Fun to Play With, Not to Eat

I am a reincarnating piece of Play-Doh. Sometimes, I’m the opportunistic lump, waiting to be molded, ogling at the projects printed on my packaging. Sometimes, I’m the piece that’s shape-shifting from a striped octopus to a cupcake. But every time I plop myself out of the jar, I leave behind some stale bits, reminding me of my true colors.

I begin everything with a smooth, mushy mindset, a mound of Play-Doh fresh out of the can. When I’m assigned a paper about comparing the productivity of China and Europe from 1450-1750, or the theme of The Enormous Room or the Shank3 gene as an autism risk factor, I voraciously peruse articles on Google Scholar (sometimes seconds after the paper’s assigned), clutching an inky, Bic ballpoint and scrawling ideas on pink Post-It pads. I probe the wiring of my imagination and reasoning faculties, itching to write an essay as comprehensive, analytical, and downright awesome as Norman Davies or E.E. Cummings or Joseph Buxbaum would have written.

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Each moment of my brainstorming, I’m catalyzing, creating, combining, collapsing, and crashing ideas, rolling and denting my fingerprinted, doughy self. I’m movable. Until I move. Until I stumble upon that compelling idea (for a moment, I stop moving and delight in the idea’s ingenuity) and (simultaneously and disappointedly) realize that I’m not writing my PhD thesis and that the paper’s due tomorrow. So I write, adding and annulling reasons and details and information until the last period, only to reread and slam my head on the keyboard and ask myself how my brain could have produced something so deplorable.

That “compelling” idea (was it even decent?) is squished somewhere between a messy mix of red and green Play-Doh. It’s windily worded, the points are trite, the language lackluster, the grammar garbled, and the tone as tired as Monday morning. Yuck. Sometimes I squash myself up and begin anew; sometimes I do everything but redo. Either way, in the wee hours of the morning, after ample poking, prodding, and hair pulling, I’ve produced something on which I’m proud to put my name.

I’ve moved. Again. Only to continue moving. I awake the next day to find my head aching with exhaustion and more and better..

.everything. If my lunch period is before the class in which the paper is due, I visit the library to decorate it more (if it isn’t, I sneak in). Furnishing my purple Play-Doh car with leather seats. Wittier embedded quotes.

Fewer facts. Acuter analyses. Fresher ideas. Better-said sentences. Pithier sentences. More memorable lines.

More to move readers. For all my fixes, I’m frustrated passing up my paper, lamenting that the red pen will never know how much more marvelous the paper could’ve been. But I also feel exhilarated. Next time I’ll make it wiser, bolder, brighter! And during these moments I happily remind myself that there’re bits of me, my mobility and movement, my endless race to perfection, that’ll always be hard and stuck to the bottom of the Play-Doh can. Immovable.