Monday, September 22, 2014

Where EIU Writes: On A Walk?

The more students I interview, the clearer it is.

Most writers spend a lot more time going over ideas in their heads than they do putting pen to paper or fingertips to home row.

So, for this blog post in a series about where EIU students are writing, we’re going on a walk.

Where? That actually doesn’t matter.

In fact, some studies (link below) suggest that simply taking a walk helps promote creativity. That’s right; you might actually be working harder than you think when trudging from classroom to dorm room.

Ever catch yourself pacing when trying to solve a problem? It’s probably not restless legs syndrome that’s making you do it. Now you might be wondering if bouncing your leg like a neurotic mess is boosting your creativity too.

And you might be right to think so.

Believe it or not, prewriting is a major part of writing, and when we’re on the verge of penning that first draft, as we so often are, our brains work like magnets, pulling everything toward the subject we want to write about. If we see an old experience through a new lens—through the eyes of our paper topic—it brings us that much closer to knowing what we have discovered, and what we have to say.

So, bounce your leg, pace, or take a walk. Maybe looking for the right place to write isn’t as important as just looking around, letting that magnet work, and taking advantage of the power of prewriting.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What I Wish I Knew about the Writing Center as an Undergrad, but Didn't.

Have you ever wondered what happens in the Writing Center? If so, this post is for you.

As an undergrad, I passed by the Writing Center each day going to and from my English classes on the third floor of Coleman Hall. I'm sure I must have peeked in a time or two and I remember my professor's recommendation to visit the Writing Center, but that's about it. I never went. Why would I? What could the Writing Center offer me? That sounds very egotistical, but those were my thoughts. Perhaps those are your thoughts, too. Or maybe you're thinking that you could really use the support, but you don't know what to expect or you're uncomfortable to ask. 

Well, here’s a list of ten things that I hope will encourage you to visit us at the Writing Center:

 1) The Writing Center is for students across the curriculum. We welcome all writers—from Education to Chemistry, Psychology to History, Geology to Undeclared. We assist with all stages and genres of writing, even lab reports, research papers, scholarship essays, and creative writing contest essays.

Do you want to brainstorm topics? We're here for you. Need to organize your paper? We're here for you. Learn how to cite sources in MLA, APA, or CMS? We're here for you. Know how to avoid plagiarism? We're here for you. Learn why a comma goes here, not there? We’re here for you. Basically, if you're writing something, we're here for you. 

2) And yes, we're here even for those who believe they don't need help. We are here for English majors and honors students

3) We are here for international students. We're aware that you are learning and growing as a writer in a completely different language and culture. How daunting! How inspiring! While we all can't say that we understand how you feel, Alamgir does, and we can all say that we hope to make you feel welcome and at ease every time you step into the Writing Center.

4) The writing consultants have been there and done that. We know how it feels to receive a low grade and how awkward it can feel to ask for help.

5) Writing improves the most when it's shared. Others can see things in your writing that you simply can't see. It may sound a bit frightening, but it’s extremely beneficial to go to the Writing Center just to bounce ideas off the consultant.

6) The writing consultants want to work with you. We look forward to your visits and you are in no way bothering us by stopping by. Actually, your visits make us excited!

7) Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. 

8) You can expect a friendly smile every time you step into the Writing Center. When you come in, we will check you in at the front desk, then work with you at one of the tables.

9) Our mission is to help you improve as a writer in addition to helping you with your writing assignment.

10) We accept walk-ins and appointments. You can stop by or call anytime during our hours to make an appointment (581-5929).

As you may know, the Writing Center is located at 3110 Coleman Hall.

We're open from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and 6 p.m. -9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. on Friday.

Visit our website to learn more about us!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

To Write, Perchance, to Create

If you are like me, fair reader, you too have felt misgivings when placing pen to pad or setting your fingers alight over the keyboard for fear of mishaps when translating your inner voice to the written word. Although apprehension is common, it is unnecessary. Writing is a process. Do not abandon the quest for fear of starting the journey.

Consider the word “novel.” Most know the word as denoting a genre. It comes from the French word “nouvelle,” meaning “new.” When the novel first came into popularity, it was a new form. The novel is not nearly so new anymore, yet it still excites. Every novel, although maybe not a "novel" idea or form anymore, is new to you. Luxuriate in this fact. Always remember to look at your works in progress with new eyes.

Perhaps you write only shorter works, or “merely” academic papers. All forms can be art forms. You, the author, control the fate of the work. Stuck on an essay? The word “essay” derives from the verb “essayer” which translates to “try.” Every essay is truly an attempt. You don’t have to get it right the first, second, or even third time. Just keep trying. 

Every author has, at one time or another, hit writer’s block or has despaired about their writing. The difference between published authors and unpublished authors is that those who were published never stopped trying. The old adage “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” holds true, most especially concerning writing. You never know what you might create until you try. It may be a journey to discovery. 

The world awaits. Bring forth your words.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Where EIU Writes: Jackson Avenue Coffee

For this first post in a series on where EIU writes, we’re putting our spotlight on a setting where coffee brews and culture thrives, a center for both musicians and artists to share their work, a friendly atmosphere where you may just find your new favorite spot to unwind or write: Jackson Avenue Coffee.

More commonly called “the JAC” around Charleston, Jackson Avenue Coffee is a good place to work on your writing in that classic coffee-shop setting. It gives you a chance to escape the academic environment of campus and the monotony of national coffee-shop chains.

Having only been in Charleston for a few months, I stumbled upon what would become my favorite writing destination after a long fight with writer’s block at Starbucks. Following up on an invitation from a few local friends and dragging along the blank Word document lighting up my laptop screen, I quickly found the inspiration that had been eluding me.

There are so many reasons EIU writes well here. You can set up shop at a table without worrying about getting in anyone’s way. You can enjoy the free Wi-Fi and do research for your writing—perhaps rewarding yourself with a drink, a sweet treat from their bakery, or, my favorite, a toasted bagel.

Maybe you too will find inspiration for your writing here, be it from a visiting musician, or, if one isn’t performing that night in the dimly lit lounge area, from the music you’ll hear over the speakers, which sets a positive, relaxed mood with songs ranging from elaborate jazz numbers to acoustic versions of radio hit singles.

Best of all, you can take it from this English major that you will find plenty of other writers—creative and scholarly—frequenting the premises throughout the day.

So, consider venturing outside your home, campus, or typical coffee shop and exploring other places where inspiration can find you. Maybe a change of setting is all you need to dive into the next stage of your writing process.