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.