Letter to the Overwhelmed Writer

Dear Overwhelmed Writer,

First of all, you are not alone. Even the most experienced writers can get bogged down in ideas, sources, and deadlines. I have learned from experience that writing assignments can definitely be stressful. Sometimes the page count is just too daunting, or the right words are hard to find. However, I have some good news: no matter what it is you’re struggling with, it can be overcome.

For starters, a good way to cut down on the stress of writing assignments, no matter what kind, is to go into the writing process with everything already prepared. If the writing process is for a paper, gather all of the sources, quotes, and information ahead of time and have them readily accessible. If you’re writing a story, write out the main idea and make sure that it makes sense and that all the important details are accounted for. Next, outline. Every piece of writing should start as an outline. Any easy way is to go scene by scene or paragraph by paragraph and write down the ideas and information you want to use in that section. The easiest way is to also include any quotes or statistics with their sources in the outline, to avoid having to hunt them down later. Then, when the writing process starts, it’s just a matter of converting the ideas into words. However, the key is to do all of the preparation ahead of time instead of the night before. Researching and outlining can sometimes be a long process, and an impending deadline can cut the writing time short.

Although the worst is now over, writing itself can sometimes cause anxiety. There are many times where the right words just aren’t coming to mind. For situations like this, a thesaurus will be your best friend. It helps a lot to be able to look up similar words that will often lead to a better synonym. Another tip that often helps with writing is waiting until after the work is completely done to do any editing. Getting caught up in going back and making changes slows down the process and sometimes the entire work needs to be complete to be able to tell if an idea makes sense or not. If necessary, cover the entire screen except for the line or two you are currently working on. Then, once it’s finished, go back and check for spelling, grammar, and fluency. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help if it feels like things aren’t going well. The Writing Center can be a great resource, and having a second set of eyes can help.

There you go: some tips to get you through the stress of the writing process. Now that you know how to beat the overwhelming feeling, you have all the power in the world. Next time you feel the anxiety setting in, start early and be prepared; you’ve got this in the bag. So, go forth and write!

Written by Taylor

Image credit

I Tried Creative Writing Prompts and Here’s What Happened

Articles with titles like “What I Learned by Shaving My Head” are my favorite kind. When I click on an article like that, I know that I’m getting genuine thoughts from somebody who is writing about an experience, not just a topic. Nobody wants advice from an inexperienced, self-proclaimed expert. All this to say: you’re welcome. I started to write a cookie cutter blog about creative writing and all the marvelous topics you can find on the internet to help you get started on your creative writing journey, when it occurred to me that I have never actually used writing prompts myself…

So, instead of suggesting you do something I’ve never even done, I decided to try them out. I found a creative writing website called Think Written that provides a unique prompt for every day of the year. I asked three of my coworkers to each choose a number between 1 and 365 and committed to writing about the corresponding topic. Naturally, I disliked all three topics, but for the sake of experiment I went through with it anyway. For clarification, each of the prompts are bolded, my commentary is in normal font, and the actual product is in italics.


89. Facebook or Twitter Status:Write a poem using the words from your latest status update or a friend’s status update.

I don’t poem, so this was a discouraging start. At the suggestion of fellow writing consultant Isaac, I went for the easiest poem of all, a haiku. In a strange twist of fate, it happened to be Isaac’s status that first popped up on my Facebook feed: “This morning, as I sleepily ate my breakfast, I noticed that it kind of tasted like a waffle cone. Y’know, for ice cream. I was eating waffles. I guess they’re called waffle cones for a reason. *facepalm*”

A haiku about waffles; why not?

Waffles for breakfast

Ice cream in a waffle cone

Strangely similar


360. Review: Review your week, month, or year in a journal entry or poem format.

I started this creative writing challenge back on January 8, after having done literally nothing for the first few days of 2016. Oh joy. Since I hate writing poems, I went with a couple of journal entries instead, and this is the weirdness that was produced. I apologize in advance.

Dear Diary,

I’ve been assessing the past week of my life, and I’ve come to a terrifying conclusion: I live a very lowly existence. I have only accomplished three things this week. I’ve gone to work, I’ve cleaned my apartment, and I’ve consumed food. That is it. In my defense, these three things are forcing me into a vicious cycle. I get hungry, so I have to go to work to make money to buy food. When I cook the food, I usually make a mess and I am forced to clean it up. Cleaning then makes me hungry all over again. A vicious cycle I tell you!

As you might expect, upon making such a pathetic discovery, I decided to evaluate my life as whole. I backtracked to examine this past month and I hate to report that my findings are grim; I have spent my time doing only three things. You guessed it. Working. Cleaning. Eating. Panic led me to determine if this is something I have been doing all year long. And it is.

Aside from an occasional scroll through Facebook and a few episodes of Gilmore Girls, I have done nothing with my year except work, clean, and eat. Mozart composed over 600 works in just 30 years of life. Alexander Hamilton wrote 51 of The Federalist Papers essays in six months. Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals in less than two weeks. And what am I doing with my time? Working, cleaning, and eating. White crayons contribute more to a coloring book than I do to society. I must figure out something to do with my life!

Dear Diary,

False alarm. Something important occurred to me last night as I lay awake pondering my measly existence. Sure, I may have spent this week, this month, and this year to date doing nothing of significance, but that’s okay. Because today is January 8. The week may be lost but the month and the year are young! Now I must go. It’s Friday night and I have plans.


204. Strength: Think of a time when you’ve been physically or emotionally strong and use that as inspiration.

The best thing that came to mind was the time I was a participant in the I Am Second Race and sprinted past some guy right at the end. This is the essay that memory inspired.

Beating boys is a lot of fun. Now, I don’t mean beating up boys, because that’s just mean. Beating them competitively is something entirely different.

In my heart of hearts I believe that sports are about having fun. Really, I do. They are fun, but they’re exponentially more fun when I’m the winner. In fact, I’ll just be honest and admit that I hate losing. I hate losing more than the Grinch used to hate Christmas. In my early years of playing sports I was taught to believe that any team can beat any other team on any given day (this is especially useful to remember when the Cowboys are playing). I was also taught that competing against boys is no exception to this rule.

I’ve played almost every sport available to me since I was four years old, and I’ve encountered many a male opponent. My all-girls-traveling- soccer team played games against our counterpart all-boys-traveling team on a regular basis. Basketball practices sometimes involved scrimmages against the guys. Driving range competitions at golf practice were usually held between boys and girls. Mixed doubles in tennis demanded that I play with and against boys. And races may give awards to separate gender categories, but when you’re out on the course, everybody is somebody to beat.

I have never once excused a loss simply because the winner happened to be of the male species. Sometimes girls out-run, out-shoot, out-swing, and all-around out-play boys. It’s not a big deal, though the world likes to pretend that it is. Competitiveness is a human trait, not exclusively masculine or feminine. Beating boys is fun; not because I feel like a successful underdog or a redeemed victim, but because winning is fun. That’s all there is to it.


And there you have it; my experiment with creative writing prompts is complete. If you want to give it a shot yourself, here’s the link to Think Written http://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/ I can’t say that it’ll be an easy task or that I would recommend you do one every day, but writing prompts definitely have their advantages. It will be a fantastic way for you to sharpen up creative skills you may not have used in a while, and it will definitely boost your confidence as a writer. If you are capable of writing a poem about breakfast food, you are capable of writing about anything.

Written by Savanna

Image credit: http://40.media.tumblr.com/001f8c42ea985c0a777cc2c7820d2376/tumblr_njtpuc6X5t1sg2aiqo1_500.jpg

Grammar Zombies

“Ugghhhh…” a hungry zombie sighed somewhere off screen.

“Where is he?” Nathan cried, his Xbox controller rattling in his hands.

“I don’t know… but he’s close!” JD replied.

On the TV, Nathan and JD’s characters hid behind a storage crate. Blood was everywhere, decorating the grey floors and walls. Something, like glass, fell and shattered.

“He’s coming.”

“Darn, I’m out of ammo.”

Wave after wave of zombies barraged the two, helpless figures. Stuck on a zombie ridden aircraft carrier, there was no place to run.

“Get him with your knife then!”

“Okay, I’m going to check behind the crate.”

Nathan toggled his character to the edge of the giant box. He let a breathe, and turned—

“AHHHGGGHHH!!!!”

The zombie jumped down from the top of the crate. His blue, dry hands thrashed and bashed against Nathan.

“Die! Die! Die! Die! Die!” Nathan screamed as he jabbed the zombie with his knife.

“Hold on!” JD whipped around the edge of the crate, carrying a rocket launcher.

“Where did you get that?”

“Don’t ask, just watch out!”

“Wait, no—“

The entire earth slowed down for a split second. A football sized cylinder spiraled towards Nathan and the zombie. Nathan threw down his controller and covered his eyes. JD smiled.

Then the screen became one, big, red, cumulous cloud.


 

Sometimes, as a Dallas Baptist University Writing Center consultant, I come in contact with Grammar Zombies. The other a day, one slumped into the Center. Her face was pale and black bags, large enough to store baby carrots, wrinkled under her eyes. She placed her essay on the table, fell into the chair, and pointed at the paper.

“Uggggg…” she said, the smell of Red Bull bombarding my nostrils.

“Sorry,” I responded, “could you please repeat that?”

“Ahhuuuggguhhh!”

I glanced at the paper. The girl’s professor had left a note: “Please do not use first or second person.”

I turned towards the student and asked, “Is there first or second person in this essay?”

“Arrrgggbaa,” she moaned, shrugging her shoulders.

I read the first sentence. “I really love Cajun food; it’s to die for.”

Written by Ben Jones

 

 

Words: Not to be Used Lightly

words1

Fluff.

Every student has done it. Every student has written it. More often than not, college papers are stuffed to the brim with the unnecessary. Some people add extra ideas at the last minute to reach that five-page requirement. Others repeat the same idea over and over in different words so the conclusion takes up half a page. With deadlines approaching, we haphazardly stuff words onto the page, hoping the professor will think our ideas are semi-passable.
Writing is hard. We know. Even for famous authors, putting ideas down on paper is still a challenge. Ernest Hemingway said that “there is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” Even waking up for an 8am class is easier than writing. With this mindset, however, students often forget the purpose for writing. Words get crammed into paragraphs that students don’t really care about, and papers full of neglected words get turned it at the start of class. And this is a tragedy.
Words are not to be used lightly.
Writing is a transformation. Words, when strung together correctly, can alter the average, spur on the weary, and inspire the great. Words express the ideas within us, the ideas that should be shared. When we fluff our papers, not only are we misusing our education, we are also misusing the single most powerful tool given to humanity. Words have the power2013_speech_4_3-4_3_r541_c540 to tear down kingdoms, to unite divided peoples, and to birth whole countries. Even God Himself began the creation of the universe with four spoken words.
As students, we are trying to communicate our ideas. See writing as an opportunity to express yourself. Be bold. Take pride in your thinking. Share those thoughts for all to see. Refuse to settle. Don’t see a paper as another useless assignment, but see it as the need to build on what others have done before you. Contribute.
Make every word count.

“Wise men speak because they have something to day; fools because they have to say something.”
–Plato

Written by Jenna

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/

A Writing Center Poem

arabica_coffee

The pale desk
Scintillates in
The Bland lights
Which checker

The roof of an
Old schoolroom
Carpeted in
Gray and blue

Squares; coffee
Makers hum
With their
Colombian brew

A broken Clock
Ticks away
Its Hands
Refuse to move

Hours snore
Back and forth
Like waves
Breasting the shore

Red ink soils
A desperate
Paper
From a desperate

Student, whose
Sweat lingers
And swells
On the desk

A coffee ring
And unmodified
Run-ons
Stain page six

My mind moils
Is it time?
Not time?
Hark, I hear aloft:

The coffee maker
Beeps; Complete,
So I end
This long session

Coffee_Stains_2

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.