Challenge Journal: I guess it’s a common theme…

…that I struggle when the writing gets “serious” to make the tone still my own. Ha. Poet and I didn’t know it.

On Thursday, after I wrote my third challenge journal (check it out), I had a meeting with my writing GSI for my BFA year-long thesis. He was very complimentary of the last half of the paper, because, in his words, “it was very fun to read.” However, he kindly explained that I had completely lost that “fun, free voice” during the parts in which I was explaining my research for the project.

It was only once I was able to get to the part of the writing where I was actually writing about what wanted to and felt comfortable with that the writing sounded like my own.

Interesting. I lose my writing voice both when I’m feeling vulnerable/exposed and when I’m writing about things I find boring.

One paragraph of the research part of my thesis reads:

“A recurring theme throughout my research, which was expected, was the importance of taking children outside to learn. Almost every research paper or book that I read on early childhood education included the idea of letting children come to their own conclusions—and one of the best ways for them to both formulate their own questions and come up with their own solutions is immersing them in a natural environment.”

Mike and I talked about how many different ways I could make that simple paragraph more my own. I could talk about how I built a log cabin outside with my sister and friend when I was about 10. I could talk about how one of my favorite memories of upper elementary school was that my teacher Ms. Angelakis would take us outside with a boatload of towels to sit on for free reading time whenever it was warm enough. I could even just throw in a couple side comments to make the writing slightly less bland. 

I know that it’s important to sometimes say less– my writing tends to get very “frilly”, or wordy, and I’ve been known to say the same sentence twice just because it sounds really good both ways. However, I have room in this thesis to add a little bit of personal flair– not frilliness, but flair– to make the thesis more fun and exciting and relatable for the reader to get through.

It’s a different way of thinking about “what do I need/not need” and I can definitely take the “flair or frill?” question and apply it to my Capstone project. Does this sentence add anything new and exciting? Is your personality coming across because of those three extra words? What do you really need?

4 thoughts to “Challenge Journal: I guess it’s a common theme…”

  1. Larkin,

    I thought your post was very interesting. A critical part of my project is inserting annotated blurbs next to a speech (a sentence or two at most) and limiting that to what’s most important, when I have so much I want to say, is extremely difficult so I’m glad to know other people are thinking about “efficiency” in their projects.

  2. Larkin,

    I am a firm believer in the extra flair and frill. Perhaps this is my own fault: my verbal everyday language is largely bland and elementary, but when I put pen to paper I love to take my time getting to the end of the sentence. Teachers don’t always seem to agree with me on this point, so I applaud Mike for giving you the opportunity to express yourself even in this somewhat-formal outlet. The beautiful thing about writing is that it’s not black and white—there are no blatant right or wrong answers. Writing is the beautiful grey area where you get to make your own decisions. If you have room in your thesis to do so—flair away. I am oh so jealous that an academic adviser was even the one to suggest this.

    In this last expression of your beautiful children’s book, I 100% agree that you should give your thesis all of the whim and description that you desire.

    Best,
    Kelly

  3. Hi Larkin,

    I really relate to the challenge of making keeping up a conversational/personal tone and voice. In my project, I a key component is how I come across to the reader and how the reader flows through the ideas I present. Like you, I found that when I was describing more factual information or more sensitive stories, I lost the personality that was woven into the rest of my work. Going back and thinking, “how would I describe this if I were explaining it in conversation?” helped me add more personality and comfort back into those pieces.

  4. Hi Larkin,

    I have very similar issues that you’re having here because most of my capstone project is research based and there’s a lot of history that I have to give to my readers. In the feedback I’ve gotten from my peer review group I have one main takeaway, and while it may seem like a simple reminder it’s to remember to show and not tell. It gets a little difficult when you have to reference articles but just remember that you have much more of a voice when you offer conclusions and ideas to readers rather than just giving them straight facts from a research paper.

    Best,
    Maddy

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