Where’s your writing now?

Happy day-after Halloween everyone! My name is Shilyh Warren. I’m a new tutor at the Writing Studio this semester. When you read this blog, you might notice that many authors contribute to its content. This week it’s my turn. Actually, I think it was supposed to be last week, but who’s counting?

As for Writing Studio news: we’ve got haiku winners to announce, a newsletter coming out (turkey spotting competition!), and a Workshop on “Reading to Write” on November 3rd from 2-3pm in 118 Perkins. See our website for more details! http://bit.ly/bi8FqC

I also thought I’d use the opportunity to introduce myself and share some recent thoughts on writing.

I’ve had my Ph.D. for about 6 months now. That means that at this time last year I was slavishly trying to finish my dissertation. I also had 3 month old baby and 5-year old in Kindergarten. I was busy. I don’t even remember Halloween 2009. But I do remember writing my dissertation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing lately. Most likely this is a result of working at the Writing Studio during the post few months. After all, I work with writers several days a week. I’m also lucky to participate in trainings and workshops on subjects related to academic writing. I evaluate student writing in the course I’m TA’ing for. And, of course, I’m also a writer.

But what kind of writer am I? Someone once asked me what I liked to write. E-mails, I said. I wasn’t kidding. I also love writing thank you notes. I wish there was a job for people who write really good thank you notes. If you think of anything, let me know.

Most of the time, however, I write other kinds of notes. Footnotes, for example. You should see my dissertation! There’s an art to those, too, I found after writing hundreds of them. A good footnote can add a whole new dimension to an idea  — so good that you must fit it in even if it’s not related enough to the thread of the argument.

Sticky notes. I write a lot of those, too. When I send a writer off with a few sticky notes pasted onto her draft I feel accomplished. My sticky notes usually say something like, “OWL Purdue — Citations!” Or, “Stay focused! What’s your claim?” Last Sunday I was especially proud of this one: “Revise!”

When I write sticky notes to myself, I use the electronic ones on my computer. I’ve got one now that reads, “Applications!” This one might be the funniest one of them all, because there is NO WAY I’m going to suddenly forget that I have applications to work on.

This is job market season for PhDs. From the influx of personal statements and cover letters, we can tell at the Writing Studio that it’s the season of applications for many of us. I’ve written countless (no really, countless) versions of my job application cover letter. I’ve written statements regarding my teaching philosophy, my research interests, and my future projects. I’ve worked over the same 25-page writing sample for weeks on end. This all adds up to a lot of writing.

And since it’s where my writing is now I’m doing my best to enjoy it. It’s not always easy. The job letter sometimes feels reductive or narcissistic or formulaic. But that’s precisely when I know that it’s not a good version. Lately, I’m playing around with a letter that contains the words “cherish” and “heart” — and in the same sentence where I describe my dissertation. Imagine that!

What words will you be sure to work into your next piece? Embrace? Sustain? Exuberant? What do you like to write, and how can that be more aligned with what you are actually writing?

I think I have a thank you note to finish. Where’s your writing now?


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