Earlier this evening, I attended the Sweetland Center for Writing and Minor in Writing “How I Write” event, ” ‘I’ Am Always First Person: How Auto-Ethnography, Good Snacks, and Comfortable Pants Can Defeat the Time-Honored Tradition of the Boring Academic Essay,” with Screen Arts and Cultures’ Associate Professor Sheilah Murphy. Murphy is a digital media scholar who’s interests lie in digital media theory, technology, television, video games, identity politics, and of course her cats and dogs!
At first, I was a little skeptical about the “How I Write” events in general, because I expected someone who wrote something really academic and discussed their method of writing and research…but as soon as Murphy’s first slide was up (and she mentioned puppies…) – I was intrigued.
One of the main takeaways from the event was when Murphy mentioned that she wanted to write in a way that people can understand…and actually receive it. This reminded me of something I learned during my facilitation and motivational interview training, “Active listening requires listening with your eyes, ears, and heart.” This connection stood out to me because often, someone can be giving you information, verbal or written, and you could be standing there and not really getting a single word. The whole point of communication is to engage the other party! Murphy stressed the importance of not using jargon in order to effectively engage the reader!
I also really appreciated Sheilah’s take on the process of her writing…and how she recommends wearing comfy clothes and setting a timer for 15 minutes and almost forcing yourself to start writing within that time…which could then get you into the flow of an idea (almost like the last line on the 6th page of your shitty first draft!) She also mentioned that it was important to set time aside to write, because in today’s world where there’s always something else to do…writing becomes anything but your first priority.
When Murphy talked about how she never writes on a desk, but rather usually on the couch…I was in total agreement! I basically use my desk as a storage space with about a million books on it, and I end up writing on my recliner chair, in my bed, or outside on the grass (which has been hard to do recently thanks to Michigan’s moody weather of course). And usually…I’m wearing comfy pants – I agree, it REALLY does make a difference. Once I get a paragraph or a line down on my screen or paper, I’m on a roll until I’ve exhausted everything about my idea…or I decide to take a nap. haha
One thing I like to do as well is put my phone away in another room: outta sight outta mind. Technology can be such a distraction sometimes, that just leaving your phone somewhere else will help you control your need to check every single text you receive and promptly reply. Or you can always have your phone stolen and learn that the hard way. haha.
I look forward to using Murphy’s advice as I write my law school personal statement for my re-purposing project and academic writing in general. It just shows you how important your audience really is! I really enjoyed today’s event and I look forward to the next one!
And remember…always wear comfy pants!