Friday, September 28, 2012

A Writer's Journey from Detroit to Chicago

Moving from Detroit to Chicago for graduate school has been an experience colored with surprise, familiarity, trepidation and joy. I've been here studying journalism for a little over a month now and I've already seen enough to write a book (on the CTA alone). What has been consistent throughout this month is this unwavering sense of the unseen arranging things on my behalf. Faith has become real to me in new ways. I consider it an Urban Divinity that has transitioned with me from Detroit to Chicago.
I absolutely hated my last job I was working in Michigan and vowed to not apply for or consider any position that I didn't think I'd enjoy or be proud of. Obviously, that limited my application process drastically. The idea of income constantly tried to override that vow, and it loomed in the background of every decision I made. But I chose not to worry about money and to trust things would work out. I chose to have faith.
So now I'm a tutor in RU's Writing Center, a work study job custom-made for Rachel. I love writing and I love helping people, so what better way to spend 12 hours a week than helping people write? This came after I was told I didn't even qualify for federal work study, which I was certain I did. All it took was a visit to Financial Aid and a stern request to have them reevaluate my package. A financial aid advisor realized on the spot the error they made and corrected it. I applied to the work study positions that seemed to suit me and here I am—loving every 50 minute session of peer tutoring.
Besides class work, I spend a good portion of my time volunteering at CPS in the office of Family and Community Engagement. My father mentioned to me before I left Detroit, "Remember, Rachel, volunteering will open doors for the job you want." Again, not an idea supportive of sustainable income. A girl has rent to pay! But what I've learned already by stepping out on this limb has been indispensible. The experience here at CPS is a chance to hone my communications skills, get media-savvy and exercise competence. I have a chance to produce measurable results, learn more about Chicago and help communities improve their local schools. I think a part-time job at Starbucks (or any other company that popularly employees students) would be a loss compared to this. Call me crazy.
Anyhow, I encounter at just the right time exactly what I don't always know I need or want, and not to my own credit. I am a young lady in a big city figuring it out alone, but not alone.
Urban Divinity :)


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Writer's Block?

Do you have writer’s block? It's ok. Everyone gets stuck. It’s perfectly normal to feel anxiety, frustration, indifference, irritation, or confusion when writing a paper. So how do we get over these roadblocks of negativity in order to get anything accomplished? What I recommend is taking it slow. Often times we are in such a rush to get a paper finished that we want everything to be perfect immediately. However, it’s easier said than done.

I used to always get worked up over finishing a paper, but then one day I realized that it wasn’t worth it to stress myself out. Last week while tutoring another student I figured out the simplest solution. Whether you’re writing a narrative paper about your own experiences or an academic paper that requires quotes from at least three sources, you’ll feel much better if you follow this list of simple suggestions:

1) Give yourself plenty of time to write your paper.
Never try and put it together at the last minute. Rushed writing leads to careless mistakes.

2) Don’t worry about writing your introduction right then and there.
Go back and write it after you figure out the rest of the paper.

3) Create a list of bullet points that quickly summarize your main ideas beforehand.

4) Don’t worry about exactly what you’re trying to say… yet. Just start writing!
Get it all out there and just go with it. Type out everything you are thinking. Don’t worry about how to organize your thoughts right now.

5) Take a break. Maybe you should wait until tomorrow.
No, don’t feel guilty for watching tv or hanging out on Facebook. You deserve a breather.

6) Now that you have fresh eyes for writing, read your paper aloud to yourself.
Does it sound repetitive? Too detailed? Not detailed enough? Will it make sense to your reader? What needs to be eliminated or added? Where should the next paragraph start?

7) After organizing your thoughts, you’re ready to write your introduction and conclusion.

8) Take another break.
It’s ok. Walk away.

9) Read the finished draft and see if it all makes sense.
Go back and make final revisions.

Now you’re done! No pressure and less stress! You took your time, you worked on your paper in small steps, and as a result you’re feeling more confident in your own writing abilities. Try this method and stop by the RU Writing Center to let us know how it worked out for you.

Fonda Ginsburg
RU Graduate Student and Writing Center Tutor