Causal Arguments – Sammy Kovnat

Stress: Inducing Brilliance

Massive amounts of stress, coupled with confinement were the catalysts that caused Anne Frank to reach her full literary potential at such a young age.

Anne Frank was trapped. Stuck in an annex, hiding to stay alive, yet slowly being driven to sickness and depression with no cure in sight. The amount of time that she and the other annex residents were going to spend in hiding was unknown to them. They holed themselves up to hide from “certain death,” only to realize that they holed themselves up for “uncertain, ever looming, slippery as a snake” death that could come knocking at any moment. One creak of a floor board could mean the end. They were stuck in a situation that could be compared to walking barefoot through a minefield of broken glass 24 hours a day; one false move and they could slice open their feet, be heard, get caught, and meet Death.

When most people endure this kind of stressful, high pressure level of confinement, and anxiety, many who do not have an outlet for their pain and fear could go mad; But Anne Frank had an outlet. Anne Frank had a diary that began as a simple “Friend,” someone to make her feel like someone in the world connected to, and understood her. She without realizing had started the project of journaling about her life, and then, months in, came to realize that what she had in her hands was pure gold; any writer’s dream material. Anne was surrounded by a situation so rare, and fascinating that it was sure to be material that people would want to read. She became more aware of how important her diary was now, and began funneling her creative powers into editing, and dare I say “shaping” her once innocent diary into a piece of art with a voice and structure to her writing that flowed seamlessly, chronicling the everyday life of those struggling to survive in the Annex.

Many creative people flourish within environments fueled by the ever shifting sandbags of stress, and impending deadlines. These conditions cause them to constantly produce work of high quality, and even have strokes of genius within their creative endeavours. We see it in writers, struggling to meet deadlines for their book, needing to be sent out for publication; we see it in artists, pushing themselves to the brink, staying up all hours of the night to finish the paintings for a gallery exhibit a week away; we see it in Anne, a girl with no deadline, no date to work up to, no certain day of stress relief on the horizon. She was an artist with enough stress for 20 people, the constant loom of certain death, and a creative mission that became her “lifeboat”. This framework became the catalyst that induced Annes brilliant literary mind power to magnify and help her to undergo the project of writing, editing, and intelligently shaping her Diary into what we (generally) know it as today.

Within the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, It has been said that if you spend 10,000 hours doing anything, you can become an expert in it. If we apply his concept to what we can assume Annes work schedule in the annex was, we can make a relatively educated guess that from the start of her writing in her diary on June 12 1942, to August 3rd (the day before the annex was discovered)  Anne had been keeping a diary for 753 days, which translates into 18072 hours. Knowing the amount of time Anne had to edit, and write in her diary, it can be safe to say that by the time she had made a conscious decision to publish her diary in late March 1944, she had already spent 10,000 hours just writing alone, and once she kicked herself into over drive, and began editing, rewriting, and engrossing herself fully into her work, the high level of intensity and stress caused her skill set to mature far rapidly that an average 15 year olds writing level at this time.

Each and everyone of us is sensitive to extremities. It is trauma, and unfortunate circumstances that often time shape and educate us in ways school never could. Author Malcolm Gladwell also states in an interview that ” we learn more from extreme circumstances than anything else; disasters tell us something about the way we think and behave that we can’t learn from ordinary life…It’s those who lie outside ordinary experience who have the most to teach us.” This Statement alone, gives readers a touch of insight into why Anne’s Diary became something so thoroughly appreciated, and sought after.

By the end of March 1944 Anne knew that the diary was her one shot at becoming a writer, she could no longer look towards the future and hope that becoming a writer was a future goal; she must become a writer now. She had in her possession quite possibly the greatest writing material ever found, she felt the pressure and responsibility to tell this story, to share her voice with the world.

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2 Responses to Causal Arguments – Sammy Kovnat

  1. kovnat77 says:

    If you get any time before thursday id appreciate your thoughts on this! Don’t sweat it if you are too packed though!

  2. davidbdale says:

    God made these hours between 2 and 6 am just for me and my students, Sammy. Welcome to my favorite time. (Granted, you were asking about last Thursday, but still . . . . 🙂 )
    P1. I can’t say why, but I do love a thesis that boldly announces itself in a sentence at the very top of the page.

    P2. Trapped yes. But before you hint that she’ll soon be raving, a reminder that you want to prove her increasing maturity and control over her material. “The amount of time that she.” Fails for grammar Rule 7. This is nice and creepy, but snakes don’t knock. They slide in under the door and curl themselves around you in your bed. Walking barefoot on eggshells just means they had to step carefully. It doesn’t begin to express the dire consequences of being heard walking.

    P3. See what I mean? Now you have to retract your hint about her going mad. Don’t make it in the first place. “any writer’s” It does not become less eery to consider Anne’s “material” as the stuff of art, no matter how many times we consider it, does it? We’re talking about it as if it were comprehensible to be trapped in an attic by Nazis and to conceive of that as a gift.

    In your rebuttal essay, and again here, you offer us “art that flowed seamlessly” as evidence, Sammy, but without helping us understand that claim. It would help us to know whether you mean she smoothed out the details of her narratives to make them fit a page, or she provided nice segues from night into the next day’s entry, or she went back and edited her more innocent and youthful entries to not conflict with her preternaturally quickly maturing later style. Your “dare I say” is a charming reminder that your thesis may affront many readers who don’t want their Anne Frank to be so aware of herself.

    P4. Sandbags of stress can certainly weigh us down, but they cannot be fuel. I’ve given you time to say the impossible or nearly impossible, Sammy. You’re working very close to it here but without quite saying it. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I do want to offer you this possibility. Anne’s deadline was certain, as inevitable as death, but dateless. It might be months away, or it might be as sudden as a knock at the door. Her deadline was always right now.

    P5. Outliers is not a novel. Anne’s (what is it with you and aopostrophes?) 15-year-old’s (apostrophes and hyphens) 🙂

    This is a good idea, Sammy, but you have us calculating to see if she’ll make it to 10,000 hours instead of starting from the premise that not all hours are equal. You get there: the intensity and stress speed up the clock in your last sentence. Gladwell claimed 10,000 was the number, but he didn’t reckon a teenager could pack an hour into every ten minutes.

    P6. The strategy here is ALWAYS to prepare your reader in advance to feel the significance of the material you’re about to quote. Explanations after sound forced, like buying flowers for yourself and then pretending you meant them as a gift. Start with the claim that the diary is essential as a reminder that we are all vulnerable to extremity; then tip in the Gladwell quote to drive your own point home. (Hide the flowers behind your back while you say” I have something for you.”)

    P7. Say this twice, not three times. You can choose which two. Your last sentence is too long to no effect. On March 28, 1944 she heard a broadcast asking for diaries. She had one she had thought of as hers. The broadcast convinced her it belonged to the world. Helpful?

    I’ve enjoyed this collaboration as much as any I can recall, Sammy. I hope you don’t mind my thinking of it that way. I’m proud of where you’ve come.

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