I'm currently working on a Frankenstein paper. It was due on Friday. I spent the better part of the weekend stressing out over it. I kept going through a vicious cycle of sitting down and trying to write the paper, freaking out staring at the almost blank screen, going back to the text and my notes and realizing that I had tons of information, feeling confident again, and finally freaking out in front of the blank screen all over again. So I took my page and a half of extremely rough draft and my two pounds of rambling incoherent notes to Sarah at the Coffman satellite. I had spent hours trying to come up with a firm outline, and knew that my thesis wasn't strong enough, and was hoping for a tutor that had read Frankenstein and could talk to me about the novel and help me organize my ideas. Sarah has not read Frankenstein, but she did help a lot with my paper. Part of it was just the "Freud in the Writing Center" euphoria of having someone care about your writing struggles, but most of it was just talking about my ideas and having someone ask important questions about them. These questions showed me the parts of my argument that I was sure about, and the parts that I was still confused about. Talking about my ideas also gave me a clearer picture of how I need to organize them in order for someone to understand them. Sarah also said I need to narrow my point and gave me some suggestions for doing that. Although I didn't end up using her suggestions, they did get me thinking about a lot of different ways to narrow my ideas. I left feeling a lot more confident and am now finally working toward a coherent argument. I've also been e-mailing my instructor, and after only having read my thesis, she said I should make sure to start my paragraphs with topic sentences that connect my new point with the previous one. I found this particularly interesting because whenever students come to me worried about transitions between paragraphs, I usually tell them that it's not that important to relate the end of one paragraph to the start of the next, but it's more important to sum up one point before introducing the next. That's the strategy I usually use, but, taking my instructor's advice, I'm using related transitions and finding it very helpful in formulating a well-connected argument. So I'll have to change the advice I give to students now. I kind of feel bad for all of the ones that I lied to. But I didn't know I was lying at the time, I swear.
ps Thanks for getting on my case Jim; I needed that. I'm gonna catch up. I promise.