I had read Sondra Perl’s essay, “The Composing Processes of Unskilled College Students,” prior to writing an essay for my religion class and what I found was that I was much like the students in the writing study that Perl discusses. The problem that I have in writing academically is that, like the subjects in the study, I edit while I write. I do not allow the writing to flow to its completeness before trying to edit. I work so hard to sound like the student that I am supposed to be on paper that sometimes I get lost editing one sentence. As of right now, writing this blog, I have stopped to reread every sentence before continuing on. I did not realize that this is a problem that I have when I write until now.
Last night when I was writing my paper for my religion class the difficulty to articulate what I needed to express was being inhibited by concern with word choice. Instead of inserting a common word I would try to find a word that would make me sound more “scholarly”. In doing this I loose my train of thought and end up picking up in a different spot. This issue caused me to spend over four hours on a three page paper, which should have taken at the most two. There are several things that I did differently in writing this paper than I have done in the past that could have caused the frustration I was feeling in writing this paper.
My first problem was that I wrote this paper from beginning to end. Usually I would write papers in segments, never starting with the introduction. I would still construct a solid thesis, but would leave the introduction until the end of my process.
The second problem was that I did not come up with body paragraph segment topics. Usually I would have picked specific topics that I would want to cover. Once this is done I would start with the topic I was most excited about and move on. By the time that I am done with the body of the paper I am able to piece together the paragraphs, much like a puzzle. In this part if the process editing will take place in a minimalistic way. I just try to make sure that the topic sentences are clear from paragraph to paragraph. With my religion paper I used the template that the professor introduced. That professor’s template was to help guide us with our writing process, but obviously it did not work for me. I needed to come up with my own unusual template that made me excited about the topic assigned.
The third, and final, problem that I noticed was that I did not give myself as much time to work on the paper as I normally would. Once a paper has been assigned I immediately start working in it. I started out strong, but lost steam. I also think I became cocky about my writing, which made me feel that it was okay that I had lost steam. Last semester was the first time that I had gotten an A on a paper since my English 101 and 102 days (that was in 2005). The next time I took an English class (five years later) I was squashed my by professor. The university that I was attending, before I transferred here, prided themselves in their academic writing and expected all students to write the same way. I was never able to live up to the writing that they needed from me. So, when I repeatedly received papers that were above average at my current institution I became comfortable. I believed that I now had the skill that was needed of me and did not need to take the time to write a measly three page paper.
Will these mistakes haunt my grade? This is a feeling I will be carrying until I get my grade for my paper. With the anxiety that I feel I just hope I have a passing grade.
It was nice to read Perl and finally understand why I was having such a hard time writing academically. It has been a while since I have been able to write creatively, but once I get the time (and inspiration) I will analyze myself and see if I have the same difficulty as I do writing academically.