An Essay on Andrea Barrett by an English 1A Student

In one hour, I explained Andrea Barrett‘s essay “Why We Go” to my English 1A class at xxxxx community college. Then I gave them a timed in-class writing exercise: Explain her process to me. You have 30 minutes.

I have been doing this for four weeks now, so the students pretty much know the drill and there were only a few complaints.

This evening I pulled a big stack of papers out of my satchel and sat down to begin grading them (While watching The Closer. First time to catch an episode in its entirety, Kyra Sedgwick absolutely terrific, has very expressive mouth.).

Here is Sean M’s essay. His teachers never told him he could write. But this boy really, really CAN:

When describing her first experiences with “rolling”, a paddle method employed in kayaking, Barrett states that the act of repetition is crucial for any enjoyment or enlightenment to take place. Similarly, when writing, Barrett engages in vast amounts of research and writes draft after draft until she is satisfied.

An elaborate process of gathering facts, mixing them with her imagination, and then laying them out to experience is evident both in Barrett’s writing as well as her adventures. She describes both these experiences, however, as conflicting with her desires and goals.

In “Why We Go”, Barrett describes how she almost died on one of her kayaking trips. Why go through such a difficult process of learning when the experience itself can kill you so easily? Why go through so much difficult, grueling research and drafting, just to create a story? The repetition, along with other elements involved in the process, makes the experience worthwhile. Most of the satisfaction we achieve from our experiences comes from the process, comes from the ability to do it again and again. Often something will happen that disorients and disrupts the process and thus possibly ruins the experience. Choosing what to take from these occurrences and figuring out how they made you feel, however, completes the experience.

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