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.

We Have Not Yet Begun to Write!

In looking over some sample e-Portfolios from years past, I started to think about the writing I’ve done thus far this semester and at the university.  I considered not only how I’ve grown as a writer, but also the amount of work that goes into the process of converting a page full of brainstormed ideas into a written draft and ultimately a “final” copy.

I took into mind the profile formats of each person’s e-Porfolio in terms of the drop-down tabs categorizing each unit.  In doing this, I was amazed at how many links to their work were available and how much writing we still have to do in this class.  I did find it interesting, though, that an assignment that they too had to complete was that of “Why I Write.”

I am definitely looking forward to this project, but I don’t want to fool myself into thinking it’s going to be easy.  Just in the 5-10 minutes I spent viewing some of the portfolios, I got a sense that the hour count on this assignment is going to rack up quickly; but like I said in my “Why I Write” final draft, “with great struggle comes great reward.”