Where to write at WKU

By Abby Ponder

We all know that starting a paper is often the most difficult part of writing the paper. In fact, we’ve covered it in great detail on this very blog. At the end of the day, though, we all have our own spaces and places to tell our stories; however, if you’re wanting to stay on campus for your writing days, we’ve got a couple suggestions for you.

Your Dorm (or home)

It seems pretty self-explanatory, but some people write their best work from the comfort of their own room.

There are obvious pros to writing in this location: (1) you’re comfortable, (2) you don’t have to deal with people distracting you from writing, and (3) you’re familiar with the space and everything in it. Let’s be honest, it’s also really convenient–especially when you’ve procrastinated until the night before the paper’s due. Not that you’d ever do such a thing, though, right?

But, at the same time, these pros can sometimes be cons. Being comfortable might mean you’re more easily distracted or tempted to take a nap. Plus, if your roommate or friends from down the hall are hanging out, you’re more liable to be distracted by them than hearing a stranger order a cup of coffee or rant about the latest Scandal episode. Who knows, in your own room you might even watch that Scandal episode yourself.

Really, whether or not your dorm (or home) works well for your writing depends on your personality and your ability to concentrate. Test it out and use your best judgment.

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Helm/Cravens Library 

This seems like the most obvious place, of course. It’s quiet. Or, at least, it’s supposed to be quiet. (Cough.) There are seemingly endless floors–nine, nine floors–and endless rows of books and shelves. Some of the shelves even move! The cubbies of desks sprinkled throughout the perimeter of each floor are also especially appealing if you like to be alone with your thoughts. Or you can use the computer lab on the fourth floor in Cravens. There are usually plenty of computers available, and it’s one of the best places to go if you need to concentrate and thrive off people’s judgment to keep you off Facebook.

Plus, if you’re working on your paper between 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., then stop by and see us at our Cravens’ location. We’ll be hanging out at the reference desk.

Ultimately, the library is a wonderful place to write. Generally it’s even my first choice! Unless, of course, it’s final weeks. And then you might have to fight for that spot, buddy.

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Starbucks/Einstein’s/Java City

Nothing breeds productive thoughts like the smell of brewing caffeine in the air. For some people (myself wholeheartedly included), a coffee shop is the undisputed best place to write. There’s enough hustle and bustle to stifle the silence, but you can also do your own thing with a nice cup of joe by your side. It’s a great environment! Plus, you can also feel really mature as you sip that latte and type away.

Just keep in mind that if you’re camping out in your fave coffee shop for a few hours at a time, you should actually buy something while you’re there. (This is also especially true for coffee shops off campus.)

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The Colonnade (or anywhere outside, really) 

Now that we’re nearing spring and the weather is warming up, writing a paper outside is an ideal idea-churning location. What better place is there to feel an idea sprout from your pen and see words blossom on your screen? Whether you’ve got a hammock, a blanket, or a spot on the Colonnade steps, you’re guaranteed to be writing in comfort and style.

Fair warning, though, that comfort and style might be a little too distracting.

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Mass Media and Technology Hall 

If you enjoy writing on desktop computers, then MMTH is the place for you.

It’s also the place for you if you need people’s judgment to keep you on task but find the quiet of the library stifling.

Conversely, if noise bothers you, then you might want to reconsider. Either way, though, it’s an excellent place to print that paper off before class. And if you’re not already using WebPrint from your laptop, now is the perfect time to start…

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So, where are your favorite places to write? Share in the comments below! And good luck as you move forward with those papers, my friends. Don’t forget that the WKU Writing Center is here to help you with the paper writing process. Give us a call at (270) 745-5719 to set up an appointment today.

 

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Ringing in the near yea–er, semester

By Abby Ponder 

Welcome back to campus, friends!

I hope you all had a wonderful and engaging summer. Whether you’re a returning student or new to the hill, we’re happy to see your smiling faces on campus again–and in the Writing Center.

With the start of the new semester, we’re happy to announce several new developments in our neck of the woods.

First of all, while we are still very sad to see last year’s graduates go, we’re excited to welcome several new tutors to the Writing Center staff! As the semester progresses and we all get to know one another, we’ll be posting bi-weekly tutor profiles to this blog. So, keep an eye out for some familiar and new faces alike!

Our writing-themed blog posts will also continue like usual, but we’re open to suggestions for topics. Is there something in particular you really want to learn more about? Is APA giving you some trouble? Are you baffled by that block quote and why you really need it? Ask your questions and we shall deliver!

Another thing we’re super excited to unveil is our newly-created writing groups!

Are you interested in learning about conference and publication opportunities? Do you thrive in a collaborative environment? Do you love to write or, in some cases, need to write?

Well, if you answered “YES” to any of the above questions, then this group is perfect for you.

There will be several meeting times throughout the week where we focus on specific areas of writing and what comes after the words have been put on paper. It is, after all, an evolving process. The general idea is that we’ll come together as a group on a weekly basis to share thoughts and ideas on writing. So, whether you’ve got a working draft or a budding idea, come see us! It’ll be a casual time for us to work together and do what we all love best: write. You’ll also meet some pretty cool people, if we do say so ourselves.

For students interested in conferences or publications, you’ll want to come to our meeting on Monday, September 14, at 4:30. We’ll be located in the FAC Commons (Room 166). This meeting time could also be very beneficial for students working to complete Honors CE/T projects, though it is by no means limited to Honors students. If you’re interested in publications/conferences or you want to brainstorm ideas with your peers, you should definitely stop by! Our first meeting will also have free snacks, which is always a plus!

For groups interested specifically in creative writing, there will also be different groups focusing solely on its sub-genres, led by our MFA students. These groups will meet at the following times:

  • Fiction Writing: Wednesday, September 16, at 3:00pm in the English Department’s Study Room (Cherry Hall 124)
  • Poetry Writing: Wednesday, September 16, at 5:00pm in the WKU Writing Center (CH 123)
  • Creative Writing Publication: Monday, September 14, at 4:00 in the WKU Writing Center (Cherry Hall 123)
Mark your calendars, but know that we’ll probably have more information available as we draw closer to these dates.
So, all in all, I think it’s shaping up to be a pretty fantastic semester. We hope you’ll join us for it!

Let’s talk about grammar (or not)

By Abby Ponder

It’s a gloomy Wednesday, you’re drenched from hiking up the hill in the pouring rain, and you can feel your stress levels beginning to rise with each step you take. You have a test tomorrow, a paper due the day after that, and you don’t know when you’re going to have time for a lunch break–next Tuesday, maybe? You’re on your way into the writing center, paper clutched tightly in hand, and you just want this day to be over with.

You round the corner and walk into the room, located on the main floor of Cherry Hall, for the first time in your academic career. Perhaps you are a freshman still finding your way in this great big world of academia or perhaps you are a graduating senior who doesn’t really want to be here in the first place. (You won’t tell your tutors that, though, will you?) You cross over the threshold, taking in the round tables with multiple students filling them. You don’t think you can even differentiate who is helping whom. They’re all student, each and every one of them–like you.

“Can I help you?”

You turn your head and smile at the person sitting behind the reception desk. You think you might recognize her from one of your classes.

“Yes, I was wondering if I could meet with someone about my paper? I’ve heard this is where you go,” you say.

The girl smiles at you.

“You’ve got it,” she says. “The sign-in sheet is right behind you. Someone will be with you in a moment, if you want to have a seat.”

You nod, reaching for the pen and paper. You fill out the necessities–name, student identification number, time of day, and course title–and then take a seat on the couch beneath the white board. As you wait, you spend your time checking your phone and trying not to guess at which student you’ll be sharing your work with.

Writing is an extremely personal thing for you. You both love and loathe the process, and you can’t help but feel your cheeks flush and your heart beat erratically any time someone dares to look too closely at the words you’ve carefully placed on paper. Sometimes you’re extremely grateful that you don’t have to be present as your professors read your assignments–the red pen is bad enough. Sometimes there’s a little and sometimes there’s a lot, but either way it breaks your heart.

Sometimes, more often than not, you think, you can’t even bring yourself to read the tightly scrawled notes.

“Are you ready to get started?” you hear. Your head snaps up, eyes falling on the speaker.

You nod at this person who must be your tutor and follow her to one of the round tables in the corner of the room. You can’t help but note that you have a rather nice view out the window from where you’re now seated. The cherry blossoms are dancing in the wind, the skies beginning to cloud with another April shower. It’s almost calming in a way–the calm before the storm. You wish you hadn’t forgotten your umbrella, though.

“So, what can I help you with?” the tutor asks.

“Grammar,” you say immediately. Grammar has always been your weakness, the biggest drain on your confidence. If you could only make it go away, eschew all the rules, then you would be more than happy to. Unfortunately, your professors, it seems, disagree with that philosophy.

The girl sitting beside you nods, picking up a purple pen and uncapping it.

“Mhm,” she says. “What is your assignment about? What class is it for?”

You launch into your explanation of the assignment: what it is, whom it’s for, and all the problems you’ve been having with it. You don’t like your thesis at all, and you’re not feeling confident about the third paragraph, but you really like the way you bring out this one point in paragraph five.

You tell her all of this, watching a smile spread across her face.

“Okay,” she says. “Let’s start with that thesis statement then.”

The next half an hour passes by rather quickly. Together you read through your paper, catching errors and inaccuracies on occasion, but also finding strong textual analysis and well-written content. It’s not a perfect draft, but it doesn’t have to be: it is a first draft, after all.

When the minute hand eventually signals the conclusion of the session, you’re feeling good about your paper. There were some hiccups along the way–that’s life–but you leave feeling more confident about your paper than you did before you walked through the door a half hour ago.

Two weeks later finds you in the writing center again. This time, you work with a different tutor–one who is just as nice and helpful as your tutor before. For this paper, you don’t even have a draft written yet, just an idea that’s beginning to blossom in your head. You tell your tutor as much, and he nods encouragingly.

“We can work with that,” he says with a laugh.

Together your chart the trajectory of your paper, filling in a blank outline with your words and ideas. It’s more than just going through the motions, you think: it’s progress.

When you leave this appointment, you have another scheduled a few days down the line.

“Come back whenever you’re ready,” your tutor tells you. “We’re happy to look at another draft with you.”

And you do.

The Writing Center at WKU offers support for all students who are enrolled at the university. We offer services in two respective locations, Cherry Hall 123 and the Commons at Cravens Library, as well as online appointments for students attending WKU’s regional campuses or exclusively taking online courses.

Contrary to some misconceptions, the Writing Center isn’t simply an editing service. Instead, we work with students to help them improve their overall writing abilities, not just a singular paper. We’re there for you at any stage in the writing process, whether you’re brainstorming or looking at a final draft.

This post was originally published on June 9, 2015.

Getting back into the writing grove

by Abby Ponder

The other night, I sat down at my computer to start writing. I write everyday–it’s one of the hazards of studying English and journalism–but I rarely take into consideration the routine behind the word count.

People write in different ways; it is a fact of life. Sometimes the routines are consistent–“every night at 5:30 I must write three pages of whatever research paper is due first”–and sometimes they’re more adaptable to meet deadlines and other commitments.

Additionally, sometimes people procrastinate one assignment while working ahead on another.

Life is full of variables and writing is no different.

For me, I tend to write at odd hours. Sometimes it depends on when I get the chance or have the motivation. If I’ve learned anything, though, it’s that writing something every day makes all the difference in the world–even if you only are able to write for ten minutes.

Eventually I’ll sit down and force myself to write. I’ll typically draw up an outline on paper first, and then start writing with my first body paragraph. (I almost always skip the introduction and save it for last. If, for some reason, I go on ahead with it, nine times out of 10 I’ll end up deleting it at the end.)

From there, I just write. I split the screen between my outline and the actual assignment, and just go until I have to stop. (With occasional five minute breaks every now and then.)

I also like writing in a familiar place. I can write at home when I need to. In fact, I do so on several occasions. It’s easy and convenient; it is also extremely comfortable. But while I can work at home, it doesn’t necessarily mean I always do. Over my time at WKU, I’ve found that I do some of my most productive writing in a library or a coffee shop. Home means comfort, more often than not, and so I can rationalize procrastination; however, when I’m in an official setting my productivity goggles immediately fall into place and those fifteen minute Facebook breaks (because, let’s be honest, five minutes doesn’t always cut) are immediately downsized.

The moral of the story is, write where you think you can write. If you’re more productive at home, then go for it. But if you’re struggling with churning out a couple pages from the sofa or dining room table, I would suggest trying out a new environment. There are tons of great coffee shops on and around campus that allow for a comfortable, but professional setting. Or, if the noise bothers you, the library is an excellent place to get work done. (We also, as it so happens, have a Writing Center location in the Commons at Cravens that you can stop by at any stage in your writing.)

Find what works best for you and go from there. You might not find that magical writing zone on the first try, but keep looking–it’s there somewhere.

In the meantime, enjoy your snow day(s), Hilltoppers! And be sure to let us know about your writing process. Inquiring minds want to know!

Happy Writing!

This post was originally published on February 16, 2015.

Total presence in the writing center

Hello, dear blogosphere and assorted Writing Center friends.

The best writing advice I have ever stumbled upon was not in a standard grammar book or Style by Williams & Colomb or even Stephen King’s On Writing. Rather, I happened upon it in a little book by a Catholic priest named Henri Nouwen, and this is roundabouts what he said:

For the sake of your own soul, I urge you to cultivate presence.

“By presence,” he writes, “I mean attentiveness to the blessings that come to you day after day, year after year. The problem of modern living is that we are too busy … to notice that we are being blessed… It has become extremely difficult for us to stop, listen, pay attention, and receive gracefully what is offered to us.”

Is this truly writing advice?

I would argue, YES.

The artist of great language experiences a special joy. We can be such artists! Crafting our language into shapely thought-animals, capable of standing on two (or four) legs apart from our creational clarification… that is achievement and worthy of aspiration.

Yet…

We too often try to make flying leaps between achievement and aspiration and fall flat on our faces! We want the first draft to be the last draft! We multitask ourselves into defeat!

In the quest of creating GREAT ART, bridging the aspiration and achievement is doable. It’s just a process.

So let’s break it down, shall we?

How to Cultivate Total Presence in the Writing Process

  1. Turn off that cell phone. Be where you are. (Where are you? See #2)
  2. GO someplace that will lead you to “pen-to-paper” productivity.
    • Being alone is perfectly acceptable. Library, study corners, your room…
    • I prefer a semi-quiet environment. Coffee shop, kitchen table, the Writing Center… These are particularly great places if you need positive peer pressure to get your work did.
    • Outside is always an option. Beware of this one, though. Looking for that one word on the tip of your tongue can quickly turn into looking at that mermaid-shaped cloud or looking at how cute the squirrel is. Construction is also to be considered.
  3. Shut off:
    • Safari
    • Chrome
    • Mozilla Firefox
    • (the ever-popular) Internet Explorer à My other Writing Center friends are much more technology savvy than I, and they say they know ways to get the technology to workagainst them, e.g. have your browser lock you out of Twitter or FB after 2 hours of surfing for no good reason (other than seeing those wedding photos for the hundredth time or revising your movie list or checking out Drop-Dead-Gorgeous So-and-So). No no no no no. Every bit of research ever done by anyone ever says we can’t multitask and expect excellence.
      • So get off. Now.
  4. Put headphones in, even if you don’t or can’t put on music. I have gotten into a writing zone for hours and realized I never opened iTunes, but once I took the headphones off, the osmosis of thought between my computer and me was disturbed unto death. Wearing headphones alone is a silly trick. But it works. Honest.
  5. You tell yourself you can work with friends. You cannot. Statistically speaking, the likelihood you will, in that grand social atmosphere, write anything is zero percent.
  6. Get a hot drink to plant your tail.
  7. Finish drinking and thinking and staring at the blank screen.
  8. Then just begin to write the thing. Turn off the inner critic and promise yourself, now that you’re writing Round ONE, you can work on the craft of your creation after it’s finished getting created.

I believe in you. And once you discipline yourself to stay on task and just write, you can begin to engage in the great joy of CRAFT. Creation stands apart from craft. But in both seasons of the writing process, your presence is vital. And you know… Writing goes faster the more you pay attention: that’s why the best parts of our lives seem to fly by. We’re invested!

So invest! Pay attention! Lock into the beautiful specifics of your own writing process and, as Neil Gaiman urges us,

make good art.

I happily anticipate your creations.

~Dorian

This post was originally published on October 4, 2013.