How to solve your writing problems

I got a pop-up ad on my screen while I was writing an essay. The headline said, “Study smarter, not harder.”

I’m sure no one would object to the idea of studying smarter. There is, of course, the question of just what that means.

The headline introduces Bartelby Essays. Bartelby Essays are commercially available, as I understand it. A cynical person might conclude that the purchased essay would be submitted as the student’s own work. This certainly would, as the ad suggests, deal with the problem of “hours flailing away on your writing assignment.”

Stuck on an essay? We can help. Why spend hours flailing away on your writing assignment when a Bartleby Essay can give you the inspiration you need to succeed?

Here (above) is the ad in full, accompanied by the picture they provide. The picture (below) offers you a vision of what you could be doing if you did not have to spend your time flailing away on your writing assignment

It is the effect of the essay, as described, that puzzles me. I buy the essay. Presumably I read the essay. Then I am so inspired by what the author has done that it inspires me to succeed by writing an essay of my own Really? It is the inspiration that keeps me from writing in the “flailing away” mode.

Note that this ad is placed within the world of an undergraduate who thinks their problem is complying with the assignment schedule. Nothing in this ad suggests that learning how to write would be a good solution to “flailing away.” It also suggests that being inspired is the solution to the flailing away problem. Presumably, all you can do is to wait to be inspired. Or, of course, you could buy a Bartelby essay and hand it in.

I don’t want to seem insensitive to undergraduate dilemmas. I understand the effect good language can have on the mysterious process by which your own good language becomes available to you, as if by analogy. When I encountered some difficulty getting started on a day’s work on my dissertation in grad school, I would reach over and open one of the John Kenneth Galbraith books I had handy. It didn’t matter which one and it didn’t matter where I opened it. There was just something about the way Galbraith chose words and the way he connected ideas that greased the track for my own ideas. I would read Galbraith for a little while, then turn to my typewriter and start working.

So I get the idea. But Bartleby isn’t that. I’m opposed to cheating, of course, but it is the way the problem is set up that really bothers me here. The student’s attention is drawn to the fact that he is “flailing.” Flailing is a repeated action, please note. No consideration is given to why the student is flailing. Poor choice of topics? Inability to focus? Don’t know how to write? It’s all a matter of “inspiration,” which you can buy on line.

I don’t buy it.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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