Déjà vu!

No, not the strip club, but the phenomenon of having a strong feeling that an event currently being experienced has been experienced in the past.

I swear, this defines my entire semester. In every single class I’m taking, we’ve discussed the importance of keeping the audience in mind while writing. From my Political Science classes to my Psychology classes, all I hear is how important the audience is. This is exactly how our How I Write speaker, Thomas Hager, introduced his writing process. Keep the audience in mind – I get it! Phew.

Thomas Hager writes narrative nonfiction on health and science. I loved the way he started his talk, “I’m not just interested in writing, but in being read.” I mean, isn’t that common in academic writing? You write to spread awareness, get the word out, show people what you’ve learned, and even to ask for more money. The whole point is the conversation you’re having – and that goes to show you how important the audience is.

Hager describes his writing process as working with real material and turning it into a story you want to read or a scene you can imagine. Genius! If only all my textbooks were like this. It took me, no joke, 3 hours to finally understand a 5 page journal article. That’s ridiculous! And that was only after my friend described it to me over the phone in basically 3 minutes. If the entire journal article could be summarized into a paragraph, imagine how much of that was jargon! Hager mentioned that he had to shorten one of his books into less than a quarter of its original size to appeal to high school students, and that in the end, the shorter version basically encompassed everything you need to know! Crazy, right?

Another thing that I really liked from his talk was his emphasis on the pre-writing process. Research is SO important. And just reading and collecting information isn’t enough…you need to be actively reading and organizing the information in a way that you can later use it effectively. His process of writing the important information down on a note card was super helpful! I’m working on a policy memo for my Human Security class and I literally had 20 tabs open at one time. So I quit Safari, opened up the first link that looked helpful, scanned the information to see what was relevant to my topic and might be useful later on, and wrote down the date, topic, the quote, and what general category it fell under/how it fit into my research (ex: Time-line, budget-related, possible actions). And after I did all my research and organized all my note cards, it was SO much easier to pull everything together and write my memo!

So basically, thank you Thomas Hager for being a super cool guy and giving us all awesome practical advice!

2 thoughts to “Déjà vu!”

  1. Khushi,
    I know exactly what you mean about classes overlapping, I feel like I recently noticed and commented on the blog post about this trend as well! As I write more and more papers this semester I feel like the idea of having the audience has been engrained in the back of my mind at this point. I love how you brought up Hager’s point: “I’m not just interested in writing, but in being read.” because I remember thinking after he said that “wow that is refreshing from someone who writes about such topic.” Yet it makes me sad as well that this is so refreshing because why wouldn’t someone who spends so much time writing an academic journal want their writing to be interesting and for people to want to read it other than when they have to?

  2. Can I just say that when I clicked on your post, your first five words put my worries to rest. Too funny, Khushi! I, too, walked away from the event thinking, “Thank God somebody has something practical to tell me today.” I really enjoyed how well this post captured Hager’s whole talk.

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