The Writing Zone

What, Jeff, the hell is a writing zone?

That’s a fantastic question, I’m so glad you asked. The writing zone is that my mind goes to sometimes when I sit down to write. Not all the time, but some of the time. I know when I’m there…I was there just a little while ago. (Sorry if this sounds really weird right now, but I’m getting somewhere I promise). The writing zone is fully engrosing – when it pulls you in, you never want to leave. It’s where you go when your creative juices fully flow and everything you put down just magically makes sense. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know there’s no real place called the writing zone where every writer goes to write (that’d be pretty cool though right?), but that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t exist. Read More

Group Essay-Writing: A Rant

With the topic of this extra-blog post being pretty open-ended, I’ve decided to do what I do best: be snarky and criticize things. I was talking to a friend yesterday about a business school class that she’s taking (and that I took last year). One of the assignments is to write a paper. Pretty standard right? The catch is that it’s a group paper. Basically, each 6 person group turns in one paper. So how can a group approach this? In my mind, there are 3 major options:

1) One person writes the entire paper.

2) Six people write different parts of a paper, and the group attempts to stitch the parts together Frankenstein-style. The six parts will inevitably be written in six different styles with overlapping content. The group will then spend a ridiculous amount of time normalizing the styles and removing the overlapping content. This method takes at least 10x longer than method 1.

3) The group writes the paper together. Essentially, six people verbally discuss the paper on a sentence-by-sentence basis until they are in agreement. People will disagree on everything, so this option will take even more time than option 2.

Option 1 sucks because one person does all the work. Option 2 sucks because Frankensteining and then de-Frankensteining a paper takes forever. Option 3 sucks ever more than option 2 because it takes even more time. Therefore, the group must agree on which of these options is the lesser of the three evils. This makes the project frustrating and borderline nonsensical. Last year, my group chose option 2 and I naively volunteered to stitch everything together. I ended up spending more time putting the different pieces together than I would have just writing the whole essay myself. The only positive thing I can say about this assignment is that it teaches students how to finagle themselves out of an inefficient project structure. In business, similar situations will inevitably arise when a client gives a team a chunk of work that can’t be split into pieces. So in a sense, the project was a good exercise in navigating situations that seem doomed to fail. But as a whole, I think group essay-writing is a mostly pointless exercise and hopefully I won’t have to do it again soon.

“Free Paper Help”

So, currently in my BA class we are working on a big written project.

18-22 pages?  Oh, awesome.  No biggie, right?

It is very stressful, to say the least.  But at least it is a group project.  The reason I thought of this writing project immediately was because other than Writing 220, my BA class is the only other class I have been doing writing for this semester.

That’s why I really love that I have Writing 220 and BA as outlets for my creative side; it is a nice break from my other business classes that are more math and concept based.

I find it funny to compare writing in a business setting to the Minor in Writing setting. First of all, as soon as I was assigned my group for the BA project our conversation went something like this:

“What are everyone’s strengths for the upcoming project?  This will help us to delegate the upcoming workload.”

“Oh – Amanda you are in the Minor in Writing?!  Perfect.  You will be the one who holds the team up then.”

I find that this has been the case in a variety of instances at Ross.  The amount of times I have had fellow classmates come up to me asking me to look over their resumes or an email they are about to send because they know I am in the minor is too many to count.

Apparently, being in the Minor in Writing is equivalent to having a giant sign on my forehead saying “Free Paper Help.”

All I need is a machine spitting out waiting numbers (like at the secretary of state or grocery store) and I am good to go.

In the minor, I find my writing constantly challenged by those surrounding me.  This has been great.  I see what others are doing and it encourages me to take more risks as I see the positive payoffs.  Especially with the Repurposing projects – I keep hearing all of these great ideas and it makes me more encouraged to make my own piece more different.

So, as you can see, I am definitely getting the best of both worlds being in the minor and also being a business student.  I have an outlet for research through case studies of businesses I am interested in through my BA class; this allows me to take on a serious voice in the writing and work on a professional tone.  Yet, I also have the minor, which allows me to work on my voice in addition to my professional voice.

It is interesting to see the overlap of the two.  I find my more creative side showing through in my business writing which oftentimes makes for an interesting additional argument. Also, I find the more concise formatting of business-type papers oftentimes prevailing in a lot of my Writing 220 work.

Now all I need is to get these 22 pages over with.  Wish me luck!

22 pages later
22 pages later

Why and how an inspiration of mine writes

My mom just sent me an article detailing the writing process of one of my writing inspirations, Atul Gawande, so I thought I would share. Gawande is a surgeon in Boston who writes about his experiences in the New Yorker in his spare time. As a premed student minoring in writing, I look up to Gawande and hope to be able to write about my experiences in the medical world as he does. This interview was interesting because Gawande discussed his writing process. He also included an excerpt from his “Why I Write” piece, which I thought was really cool since our first paper was based around that theme.

One thing I liked about this piece is that Gawande exposed some of his weaknesses in the writing process, which made him more relatable. If he can have weaknesses but still be a successful writer then it’s possible for me to do the same. Gawande claimed that he is “not a natural writer” and that he has to follow certain strategies to not “overthink” or “get bogged down” in his writing. He mentioned that he pretends that he is simply writing an email rather than writing a magazine piece so that he doesn’t get “stuck” while writing. I can definitely relate to this; I have no problem writing on my own, but the minute there’s a deadline attached to what I’m writing, I start having writer’s block. Maybe if I use his strategy I will have an easier time with writing assignments for school.

I also related to Gawande’s “Why I Write” blurb. He mentioned that he writes mainly to “work out stuff” that confuses him. I always feel that writing down my thoughts gives me much more clarity and helps me understand the world around me, as I mentioned in my own “Why I Write” paper. In addition, I admired how Gawande says he writes to connect with people on a deeper emotional level. He gave a great example about how in college he tried to connect with people through composing songs and playing them on the guitar, but was unsuccessful. Instead he later discovered writing as a medium that he could use to make that connection. I would love to hone my writing skills in order to express my feelings to an audience in a way that they could relate.

Write to present

I am fortunate to escape from studies a little bit to enjoy the fall foliage in Colorado during this fall break and to meet a friend who is a career advisor and was specialized in writing before in the University of Colorado. We had dinner together (awesome homemade pizza) and discussed about resume writing, which actually pushed me to think further about writing as a way of presenting ethos. I asked a question perhaps every graduating student would ask: what do employers see the most important in a resume? Or what is one recommendation you would give on resume writing? She told me that one suggestion is do not lie. I think most people will have the same reaction with me when hearing this advice for the first time. I don’t think anybody would lie about their resume, but these cases exist and it does not exist in a small group. However, we should pay close attention to the definition of lying because it can be considered to be a good “lie” when we elaborate the words and make it better matches with our career goal or a particular position while a bad lie is to simply lie about the fact that does not exist or create stories that have never happened.

Resume is an extreme example of presenting writer’s ethos because the whole point of resume is to help others, especially the potential employer, to read about a person’s ethos and to analyze if he/she matches with the position. But if we think in a broader sense, we could not find single one type of writing which does not present the writers’ ethos because writers are disclosing different aspects of themselves through writing content and everything necessary to complete the writing process. Therefore, writing itself is a self-disclosure; it is a presentation of ethos.

Then we have talked about a different format of resume which is more skill-based than the traditional chronological formatting. This change in writing a resume is actually also a part of writing though it will not be a big one. Written in a different order, the resume can stand out only because it is from a different perspective or format if ignoring the actual content. Writing (especially when it serves some kinds of functions) is just like making advertisement, which requires us not only to create the content, but to design the packages. All in all, I just want to say that writing is not all about writing; it is also about how we present ourselves as writers and how we perfect the presentation.

How clever is Twitter?

For the past 10 minutes, I have sat at the Daily looking through Tweets. It dawned upon me the majority of reading I do throughout the day is on Twitter. So I asked myself this question: “Am I becoming less educated because of reading tweets rather than edited prose?” After some quick thinking, I came to the conclusion that I’m not stunting my learning, reading or writing ability in any way by reading an almost disgusting amount of tweets a day.

Rather, I thought tweets are carefully crafted sentences that are restricted to 140 characters. Tweets are to the point and, in a sense, some of the best writing there is. Just because its not in a book, article, magazine, etc., it doesn’t mean the writing is bad. Some magazine articles have word limits of 4,000 words (words, not characters!!!!). That’s a lot of room for jargon and unnecessary language. Instead, on Twitter, you are restricted and it forces the writer to become more creative with word choice.

Just think: writers at the newspaper write stories around 500 words. They then are forced to condense the story in a creative, convincing matter in 140 CHARACTERS. What’s more difficult? I’d bet the answer would surprise you.

You Are a Writer, and You Are FANTASTIC.

I did this on my personal blog, and I thought it might be nice to do for you all here too- so here goes:

YOU- you there with the laptop or desktop computer, or phone, or other device that lets you access this post- you are absolutely fantastic. Now I know you have a paper/article/poem/story/manuscript/thesis/hieroglyphic due (how do I know that? Because we’re writing students, we always have some writing due), and I know you’re tired, and weary, and your fingers are cramping and the early onset carpal tunnel is setting in, but YOU CAN DO THIS. You have done it before; 3:00AM on a Wednesday typing up the masterpiece that would be your first Freshman English paper, months and months reading over the magnificent opus that was your Common Application Essay, 11:52PM working furiously for an 11:59PM deadline. You have done it, and you have conquered. You are a writing minor. You are a warrior.

Remember: every great bit of writing started with an empty page. And now, that page is yours. Fill it with everything you could possibly think of for that really esoteric research topic for your upper level PoliSci class, fill it with every thought, every emotion you have ever had. Create characters that never existed before you gave them life, make news and break it, and declare your scientific discoveries to the world. You can change something, you can affect people, all you have to do is tap away at those keys, burn through that ink or graphite.

You crazy writer, you have opened up a portal, each word you write is the birth of a new idea, each sentence is utterly unique to you. You create waves, you create change, you create life. Yes, you create life with that tedious summary of protein synthesis and analysis of the works of Montaigne, because it’s yours. So OWN IT.

Never apologize for your writing, never apologize for your thoughts.  Maybe it’s the coffee flowing through your veins, maybe it’s the ghost of Poe or Dickens or Angelou in your spirit, but you cannot be stopped. Your fingers skate on that keyboard, every letter is a note of a grand symphony. Shh. Shut up. Just listen. Can you hear it? That beautiful sound? That’s the sound of your mind bleeding onto a Word document. You control that blinking cursor, you make it dance for you. Push that cursor pages beyond its wildest dreams.

You are a writer, and you are absolutely fantastic.

So that was my overzealous writer’s pep talk. Best of luck to everyone working on the Repurposing Project at the moment, and to the rest of you with all your writing endeavors!

Creating my own Blog

So, I am able to really think about my decisions in blogging while writing my repurposing project. I am excited because I have been thinking about maybe after this class and creating an e-portfolio, that I will use that then as my own personal blog. And now I’m like  WOAH, I know exactly what my “theme” and first blog would be– my repurposing project. Ideally, this project is about leadership. Throughout my life I have endured a lot of different leadership roles (and leadership conferences, ranches, day-long events, etc. you name it, I’ve done it). Also, through college athletics, I have been able to continue my leadership roles. With the combination of my own personal experience and this AWESOME writing class, I have decided to write my repurpose piece about a leadership in sports blog. This will then set the precedent of my e-portfolio, my personal blog, and the rest of my theme.

I am really excited to create my own personal blog because I can continue my writing and finding my voice. This is one thing that I have talked with Naomi a lot about. Because I am so use to writing the “studious” argumentative essays, I have not been able to find my own voice in this unique writing that Writing 220 offers. Therefore, I am declaring right now that I will be writing my own personal blogs by the start of 2015. I will definitely create some achievable goals for this task, so stick with me and you will be able to come along for the ride in the life of Emily Sejna soon enough.

Writing Together

For another one of my classes, I am working on a collaborative research paper. At first, I thought this going to be just like writing a research paper, but easier. I figured, more people means less work. And at first it did.

To begin, we split up researching responsibilities. One group member would research X, while another researched Y. This worked out nicely because we all had the opportunity to explore one topic in depth, instead on a bunch of topics superficially.

But now we’re actually writing the paper. And I’ve realized there are a few drawbacks to working with a group. Forget about scheduling out times to meet–that’s the least of my worries.

1. We all have different writing styles. How on earth are we going to make this paper sound cohesive?

2. I’m very particular. If I want to rewrite a passage, how do I do so with out offending anyone?

3. I don’t like to save things for the last minute. How do I encourage my group to get working in advanced?


Please leave advice in the comments!

My brother, the texting poet

This weekend, my little brother Joey is coming to visit. He is a senior in high school, and, though he may not admit it, considers Michigan a dream school and would be devastated if he were to be rejected.

Joey is an incredible writer. My dad, a former creative director at an advertising agency turned creative consultant and business owner, passed on a writing-skills gene that I am convinced somehow skipped me. In addition to his eloquently written school assignments, he serves as editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper.

As silly as it may seem, Joey’s best writing, in my opinion, comes from his text messages. I am the more extroverted sibling and he the more introverted sibling. While he is a man of few words, every word he says has greater bearing than the sum of all of my jibber-jabber.

Honestly, usually I am the one initiating text convos between the two of us. But each of his responses, even when they’re only one word, seem to have a lot of thought behind them. It makes the rare days when we decides to text me a question, or to vent about something at school or with my parents, feel that much more special.

As I said, Joey is freaking out about college applications, and about Michigan in particular, but as a man of few words, I notice many of his moments of anxiety through his little text questions. Still, if he can write college applications with the depth and sincerity with which he composes his text messages, as silly as it sounds, I know he’ll have a fighting chance.