[By VA@muskeeterlady]

Nếu bạn chưa đọc Phan 0 thì nên đọc trước khi bắt đầu vào giai đoạn "Múa Bút."


Nguyễn Thu Trang Musketeer Lady 29/12/2004

Trong phần Cắn Bút, tôi đã giành quá nhiều thời gian về những cái Không Nên Viết. "Now what?" bạn hỏi, "Còn gì còn lại để viết đây?"

Câu trả lời rất đơn giản, "Một, hai, hít... thở!" Sẵn sàng!

Trước hết, nên nhớ là không có chủ đề hay dở, chỉ có bài luận hay dở. Nhiều khi, văn hay là văn nhại lại những cách nói cliché nhàm chán. Bài luận của bạn không cần phải "khám phá," hay làm người khác giật mình, hay gắng để được cái tiếng khác thường. Đơn giản, bài luận chỉ cần dùng giọng văn riêng của bạn để cho adcom tự họ hiểu thêm về con người bạn.

Và ai bảo rằng chỉ có 12 câu chuyện nguyên bản trên thế giới? Sau khi nghe giáo sư Harry Bauld giảng đạo về các chủ đề cấm ngặt của college essays, một học sinh đáp lại như sau:

Recently, I spent a day being told that my life is one big cliche. The assembly that morning concerned the writing of the college essay, and the speaker, a former English teacher, proceeded to explain to a once-eager-but-then-doubt-riddled teenage crowd why every essay topic they had ever conceived was taboo. We couldn't write about our summer trip, our dedication to extracurriculars, our views on world issues - in essence, our life up till now, because it has all been done before. The admission officers, upon reading our humble compositions, will let out a long wail from beneth his pile of boring, cliched essays, toss that humble composition in the corner and drown himself in Heineken. Hm.

Later that day, someone told me about a theory that there are only twelve stories in the world, and every story I hear or tell is a variation of one of those twelve, thus eliminating any possibility that I could write something you haven't seen before once every twelve applications. Oh.

In my Dostoevsky class, we discussed Raskolnikov's fear that life means absolutely nothing unless you are Napoleon or some other person that everybody keeps talking about. In other words, unless you kill a lof of people or discover another element, you have to resign yourself to a life full of rush-hour traffic and bank deposits and take-out Chinese food and tax returns and sitcoms and other things that are ridiculous just because everyone does them. Yes, yes, that's so true, concurred my English class. Ugh.

Ladies and gentlemen of the admission committee, I have a dilemma. I have been told that my life is one big cliche, and I don't believe that's true. But how can I express this to you? How can I get you to say "Yes, Miss Sharon Isaak, we want you to come to Princeton, you are a wonderful example of non-cliche and we want you to come add your non-clicheness to our academic community"? I don't think I can accomplish my task in the frienzied atmosphere of this ominous piece of paper. No, ladies and gentlemen, I think I shall invite you to dinner, and we shall see what happens from there.

Let's make it a Sunday; Sundays are good because it gives you a whole weekend to recuperate from the all nighters you pulled the week before (you while reading essays, I while writing them). No need to dress up, though you'll want ot wear sweaters because dinner will be outside, on a wooden table beneath a tree. I think each of us should bring a part of the meal, to put some personality into it. I will be bringing guacamole, of which I'm quite fond, so make your selections accordingly.

Once we sat, we can start talking about ourselves. I'm sure that after a good meal of guacamole and whatever, we'll be able to get beyond the problem of the cliche'd existence, for I know that there's more behind the title "we as admission officers," as I am sure you know there's more behind my green and gray resume. I'll tell you some stories, like the one about the time some friends and I baked chocolate chip cookies on an iron propped between a pair of sneakers at Exeter Summer School or about the game of strip poker I won because I was wearing a lot of jewelry, leavin the editor of my school newspaper in his long underwear during a 40-degree-below-zero frostwave.

By that time we have dessert and coffee I am sure you'll see that though the world would love to include my life in the long list of already-been-dones (and no matter what I say, the world will always try to do so), I'm much more fun to spend time with than your run-of-the-mill, self-conscious statistic. Hey, the things I do are new when I do them, aren't they? Thinking that way sure makes life a lot more fun than spending a lifetime as a generalization.

Anyway, I look forward to your visit. (R.S.V.P by December 15).

~ Essay copyrighted from Harry Bauld's On Writing the College Essay.~

Adcom thường không thích các bài luận viết về những mối lo sợ khi nộp hồ sơ đại học, nhưng bài luận này dễ thương đến nỗi ông gửi hẳn một lá thư riêng đến cho Sharon. Đến ngày 15 tháng 12, cô nhận được tờ RSVP mong muốn: "Welcome to Princeton..."

See, you have everything, anything to write about.



Nguyễn Thu Trang Musketeer Lady 29/12/2004

Kính gửi đến Câu Lạc Bộ Những Kẻ Bình Dân,

Thời điểm để bạn rũ áo gia nhập hàng ngũ Các Thành Viên Sáng Giá. Trước hết, hãy thử xem một số gợi ý của các bậc tiền bối nhà văn chuyên nghiệp:

1. Kể chuyện:

Cuộc sống không phải là một màn kịch câm. Hắn là khán giả, và hắn cực kỳ yêu thích những câu chuyện hấp dẫn. Các nhà văn chuyên nghiệp biết rõ điều này, và họ dùng những mẩu chuyện lượm lặt để mang tác phẩm gần gũi với kinh nghiệm đời thường của bạn. Một lời đối thoại, một mảnh ngụ ngôn, một nhân vật sống động... sẽ vạch ranh giới giữa văn hay và văn nhàm.

Hãy lấy ví dụ một số bài luận "ao nhà" thu thập được trong forum ta:

-So, you said you want to go to Duke next year. Are you ready? Are you fearless?
-Yes. I can proudly say that I am fearless. Not only for the kind of fear toward ghosts. It’s true that darkness or ghosts don’t scare me; however, this is not what I want to tell you.
Chu Lan Anh, essay to Duke

“Keep going, Son, keep going…”
I repeated that sentence to myself while I was running around the training field.
Hồ Lam Sơn

My father passed away when I was only two. One year later, I accompanied my mother to Bangkok, Thailand and then to UC Berkeley to do her masters in Environment and Public Policy.
Thuy Khanh, Wesleyan Freeman Scholar '04

Có muôn cách để sử dụng các giai thoại (anecdotes):

  • Phần mở đầu để dẫn vào bài luận
  • Phần kết để tổng kết và nâng cao bài luận
  • Một chi tiết trong bài để chứng minh một quan điểm nào đó - giai thoại kiểu này không nên dài dòng.
  • Một câu chuyện chạy dọc suốt và khuôn nắn toàn bộ bài văn. Câu chuyện về người cha và lời khuyên độc đáo trong phòng vệ sinh là một ví dụ điển hình [Trích từ "I do some of my best thinking in the bathroom"]

Topic: Tell us anything you think we should know

I do some of my best thinking in the bathroom. I don't mean to embarrass anyone by talking about something so private, but it's probably a good thing for you to know in case we begin a four year relationship in which I'll have to do a lot of thinking.

The reason I'm going public with this annoucement is that this fall I begin to see I wasn't the only one who felt inspired and peaceful in that small room where we are alone with out bodies and our thoughts. My dad, for instance, calls it the reading room. He thinks he's joking, but I noticed the bathroom is actually the only place he reads now. He says he's just too busy to take time for luxuries like novels. (He means in his life outside the bathroom). My other connection was learning last year in art history that Toulouse Lautrec, the French painter, once wanted to hang his pictures in the men's room of a restaurant do they would be fully appreciated. "It;s the most contemplative moment in a man's day," he said.

I've always tried to be a good son and a good student, so for a while I followed Dad's example and Lautrec's suggestion and passed time in the bathroom by reading or looking at pictures. But that changed one day when Mom, in a cleaning frenzy, had cleared out all the magazines and books and I wound up in there alone with the tiles and towels. Pretty son I got tired of reading the monogras on the face cloths and turned to the window, which looks out over a bit of lawn toward a few trees beside our house. Seated (I promise not to be crude), I wasn't thinking of anything except for how bored I was. Then suddenly I was thinking of many things at once: a good opening paragraph for my history paper, a new way to look at a chemistry problem, even the perfect gift for my girlfriend. I also had other thoughts rushing across my mind like clouds in a windy sky: the meaning of long-forgotten conversation, sudden connections between very different ideas. It came out of nowhere and it was exhilarating. I felt like a philosopher. Since then I haven't read a word in there; I just assume the pose of Rodin's Thinker and let it happen. I guess some of it may be just physiology (Dad says I have "awesome metabolism"), but there's more to it than that, a fact I learnt when I once tried bringing a pad to take some notes; it only ruined the spell. Sometimes now I write down what I can remember afterward, bu the thinking I do in the bathroom is pure and undistracted, and the way to do it is to do nothing.

I get a sense from news program I've seen that world leaders don't soend enough time in the bathroom, let alone do much thinking there. Like my dad, they're just too busy with realities to afford the luxury of pure reflection. As a result, I don't hear many exhilarating thoughts coming out of world leaders these days, nothing that show much imagination or excitement. Just the sme old deadlock on the same deadly issues. They're always flying around the world, sending guns or warnings to one another, disrupting their digestions and never taking the time between all those briefings to sit down and make peace with their own biology, never mind with other countries. Even when they're home, security reasons probably prevent them from having bathroom with much of a view. I bet the White House even has a telephone in the bathroom. That would be the worst. Maybe that's why world leaders all look so constipated, even when they smile.

I think we'd all be better off if once a day we pumped all the heads of state full of apple cider - Dad says it's "nature's laxative" - and locked them for twenty minutes in small rooms with a good view of some trees, or a hill, or a pond, or a bird's nest, away from telephones and briefings and realities. Maybe they'd think of something.