“How I Write” Event with Dr. Sheila Murphy

On Tuesday evening (October 23), I attended Sweetland’s “How I Write” event with University of Michigan Screen Arts and Cultures’ Associate Professor, Sheila Murphy. This wasn’t the first time I heard Professor Murphy speak. Professor Murphy was one of a select group of guest lecturers for UC 225 (22 Ways of Thinking About The Games We Play) during the Winter 2012 semester earlier this year.

It was easy to relate to Professor Murphy. She told very personal stories about why she writes, the process of how she writes, and how she continues to motivate herself to write more – even though she doesn’t need much motivation (just comfy pants, good snacks, and some pre-writing music). She also has a new book out, which I’d like to read, “How Television Invented New Media.” 

As an aspiring writer, one thing I struggle with is eradicating jargon. Professor Murphy discussed why she gets frustrated and annoyed with jargon in the field of writing. Murphy said it should be, “legible and accessible.” I agree with Murphy in the sense that writing should be legible and accessible, but sometimes there’s pressure to establish your ideas in a certain way. Writing should be a way to convey an idea or a message – so, why complicate it?

One thing that really struck me, which prompted my question at the end of her presentation, was why, as a child, “Was she discouraged from asking people ‘Why’”?

Often times, people unnecessarily ask the question “why”. But, there is nothing wrong with being inquisitive if it serves a useful purpose. For me, I frequently find myself asking others… “Why.” Whether it’s in the professional setting, in the classroom, or with my friends – there’s always more to discover. That’s why I ask the question.

Professor Murphy ended with wise words of advise to individuals looking to improve their writing: She says be invested, be committed, and avoid jargon (especially for undergrads), use your brain, even if it gets reformatted, and never take what you’re doing too seriously.

2 thoughts to ““How I Write” Event with Dr. Sheila Murphy”

  1. Sydney- I liked, “use your brain, even if it gets reformatted, and never take what you are doing too seriously.” I think that taking “yourself too seriously” is what really stood out to me. I think that the use of jargon sometimes stems from taking our opinions and thoughts too seriously and needing to have others be impressed with those serious feelings. I do think however, there is a Catch 22 in not using jargon in academics, because sometimes the professors expect/grade for the impressive words, even if there are possibly clearer ways to write the same ideas. Similarly, in business letters or emails, sounding over-the-top educated can be a helpful thing…I agree with Murphy, and you, and look forward to reading her book.

  2. Hey Sydney. I wasn’t able to make it to the lecture, so I enjoyed hearing about it from someone who heard Prof. Murphy speak already. That lecture about interacting with games sounds pretty interesting. Any chance you could give me a sentence or two summary about what her points were? (I’m sure it was while ago, so no worries). Also, I couldn’t agree more about being comfy and having drinks+snacks+music to get in the writing mood. I personally have a chair that I got when I was 16 that is super comfortable and even has speakers in it (nerdy, I know, I was 16), but I still use it to write today. So there ya go.

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