How Writing is Like Math

25 Apr

I’ve decided that writing and math are a lot alike. Let me explain.

I recently got admitted to an MBA program and it’s safe to say I’m beyond excited. Because my bachelor’s degree is in Business, I was expecting all of the foundations classes to be waived. However, two weren’t: Statistics and College Algebra. I took both of these classes as AP credit in high school that my undergraduate university accepted and waved. So, I’ve never taken college-level math. And that’s not going to fly for the MBA program.

I’ll accept that I need to take Statistics. I was 17 when I took the class last. However, seeing ‘College Algebra’ on my list really peeved me. The class is titled MAT 1500, which says to me that it’s a Freshman level class. Come on! I took AP Calculus BC when I was 18 and owned it. I think I can do some basic algebra.

I found out I can take a placement test to have the credit waved. The testing center pointed me to some practice material and I’m planning to take the test on the 30th so I started going through the material. There are three levels: A, B, and C. I need to get 38 out of 55 questions right, and five of those must be from level C. I did level A: no problems. I read a few questions wrong, had to re-aquatint myself with the laws of exponents and Googled the equation for the vertex of a parabola, but not an issue. I’m feeling good.

I did level B. Now I’m not feeling as good. This class isn’t only Algebra but also Geometry, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus. It’s everything just short of Calculus itself. Now I’m looking up logarithms and radical inequalities and my brain is hurting. But I got through it. A few questions took me a couple tries, but I got through it. Deep breath, on to part C.

And that’s where I gave up the first night. I didn’t remember what an asymptote was, let alone how to find one. I made a neat stack on my desk and went to bed angry at myself and frustrated that I couldn’t figure it out. The next day I tried again, figured out a few more problems, remembered what a Unit Circle was, and promptly ran into another brick wall. At my mom’s advice, I went to the library but the books I got didn’t help much. As of writing this, I haven’t worked on it for 24 hours and I’m looking at the stack on my desk with dread.

And here is where I started to draw parallels.When I was in high school, I wrote fanfiction. I had a decent following and I was confident in my writing. When I finished college, I started writing again, thinking it would be easy for me to jump into again. But I was so wrong.

I started my first draft with the same enthusiasm I had with section A. It was easy and I would stay up late working on it like I would with my fanfiction in high school. No one could stop me before I typed ‘THE END.’ It might cost me sleep and mental health for a few weeks, but I’d make it. And I did. My first manuscript is just under 50,000 words and I’m very proud of it. Then I did another first draft during NaNoWriMo, proving to myself I could do this part and do it well. No one could get in my way.

With my Novel Girls friends, I went through a chapter-by-chapter edit of the first manuscript, finding small things to change and moving chapters around if needed. No big changes, but a better product on the other side. It was like Part B in the math review: it was a little harder, but still I could get through it with a bit of help. No big deal.

But re-writes have stopped me. It’s like trigonometry where I look at it and am so overwhelmed that I just put the paper back where I found it, pretending it hasn’t moved at all. The print out of my NaNo is on my shelf, waiting to be read and marked up in red. It’s going to be a lot of hard work that I don’t feel like doing. And unlike the math test, there’s no deadline hanging over my head pushing me to finish it.

For the placement test, I have a plan. I have tools and resources to tackle these killer problems. I have someone to turn to if I need help and I have books to research help and tips. I need to study and do well so I can register for classes. My deadline is fixed for math, and I’ve realized I need a fixed deadline for my writing if I’m ever going to apply the same determination to it.

I need a goal for myself. I need to put my foot down and decide that editing my NaNo is going to happen the same way re-learning trigonometry is going to happen. Be my witness here: I will do a second draft before I start MBA classes in August. That gives me four months to finish what I wrote in 20 days. I’ve got this. Right?

My tools are set: I have a printed version of the manuscript, a few good friends to beta read when the time comes, pens, sticky notes, note cards, and determination. Look out world, I’m about to go math on this manuscript.

 

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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