Postscript: Spotlight on Jonathan Pearson, a Published Author
In tracing this now-published author’s intellectual development as he pursed his evolving text and project, I think it is best to end this study with Jonathan’s words. When asked to give advice to aspiring writers, this published author was particularly articulate. According to Jonathan, writers should know that “it takes time and energy if you want a finished product you’re pleased with—it doesn’t matter if it’s writing a book or recording an album.” He noted that “perfection isn’t possible in this life, but we can certainly push toward that goal.” Jonathan also underscored the benefits of collaborating with mentors, adding that “one of the best things about working with professors is what you learn from them.” As Jonathan explained:
The best ones are able to point out what needs to happen in a story or essay in a way we’re able to conceptualize. Once we achieve that level of mature ability, we can pass it along to others trying to do the same thing. Thus, we reap the rewards of having learned something new, improved our own gifts and helped someone else—it’s a triple treat.6
Some of Jonathan's advice for writers is reminiscent of Patti Hanlon-Baker’s approach to working with him: “If you want to push yourself as a writer, you have to constantly write.” Jonathan also sounds a bit like Patti when he says that “It doesn’t matter what your gifts and talents are—if you want to play an instrument or dance or sing—you have to practice. Repetition is the key to achieving your goal.”
This ability to consider and work through the varied—and sometimes critical—perceptions of others underscores the idea that writing on a subject one is passionate about can be as stimulating as it is complicated. On the one hand the activity of repetition, mentioned by Jonathan and Patti as a key strategy to success, pertains to passion in that repeatedly reading, thinking, talking and writing about a subject you love can become one of its most enduring pleasures. Repetition may serve emotional and intellectual intensity and curiosity, thereby fueling the ongoing desire to pursue and revise one’s textual and emotional project through ongoing drafts, conversations, and public or private performances. The paradox is that a writer’s intense, enduring passion for a subject can become both key and lock. Passion is a provocative pass key when it serves as an entry portal and as an ongoing fuel source (with many contributors like Jane and Patti) for continued thinking, reading, and writing. Yet that same passion can become an intellectual lock when a writer’s strong opinion and project (the wish to defend, lionize, advocate or achieve redress for someone or some thing) obscures or occludes their vision, thus complicating the ability to experience or express a necessary critical distance from the work.
Reflecting on this nexus of passion as perspective, Jonathan shared more aspects of his transition from passionate researcher to public and published author. He recalled that in “every new draft I would see the areas I needed to work on and which areas I didn’t need at all. Of course, having a set of objective eyes helped me receive honest answers about my paper.” He concluded that “I can’t say I learned anything new about Mrs. [Rodham] Clinton—my research simply confirmed what I already knew: she’s a bright, compassionate and articulate woman.” Jonathan's, central lesson about Hillary Rodham is that “She has worked hard and has remained steadfast in her faith and service to her country. She truly is a survivor.”
There is also a creative (yet not always painless) tension between being resilient enough (having what Jane calls a “tough skin”) to hold on to one’s perspective and being intellectually flexible enough to interrogate and revisit one’s initial assumptions and inscriptions. In making one’s writing more public, the project and the dilemma are to work carefully with others in order to determine viable criteria by which to decide what parts of an argument or text to hold on to and which ones to release—or at least reconsider—in order to maintain “serious intellectual engagement” with, and critical leverage on, a selected topic or approach (Bartholomae & Schilb, 2011, p. 273).
Fortunately, passion can also pay surprising and ongoing dividends when it fuels our interest, curiosity, and excitement in important and unquantifiable ways. Jonathan Pearson’s experience writing for publication in Young Scholars in Writing has inspired him to imagine future scholarly projects. As Jonathan remarked, “I would certainly write another essay.” When asked why, he added, “It’s pretty neat to see my thoughts and ideas turn into something tangible. Everyone who has read it has been very supportive and complimentary. It’s nice to feel that support from others, to feel appreciated for my contribution.”
Beyond evincing a well-justified sense of satisfaction for having worked hard and achieved a high level of success, Jonathan recalled a more lasting insight and an enduring appreciation of the writing and publication process, noting that “It was a humbling experience to start to appreciate something that you’ve done. See it in print—that’s my work.”