the like. And I did rise to the top of my class in college just as I had in high school, but this time I felt that I had actually earned my position at the top. I didn't feel I was the best, and I didn't care if other people did either. I simply did the best that I could do, and everything else fell into place accordingly. Now I am in graduate school at an Ivy League university, where I know for a fact that I am not the best. People all around me seem to be much smarter than me and to have a much stronger work ethic. Now I try to emulate them and to live up to their standards. I do not think I am better than them, nor do I feel the need to be, but I wonder how many of them were or are trapped in a similar mindset. No one should make unreasonable demands of oneself for their own sake - life is worth living just for its own sake.

Conclusions

So there you have it, an essay on everything and nothing unreasonable, and I had to do nothing but click a button to choose that topic. It was a surprisingly fun little exercise that I am sure people use for creative writing development all over the world but which I have only just now discovered. Certainly I will continue to work on more scientific and high minded articles for this wiki, but I will also fill in the gaps in my contributions in part with these random word essays. Provided they are not too boring that is. But hopefully with time and practice I can learn to better avoid the pitfalls of creative writing in order to develop a skill in which I am sorely lacking. Scientific writing necessitates the use of passive voice and caution in any assertions that are being made, and these skills are very useful in the context of a scientific discipline. Such writing is generally frowned upon in most other contexts, however, as no one really wants to read an essay written in a passive voice, with overly cautious statements and qualifications to every sentence. Readers want decisive arguments and exciting reads, and as such I will need to learn to divorce myself in part from this technical writing system and reacquaint myself with the more free form world of creative writing. These random word essays seem like the perfect creative outlet through which I may yet be able to do so with some modicum of success.

References

Below are a few websites that you may use to generate random words for essays if you are so inclined.

Non-Fiction | Writing


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