The Autumnal Equinox

The Autumnal Equinox

Autumn has finally arrived!

This is my favorite time of year, by far. The air is crisp, the leaves are beginning to change colors and fall, pumpkin patches are going to be thriving in no time. It’s time to celebrate! It’s time for bonfires with friends, curling up with your favorite book by the fire, and saying farewell to the warmer months.

While I’m sad to see summer go, I’m happy to welcome fall with open arms. It’s time for the Earth to begin her slumber for the winter months… and the process is absolutely breathtaking. I love to take drives through the all-American neighborhoods in my area and witness first-hand the change of the seasons. From the leaves falling gracefully to the ground below to the fresh chill in the air, the autumn months are easily my favorite time of year.

Here are some of the reasons why I’m a big fan of autumn:

– Mother Nature is at her finest.

The leaves changing colors at my dad’s place, “Little Pine.”

One of my favorite things about fall is taking a trip to my dad’s and taking photos of his property. He has a gorgeous place, and while summer there is beautiful, fall is absolutely breathtaking. The photo above is from a few years ago, early in the morning.

– It’s time for fall fashion!

Scarves. A girl can never have enough to get her through the days of fall!

I am so not fashionable, but I love a good ‘scarf and warm boots’ combo! I cannot get enough of earth tones – maybe that’s the hippie-boho chick inside me, but there’s something extra special about fall fashion. Scarves are my favorite fall accessory, but when the weather gets a little colder, I love to break out the mittens and hats and enjoy the crisp weather. I also enjoy curling up beside the fire with my sweetie or a good book.

– Having my favorite fall drink.

Hot cider or chai to warm your bones on those chilly nights.

Whatever your beverage of choice may be, you have to appreciate something warm, sweet, and spicy. I’m a Starbucks addict, and if you are too… you should try a Spiced Apple Cider with a splash of chai tea. It’s perfect for a nice fall evening!

– Visiting the pumpkin patch.

Strolling through the local pumpkin patch.

Going to the pumpkin patch is a ritual all children should experience. Hell, I’m almost 30, and fall is not quite the same unless I take a walk through one. The air, the colors, the pumpkins… this is an essential trip to take during the fall months.

What does fall mean to you, and what are your favorite things about the season? Please share in the comments below!

(Featured Image photo found on http://tumblr.com.
Other photo credits: thegloss.com, Google image searches for Fall)

Revising As I Go

Revising As I Go

Freewriting, to me, is the ultimate way to begin any piece of composition. It prompts the writer to get their thoughts out and on to the paper. Freewriting helps the writer to organize their thoughts before starting the final draft. The key to freewriting is to not stop writing – no matter what. Why is it when I write… why do I always want to stop, contemplate, and revise what I’m writing.

Peter Elbow tells us in his book Writing Without Teachers that I shouldn’t revise myself as I’m writing. Goodness, I believe that is my biggest problem.  (Wow, see, I just did it with that sentence, editing it as go.) I have to stop the madness sometime if I’m going to expect my future students to understand and work with a freewrite method/model. If I can’t make attempts to break my habit, how can I in turn 1) teach the model when I am not perfect and 2) help others learn the model and break their own bad writing habits?

I want to write about my writing habits for a while. I have found that revising as I go is not effective when trying to compose a piece of writing. I often get frustrated, find myself staring off into space while I try to think of a clever way to reword a sentence, and I don’t make progress within a small period of time, versus where I could end up if I would just write off the cuff and not worry so much about the revision process. I think that’s the editor in me, and the drive to write a document once and only have to lightly edit it. It is hard for me to turn that off, but when I do, I can plainly see the success. I notice I get further, I have more written down to potentially draw additional ideas from, and I don’t have to do as much work.

So I must ask myself… why do you work harder instead of smarter in this case? Come on! The answer at first is obvious – I’m an editor. But I need to dig deeper than that. Why do I enjoy editing? Refining a rough draft to get closer to a finished piece gives me a great sense of accomplishment. So, why won’t I just get closer to the finished piece to start, and then go from there, revising as I need to once the first draft is complete?

Once I do have a draft together, I usually print it out, read through it once, and then cut up the paragraphs if I feel there isn’t a solid flow throughout the entire piece. I have a rough time getting to that step, though, unless it’s personal writing. Writing for my undergraduate degree (the first few years, that is), I would often procrastinate and turn documents in as is, and hope for the best. More times than not I would get the grade I desired, which would lead me to believe I was okay doing this process, and could keep going. I’ve learned in my last year of my undergraduate degree, I needed to take more time to develop my writing. Perhaps this is because I began tutoring in my last year of my undergrad degree, but either way, it helped me achieve a better result: a good grade and satisfaction. Before, I would just turn something in and hope for the best, but at the end of my senior year, I knew I was turning in something quality and would deserve the best.

What changed? What did I do different? I spent more time on a project. I was organized from the beginning. I still struggled to stop revising as I wrote a paper, but would have my fellow writing tutors or my boyfriend proofread for me. By the way, he’s an excellent writer, although he won’t admit it often enough. I enjoy reading his work – he’s very intelligent when it comes to tech-centered ideas and video games. He always manages to put a creative spin on things. I sit here and wonder to myself, does he freewrite when composing his blog posts, and at the end of the piece, revise then and only then, or does he revise as he goes along? I know he has me proofread and edit for him on occasion, but I have never asked him this. I do wonder what his process is… and now that I sit here and think about it, I’m kind of mad at myself for not asking him this sooner. I suppose we will have to have a discussion when I get home this evening!

Anyway, back to revising as I go… how do I turn it off? How do I stop the urge to edit while composing a document? I need help with this. Maybe Elbow’s practices will stick with me. I particularly enjoy the concept of allowing four hours to work on a piece and breaking up the first three hours into two sections: the first 45 minutes and the final 15 minutes. This might actually help me concentrate more on getting the writing done versus making it perfect. I need to remind myself that this comes later, not first. I bet I’d be more productive with this approach, and then in turn, I could teach my future students this model and get their feedback. Does it work for everyone? I’d imagine it doesn’t, just as there is no one standard way to write. But I do believe that following Elbow’s suggestion will help writers, both struggling and expert, improve their craft.

I love both revising and editing – sometimes I have to remind myself they are two very different elements of the craft. Revision – re-seeing a document and making changes as necessary to fulfill requirements, whether it be substance or flow. Editing is different. And there are different types. Copy editing, editing for grammar and spelling and punctuation, editing to add a creative spin, and more. This is the part of writing I really enjoy.

Write, write, and write. I hardly spend time writing for pleasure anymore, and I really should, as it is my form of therapy. The fact of the matter is, I always find something else to do, or something else that needs to be done. I’m making time for reading more fiction, so why can’t I stick to my proposed daily writing schedule? How I wish there were more hours in a day, to accomplish everything I want… but by the end of the day, I end up giving up because I’m tired, work has worn me out, my eyes can’t bear to read another word, let alone paragraph or page. This must stop. I remember I used to tell myself “you make time for the things you want to do.” I should start telling myself that again. I have many things I want to do, and writing at least for an hour, or even 30 minutes a day is one of them.

Does the above help me gain clarity about freewriting and my own habits? I do believe so. It has helped me to point out what I believe is a top flaw in my own writing: revising as I go, editing before a document is complete, etc. Sure, I rambled a bit, but I think I was finally getting somewhere regarding revision. Is this a breakthrough? Quite possibly.

Journal: Theory & Writing

I began working on my graduate degree in January, and the following journal is based on the first class session for Theories and Applications of Teaching Composition. We started our semester by discussing the relationship of theory and teaching composition. If you have anything to share or want to discuss… please do so in the comments below!

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Theory is defined as a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be; a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based.

Considering this definition and the readings, theory has a large role in teaching composition. Up until I began my undergraduate degree in English, I did not understand how theory had a place in writing… when I look back on my education, theory was present the entire time – I just didn’t realize I knew how to identify it. Writing was always just a hobby, a way to get the ideas and demons out of my head and on paper. It was just, and still is (but with more meaning), my form of therapy.

What is the role of theory in our teaching practice?

The role that theory plays in writing can be flexible – there are many ways to go about instructing someone to conduct a task. Understanding theory and how to apply it to each unique situation in the classroom helps everyone – instructors and students alike – become more versed in a craft. With writing, I never realized how theory really comes into play until a few years ago when I began tutoring.

Do you have a theory or set of theories about writing and teaching writing? 

When I began this course, I feared I did not have enough experience as a teacher like my fellow classmates, as I have only tutored in the academic setting. In fact, until this class began, I did not believe that I had a pedagogical background. I am discovering it has been there, waiting to be uncovered. I’m beginning to understand this desire to teach has been here all along, and I have to reflect on my life as a writer to even begin considering what my teaching theory could be. To be honest, I never thought I had a set of theories about writing and teaching writing until now. It brought a lot to light for me, and helped me identify and physically write what a couple of my theories could be. The beginning of my running list is below:
  • Writing is therapy.
  • There is not one end-all-be-all way to write a piece. The beauty about writing is that it’s flexible and can vary from person to person.
What experiences and knowledge have led you to your current theoretical stance?

Why write? Why teach writing? Why develop theories about the writing craft? I have always asked myself “why write?” but never started to think deeper than my obvious answer… because it’s enjoyable. That’s why I write – because I enjoy the craft. The other two questions I never really considered until now.

Pondering the how and why of teaching composition, I’m discovering my principles began to take shape when I took a course to become a tutor in the University Writing Center (UWC). Looking back, I feel like I can barely remember the studying and researching that was done to prepare myself to become a peer tutor, but after conducting a year of tutoring sessions with fellow undergraduates, I could clearly see my path as a writer would be to help others and educate them about the craft.

Specifically about the two theories I stated above (my running list)…

  • Writing is therapy. Many who write can funnel their passion creatively, or use research as a way to find the answers to their pressing questions. In my experience, journaling has been a savior on its own. I can spend a few moments a day writing out what is bothering me or what makes me happy. I also enjoy challenging myself to put a creative spin on my words when freewriting.
  • There is not only one way to write a piece. After I trained to be a tutor for the UWC, I realized I would need to adapt the way I assisted each individual student. Some learn better by seeing, then doing… and others learn better by simple instruction. Even though I would begin each session the same way – breaking the ice, asking them questions about the piece, and have them begin reading aloud – I would often find myself ending the session a different way every single time. This alone helps me learn to adapt to unique situations in an instructor position, which I believe is very important.

(Photo credit: http://fab4fan.wordpress.com)

A Writer’s Nightmare

A Writer’s Nightmare

I won’t lie. I groan, wince, and kind of die a bit inside when I see those three little words when I’m looking for feedback on a piece of writing…

“That Sounds Good!”

Ugh, what a nightmare.

Reader response sessions, or peer workshop days, often make me excited for the chance to receive educated feedback. Unfortunately, I seem to run into the same problem: feedback that simply states “that sounds good.” That last one makes me shiver; leaving me to wonder what in the hell can I do with this? Where do I improve? What parts aren’t clear? There has to be something else they want to tell me!

I remember from my first writing courses peer response days very well. Maybe this is because I feel robbed once I was given my first draft back. When I give a response to a peer’s work, I tend to spend a significant amount of time pouring over their draft while the recipient barely makes a mark on mine. Even though I felt confident about my writing, I still would get discouraged the minute my eyes fell upon that one, dreadful phrase: “that sounds good.” It could be peppered in with useful comments and suggestions, but I would still grimace.

In my experience, peer response has not always been very helpful. I asked some fellow peers how they felt about reader response sessions and we have come to the same conclusion. Peer workshops simply do not help; however I have found throughout my college experience that there is in fact hope – but not until I reached 300-400 level courses. Perhaps this is because it was not until then I was surrounded by other writers who take the craft sincerely. The fact that a draft “sounds good” is not up for discussion. Writers want to know areas of improvement, if the draft is clear and concise, and if transitions are used effectively, among other things.

Now that I’m out of college and writing in the real world, I finally feel like I receive constructive feedback when I share my writing. Writing in the workplace is a bit different from the classroom and I am lucky to work with people who are not afraid to voice their opinion about my writing. It’s very important for people to give feedback without feeling like they are tearing down the author, and I can understand how hard that can be at times. I often find myself thinking of ways to politely tell someone their piece needs work, but I try to remember how much I appreciate the honesty. It doesn’t come from a bad place – it comes from a helpful place.

I believe the biggest reason for a lack of response is that the reader is afraid to actually write what they really think. We are naturally concerned about others and their feelings, and the easiest thing to do is tell the writer that everything “sounds good.” One of the two people will walk away from the session empty-handed, and this should not be the case. “This sounds good” is a phrase that is generally unheard of and not accepted when it comes to reader response in these courses. The point of a peer workshop is to get feedback on a draft – this means the reader must question the writer. The reader must engage the writer to get the missing pieces. We cannot improve as writers if we are constantly told our work “sounds good” and we aren’t challenged to advance our writing skills.

(Photo credit: http://www.thepoetryworld.com/gallery.asp?ImageID=14175&Ink-Pen-Hand)

Why I Blog

Why I Blog

Why do you blog? Does it really matter to you who reads your blog? Inspired by something I read through 20sb.net – Why You Should Blog, Even if No One is Reading – I wanted to share with you all why I blog, and why it’s important to me.

I have written since I was a young teenager, but I have blogged since high school. I wrote in journals, notebooks, printer paper – anything I could get my hands on. Hell, I still to this day prefer to write with a pen in my hand. Anyway, we got the internet when I was in 8th grade, in 1997-98 (yeah, I lived in a reaaaaaally small town, we were a little behind…). When I was a freshman or sophomore, I started using one of those LiveJournal blogs – that was the first platform I ever used to tell the world what I was thinking. I have since gone and deleted all of my old blogs to start fresh with this website. When I went back to read the blogs I had posted, I realized I was such a whiner. I mean, really. I was one of those brooding lovesick teenagers who whined about the boy who didn’t want me or who broke my heart. First, I’m so glad I got out of that stage sooner than later. Second, I can’t believe I posted that kind of crap for everyone to read! But see, here’s the thing… at that time, it wasn’t crap. It was how I felt. I was candid. I didn’t think before pressing “publish.” I let everything out without thinking twice. Sometimes, I wish I could do that again and not worry about the consequences.

Being trained as a professional writer, I find it hard to just write and not edit myself, and not think things through twice once I’ve reread my work. It is so difficult for me to just let go and hit publish on a new post. I write it out, and I read it a few times. I edit it a few times. I sometimes will go through and just completely trash it after I’ve spent a few hours writing (what I end up calling) crap. I am learning to not write for my readers (if there are any, that is), but rather write for myself. I’m trying to go back to the days where I would write candidly and just press publish. I would be lying if I said I didn’t care who reads my blog – I really do. I want people to enjoy what I write, and keep coming back to read more. As a writer who wants to become a published author, I strive to have many read my work. Of course I do – I want you all to buy my first, second, and even third book (if I get that far…)!

So, now that you know a little more about that… why do I blog?

I blog for therapy. I blog to organize my thoughts. Even though I constantly feel the urge to edit, I blog to break that habit. I have posted more than ever for a few reasons. I am becoming more comfortable with posting my candid thoughts. I’m starting to not worry so much about my (sometimes quite conservative) family reading  my (sometimes) controversial thoughts. I blog to become more comfortable with myself and my writing style. To me, this is the first of many steps to getting a book started and published. It has become more important to me to develop content and post my thoughts/feelings/desires/opinions here. This is my blog. Not yours, not your mother’s. Not your sister’s, brother’s, cousin’s, boyfriend/girlfriend’s… but mine. I can post whatever the hell I want… because it’s mine. You may not always agree with what you read, but if you can value that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, we’ll get along just fine. That’s what I enjoy about reading other blogs out there – everyone thinks and writes a little differently than the next person. That’s what makes this whole process so beautiful.

My website has become the home for my writing. Like every good home, there is love, and I love my writing. I love to share my writing with my readers, even if it’s one person, a hundred, or shit, thousands (that would be awesome!). I yearn to nurture and mold my craft to become something great, to get a sense of accomplishment. I already feel accomplished not just for having one published poem, but being able to have an outlet to share my thoughts, feelings, goals, and life you. Again, this is my therapy. As I work to become more relaxed with sharing my writing, I hope you will continue to join me. Thanks for coming along on my journey.

Peace! <3

 

(Photo Credit: http://mbatemple.com/169/mba-essay-writing-tips-2)

Writing… for me.

Writing… for me.

Taking classes this semester while working full-time is killing my writing schedule. I’m anxious for May to get here so I no longer have to worry about writing papers for class, but rather write journal entries, poetry, flash fiction, and blogs! This semester has been filled with research papers and answering specific questions, leaving my creativity on the back burner for another time. In one of the recent papers I had to develop, I was able to show my opinion rather than keep it straight forward and display only the facts surrounding the subject. I enjoy writing what I know, especially when I feel strongly about the subject at hand.

I seem to never have time to sit down and write for myself and personal pleasure. I have been making my way through a couple of the writing books I began reading at the beginning of the semester, and I’m looking forward to finishing those and apply the principles to my own writing. I’m working on my writing schedule, and jotting down my ideas that could one day turn into a novel. That’s one of my problems – I have so many ideas that could turn into something huge. I have to remember to write them down immediately. I carry 3 notebooks with me at all times, keeping them easily accessible. I like having my pick of which one to write in. My fave? Moleskine, by far.

Anyway. I have a journal by my bed, and I keep staring at it before I lie down. I need to just suck it up and start writing something – anything – every night before bed. I also think writing first thing in the morning would help jump start my creativity, because I find myself waking up thinking about the crazy dreams I’ve had. My dreams are so vivid that they sometimes stick with me for weeks. The ones I want to write about seem to slip away within a few hours of being awake. This is why I must make time for writing in the morning, I think. Here’s to hoping I can stick to it!

When do you write for pleasure? Do you have a schedule, and if so, what time works best for your personal creativity? Do share, I’m curious!

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