Essay Tips for the
Rest of Your Life!
Myth to Science Fiction
23 November 2009
Essays are creative documents of critical thought
Thought, not summary, is at the heart of every successful
You must be sensitive to your:
Prompt (which ideas should you discuss?)
Audience (how much do they already know?)
Work (where will you find evidence to support your
Passion (why write something you don’t enjoy writing…or
expect your reader to enjoy it any more than you do?)
Form (how will your writing stand apart from the other
hundred papers submitted on the same day?)
Voice (how will you project conviction and confidence?)
Organization (how will your structure enhance your
Word Choice (how will your words strengthen your
Conventions (how will you make this look like an essay?)
Your essays will ultimately be graded
according to six different categories
Some teachers weigh some categories
more heavily; I give the most
consideration to the first three
This goes in your “Conventions” score
Make sure you have:
Heading (date in proper format + period)
Indentation for each paragraph
Italicized titles (essay + book)
Appropriate block quotes and citations
Make sure you avoid:
Blank lines between your heading, title, and
Odd spacing/tabbing between paragraphs
Placing your header on the right side of the
Formatting easily differentiates research
from original thought
Allows me (and others) to double-check
Standardizes papers across classes,
especially in college
Different disciplines = different formats, so learn
as many as you can!
Demonstrates care and attention to detail
Looks attractive, polished, and finalized
Basic Tech Specs
Most of you will turn papers in to turnitin.com
Some teachers (myself, for example) read the
turnitin.com file instead of the printed copy
When uploading to turnitin.com, upload the actual
file instead of cutting and pasting; pasting your
text into the window strips your MLA formatting
(and kills your Conventions score!)
If you do print your essays, print your hard copies
on white computer paper with black ink! (Glossy
paper feels weird and is hard to mark up, and
different colors don’t do good things to our aging
Basic Tech Specs II
Times New Roman, 12-point font
Set your line-spacing to “Double” and your
spacing to 0 pt on both “Before” and “After”
Margins are 1” on all sides
Page numbers should be a header a half-inch from
the top in the upper-right hand corner, and include
your last name (“Feraco 1”)
You should only hit the space bar once after each
sentence. See? Not like this. And definitely not
like this. Boo.
Indent each paragraph by hitting “Tab” once
All of you know what plagiarism is at
this point; plagiarized papers aren’t
crimes of ignorance.
(Well, they are, in a way…)
Write your own papers – don’t “write them
with someone else.”
Why would we want to grade two highly
Make your citations clear – don’t even
paraphrase without mentioning your
I tend to take cheating personally…and
you don’t want that to happen
Minimum page length means minimum page
length – it’s not optional!
For example, if I assign a minimum-four-page
essay, you won’t earn higher than a C on the
paper if you turn in something that isn’t at least
Remember, a B is an “above-average” paper, and an
A is “absolutely outstanding – a cut above”
A paper that can’t even bother to meet the minimum
page length is neither above-average nor absolutely
So Should I Pad My Papers?
If you are struggling, don’t repeat yourself, don’t
write “filler,” and don’t start trying to mess with
your spacing (we know how to find mistakes!)
Do some more research so you can explore the points
you’re trying to make in greater depth.
After all, a “four-page paper” is two single-spaced pages
(which is why I always write my papers in single-spaced
format at first – it feels shorter!), or roughly 88 to 92
This doesn’t even take block quotes into account!
With all this said, don’t be afraid to exceed the minimum
requirement – just make sure that you have a
compelling reason for writing a longer piece
Any good analytical essay features a compelling thesis –
this is where you attack the “Ideas” score
The thesis tells the reader what they’re going to read
Your thesis must:
Contain the specific purpose for your essay – the point
you’re trying to prove, the topic you’re exploring, etc.
Be clear and concise; an overly wordy or confusing
thesis will disrupt the reading experience
Be original; if the point you’re making has already been
made a hundred times before, why bother writing three
pages about it?
Address the prompt. (If you can choose from several
prompts, your thesis should indicate which you’ve
Good Research Will Save You
You’re supposed to research your subject as you
write so your essays won’t be shallow.
If you’re reading a book, watching a movie,
listening to an album…chances are that
someone’s already done so and written about it
(especially if it’s a famous work)
Who wants to read a surface-level essay of “The
Matrix?” I can just pull up a movie review and call
it a day. (For that matter, a movie review wouldn’t
even pass muster; you’re English students, and
you can do better!)
We’re trying to express original thoughts in our
papers – and we can only do that by digging below
the surface (which represents the obvious).
This Seems Like a Lot of Work
Not only is original thought more interesting
to read, but it’s more fun to write as well
It sounds sappy, but hard work only irritates
you when it seems meaningless
Let’s face it – it’s more fun to produce
something you’re proud of than something you
just finished to get a grade.
What’s more, if you only write in order to earn a
grade, you’ll earn a better one by working
harder, writing better, and digging deeper.
Research provides you with a second foundation
for your writing
We all head into our essays with preconceptions –
whether they be our opinions about a topic, our
interpretations of what we just read/heard/saw, etc. –
and most people write their essays as a way of further
justifying these preconceptions.
The truly wonderful thing about research is that it can
both support your views and adjust them; in other
words, your opinions and ideas can change for the
better if you gain more knowledge!
Think of the information you know when you first sit
down to write as a primary foundation – and think of
the information you discover through research as its
Using Your Research
Your main point should be clear – and you should
prove something conclusive with your writing.
To that end, it’s important to remember that clarity
is more critical to a paper than anything outside of
the main argument; if a writer doesn’t express
himself or herself clearly, the essay becomes
nearly impossible to read!
This doesn’t just apply to sentence mechanics
(although it does apply to that), but to the
issues/topics/works you’re exploring.
Your research makes it easier to make clear points
by providing a framework for your thoughts.
While Using Research
That framework is most valuable when it’s
on the written page – which means, at some
point, that you need to insert someone
else’s words within your own.
Those quotes add legitimacy to your
argument or analysis (depending on which
type of paper you’re writing)
But how do you go about doing this?
Sources: Good as Gold
Use proper sources – the prime source
is the best source
NO SparkNotes, MegaEssays, BookRags,
PinkMonkey, etc. may be used
NO Wikipedia entries may be used
NO clearly amateur sources – using
Google may hurt more than help
Intelligent students (especially
undergraduates) quickly learn to:
Read books more than once
Research / read literary criticism
Listen carefully during lectures
A parenthetical citation includes two parentheses,
the author’s last name, and the page number
When the quote acts as the last part of your
sentence, write the quote, follow it with the
parenthetical, and finish with the end mark.
Orwell states that “everything is hopeless” (Orwell 6).
When the quote lies in the middle of your
sentence, you still put the punctuation after your
Orwell states that “everything is hopeless” (Orwell 6),
but Winston’s experiences in the Prole Quarter
If you’re citing the same work twice in a row, you
don’t have to write the name again
In-Text Citations II
If you’re using multiple sources in the same
sentence, you may combine the parentheticals:
(Orwell 6; Fromm 315)
If there’s no obvious author, you may use a
shortened version of the work’s title instead of the
author’s last name
Do the same thing if you’re citing two works from the
Use the first initial and last name of authors if
you’re citing different writers with the same last
name: (M. Feraco 17) (S. Feraco 23)
Italicize the titles of longer works, and place the
titles of songs, poems, films, articles, and other
shorter pieces in “quotation marks.”
No more underlining titles (as of March 2009)
In-Text Citations III: Blocks
For quotes that are longer than three full lines of
your page, you’ll use a block quote
The entire block quote is indented one inch (two
Tabs!) from the left margin, and is still doublespaced
You don’t use quotation marks, and you put your
citation after the period
If you’re cutting words out of a quote (especially in
a block quote), use … (an ellipsis) to show that
you’ve made the change
If you’re replacing words or letters, use a [brack]et
Quote Insertion and Usage
We spoke earlier about the mechanics of
writing out a quote; here’s how you use
them (or, in this case, don’t use them).
Quotes should never be blankly inserted
into an essay.
Quotes should not need to be followed by
sentences summarizing and explaining
Quotes should never be followed directly by
another quote; your words should always
separate one quote from another.
Example of Quote Insertion
Many of Pound’s alterations cannot be traced back
to linguistic misunderstandings; rather, they stem
from his decision to serve as an “inspired but
unreliable translator” (Kenner 199). In The Pound
Era, Hugh Kenner argues that Pound’s seemingly
haphazard translation style in Cathay is in fact
meticulous and calculated, and that the
translations themselves give him the means to his
ultimate end: to force himself to “rethink the
nature of an English poem” (199) through the
simultaneous application of three literary
Notice that I never interrupted the flow of my
words in order to include the quotes
They simply belong where they belong within the
Example of Paraphrasing
Roland Barthes draws an important distinction between
what he deems “classical” and “modern” language. He
defines classical language – the language used in poems
before the Modernist movement – as having continuous,
linear meaning. Meaning and context are important, the
syntax is “proper” – going from one end of the sentence to
the other, front to back – and readers can understand the
familiar flow of the language. Modern language, therefore,
strips its words of their meanings in order to give each one
“a magical power; it has become complete in itself, a
revelation in its own recesses…It is a mark of such words
that we cannot read them, but they read us, they affront us
by presenting their significance in relation to themselves.”
(It’s usually a good idea to cite your paraphrases as well as
What Else Do These Slides Show?
As you may have already guessed, I tend to write
longer, complicated sentences.
I’ve been practicing with shorter sentences for a while
It never hurts to have both!
Also, the first slide shows why you need a clear
and fairly specific thesis
The paper was written for a Pound expert who already
understood the subject well (the notorious Prof. Ronk)
How many of you could have guessed that the
paragraph contained my thesis?
This wasn’t necessarily easy to read, but I’m more
concerned with whether you understand why I’m doing
what I do
Why Do We Need the Thesis?
Besides the fact that you need to focus on
something in order to write well, your paper
should be structured in a way that encourages the
reader to continue
A poorly-structured essay forces the reader to go in
reverse, to check what they’ve already read in order to
find their way again
A good thesis should contain elements from the ideas
that form the structure of your body paragraphs – but
it doesn’t have to include everything!
When it comes to determining your structure (and
thesis), know your reader! I knew that intro would
hook Ronk, but I would have written that sentence
much differently had I been writing it for you guys!
“Even though many are in the mindset that
homework helps reinforce student learning,
homework should be banned in schools all
across the country because students
consider it busy work, it causes stress, and
it does not cause significant academic
What’s Good About That Thesis?
We know what the paper will be about
We know how the five paragraphs will be
We know the author’s stance
What Should Be Fixed?
It’s really, really long.
It’s overly specific!
What links exist between those topics?
If you can find links, you can shorten your thesis!
What’s the main thrust of this paper going to be?
While it’s strong in many ways, it can be
streamlined and enhanced – particularly since the
main thrust of the paper (homework should be
banned because it isn’t effective) is so much
simpler than the actual thesis
In fact, that sentence works (to an extent)!
Fluff n’ Stuff
Applying this “streamlining” principle to the rest
of your writing can help you cut down on fluff!
While fluff makes for excellent padding (hence
down comforters, pillows, etc.), it’s not nearly as
useful when used to fill space
Think of a hamburger: Awesome.
Think of cotton candy: Awesome (in small
Think of a hamburger covered with cotton candy
Fluff is deadly to write and read; the act of writing
it bores you and saps your creativity, while
audiences reading your work will feel alienated or
Streamlining the Jumbo Jet
This isn’t to suggest that the long, lyrical sentence
be permanently laid to rest
If this were the case, how could I continue writing my
I love long sentences – provided they’re long for a
I’m merely pointing out that simplicity is not (in
and of itself) “bad”
In fact, some of you need to work on “simplifying”
While many of you spent a lot of time building up your
vocabularies in preparation for the SATs, you’ll find
that you won’t always use “SAT words” appropriately
The Careful Balance
Young writers have to walk something of a
On the one hand, instructors often urge you to
expand your vocabulary, to diversify your word
choice, to avoid repetition
You also won’t know how or when to use your
new words without putting them in context –
and doing so takes practice, which isn’t always
However, it’s important for you to grasp the
concept of synonyms as imperfect matches
Not every synonym is interchangeable!
Remember, the person you describe can be either
“wide” or “enormous” – which will you use?
Big v. Huge v. Tall, Case No. 17
Technically speaking, “big,” “tall,” and “huge” all
refer to “great size.”
However, the connotations of “tall” and “huge” are
“Huge” seems to imply “massive”
“Tall” implies nothing about the thickness or width
of the object’s frame; it merely means said object
has “great height”
If you wanted to discuss your subject’s build,
you’d use “huge” (maybe); if you wanted to
discuss his height, you’d use “tall.”
As you can see, the two aren’t necessarily
Always consider context and connotation while
A Few Other Little Things
We’ve spent time going over stuff that really
stands out in an essay – theses, formatting
issues, diction, etc.
How about some aspects of writing that you
may not have thought about lately?
Some papers featured a great deal of tense
This isn’t necessarily a huge problem from
paragraph to paragraph, although it certainly
isn’t a habit you’ll want to develop
However, tense changes within a sentence can
throw your readers
It’s the equivalent of putting on a left-turn signal
before making a hard right – if you give readers the
opposite of what they expect, they may swerve off!
Navigating the Winding Passages
While paragraph structure forms the backbone of
essay-writing, most writers don’t think about a
“maximum” length for their paragraphs
In fact, most young writers are far more concerned
with meeting a minimum length requirement for each
However, you should try to have at least two
paragraphs per page (as something of a general,
If you’re paying attention to this rule, you probably
won’t end up writing repetitive paragraphs; most
page-length paragraphs simply move in circles, or
inflate their length with unnecessary block quotes.
The Brightest Bulb Burned Out
At its core, paragraph structure is about
keeping your ideas in the proper “order”
While all of your ancillary ideas will be linked by
the central concept of the paper (the thesis),
you’ll probably want to follow a specific/linear
“path” while writing them down
Remember to include one big idea per
paragraph (and a four-page paper gives you
space for several body passages)
Dig at Us
Once you’ve established your ideas, it’s
time to really dig in, really sink your teeth
into them, and explore!
Remember to explore one idea at a time; if
you jump from concept to concept too
quickly, your audience may feel disoriented
Think about how jarring it’s felt when I’ve been
switching topics between slides without
including transitions – or transition statements!
Even Diamonds Start As Coal
Don’t be satisfied with a sentence after writing it
for the first time!
You’ll want to keep some of them, of course – but
many great sentences began their existences as
inferior, messier statements
Be willing to revisit your work multiple times – not
so often that the words start bleeding together (or,
alternately, so many times that everything you
write suddenly seems terrible), but often enough
to reassure yourself that the essay you’re turning
in represents your finest effort.
Break away from the rough/final model – multiple
Learn to Breathe
However, don’t do all of this the first time you write
You have to be willing to get the words down on the page
before you can start worrying about how they look as part
of the whole.
If you don’t, you might forget something that you really want
Don’t sacrifice your original thoughts because you’re
trying to be a perfectionist on your first pass
Once the words are on the page, you can edit them,
rearrange them, etc. – but you have to get a rough draft out
It’s hard for many young writers to feel comfortable with
simply writing what they’re thinking
It takes practice!
So far, we’ve gone over:
Theses (Structure and Intent)
MLA Formatting/Paragraph Structure
Necessity of a Rough Draft/Multiple Drafts
Not a bad way to start!
These are the elements you should concentrate on
during your first couple of drafts – honing your
purpose, getting the words out, and moving forward
to the end of the paper
This gives your paper a sense of momentum –
On the Brink of Disaster
After you’ve done all of this – established a
thesis, mapped your ideas out, written out
some rough sentences, streamlined your
writing a bit, explored some concepts at a
deeper level, revised your rough draft – you
should be on your way.
However…what happens if the revision
reveals disaster? What if your paper is too
short now? What if it’s uninteresting? What
if your statements feel flimsy and
Hint: Revision usually reveals these things!
Not to Worry!
Again, at the end of this draft – maybe your
first, maybe your second – you’ve fulfilled
your length requirement (more or less),
you’ve written out your main ideas, and you
know why you’re writing (as well as where
you’re taking the paper)
Now it’s time for a different sort of edit
We call this the “blow-up” edit
Didn’t You Rant About Padding?
Yes, but this is different.
It’s not uncommon to fall short of the length
requirement after a good, rigorous edit –
you’ve tightened up your language,
emphasized important points, and
eliminated your fluff. That’ll knock out a
great deal of any rough draft!
You’re a stoneworker, chipping away at marble –
there’s almost no reason for a final draft to be
longer than a full rough draft
Fortunately, this is where you can start
adding evidence, and continue digging
deeper from there!
I write my essays in a variety of ways.
Sometimes I begin by typing every quote I could
possibly use for my paper
This leaves me with a few pages of quoted
material in an “evidence bank” before a single
original word escapes my brain, and helps me
remember what I want to write about as I go.
This makes it easier to insert quotes seamlessly
into my writing as well; if I’m reviewing a
paragraph, I’ll refer back to the “bank” and look
for quotes that support my words
I’ll often delete some of my own words and replace
them with a quote – but that “replacement” ensures
that the quote will mesh well with the pre-existing
Take It to the Bank
The Evidence Bank may sound like a lot of extra
work to you, and it isn’t something everyone will
want to use.
However, if you’re the type of writer who struggles
to incorporate evidence, or who doesn’t like to
interrupt your own writing with someone else’s
words, this is a nice trick.
It makes quote insertion easy – and you’ll never
lack support for an argument.
In fact, you can write your entire rough draft
without any evidence, then insert your quotes,
piece by piece, during the intermediate drafting
Will you end up deleting most of what you’ve
typed? Yes – lots of the quotes you just typed will
eventually disappear, as will much of your own
While this may initially strike you as a colossal
waste of time, you can’t get too attached to your
words during the drafting stage!
You have to be willing to delete the words you’ve
worked so hard to write, even if you’re worried you
won’t hit your minimum length requirement
After all, we’re in the business of writing effectively
– and no one writes perfectly the first time
Again, if you have the chance to make a diamond,
you have to be willing to sacrifice some coal – even
a lot of coal
Let It Go
Don’t be surprised if your final drafts bear
little resemblance to your rough drafts from
This is the hallmark of a mature writer
I’m hard-pressed to think of a single
professional writer whose initial drafts look
anything like their finished products (which
is one of the reasons I’d kill for a chance to
read Fitzgerald’s original Great Gatsby)
I do realize that you’re students – but now is
as good a time as any to practice excellent
Make sure your sentences flow into one another
reasonably well – avoid “forks in the road!”
Avoid run-on sentences
Don’t drown your paper in block quotes – your writing
is the most important part of the essay
Beware of hyperbole and qualifiers
Monitor sentence variety
Monitor your focus; if your focus differs from your
thesis, edit the thesis!
Let someone else look at your paper; we’re our own
worst editors, especially since most of us are
reluctant to read our own work aloud to ourselves
Avoid first-/second-person perspectives in formal
Polish, polish, polish!
The Sample Essay
This paper came from a senior from last year’s Search for
Human Potential class
It’s not an incredible paper – it has strengths and weaknesses, most
of which you can find on your own – but it’s really solid, and it was
the first paper this student had written for me
It’s about Siddhartha, a book by Hermann Hesse about one
man’s lifelong journey for spiritual enlightenment
Notice the degree to which the author assumes I’ve read
the book before – how much summary is there?
It’s usually safe to assume that your teacher/reader knows
the plot of your book, but that they’re ignorant about the
details – and especially about the deeper significance of
In other words, assume they have a shallow understanding
– and that you’re an expert
The titular character of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha is
defined in large part by his refusal to let anyone into his life,
including his father, his best friend, and his lover. Basically,
the typical relationships people value seem to mean little to
him. He maintains a distance from those who care for him
in order to avoid pain, and he reaches adulthood without
ever truly loving anyone. Yet this detachment dissolves
once Siddhartha discovers he has unwittingly fathered a
son. As a younger man, Siddhartha resists his father,
overwhelming the older man’s wishes for him with his own
desire to leave; upon doing so, Siddhartha promises to
return, a promise he breaks. When his own son abandons
him, Siddhartha discovers a pain beyond the scope of his
fears. This is not a simple case of irony and poetic justice.
Hesse lets Siddhartha experience both love and heartache
so he can understand what it means to connect with the
world, and it is not until he can truly empathize with
common people’s experiences that he can achieve what he
seeks – nirvana, peace, and understanding.
Siddhartha’s journey towards nirvana is
born of frustration, longing, and
unhappiness. He feels he has nothing left to
learn from the elders in his village, and he
craves a more meaningful existence. He
does not want his father to love him, and he
cannot live that simple and pure life; he
needs the “real” world of desire and the
ability to walk his own path. In the end,
Siddhartha’s father lets him go, even though
it breaks his heart to do so, because he
understands that people must be allowed to
This lesson eludes Siddhartha when life reverses the
role he plays. Despite young Siddhartha’s greatest efforts
to break away from his father, Siddhartha doesn’t want to
let him go; he cannot bring himself to accept that his son
needs to go out and learn from his own mistakes. Instead,
he tried to protect his son from feeling the pain that life
brings, to instill his wisdom into his child in a safe
environment. This, of course, goes against his own beliefs,
and Hesse stresses that parents – teachers – cannot
transfer wisdom to those they teach: “…I have little faith in
words that come to us from teachers” (Hesse 18). But
Siddhartha is blind to this; by breaking through his
defenses, his son changes the way Siddhartha acts. No
matter how hard his son pushes him away, Siddhartha
remains, adamant, with the blind love that only a father can
have for his son. When his best attempts fail, his son
abandons him, leaving Siddhartha with the same heartache
he had given his own father.
The father/son relationship is crucial to Siddhartha’s
character development. His detachment from the world
limits him in the end because he becomes a bystander in
his own life. He harms people by pushing them away: he
leaves his father son-less, Govinda friend-less, and Kamala
love-less. He considers himself above all desires, and “he
[sees] people living in a childish or animal-like way, which
he both love[s] and despise[s]” (Hesse 57). Siddhartha
even claims he cannot love. Yet one must relate to the
world, understand the world, and participate in the world in
order to achieve enlightenment – which is, in the end, what
Siddhartha seeks. In other words, he has to love and lose
in order to understand the final element of his life’s
meaning. That is the gift his son unintentionally gives him;
this is the only relationship where Siddhartha allows
himself to have something to lose, and he loses.
Indeed, Siddhartha’s distance is a reflection of
something deeper: his desire for control, whether
over his body, his spirit, or his circumstances. He
breaks away from the life prescribed to him as the
Brahmin’s son; he pulls himself away from the
Elder Samana; he resists temptation at the river;
he even returns from the ashes after attempting
suicide. Even at that low moment, Siddhartha
never loses control. Ultimately, he controls his
suicidal impulses. There seems to be nothing,
inside or outside of himself, that Siddhartha
cannot control. Then he meets his son, and he
finds that love requires more than affection. It
requires one to leave oneself vulnerable, to place
some control in the hands of another. It is a
terrifying bargain, but Siddhartha enters into it
Siddhartha’s discovery that he cannot
control his son any more than his own
father could control him is illuminating.
Once he discovers love and vulnerability,
Siddhartha necessarily discovers fear, and
he comes to realize how each concept is
interwoven with the others. He pits his
knowledge against his hope, which in turn
clashes with his fears. Hesse notes that
even once Siddhartha understands he
cannot coexist with his son, “stronger than
his knowledge was his love for the boy, his
devotion, his fear of losing him” (Hesse 99).
He cannot control his son; he cannot make
him love him back.
This failed relationship highlights human nature at its
rawest form. It brings out in Siddhartha the love and care a
father has for his child. His son, in turn, embodies
rebellion, the part of human beings that wants to be free.
The tender love and care that Siddhartha provides for his
son gives evidence that Siddhartha is human, and not
much different than everyone else; the distance between
Siddhartha and the world has been bridged. “So childishly
and illogically did he now reason; so much had he become
like the ordinary people” (Hesse 4). While Siddhartha’s
detachment initially leaves him unable to relate to or
empathize with the struggles of the common man, harming
those who only try to help him on his way, Hesse stresses
that no one can achieve enlightenment without that sense
of empathy. One must be able to love in order to reach
nirvana. In a way, the son acts like a flashlight for
Siddhartha because he shows him the things that he has
refused to experience – the things that are critical to his
ability to reach that final understanding.
Hesse shows that Siddhartha spends his
life searching for things that lie just beyond
where he is willing to look, and his son
helps him open his eyes. He could have
loved his father or he could have loved
Kamala, but he never truly cares for anyone
before his son abandons him. This final trial
– the trial that, at first blush, Siddhartha fails
– ultimately results in his greatest triumph:
the understanding that eludes most men for
Love what you write. Seriously!
Take pride in the work you’re spending so much time
creating, revising, and perfecting.
At the end of the day, I know most of you care about
the grade you’ll earn on a paper; I know most of you
care about the grade you’ll earn in a class.
I agree that both of these are important
However, you won’t necessarily remember whether
you got a B or a B+ a few years from now; you might
just remember the rush you got when you finished a
piece that made you proud, or the day something
about the writing process finally “clicked” for you.
Never fear to be great!