When it’s All Write to be a Hoarder

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In one of my courses this semester—my degree capstone (perhaps something like a thesis project for a graduate degree?)—I am expected to compile a portfolio, otherwise known as a degree learning outcome, that demonstrates a mastery of learning in several core areas.  In reviewing the sample portfolios available to us, it didn’t take long to figure out that this project encompasses my entire academic career at ASU.  This includes over two dozen classes from The Living World (biology) to Critical Reading and Writing about Literature, to Studies in International Film. 

I started to panic almost immediately after reading the project description, because after each semester, I’ve systematically rifled through my paperwork for each class, tossing out hard copies, marked up drafts, worksheets, etc.  I’ve also sold many of my textbooks back to the college.  Thankfully, all my rough drafts used for peer review, online discussion board posts, and final drafts are saved on my computer (and regularly backed up). 

In hindsight, I wish I had known it would be important to hang onto any and all materials from my academic career—that it would only help me in the long run.  But then again, maybe I should have instinctively known.  Or maybe that is something Freshmen are told in one of the first courses they are required to enroll in.  Either way, it is definitely going to make the compilation process more challenging.  But for the last two years I’ve risen to the challenge—of juggling a family, a part-time job, and more than a full-time course load—and I don’t plan to stop now.  So next time I have the urge to toss out a critical essay on writing the supernatural, or give away a technical editing textbook, I’ll ask myself if I may need it in the future—for a pursuit at a graduate degree, or maybe in a potential role as editor. ~ cs

The Write Stuff ~Building your Body and your Craft

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A couple weeks ago I hired a personal trainer in order to help me maximize my nutrition and fitness goals.  At the time of my first session, all I could think about was not crying in front of her—and wondering what I had been doing at the gym for the past year and a half.  But afterward, I couldn’t help but think that exercise and writing have a lot in common. 

First, in order to strengthen my muscles and ligaments, it requires the (painful) process of breaking down and rebuilding (not to mention a lot of sweat).  Relate that to writing in that each rough draft—whether a nonfiction article, a lyrical essay, or a piece of fiction—goes through its own breakdown called deep revision, otherwise known as a rewrite.  Just as my body will not realize an increase in muscle and reduction of fat without proper fitness and nutrition, my writing will remain uninspired and flat without the oftentimes painful process of putting my creative juices through regular exercises of their own (sometimes producing not only sweat, but tears).  This can include strategies such as free-writing or brainstorming, but physical exercise also releases the endorphins that can spark creativity.  For me, I find that after a good session at the gym—whether cardio or strength training—my mind is cleared and ready to tackle just about anything.  Even a sixth draft. ~ cs

Write on Time

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During my previous semester, I took an undergraduate course which introduced graphic design fundamentals, and provided a better understanding of theoretical perspectives, as well as visual perception, culture, and rhetoric.  But one of the most important lessons I took away from the course had less to do with my newly acquired skills in InDesign or Dreamweaver—although excellent additions to my resume—and more to do with deadlines.

It was exactly two hours before one of my final projects—a website I had spent hours designing—was due to be posted for viewing and grading.  However, the campus software I routinely accessed via remove server went down while a couple of my web pages still loaded improperly.  I e-mailed my instructor informing him of the situation.  Although his response was difficult to hear, it made a lasting impression on me. 

First, he reminded me that deadlines in his class were set in stone—no exceptions.  And second, that someone in my career—someone familiar with deadlines—will sometimes be required to ask him or herself if it’s more important to submit an incomplete assignment on time, or risk missing the deadline.  So, when the campus interface resumed, I posted my URL with little time to spare.  Maybe a contingency  plan would have helped in this situation, maybe not.  But while my assignment was not perfect, it was on time.  Both the lesson I learned and the A I earned were my rewards. ~ cs

The Write Idea?

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Resumes the Write Way

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Last week I met with a career counselor on campus.  When I entered the offices, I was greeted by a fresh-faced student worker who proceeded to ask me—somewhat apologetically—if I was a student (and I could almost visualize the unspoken air quotations).  I laughed on  the outside as I was once again reminded that even though I’m just finishing up my Bachelor’s, I’m old enough to be the mother of the majority of my peers.  But an hour and a half later, I realized that age doesn’t matter.  It’s how I market myself that does. 

Following a brief lesson on updating resumes and cover letters, I learned to:

  • Format and tailor cover letters and resume to each job opening in order to showcase your strengths.  This means dropping keywords from the position description directly into the individual documents.
  • Use verbs in past tense in order to highlight professional experience.  Instead of ‘facilitating writing workshops,” you “facilitated writing workshops.”
  • Avoid flashy and flowery cover letters and resumes, opting to save the theatrics for your portfolio.  Unless, of course, your business is graphic design.
  • Be specific!  How many authors did you contact in a former position, or what was the dollar amount you earned in royalties?
  • Avoid abbreviations.  Spell out states, job titles, etc.

It was painfully evident to me, when I met with my counselor, that standards and guidelines to resume preparation have changed quite a bit over the years.  This served to remind me that a proper education in your particular field—and how to best sell yourself to a prospective employer—go hand in hand when entering the job market.  Which is why I’m attending seminars next month on resume and cover letter writing, as well as successful interviewing. ~ cs