A Cure for Writer’s Blank

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It’s a lot easier to write for an assigned project, than to pluck a topic out of thin air and start pounding away at the keyboard, or scratching a pencil across college-ruled paper—at the same time making sense out of the words that take shape.  At least for me it is.  Yesterday, when I realized it was time to submit my weekly blog post, I drew a big blank.  I’m supposed to be chronicling my final weeks as a non-traditional college student, discussing the challenges of reinventing myself after working in the same field for 25 years, sharing insight on what I’ve learned during my last two years attending Arizona State University in the Literature, Writing and Film program. 

But I seem to be tapped out.  Oh, my muse has not left me.  Tell me to write a travel piece outlining my experiences up north during Labor Day weekend, and I’ll write it with flourish.  Assign me a 5-page report covering technical editing in the 21st century, and I’ll set about researching the topic and writing my thesis.  But apparently a blank blog post does not a blog write.  What do writers do when they have a wide open field of possibilities but they cannot pinpoint a single idea that provokes a commitment?  Why not invent one?

Or visit many of the available online resources that provide prompts for the writer’s “block”—or blank, as I prefer to call it.  I found an awesome website while trolling the Internet at http://www.thewritesource.com that supplies writing topics for elementary, high school, and college-age writers.  Examples include: my worst vacation, what do I worry about, putting my foot in my mouth, and the list goes on.  There are also other resources such as books on craft that may help jumpstart a blank page or a tired muse.  In the meantime, as one of my professors likes to close her missives each time: write on! ~ cs

To Write a Blog or Not to Write a Blog

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…that is the question.  And why? 

It used to be that writers were the ones who started blogs in order to snag a job; however, I recently received an e-mail from an online career guide whose main theme revolved around blogging your way to the perfect job, no matter your career aspirations.  For me, I began a blog for multiple reasons. 

First, I wanted to chronicle my experiences as a non-traditional college student reinventing my identity.  Second, I thought it was a great way to receive exposure for my writing in a public forum.  And third, I felt it was an important discipline to practice meeting a regular (albeit self-imposed) deadline by maintaining the blog posts—illustrating to a future employer that I possess dedication to the task. 

Further, my blog confirms my qualifications by providing real-life examples of my writing, as well as a wonderful way to back up my resume by demonstrating that I am able to effectively communicate, and that I’m technical-minded.  Finally, I also have an opportunity to learn a little about SEO in the process. 

And if for no other reason, for me it’s the write approach to self-publishing my ramblings and rhetoric for free. ~ cs

Reading for the Write Reasons

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I overheard someone the other night in a writing course of mine indicate that she doesn’t like to read “how to” essays on the writer’s craft, because she’s not going to listen to anyone tell her “how” she’s supposed to write.  And another student mentioned that he doesn’t like to read actual samples of a particular genre of writing because he gets hung up on trying to write like this or that author.  Which brings me to the question: how can a (beginning) writer learn to write without reading?

For myself, I believe that essays on the craft of writing are valuable for many reasons.  One, they provide insight into past and current trends in a market; two, they share tips and guidelines from published authors who have, no doubt, reinvented the wheel to bring us—the readers and writers—tried information that we can pick and choose in our own writing; and three, they provide an opportunity to become better read, while at the same time becoming familiar with the different writing styles of seasoned authors. 

These reasons hold true for simply reading the craft, as well.  Many beginning writers feel their own writing style closely matches that of a particular polished author, so they like to follow them not to “copy,” but to improve upon their own techniques.  I like the validation that I’m either on the right track, or that I need to try something new.  And really, how can I expect to understand what works and what doesn’t, and more importantly, perhaps—what sells—without digesting as much of the genre as possible? ~ cs

Contemplating my Future Write About Now

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“Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time.” ~Deborah Chaskin 

With 9 weeks remaining before semester end, and another week before I graduate, I feel a charge in the atmosphere around me.  My final five classes have taken on greater meaning, stretching my muse and crafting it into something I can only hope becomes workable in the end.  And yet, there are still so many preparations to make.

In addition, within the past few weeks I have spent hours preparing resumes and cover letters, as well as sample writing which I’ve begun sending to prospective employers and internships.  I’ve attended a workshop on successful interviewing, and this week I will attend one on dressing for success.  I wonder if I feel like a caterpillar must, as it readies for its transformation.  I do know that my wings are eager to spread as I prepare to enter a new and exciting career.  And suddenly, the world looks a lot bigger. ~ cs