How To: Write what’s Right

I took a trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes this past weekend and got to do a bit of reflecting on the past couple months that I’ve spent here at the U.  Not shockingly, a lot of that reflection has to do with my becoming of a writer, and along with this, an innovative thinker.  The following is (1) a picture of me on the beach, and (2) a response to my much needed time spent in nature these past few days.

Photo taken by Dishi of me at Lake Michigan in the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

At the beginning of this semester, I found myself rather dismayed while looking through my syllabi.  I think that an average semester for me would involve something on the order of 6 to 10 or so assigned essays, in total and split between my classes.  Unbelievably, I was reading through each of my classes and totaled to 20 essays that I would be writing this semester.  And this number is not inclusive of the numerous proposal essays I would find that I am required to write as a pre-essay planning process.  While most of these essays are 5 page write ups, I’ve knocked out one that was a whopping 40 pages.  Let me tell you, 20 essays seems like a daunting number.

Here I am, 17 essays later, coming up on the deadline of my last few assignments and I can’t believe I did it.  Sure, I’ve gotten a bit better at writing in general, but the time commitment hasn’t shortened up too much.  Through these grueling hours of writing anything from creative haiku’s to intensive international urban planning research persuasive essays, I’ve most certainly found more of myself in perspective of a writer than I knew before getting to Ann Arbor for my sophomore year.

Why I Write:

I am very much a “write to learn” type of gal.  Often times on my physics free response homework problems, I will just start writing what I know (which might even be a restatement of a question) in order to get the ball rolling towards an answer.  I love to write research papers because of the satisfaction of realizing you are drawing conclusions about things that no one has ever even thought of before.

Parallel to this, I am, as well, a “write to heal” type of journalist.  It’s hard for me to reflect on things, but I have learned from this semester that the best way for me to come to terms with my past is to write about it.  And the best part about this reflective writing is that it was initially written for myself, but I get the wonderful opportunity to share this writing with others.  And in response to my hard work on a body of text, I can instantly place a smile on a number of peoples faces.  After all, that’s what life’s about, right? Sharing thanks and spreading happiness? (as I discovered in my repurposing project).

How I Write:

I am a VERY slow writer. In fact, I traditionally use my blogs as quick writing exercises, which helps me practice the documentation of quick thought.  My process is lengthy, though, as I like to think through every decision I make in terms of diction and sentence structure the first time around.  I rate paragraphs by density.  Once I start to ramble, I can feel the paragraph losing density.  When this happens, I usually rewrite the paragraph into about two sentences to densify it and then I have the opportunity to add more thoughts to the tail of that paragraph.


Overall, I’ve sort of found my place in writing this semester.  I use it as a way to record my experiences of a place while traveling.  I use it as a tool to say what I want,  I use it as a way to explain my learning process and, as well, a way to learn in itself.  And on top of all of this, I use writing as a tool for healing.  And now, I really don’t know what I would do without this outlet.  In fact, 17 essays later, I can name this as one of the most impactful and learning filled semesters of my college career, thus far.  And that is something that is pretty cool to get to say at this point in my life.

Caroline Petersen

Caroline is a contributing writer to the Sweetland Minor in Writing Blog. She is an architect in training and spends a lot of her time sipping on cappuccinos and discussing elements of malfunctioning building features. She is a city girl who spent her elementary summers in the middle of Iowa at her aunt and uncles farm. She is a woman of many (unusual) facets that are traditionally fairly useless.

2 thoughts to “How To: Write what’s Right”

  1. Caroline,
    Let me begin by congratulating you on making it through 17 of your 20 essays. Just one writing assignment is enough to give me stress. I can’t imagine standing before 20. Furthermore, I understand the satisfactory feeling that you get from writing a research paper, or utilizing writing as a method to learn and solve problems. In fact, I would say that feeling of clarity and understanding is the very reason I write. I utilize writing as a way to clear my thoughts, and my writing process is therefore rather slow (similar to what you stated in your post). This writing process is a stark contrast to the “think first, and document later” mindset. However, we all write with different processes, and for different reasons, and it is this variation that leads to such a broad array of literature. Thanks for sharing your weekend reflections!

  2. Do you sleep?
    I’m mostly kidding on that, but WOW, Caroline! Get it! Talk about a writing intensive semester.
    I really get your “write to learn” feelings. However, I usually get a similar feeling when I work with numbers (aka: do the math thing). There’s a definite sense of accomplishment and clarity that you were ale to figure it out. It’s interesting to think about applying this to writing.
    Usually, it’s easy to feel accomplished at the end of any writing you feel proud of. Now, maybe it’s just me, but I feel like with fiction, at least, clarity is a feeling more reserved for the reader when they finish. Of course in a research situation, with the writer exploring the topic as they go and learning more and more interesting information, clarity more easily seen as a shared feeling between writer and reader.

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