Writing Communities, Big and Small

Hello! I’m back for the Capstone, and so excited to finish up this last semester writing a lot! I have always done a consistent amount of writing in my course work, but it is usually limited to argumentation and research papers. In my seven semesters as a political science major I’ve gotten pretty good at writing the two, six to eight page papers that all my social science classes require. I am hoping through the more flexible Capstone, I’ll be able to take a few more risks and break out of this mold. The most interesting writing I have done in the past few months has actually been outside of my normal courses, and for different and new communities.

Last year I spent the winter semester in Washington DC, interning for the think tank, Center for American Progress. There I worked on a team devoted to women’s reproductive rights and I found myself writing for the policy community. I was very fortunate to have a supervisor that trusted me to do some of the initial drafting of issue briefs and other products that we would put out. It was really exciting to be working on a topic I am passionate about and  contributing to a larger body of work for a broader audience. Even though I was very eager, it took a while to get comfortable with this community’s style and medium. The writing had to be direct and clear, rooted in facts, yet still with an inherent persuasive tone. The goal is to be informative on an issue, while also convincing the reader that this is an issue that deserves their attention and that we have a good solution. I loved working in the fast paced environment where things could change in a few minutes. One of my favorite products I worked on was a column, “Congress Must Stop Playing Politics with Abortion.” It was a response to a few controversial actions in the Congress, and it was one of the first times I actually got to work on a piece that spoke directly to something happening right as I was writing. Even if only in a small way, it is cool to think I contributed to an ongoing conversation.

In the last few months I also found myself writing in a much smaller community,: admissions committees to law schools. I obsessed over these short answer questions, resumes, and personal statements for most of the summer. I felt the stress of having just 750 words that could be what determines such a huge part of my future. Yet even with that pressure, it was nice to reflect on my goals and for once not cite anything. I looked back at a lot of my writing to sort of track my progression of the last four years, both in my skill and my discovery of what I want to do with my life. With such little space I had to be incredibly strategic: tell a story, but still get the point across, show my personality, but don’t be casual. After months of rewriting I produced really tight writing with what I hoped was the right amount of determination, humility, and inspiration.

I enjoyed writing for these two communities that both vary in their scope and subject matter. And while the subject matter of the writing is very different, in both I essentially was trying to capture someones attention and sell them something, whether it be a policy suggestion or myself as a law student.

4 thoughts to “Writing Communities, Big and Small”

  1. Hi Julia!

    I love what you said about wanting to take more risks in your writing. That is something I am really focusing on for this semester as well. I was amazed by the work you did for the Center of American Progress…that’s incredible! I would certainly say that that was writing that took some willingness to take risks. You had to trust your own skills and adequacy as a writer in order to contribute to that project and I imagine that that may have been daunting at the first. Good for you! Applying for law school is another daunting challenge as you said, but in different ways. I bet it was fascinating seeing what you had to say about yourself as a senior in college as opposed to a senior in high school. Good luck with the applications!

  2. Julia,

    It does sound like those two writing communities you found yourself involved with were quite different. I know next to nothing about policy writing and all that jazz, but I went ahead and looked at the link you included — what a neat experience working at the Center for American Progress must have been! It is always a great feeling to get published and be recognized for your writing. I am definitely more in tune with the kind of writing you had to do for your admissions essays and such. Not having to cite information and writing purely from knowledge of self had to be freeing in a sense. It sounds like both of these writing communities challenged you in some way — the policy writing needing to be both rooted in facts and persuasive; the admissions writing needing to be concise and revealing — and that both helped you grow as a writer. I hope this semester in the Capstone allows you to get a little crazier with your writing voice and subject matter.

    “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” – Robin Williams

  3. Hi Julia,

    I’ve always imagined writing policy to be a monumental task filled with legal terms and stacks of paper work, so it was interesting to hear your work in Washington. It seems like the clear and direct nature of writing policy will help you with the law school applications, with both emphasizing the value of every word. While I would imagine you might want to change up the style of writing you have been working with as Logan stated above, but a cool final project might be a serious proposal written and drafted, though I don’t know how much work that would be. It could be a definite selling point for any law school or job that you wanted in the future. Good luck with Capstone!

  4. Julia,
    It is so cool that you had the opportunity to go to DC for a semester and you helped with a column! I am very jealous. It is interesting to see how much writing relates to your major- from your internship, to Law school applications. I think you are absolutely right- taking risks with your writing is exactly what the writing minor is for! I would suggest to challenge yourself, but to also let yourself have some fun! Reward yourself for completing those law school applications. Good luck!

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