UofL Writing Center

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Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Make an Appointment and Keep It

Erin Pinkerton

Many clients make appointments with the Writing Center and then cancel at the last minute. This practice is perfectly fine, and we tutors are happy that clients call the Writing Center to let us know when they cannot make an appointment. We understand that things come up. Life in the academy is hectic for all of us. And sometimes we do not accomplish what we think that we should because we shoulder the “baggage about writers.”

But I would like to challenge everyone to make an appointment ahead of time and keep it. Writing center tutors can help with all kinds of writing at all stages of the writing process, but we can also serve as a self-imposed deadline, a way to hold you accountable for having some part of an assignment or writing project completed. I have heard of some Writing Center clients who already do this: make an appointment ahead of time, so that they know they have to start working on their writing sooner rather than later.

Currently, I am working on writing a prospectus for a project that I intend to complete this semester, and the deadline for the prospectus is next Friday. Yet, I finished a draft of my prospectus just a few minutes ago. I have an appointment to meet with my project director on Tuesday, but I already finished the draft because I said I would e-mail it to him before the weekend. Because someone was expecting me to have some writing done, I had to do it. If it were left up to me, I am sure I would have not worked on the prospectus until next week sometime.

Time management is crucial during the college years, and it is a skill that very few have mastered. (I still haven’t found the perfect balance, if such a thing really exists.) I am certain that if given 40 hours in a day, I would complete all of my work well ahead of time, but until then, I keep trying to make some deadlines for myself—deadlines that allow me to finish writing ahead of my professors’ or bosses’ deadlines so that I have plenty of time to reread and revise.

So don’t depend on your professors. Make your own deadlines. Hold yourself accountable. Let the Writing Center help. Make an appointment.

Who is a Writer?

Lauren Dimmer

Today I woke up the way I normally do: too late in the afternoon and too tired for anything but a good cup of coffee. I stumbled my way into my living room, slumped down by the window, and stared at my computer with the kind of hatred usually reserved for mass murderers or bad rainstorms on the highway.

I’ve been trying to write something creative every day for the last five years.

It’s not going so well.

Obviously.

For the last five years of my life, every day starts with a big list of all the reasons that I really shouldn’t be writing. My slacks from work need to be washed, my new kitten needs her medicine to help get over some random fungus, the floor’s dirty, articles really need reading for school, my girlfriend’s getting over a root canal and needs me to make another smoothie so she can have breakfast, I need to check my facebook feed, I need to check the news.

Of course writing is hard. Of course writing is exhausting. But this morning, I started thinking: what is it, exactly, that’s burrowing into my brain whenever I reach for a pen and a keyboard?

The more I thought about it, the more complicated it became. For example: what do I really mean when I say that writing is hard? I write probably three e-mails every morning, and none of those bother me. I text my friends. I comment on some blog posts. None of that writing makes me grind my teeth the way my daily creative exercises do. I don’t try to do the laundry just to have an excuse to avoid updating my status on facebook. I don’t sweep the floor to avoid e-mailing my friends.  Is it the kind of writing I’m doing that’s so hard? What makes writing a story harder than responding to a blog post? When you’re writing a story, you can write anything you want. You can make whatever kind of sense you want, too. It’s the kind of freedom that should make you feel inspired and happy, but I still feel trapped as ever.

I think, ultimately, some of the most damaging baggage we have to shoulder whenever we try to write is really baggage about writers.

Think about it: we’re taught that “real writers” are sad, solitary, lonely creatures. “Real writers” are geniuses. Real writers are tortured. Real writers are quirky and original. Real writers drink whiskey every morning. Maybe the worst thing we’re taught about “real writers” is the way that they can just dash out an absolutely perfect first draft. I never heard about Hemingway slaving away over a single paragraph for five hours while his laundry got dirtier and dirtier. I never heard about Oscar Wilde having to practice whenever he wanted to write a new, brilliant play. They just did it, those guys, their talent was innate and spooky and hard to understand; they had a mysterious, weird, natural link to whatever “good art” was, and it just poured out of them whenever they needed it.
The end.

I write my first draft and it is crap. I write my second draft and it is also crap. I pour another cup of coffee. I write a third draft. Still crap. I sweep the floor. I talk to my girlfriend. I go to a movie. I am still working on a poem I wrote when I was sixteen years old. That poem? Crap!

And every time I do this, I make a list of why writing is stupid, and I am stupid, and I can never, never ever be a real writer. Every day, this list gets longer and longer. That list is what’s pressing into me whenever I stop and grab a few extra minutes and pick up a pen and try, try, try to write something. Anything.

But you know what? Just because no one ever bothered to tell me Hemingway went through fifty versions of “Hills Like White Elephants” doesn’t mean that he never practiced all the ways to make a tight, crystalline, tiny image in his text. Hemingway practiced. Oscar Wilde practiced. Every piece of creative work you read is just the latest draft in a huge army of incredibly crappy drafts, and maybe, if we saw some of those drafts, we wouldn’t feel so bad when our first version doesn’t measure up. Maybe studying those drafts would tell us more about writing than reading everything when it’s all perfect and polished and beautiful.

But even if you don’t believe all that, I’d like you to try to believe this, okay?

A writer is a person who writes. That’s what writer means. That’s all writer means.
The only way you’ll never ever be a real writer is if you let all those “real writers” keep you from writing.

And I have a poem to write.

Again.


Perch

Jennifer Marciniak

Usually at the writing center I stare out the window during my 15 minute break between sessions. Our window takes up an entire wall of the center, looking out over the central part of campus where students walk between buildings and classes. It is “winter” now, and I think back to when the campus was pretty – all brown and yellow and orange from the fall leaves of a Kentucky November. Not a vast courtyard of skeletal trees like it is now.

Even though it is now winter, activities below are still the same. The students walking along the grid of sidewalks bustle along, talking on their cell phones, backpacks loaded down with laptops and books. I see all of this from my perch — a window three stories up where I can see them, but they cannot see me. The window is full, from floor to ceiling, and it makes the entire wall look like a mural of fall foliage. Sometimes I just watch one person walk from Bingham Humanities all the way to the library. I see them shuffle their backpack on the shoulder. Watch them reach into the pocket for the phone to text as they walk. Sometimes they have to sidestep another student as they swerve into their path, far too engrossed in updating their Facebook status than paying attention. Sometimes they gaze up into the branches, squinting in the mid-day sun as if to find some hope or answer. They do not look up at me, the one behind the curtain. If they do, their gaze is quickly diverted by something far more important.

You see, I am not of power. I am one of one million. From the outside, my window is a sheet of dull, opaque glass. In some ways it reflects Michel Foucault’s panopticon, an all-seeing eye over the student’s movements. However, it is one of many black, opaque windows staring out from buildings into the sea of education. Students walk from building to building under the gaze of professors and staff, looking out from their own veiled watchtowers. But, because there are so many watching eyes, their sheer numbers allow them to fade into the building proper — nothing foreboding, nothing overtly power-hungry, and for the most part, ignored.

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