Building an Army

armyI hate to admit this, but I failed the first college level paper I ever wrote.

I’m not much of a crier. When my boyfriend broke up with me, I didn’t shed a tear. When precious little Rue died in the arena of the Hunger Games, my eyes were dry. And do you think I cried when my professor returned that ill-fated paper?

You better believe I bawled my eyes out.

I was not upset that I had missed a simple typo in the last paragraph, or that a couple of my points could have been rephrased for clarity. I was not even upset that I had a failing grade.

Along with the unpleasant score came an unexpected note, which can appropriately be called a hate letter. Among other things, the letter falsely accused me of intentional manipulation and racism. My professor’s point was very clear; he did not fail me because my mechanics were inferior or because my paper lacked the right information. He failed me because my opinions—my personal convictions—did not match his own. This blindsided attack on my ideas is what left me in tears, an187548-army-helmetd I believe it is the horror of such a crushing possibility that kills the spirit of most writers, long before they even start.

Writing demands intimacy. No matter what we write, whether it be a research paper, a marketing proposal, or an Amazon review, when words flow from our heads to our hands, a part of our hearts go with it. With intimacy comes vulnerability. In the secret place of our minds, our thoughts are safe. Nobody can judge, criticize, or belittle our ideas as long as we keep them to ourselves. With vulnerably comes fear. Fear is the thing that keeps us from writing what we feel we ought to see. Fear convinces us that we should second-guess our judgments and leave writing to the “experts.”

For obvious reasons, I refuse to support the lie that writing your ideas will never result in rejection. People are going to give hurtful, negative feedback. That is an inevitable part of being human. The good news is, the voices of haters may be loud in decibel, but they are surprisingly few in number. No matter what kind of harsh criticism you’ve faced, you must refuse to let fear control your writing.

The best way to combat fear is with an army. For every person who attacks your ideas, dozens more are willing to defend your work and help you to better form your craft. One professor may have rejected what I had to say, but his or her voice is soldiersonly one of many. Soldiers who fight for my writing range from my mom to a multi-millionaire businessman whom I have yet to meet. These supporters are the voices I chose to listen to.

You, too, must have an army. If you are unsure where to find recruits, start with the University Writing Center. At the UWC, we aren’t paid to rip apart your ideas. No one is going to respond to your writing with a careless hate letter. A good army of advocates won’t tell you your writing is worthless, but they won’t say it’s perfect either. We will point out grammatical errors, ask you to clarify paragraphs, and change your paper to fit formatting standards, but we do this because your writing is worthy of reconstruction, not condemned to demolition. We value the quality of your writing, because whether you realize it or not, your writing reflects who you are. And you, my friend, are more valuable than you may ever know.

Written by Savanna

For more on writing, check out this website: http://www3.dbu.edu/uwc/

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Why Write?

Why should you write?

I mean, other than the fact that you are required to write in order to complete a college degree.  But really.  What’s the point?  Let’s say you’re not an English major, you do not enjoy writing, and you don’t ever plan on writing essays after college.

Well, think again! 

One of the most important benefits of English classes is learning how to communicate efficiently and intelligently, either through writing or through speaking.  Sure, you may not plan on analyzing literature later on in your life, but it is possible that you might have to write business proposals, create a resume, contact other professionals through email, or draft letters and plans for a company.  Essentially, proper communication skills are vital in any profession.  Whether you’re a secretary, teacher, CEO, musician, or waitress, your communication skills will either enhance your career or diminish your career.   Oral communication is of great importance, and learning to structure arguments, compare and contrast, explain, and define information within the context of an essay is great practice for becoming a better rhetorician or communicator.  Or for convincing your friends that Taco Bueno is better than Taco Bell.  So, next time you’re tempted to blow off an assignment because you don’t want to do it, give it a whack anyway.  You never know how something you learn whilst analyzing literature and argument structure will assist you, whether personally or professionally.

Finding Your Voice

Writing, for me, has always been a safe haven. It is my escape route from the world and thoughts that consume my mind. Writing is, for the most part, the only form of communication which I enjoy.

Timages (2)hat being said, I would be lying if I told you that writing is easy. Yes, I know that I am a senior writing consultant in the University Writing Center and that some people think words should automatically flow from my head to my fingers and into the computer, but they don’t. The truth of the matter is that knowing basic grammar rules and how to perfectly format an APA paper is rarely comforting when it comes time to actually sit down and write a paper. In fact, I struggle with academic writing on a daily basis. That’s right; you’re not alone.

One of the greatest struggles that accompany the writing process is finding one’s own voice. Accomplishing this task confuses many people, so you may be thinking, “Well, how in the world am I supposed to do that?” The answer is simple: write.

Writing isn’t as dreadful and excruciating as you might think. In fact, if you’re like me, writing just might turn out to be the only thing that gets you through the day. Instead of solely writing for academic purposes, make it an enjoyable pastime. Journaling, blogging, and writing letters all serve as great gateways into finding your own voice.

Instead of spending hours trying to brainstorm creative subjects to write about, grab a pen and a blank sheet of paper and write whatever comes to mind. Write about things that interest you, topics that you enjoy reading about, or places you have visited in the past. It doesn’t matter what you are writing, as long as you are writing.journal 2

If you share what you have written with others, don’t be afraid to ask them for feedback. Be open to constructive criticism and consider applying what others have said to your writing techniques. Don’t, however, allow harsh remarks to cloud or hinder your voice. The most important thing to remember is this: be yourself.

In academic papers, you want to establish your voice early on, keeping it present throughout. It is common for students to use run-on sentences and fragments in order to showcase their voice, which is why it is important to prove yourself as a strong writer beforehand. You must establish yourself as a capable writer before breaking the rules of grammar.

Increasing the amount of time that you spend writing for your own enjoyment will definitely enhance your abilities as a writer. Writing for yourself enables you to find the voice that may not shine as brightly when writing for bigger audiences. Your voice is important; use it.

-Haley

For more tips on improving your writing, please click here.

Academic-struggle Bus

Are you a frequent rider of the academic-struggle bus? Do you think writing papers is the worst part of college? Do you cry over impending deadlines and dread being given written assignments?

Then this blog post is for you!struggle-bus

First, I want to say I have definitely been there. I’ve procrastinated and pulled all-nighters. I’ve missed deadlines, misplaced rough drafts, misread the directions for assignments. And worst of all, I’ve stared into that awful abyss of an endlessly intimidating blank page, feeling absolutely sure that I would never find worthy words to fill it.

So please believe me when I say this: I know how you feel.

I hated writing for the longest time. And then little by little, I didn’t.

Over the years, particularly the last few of high school and the first few of college, I had to write quite a bit. Even though I didn’t especially love the process, I did love the feeling of accomplishment I got when I finished a paper. I always told myself I was reading my final draft multiple times to check for any errors I’d missed, but in all honesty, I just enjoyed getting to read something I had created.

For me, that was the key that opened my mind to accepting writing as an interesting activity –realizing that writing was creating – that everything I wrote was an entirely new creation and nobody else in the world had ever or would ever arrange the same exact words in the same exact order that I did. Realizing that was amazing to me.

When I started to think of writing as a creative process, I started to see how beautiful it really is, how gifted we really are to have the capability of translating the fluid language of our thoughts into the solid language of our words in writing. That’s how I came to believe that writing is cool.

Sometimes all it takes is a change of perspective.

If creativity isn’t your thing, you can think of it another way. What if you like to argue? Think of writing as arguing. A great deal of the writing you’ll do in college will require an argument of some sort anyway. Writing StruggleEven if you’re writing a compare and contrast essay, you’ll essentially be arguing that two things can be compared and contrasted, and your paper will support that argument with evidence.

What if you like football? You can think of writing a paper like you would think of designing a football play. In football, it’s all about finding the right pattern of moves to reach the endzone without losing the ball. In writing, it’s all about finding the right pattern of words to reach the conclusion without losing the point.

What I’m basically saying is this: whatever you have to do to convince yourself that writing is cool, do it. And as a general rule of life, remember that your attitude will shape your actions. If you spend all day thinking tomorrow will be miserable, it probably will be. If you refuse to think of writing a paper as an opportunity, you will lose the opportunity to enjoy it.

But, if you are confident and excited about your ability to prove your point or reach the endzone or create something new, you’ll enjoy writing a lot more.

 

-Caitlin

For more information on writing an essay please click here.