The Scientific Assignment
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The Common Assignment
What is the secret to writing well? The answer is simple. Tell stories.
Every couple of weeks, a great story-teller comes to the Writing Center for help. They don't realize they're great story-tellers, but they can't help it -- they simply are. Most people -- believe it or not -- are at least good story-tellers. They can decently describe their favorite movie; they can tell me why they left their previous job. When I ask them how their day has been, they might roll their eyes and snarl out a few details -- what an effective display! They're telling a story with more than just words! They make me feel their pain or their excitement quickly and efficiently!
Yet, when it comes to writing a paper for class, their ability to describe and narrate disappears like a baseball into the thick ivy of Wrigley Field. It happens to all of us, at times, when sitting in front of some boring assignment. Suddenly, our voices change into a cold, robotic droning. And our eyes! They glow a dull blue as the automaton inside us begins take over. Our skin morphing into metal, we inform the world in the most boring way about the topic at hand:
In this non-robot version, notice how real that glass of tea seems -- how it maybe leads some to conclude I'm from the south -- and how it shows a real person behind the writing. In other words, I'm giving the reader more information and in a way so that the reader will remember it also!
Too often students don't think their lives can relate to the sometimes fantastic, sometimes terrible, lives of the authors they read. This perspective is, as scientists say, "hogwash." We must realize that our lives are interesting. The details we notice, the things the happen to us, and the things we do -- they are all unique to us! They all provide perspective and a frame within which we can understand these amazing or awe-inspiring authors. If I grew up in a small Florida town and never did anything spectacular, then I'm unique in that I never did anything spectacular! -- and unique in that I don't understand why people from New Jersey drink "wooder" instead of "water," and that I didn't know what a genuine fall season was like, and that people could get excited about soccer, so on.
The key, therefore, is realizing the relationship between oneself and the subject matter. If I must write about Plato, I will imagine my life applied to his creeds. If I must write about Asian cultures, I will compare my own routines and habits to theirs. If I must talk about language barriers, I will write about my most recent trip to McDonald's -- simple and basic stories unique to me make the work more appealing!
Up next: "Telling Stories in Scientific and Academic Writing"
Monday, November 9, 2009
It is one of the most difficult parts about writing. I can imagine you sitting there, stunned, addled, and frowning frustratingly at the blinking line that seems to taunt your endeavor. The blank white nothingness presented in front of you seems exceedingly daunting as the deadline draws near. Eventually, you realize from your heavy eyelids that you have yet to get any sleep and the sun seems to be peeking above the horizon outside. It is difficult to just beginning a piece, be it creative or academic. Either way you seems to find themselves constricted by a lack of words, or thoughts, or a concrete thesis. But, you must not forget it is just the intro. Write anything! Leave yourself time to fiddle with your brain. Look at the white screen as an opportunity not a choir, "All that blank space to put whatever I have on my mind." I know what your thinking, and I do it too. You wait till the very last second that it is due to even begin to convey the thoughts you have on the topic. It may work for you, but you leave yourself no room for error. The more time you allow yourself to conjure ideas about the subject, the more likely it will be cohesive, precise, and fully developed. Give yourself the room to breathe easy. The best way to do so is to set yourself a strict schedule and see to it that you follow it verbatim--No slacking off me!
Again, just write anything down at first, let your brain work out the subject its way. That way you can get the muck, pointless material out of the way and be able to focus on the subject particularly. After a few pages of your opinions, experiences, or outside facts that you obtain you should be able to see a pattern. In the long run, after the horrid points are dismantled (don't feel bad, we all write nonsense sometimes), meaningless words removed, and unusually phrasings altered, you will be able to create a solid academic paper. Hurray! So give yourself time to get the crap out so within it the golden ideas will shine. Don't get stuck hating the blinking line, it has enough problems as it is.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Dustin M. Flickinger (staff tutor) presents Tara Baldridge, Flash-Fiction Contest Winner, with one of her prizes, a gift card to Barnes and Noble. Check back soon for updates on when you can hear Tara on our Podcast and on WRBC, Roosevelt's Radio Station! Read her winning entry in the post below...