On Tuesday you received the Revisit on Thinking Paper #2, and comments on your Analytic Paper outline and abstract. As such, I’d like to draw your attention to a few items related to writing. Importantly, the goal of all this emphasis on writing is to reveal how writing actually works, that writing is both social and a process.
First, writing while seemingly a solitary process is actually social. The emphasis I place on writing is to make transparent (or more obvious) that writing is social, and to create a dialogue about writing, specifically your writing. The dialogue (or conversation) involves the writer (you) and the reader (me) and your classroom colleagues.
Second, writing and thinking go hand in hand. Clear thinking is demonstrated by clear writing, however clear writing cannot mask unclear thinking nor can unclear writing demonstrate clear thinking. Our writing reflects where we are in the thinking part, which is often not so clear – yet, the process of writing and thinking moves both aspects forward. It is the process of writing and thinking, thinking and writing that is essential. The writing and thinking can be helped through having others read drafts, outlines or even talking about our ideas. All of which you have done during this term. My undergrad advisor Lee Clarke, puts it this way “write, write, write, edit, edit, edit, share, share, share” (see Clarke's page ). I would say the order is write, edit, share, write, edit, share... but I think you get the idea.
Third, writing has moments of clarity and ease, as well as confusion and struggle. This aspect of writing is often the most frustrating, particularly if we have been fortunate to experience the clarity and ease part. This is why there are so many books about writing (Ann Lamott, Bird by Bird; Howard S. Becker, Writing for Social Scientists; Natalie Goldberg, Writing down the Bones, just to name a few), some more technically focused than others.
Importantly, the difficulty and frustration part of writing should not be confused with you or your abilities, try not to take it personally. Writing is a skill, an ongoing, ever improving skill – it is not a reflection of you as a person. This last point is the hardest to remember, because so much effort is often put into our writing. And anything less than success can feel like a personal failure, it’s not. Your writing is just that - writing, just like you learned how to tell time, and as frustrating as that could be (just look at kids struggle with it), which you may still have to figure out time zones and daylight savings, – but having eventually mastered time, you are now able to do many more things from this skill. Writing is similar, often frustrating, but a skill that will open up more possibilities.
Having shared some philosophical issues about writing, here are those issues in practice:
Feedback is an integral part of the writing dialogue. I will happily talk to you about your paper(s) and ideas, that’s how points one and two listed above are put into practice. If things are unclear, let’s figure out how to make things more clear. In particular, I understand that people learn differently and attempt to present methods that will address a variety of learning styles, if something doesn’t work for you let me know. The dialogue moves in both directions.
Revisiting and revising. The intention of Revisiting papers is to help think about the “big picture,” of how to better organize the ideas presented in a paper. Assignments and in-class activities are designed to facilitate a re-thinking about organization and ideas. Revising is an application of re-thinking a.k.a. “revisiting”, which means that the revisit should occur prior to the revision. Revising is always an option; most learning occurs through some form of doing. Since writing is a process, revision is always a significant step in this process – I will always read a revision. Having said that, revising and re-writing a paper will not by definition make it better, that’s why the revisit is so important. Further, it is also why talking with a colleague (or your instructor) is an integral part of the writing process. If we just stayed fixed to our computers, essentially inside our heads all the time, we would never know how our ideas were being received or if our ideas were understood.
One last comment, in addition to reading revised drafts, I will also read drafts prior to their being due. In other words, if you want feedback on your Analytic Paper prior to turning it in, I will do that. Note: I will not read your “first draft” which may contain spelling and grammatical errors, typos, etc. If you want your paper read prior the due date, you will need to submit a eletronic copy to me by 6pm on Wednesday November 30. This will allow you to incorporate your colleagues’ feedback from the previous evening’s class and allow time to revise the paper after I read it.
Don't forget, the Writing Center is always a great option. Check out their page MSU Writing Center
Posted by coph0004 at November 23, 2005 1:46 PM