Mr. Abood teaches literature, creative writing, and seminar.
BardVERSE: What do you find most challenging about writing?
Mr. Abood: Without a doubt, the most challenging thing for me is silencing the “inner-critic,” the voice that evaluates your writing as you are writing, that tells you it’s not good enough, that compares it to other, better writers, that suggests you’re just wasting time – and wouldn’t it be a lot more pleasurable to sit on the couch, eat some popcorn, and watch Netflix instead? And then I sit on the couch, eat some popcorn, and watch Netflix instead. I have to remind myself that it’s only in the “doing” of a thing that it obtains any merit. No one has ever been rewarded, praised, or respected for something they “could have” written. A friend of mine shared with me this lesson from modern art; you walk through a gallery of abstract paintings, paintings that are just shapes and colors, and point to one and declare “I could have done that!” and then realize that, yeah, you could have, but you did not. That is essentially the difference between being an artist and “just some guy complaining.” What counts is the “doing” and the critic must wait for the doing to resolve itself before passing judgment. I try to remind myself of that whenever I start writing.
BardVERSE: Whose writing do you admire and why?
Mr. Abood: I remember during one of our professional development sessions we were asked to respond to the Beatles’ “Let It Be” album cover; the cover shows each of the four Beatles pinioned in their own rectangular photograph, making a separate-but-together image of the band. Dr. Hogue [a history professor here at BHSEC, Cleveland] wrote a narrative about the Beatles playing tennis through the partitions of the four photographs; each one serving and returning, faulting and volleying, with their opponent. It was so awesome – and immediately made me rage that I hadn’t done something as interesting or creative with the prompt. He’s a great writer.
BardVERSE: Give one tip for writing a good essay.
Mr. Abood: One of the reasons to put something into writing is to appear smarter than you actually are by taking advantage of the fact that your reader is not there hunched over your shoulder as you write. They don’t know how long it took you to write that thesis, or how many times you cried as you wrote it, or how often you re-read one of your quotes until you finally understood it, or how many drafts it took you, or anything. To them it’s all the same. So my advice is to exploit this advantage as ruthlessly as possible. How to do it? Imagine that a teacher gave your class a test and then left the room; secondly, imagine that this class is entirely without scruples. What would you do? Would you pull out the textbook and check your answers? Would you ask a friend what they answered for a particular question? Would you open your notebook and copy out your notes? Would you look at how other people, from the past, have answered this particular question by consulting the internet or some other source? Essay writing is making something non-pressurized by the demands of time or audience. So look for answers outside of your own memory. Have whatever text you are writing about open and in your line of vision as you write. Pin the open page under the keyboard, or on your lap under the desk – so you can constantly re-read both your essay and the source text you are working from. Use your notes, use the book, ask for someone else’s help – and if that person doesn’t know the answer, then look the answer up. Don’t work from memory; that’s almost the worst thing you can do. If you get stuck, it just means that the answers you’re seeking are not within, but without.