An Open Letter to Future Cohorts: Welcome to the CHAOS

Dear Writing Cohort-folk,

First of all, congratulations!  Getting admitted to this program is easily one of the coolest things that’s happened to me since coming to U of M.  The projects in the gateway course are really fun, and, if you play your cards right, they’ll  really push you to grow and develop as a writer.

This brings me the main point of this blog post: “playing your cards right”; what exactly does that mean, and how do you go about doing it?

The answer is simple, but much easier said than done: You need to constantly revisit the chaos.

There’s this article I read for Writing 300 (Seminar in Peer Tutoring) called “Responding to Student Writing” by the very smart, scholarly Nancy Sommers, where she discuses the notion of “revisiting the chaos” in writing, meaning re-entering the place in your writing process where you feel lost, overwhelmed, or just plain old unhappy because you’ve cut too much, rearranged things in a weird way, or have done something else to really mess up whatever balance you had in the previous draft.  For her, revising is built on this notion, and I couldn’t agree with her more.

The truth is, I don’t think you’re really a writer until you reach a point in your work where you think you’ve completely destroyed everything and have no hope of recovery, only to find a few minutes later that you’ve made the piece waaay stronger than it was before.  And I think you need to do this at least 3 times.

For me, this is what the gateway course has been all about.  I have been revisiting the chaos so much that I practically live there.  Is this terrifying, stressful, and at times awful?  YES!  But DAMN have you read my essay for Project 2???  That stress and terror are worth creating art I feel proud of.

My point in telling you this, future writing minors, is not to scare you off, or give you any sort of tough love.  I just want you to know that if you find yourself feeling freaked out, lost, or overwhelmed in your revising process, it’s okay.

This is a good time and place to be lost.

2 thoughts to “An Open Letter to Future Cohorts: Welcome to the CHAOS”

  1. Hi Brooke,

    Thanks so much for your advice. I already know that I will be revisiting your insight and advice time and time again throughout my time in this minor. After I am done with the first draft of work, I experience a bittersweet feeling of sinking excitement. I know there is potential in the work but I also know in creating this first draft I have completed the first step of what will be a toiling process of edits and re-edits. I love you’re the phrase “revisiting the chaos” because there is certainly few better ways than describing a work in progress as somewhat chaotic. There are so many moving parts and pieces that are still growing and reaching full potential. The responsibility as the writer and creator is to shape these pieces to their full potential and the idea of not doing the piece justice can be heart-rending.

    I appreciate your forewarning and words of advice as somebody further along in the writing minor than myself. I am both excited and ready for the challenges that lay ahead if I play my cards right. I know that revisiting the chaos again and again may be exhausting, but will guarantee an opportunity to grow as a writer.

  2. Brooke-

    I found your advise very applicable to my position as a writer. In the past, I have had teachers and professors asking me to tear apart pieces of writing that I felt comfortable with and was unwilling to do so. In fact, in the instances when I have spent time hacking away at parts of essays and constructed works, I have felt much more comfortable with the resultant work. “Entering the chaos” is very intimidating for me and I think that it can come off as just an opportunity to do extra work in the eyes of many people, but to become a better writer, it is clearly necessary. This blog post of advise reminded me to take risk and ask questions even when you think you know the answers. I am excited to get things rolling in this gateway class and I plan to return to this post of yours to remind myself, throughout the course of the semester, of how important it is to return to a piece of work; to “revisit the chaos”.
    Thanks for the advise!
    -Caroline

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