Letter to the Writer Who Doesn’t Really Care

Dear Writer Who Doesn’t Really Care,

So you’re trying to write a paper and you just can’t seem to work up the motivation to finish it. Maybe you think you’re almost done, and you’ve just been working on it for too long at this point to care about the conclusion. Maybe you haven’t even started writing yet, and you’re just staring at your topic with paralyzing apathy. No judgment. I completely understand. My work here at the Writing Center focuses on creating videos for our YouTube channel, so I don’t do a lot of writing unless I have to. In fact, I am late turning this blog in to the UWC social media expert because I did not care about writing it at first. At first! So how did I come to care about it in the end? I followed a few of the tricks I fall back on whenever I find myself not caring about something important. Want to know my secrets? Then read on for some tips to inspire just a little more interest in your papers.

The first question I generally ask myself when I don’t care about something, whether it’s a topic I’m supposed to be writing about or an activity I know I’ll have to do at some point, is “How could anyone possibly care about this?” To answer this question, look no further than to your friends! No matter how well I think I know my closest companions, they still regularly surprise me. Recently, I had to put together a debate centered around private prisons in the United States. I did not care about this topic in the slightest, and in a moment of frustration, I reached out to a friend and described to her my predicament. She responded with a history of her views on private prisons, surprising me with how much she cared about the topic. Hearing her talk about her opinions sparked a desire in me to learn more about private prisons. I fed off of her interest in the topic and was able to work out a solid debate. In many situations, your friends can be a source of inspiration.

I never know when I’ll learn something that will become a passion for me. During my first semester at DBU, I was enrolled in a basic speech class. I was not excited about the prospect of working on my speech-giving skills because I was uninterested in public speaking. In fact, I hated public speaking. I told myself while registering that I would be done with this general education credit soon enough and move on to the more exciting aspects of my broadcast major. As I sat through more and more sessions of the class I didn’t care about, something began to take root in my heart. My professor used the subject of general speech to teach us a little bit about the different ways in which people relate to each other. I was fascinated by the information I was getting and by the passion my professor had for communication. In fact, I was fascinated enough that I changed my major to Communication Theory after that semester. When I’m disinterested in a topic I’m writing about, I sometimes like to think back to this experience to remind myself that, while I’m researching the topic that couldn’t seem more boring, I might learn something new that becomes deeply important.

A friend of mine told me once that the presentation of information should be viewed as an act of love rather than a performance. I sometimes remember this advice when writing papers and struggling with boredom. Thinking of my paper as a performance that I’m being graded on by my professor never fails to dig me deeper into apathy. In the end, it doesn’t matter how well my professor thinks I do on a project. What matters is how much I learned while doing the project and how I apply the knowledge to the rest of my life. Thinking of a paper as an act of love, though, encourages me to work diligently. Expressing love in any form is an idea I can get behind. If I need to learn about my topic and my professor needs to see what I’ve learned, then I can work in love by meeting those needs.

One last tactic I like to employ when facing apathy for a writing topic (or writing in general) is to turn everything I don’t initially care about into a joke. About a month ago, I had to write an obituary for my Writing Across Media class. I had no idea how to go about writing an obituary and no interest in researching the process. As I was walking back to my apartment from class, however, I remembered that my professor had specified that I was allowed to make the obituary a lighthearted piece. I wondered just how lighthearted I could be while still taking the assignment seriously. And then, suddenly, I thought of what was, in my humble opinion, the greatest play on words to ever be thought of in the history of mankind: a turtle that dies “expectedly” because he runs into oncoming traffic so slowly that everyone saw his death coming. I know. Hold your applause. And so, with this exciting idea in my head, I ran the rest of the way to my apartment to read the entire chapter of my textbook on obituaries. I then proceeded to write the most well-crafted piece I daresay has ever existed on a turtle named Spunkmister who cured the common cold, won a Nobel prize, became the write-in President of the United States, and sadly passed away at the tender age of seven. I received a full one-hundred-percent grade on the paper. The power of humor on motivation cannot be overestimated in my case.

top hat turtle

If you’re struggling with disinterest while writing, don’t fret. I’m right there with you almost every time I have a deadline for a paper looming closely overhead. Feel free to give some of my suggestions a try to inspire interest. After all, they couldn’t hurt. And don’t give up! You can get through this paper!

Love,

Becca 🙂

Image credits: Header image, Top Hat Turtle

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Letter to the Unsure Writer

Dear Unsure Writer,

We’ve all been there: the place where we’ve written a paper and turned it in, and we’re afraid of the possibility of a failing grade. We’ve all produced papers that we feel are not up to par with the grades we want on them. But take heart! We don’t always have to feel like what we’ve done isn’t good enough. There are a few ways to check and make sure that the work we’re about to turn in is exactly what we want it to be.

The first and easiest way is to simply read the paper out loud, especially from the first to the last paragraph. Take 10-15 minutes to sit down with the paper and go through it. People often find that by reading their work out loud, confusing phrases and typos are brought to light and can be easily fixed. The ear is the best tool to check for mistakes after slaving over a paper for who-knows-how-long, but remember to spend some time away from the work before reading it to give the brain a break.

Get a friend or two to read it. Not only can they catch typing and phrasing aberrations, they can tell if the ideas present in the paper go along with what the writer wants to say. This prevents rabbit trails and ensures every point refers back to the thesis. Plus, it isn’t the author tiredly rereading the same material without actually noticing anything wrong. Most of the time, minor errors that were previously over looked could add up to a large percentage of points counted off by the professor.

Ask the professor if s/he will take a rough draft and give comments/corrections. The professor is the one grading the final product, so s/he knows what is desired when the work is turned in. This is a great way to understand which direction to go on a paper and ensure that the all the guidelines set by the professor are met. S/he can give helpful advice either on the paper or what to do if s/he will not look at a rough draft.

Finally, the option that will give authors the most help possible: visit the University Writing Center (UWC). At the Center, a trained consultant is able to sit down with authors and walk through their papers in a friendly, helpful way. The consultants at the UWC are well trained in the most up-to-date practices and rules of grammar and writing needs. They are paid to walk alongside students with their works, so why not set up an appointment to go through a paper? Their job is to help all writers become more confident in their skills and to make sure those writers understand what mistakes they make on a regular basis so they can be fixed. A consultation may bring to light some obscure meanings or flow issues that had not been detected by the author’s ear or friends.

After working hard on a paper, it is a wise decision to get all the help available in order to be confident about the product being turned in. There is no need to be unsure about the work produced when so many options are available to help improve it.

So the next time a paper is due, don’t feel uncomfortable about the work being submitted. Take advantage of the many choices available, especially the UWC, in order to be confident with the final product.

Written by Maddison

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Letter to the Writer Who Doesn’t Know Where to Start

Dear Writer,

You aren’t alone. I never have any idea where to start. I’m supposed to write this encouraging blog to writers who don’t know where to start, and the only thing I can come up with is just…

In the words of Shia LaBeouf, “Just…. Do it!”

Writing is a lot like running. You have to get into the groove before it starts to be fun.  It takes practice, it takes work, and it takes planning. Starting is always the hardest part because either you don’t want to endure the pain to begin with, or you don’t know what you’ll do if it doesn’t turn out like you hope. Or maybe you don’t even know how to start!

Unfortunately, as many college students find, professors require papers to be written. If writing isn’t one of your hobbies, you probably feel much like I do when I try to run. But as with every skill, it cannot develop until it is used. Sometimes, it’s not fun until you can write what you want and at the skill level you want.

Writing is a strange form of art. It constantly develops, and if your writing skills grow, so does the writing. The important thing is that we begin. Thoughts are, from the start, rough and undefined. Have you ever been in a situation where your mind races far faster than you can put words to the thoughts? Even when we have time to sit and think, it is often difficult to place words to the ideas and emotions we feel. Writing can clarify those thoughts, but in order for them to mature, they must be placed upon the page.

Writing, therefore, is the art of development, not only for the writing itself, but also for our way of thinking. The time it takes to ponder and develop these words often causes us to realize new facets of our argument or flaws in our logic. It can deepen our understanding when, otherwise, we might have left such things behind with a brief glance.

But we must also consider things like grammar when speaking of writing. While we might understand our line of thought completely, and have developed it through exhaustive practice and writing, we must also be sure that others understand the ideas being presented. Therefore, while it might seem irritating and unneeded, grammar further aids us in the growth not only of our own thoughts but our communication as well.

To develop communication skills, you talk to people. Similarly, with written communication skills, the conversation needs to start before the writing gets better. It doesn’t have to start with the deep stuff first. A lot of people like small talk, at least until they get used to a situation.

I write as a hobby, but here’s something I don’t often share: I don’t usually enjoy the process. Sure, when a scene plays out perfectly, the words come easily, and my thoughts come smoothly, it’s fun. But more often than I’d like, writing is like pulling teeth. But the thoughts and ideas I’ve put onto paper would never have been shared if I had not taken time to sit and just… start. Maybe I’ll go back and reword things later on. It is one of my dreams to eventually publish a fantasy novel of my own.

If I hadn’t taken the risk of starting, or taken the risk of showing others my story and being disappointed, I would’ve never gotten so much written. I’m over sixty pages, and that’s a phenomenal personal achievement. I’d never gotten more than two pages in any other story before I started forcing myself to write whatever was there. Many scenes in my head turned out better on paper, and even better when my friends enjoyed reading them! I was very not skilled when I began. But, again, in the words of Shia LaBeouf, “don’t let your dreams be dreams!” And so my slightly masochistic attempt at achieving those dreams actually produced something.

So, I will say to you, don’t let your dreams be dreams. You can finish that paper! You can write that blog, that lab report, or that book report. Don’t let your dreams of freedom elude you! If I can write my story, you can write that assignment! Start with a few sentences, which don’t even have to be about your project. Maybe write about your day. Work on getting your thoughts clear. And then…

“Just… do it!”

Written by Isaac

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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

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Confidence to Write Freely

I’m kind of scatterbrained. This is my third attempt at writing this blog, and honestly, I’ve written over a few thousand words by now to no avail. I just don’t think that what I’ve written is good enough. I keep looking at the points I’ve made and wonder whether they’re valid or relatable. I’ve written about how to be assertive, how to find peace in every moment, even about how to find hope when life is a pain. What I’m experiencing is a form of writer’s block. Funny thing is, I’m sure many people have already written about writer’s block, so what other points could I make about it? How can I find something new to say about it, despite knowing my thoughts are hardly original?

First, that line of thought is entirely wrong when approaching writing. Everybody is unique in their own way. So why couldn’t my point of view of writer’s block help somebody else? It’s not for me to say whether my thoughts will hit the exact pressure point needed. Nobody else will repeat my same words in the same place at the same time, so I’ve already found originality here and now. Sure, when it comes to stories, one has to avoid copying other works. But given individual perspectives and styles, as long as one isn’t lazy, almost anything can be original.

Second, I’ve subjected myself to an opinion that I have to achieve a certain quality of writing. However, I’m the only one who’s read what I just wrote. I don’t know what other people would think about it. So how can I accurately appraise the quality of my work? Whether we judge ourselves too harshly, too highly, or not at all, there are several perspectives that have to be considered. Yet I never even tried to get feedback about my work. How am I to say my writing isn’t good enough, when my opinion of this will be different from someone else’s? This is why writer’s groups are wonderful things. I can’t count the times (well, I can, but I’m crazy) I’ve brought an excerpt of writing to them, insisting it’s the worst piece of garbage I’ve ever seen. I completely expected my group to tear it apart, and I would understand. Even so, they always assured me otherwise; sure, I made mistakes, but they weren’t as bad or as all-encompassing as I thought. As it turns out, many writing mistakes are easily solved with a little know-how. I was surprised to find that even if I didn’t know how to fix things, I could just ask, and I’d get help with no judgment attached. Weird, right?

My starting approach and my tendency to over-criticize are just two of many big things that hold me back from writing (also planning, at which I’m horrible). They also stop me from other creative activities such as making art or music.  However, the best weapon I’ve found is that even though I might not be happy with my abilities now, I won’t get any better if I don’t try. I can’t get input on the perceived quality of my works if I don’t get it critiqued by others. The saying, “practice makes perfect” might be aiming a little too high, but practice at least provides progress.

So if you’re reading this right now, trying to get inspiration to write, I say to you: Go! Be free! Write whatever comes to mind and filter it all later! And then filter it again, and again, because writing is a process that is always in motion. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first draft or your fifteenth, writing can always be developed. There’s another adage that says, “a penny for your thoughts.” If, indeed, thoughts are that cheap, why cling on to them like a miser, when you could cast them into the furnace to develop and refine them into a great big, copper pinnacle of creative completion? Or why not use them as currency and include yourself in the great economy of imagination?

Go! Write! Say what only you at this time and place can say!

 Written by Isaac

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