The Elle Woods Approach

By Molly Couch

At this point in the semester, things have become overwhelming. The weather won’t decide on a season, that last deadline passed only to give rise to a new one, and we have to start looking ahead to next semester already to schedule classes and meet with our advisors and plan out our entire lives.

This is the part of the semester that can get a little blurry when you look back; you know it happened, but all you know is that you existed stressfully and somehow muddled through to where you are now.

When this time of year hits, it’s time to take the Elle Woods approach.


This Legally Blonde protagonist is one of my favorite role models, and for good reason: she knows when to take herself seriously, and when to let go and have fun. She knows how to balance her life: academics and socializing, work and play, fact and fashion. Elle is an extremely intelligent young woman, but her ultimate success lies in her specialized knowledge and life experience; after all, sometimes it pays off to know that you can’t shower after getting a perm because you risk deactivating the ammonium thioglycolate.


So what does Elle Woods have to do with writing? I’m glad you asked.

A college student herself, Elle sets an important precedent for us: there are absolutely times to buckle down and get to reading and research and writing, just as there are times for costume parties and manicures and Cosmo.

Elle knows that it can be the hardest thing in the world to write that paper or to do the reading (or to come to the Writing Center). Doing well academically is kind of the point of college. But don’t sacrifice your well-being for another hour of staring listlessly at a blank Word document! Be kind to yourself! Figure out what you need, not just what you want, and address it accordingly.

Are you spending too much time scrolling through Facebook or Tumblr? It’s probably time to get back to work. Have you been driven to pull your hair out over this assignment? Maybe that’s a sign to take a step back and take care of your other needs.

Need some suggestions? Elle can help!

  • Drink enough water and eat regularly: if your body can’t function properly, then that paper’s never going to get done.
  • Exercise: “Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” While I hope you all aren’t considering murder, inactivity can easily lead to frustration. Take stock of your time and head outside for some fresh air. The Preston Center is available to students, but even taking a fifteen minute walk around campus can help. Put that hill to use!
  • Use your support system: your friends, your classmates, your professors, your RAs, and all the other various resources that WKU offers are here for you when you need them.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself: this is probably the trickiest tip on the list, but it can help in a big way. Here at the Writing Center, the tutors keep a lighthearted record of their “failures” and “successes”: burned your tongue on a pop tart? That counts as a failure, but laughing it off can make it sting a little less (figuratively, not physically). Take the stairs instead of the elevator today? That’s a success, and you should be proud of yourself. Notice the little successes and use them to fight the less fun parts of life.

You can write that paper, finish that presentation, fly through that exam – don’t bend and snap that pencil; just keep in mind the Elle Woods Approach. Balance is key, and taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your schoolwork.

And don’t forget that one of your resources here is the Writing Center! Our tutors know just what you’re going through and can help, but only if you come and visit us!


Traversing the Interstate

By Abby Ponder

Over the course of the three days leading up to Halloween, several of your Writing Center tutors—myself included—participated in a whirlwind adventure to Oxford, Mississippi. The trip is one of the highlights of Professor Walker Rutledge’s course on Hemingway and Faulkner that also includes a similar excursion into Hemingway’s childhood in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of the bustling city of Chicago.

The course provides a fascinating insight into the lives of two of the U.S.’s Nobel Prize-winning authors. Experiencing their worlds from the very ground on which they once stood is both remarkable and rewarding—an educational experience unlike any other.

In our time in Oxford, we visited a variety of locations: several cemeteries and statues, the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss, and even Faulkner’s home at Rowan Oak.

William Faulkner’s home in Oxford, Mississippi: Rowan Oak.

As cool as all this is, though, you might be wondering what this has to do with the Writing Center. Because, sure, some tutors went along, but what does that have to do with this blog?

Well, it’s a good question—I’ll give you that.

See, William Faulkner, like all great authors and individuals alike, did not always have an easy road to success. He had his high points (like winning the Nobel Prize for Literature), but he also had plenty of low points.

The thing about writing is that it can sometimes be undeniably difficult. It doesn’t always matter what genre you’re writing in, whether it’s academic or creative, because sometimes the words simply won’t come. And if that’s the case, don’t feel bad. We’ve all struggled with it from time to time—even writers like William Faulkner. And, look, now he’s got his own statue in his hometown’s square.

Let’s be honest, this is how you really know you’ve made it.

Writing is an ever-evolving process that involves starting and stopping and starting again countless times over. Sometimes it may feel as though you’re never making any progress, but you are. See, even if you cut all the earlier words from the paper and transfigure your ideas on the second draft, it is still progress. You’re growing as a writer every day, and each paper or poem you pen is going to be stronger for it.

Unfortunately, however, your writing might never be 100% flawless. Mine sure isn’t by any stretch of the imagination and even an author as inventive and inspiring as William Faulkner still probably had a mistake or two filter through the margins, especially on those first few editions.

And sometimes what you love best won’t immediately be accepted by the general public. After all, Faulkner entirely refurbished the originally crumbling Rowan Oak with the royalties from the novel “Sanctuary,” which is largely regarded as his worst book. On the other hand, it took quite some time for “Sound and the Fury” to reach notoriety among the general public. Though, to be fair, it’s still not the most readable work of the American literary catalogue, especially if you’re looking for something quick and casual.

The real moral of this story is to simply keep writing. Sometimes it’s difficult and sometimes people may not love the words you put on paper upon their first reading. But writing, at its core, is an evolving process.

Keep at it and see what you can do.

We, in the Writing Center, believe that you can do it. And you should believe in you, too.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 7.43.56 PM
The students standing in front of the confederate soldier’s statue at the University of Mississippi. The statue is featured in Faulkner’s novel “Sound and the Fury,” though its location is altered in the novel. Photo by Walker Rutledge.