Curiosity

By: Rickie Ross

Why is research important? Should we be researching in our paper writing, presentation creating, and life living? Are you curious? I want to argue that curiosity in writing is, in fact, essential for creating successful and thorough papers as well as living a life of all around knowledge. Research is important in nearly everything we do. It is necessary that we look to other sources before we just start writing down our opinions as fact, and it is important that we realize that what we write has potential to be used not only for our classes, but for different audiences and future research. Janet Richards states, “If you can’t think of anything to write, you don’t have writers’ block. You have readers’ block. You need to stop writing and start reading more about your topic” (45). We should be curious in our assignments, desiring to know more about the world and what it has to say concerning any certain topic. For anyone writing in any capacity, I feel that two things must be present: a desire to learn everything seemingly possible about the topic, and a passion for the topic on which is being written. In my opinion, the writing process without these two things will be dull and unfulfilling instead of satisfying and rewarding. Writing can be such a huge tool for learning, teaching, and even self-improvement, but without significant research and without a passion for the topic, our academic writing process will be stunted completely.

I think we need to understand and believe that what we write has meaning and worth. What we research and have (or gain) passion for in our writing really is important to the world, and it has more value than just the small amount of satisfaction we get from turning in another completed assignment on time and escaping the wrath and consequence of a late paper. Our work, the hard and tireless (especially during finals week) work we put into researching and writing papers, matters. It has meaning, and it can be used for greater, future research to help our world near and far. In essence, our simple papers can absolutely change the world.

Therefore, reader, take heart in working your hardest in what you write. Research first, take real and authentic interest in the topics about which you write. Treat your assignments as if they matter, because they absolutely do. Do your best on every single paper you write, and be truly curious to find answers to your questions. Become an expert in something you maybe never even knew existed, and let your work be used for future successes and expertise. Think about this: what you write, today and for the rest of your life, could change the world; so take it seriously. Treat your writing as if you expected it to change people, and write so that your life, and the lives of others, will be changed. If you have grown up as I did, dreading and fearing my next writing assignment, attempt to open your mind to the knowledge and wisdom you could find through researching and writing, rather than just try to make it to that page number length requirement. I encourage all who read this to take this to heart, think about how you have viewed writing, and perhaps open up to the idea of enjoying and taking passion in your writing; to truly being curious. You may find that the results are amazing and that your brain can retain and appreciate so much more than you ever expected. Your papers could make a difference, and your mind could be used to change the world.

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Three Things the Writing Lab Is Not

By: Caley Hennemann

Conversation. Tutors. Friendship. Students. Education.

These are the components of the writing lab at Missouri Baptist University. For those of you that have visited us in the writing lab, you may know this to be true. To those of you who haven’t, believe me when I say I’m telling the truth. Believe me also when I tell you what the writing lab is not.

The MBU Writing Lab IS NOT:

  1. A place for just freshmen

Coaches in the Writing Lab vary in age, and so do the students who they assist. To help inhibit curiosity and furthering of education in students, we are quick to adapt to whoever walks in the door and meet their needs- regardless of year or age. I myself have tutored students of all ages, including adults working towards a graduate degree.

 

  1. A place that can only help with English courses

As stated above, writing tutors vary in age but also in interests and academic majors. With psychology, education, biology, and other areas of study represented in our coaches, we are malleable and knowledgeable on various genres of writing.

 

  1. A place for judgement

No one will judge you in the Writing Lab. I repeat, NO ONE WILL JUDGE IN THE WRITING LAB. Not for what you wear. Not for what you look like. And most definitely, no one will judge you based on your writing. Instead of judgement, we will provide constructive criticism and ideas to improve your writing process.

 

So come one, come all! The Writing Lab is a place for everyone. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that we will help all ages, assist in a variety of courses, and WILL NOT judge you.

After all, we are here to serve you-

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” –Mark 10:45

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Why The Writing Space?

By: Amanda Monke

Did you know?
Tutors begin their work before the student even pulls an essay out of the book bag. During the first few minutes of the appointment, we observe posture, facial cues, and vocal tone. We try to approach the appointment with our greatest tool: flexibility. Without flexibility, an appointment is nothing. Just like the individual appointments, the MBU Writing Lab as a whole has flexibility. To accommodate the digital age, we’re working on adding new technological resources all the time. Currently we offer a student computer, but if this is the only technology that we provide, we will be quickly outstripped by the raging progression of the digital era. So, the Writing Space was born.

Because everyone should feel included in the writing community, regardless of ability or confidence level.
Long before I knew any writing center theory, my first grade teacher changed my life. When I began school that year, I had a hunger to learn. Quickly, however, this hunger turned to shame. While the class learned how to read and write, I sat alone in the hallway, sent there by my teacher because I already knew how to read. To a young mind, the hallway was the ultimate shame. I believed that I was in trouble every day; I thought that the teacher was angry at my knowledge. Now this experience shapes the way I tutor in college today. Even in college, learning communities should carefully administer to students’ individual needs.

Because technology should be part of learning.
For my entire life, technology has been an integral aspect of my learning. Although I am quite familiar with technology and education, in the MBU writing lab, technology is still a fledgling asset to our preexisting resources. We’re working on this! This semester I have learned that adding technology to a writing center helps to meet the student on his or her own terms. Online resources and interactions appeal to digital natives and bolster the reputation and reach of a writing center.

Because you are important.
The MBU Writing Space is all about you! Our interactive resources aim to provide an accessible hub of resources and assistance. The Writing Space offers a “space” for the Writing Lab to extend into the digital realm. In this place students, tutors, and resources can collide and interact, creating a fuller, richer learning experience.

Want to learn more? Check out these resources:

Grammar, Citation, and Research Help
Blogs from the Coaches
Video Tutorials (on citations, research, and more)

 

 

 

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Writing As Art: An Experience

By: Kristianna Pirrie

As a writing tutor, one of the statements I hear most is something along the lines of, “I just want to get this done,” or “I’m just not a writer.” Statements such as these break my heart because, as someone that has benefited greatly from this escape, I want others to feel the same peace that I do when they write. Because school is such a demanding environment to write in, students can have a skewed view about what writing truly is.

At the beginning of the semester, I had planned on researching the individual, artistic voice and how one can incorporate it into his or her writing. However, the more I tutored and the more I researched, I realized that I did not stand behind my research; I do not believe academic writing and artistic voice should be separated in the first place because writing is an experience. Experience cannot be defined as either academic nor artistic because it is a balance of both.

This thought was solidified when I came across an article about John Dewey’s Art as Experience. The work was written to express Dewey’s theory of aesthetics–a popular subject among theorists. In it, he defines art as an experience–a complete process as opposed to the object of artistic expression itself (i.e. a painting, song, sculpture, building, etc.). This intrigued me because it was the first time I found a definition of art that did not limit itself to the object of expression. As a musician, I believe I am an artist, but the ending product is not why I consider music an art form. Music is aesthetically pleasing to an audience because they feel certain things when they listen to it, but to the musician, the art does not begin and end with the performance. Musicians create music because the process of getting to the end product is a continuous shaping and reshaping, reflection and planning, and trial and error. The musicians’ journey makes the product infinitely more satisfying because they know what it took and what they learned in getting there. Dewey asserts that art as experience is a more complete definition of art because it explains why art is capable of stimulating emotion, exploration, and growth.

Before I move on to discuss the meat of the writing process as an experience, I would like to draw attention to where the process begins. In Dewey’s words, this step is called impulsion–“as distinguished from ‘impulse,’ …a developmental movement of the whole organism in response to a need arising from interaction with the environment,” (Stanford 2.4). Impulsion can be exemplified physically when we are hungry. If we get home from school after a long day, usually the problem is that we are hungry. To overcome that obstacle, we think of what we want to eat. We go through all of the usual options,

Taco Bell? Subway? No, I can’t spend money. Caf? No, too far away.

Here, the impulsion has been met with obstacles. “For an impulsion to lead to expression there must be conflict, a place where inner impulse meets the environment. The tribal war dance for example requires the uncertainty of an impending raid for its excitement,” (2.4) The body continues to be hungry, so the mind continues to come up with options until the choice is solidified:

Ramen? Yes, I can make that in five minutes. Now, if only I could call my roommate to ask her if I can use her microwave…

In reaction, the mind has found a way to ‘convert’ these obstacles into something useful. Now, it has justified its option in full and created an option suitable to meet its needs.

This example shows 1) an impulsion, 2) an obstacle to overcome, and 3) the result that comes from overcoming that obstacle. As compared to writing and any kind of art, we are stimulated by the world around us to explore a concept in thought, and then ultimately we are drawn to action–creating a work which expresses our experience. In the second step–overcoming an obstacle–we are essentially exploring our options and trying different things to solve the problem. “Impulsion becomes aware of itself only through overcoming obstacles. When resistance generates curiosity and is overcome, the result is elation. Emotion is then converted into both interest and reflective action…” (2.4). This exploration allows trial and error, shaping and reshaping, and other reasoning that help us decide the best option which will ultimately express our experience.

Impulsion explains so much about the steps between why one writes and the actual act of writing. Students constantly ask me, “So…what should I say?” They are not sure what to write because–perhaps–they have not had an ‘impulsion,’ quite yet. This notion is understandable because teachers must assign papers, where students might not write about the topic on their own. Therefore, the students that come to the writing center might be lacking “impulsion,” so to speak. They have not connected with cause enough to write about the idea, or maybe they haven’t even come up with an idea yet. After having read Dewey’s theories, I feel as though I have a more definable aid in helping students to solve this problem. If I can help students to understand impulsion, I can help them understand how to know what to write from a place that feels natural–even if the topic is not familiar or interesting to them at first glance.

There is an aspect of self in everything that humans do. Writing–as it should be an aesthetic experience–should not be an exception to this. I believe that because students are viewing writing as academic, scientific, and disconnected from the self, it is often not natural and, therefore, rather difficult. Furthermore, it holds no place for discovery or exploration of self. If students can be provided guidance to impulsion, however, they may have a better chance at connecting with their writing–making thoughts flow easier and ideas come naturally. The trick is to take an assignment and connect it, either directly or symbolically, to something that the student is interested in. For instance, I wrote a paper recently on the Reconciliation of French and Italian Music of the Baroque Period. Clearly, this was not the easiest topic for me to relate to or be interested in. I conquered it, though, because I was able to loosely connect it to the idea of reconciliation in the body of Christ, and how music history exemplifies that and the benefits that come from it. Once I got to brain storming, I was able to use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the two, and learn how to focus my paper. Through this process, I was able to begin a paper that was not only interesting, but came much more naturally.

Writing from a place of connection allows the writer to explore as he or she writes. The act of writing has the opportunity to access our inner speech, allowing writing to come from a place of honesty using a flow of logical thoughts. Writing that sounds choppy and unfocused can often result if the writer doesn’t know how his or her thoughts on the topic connect. They know where they want to be at the end of the paper but they don’t know how to get there smoothly. But if the writers are putting down thoughts that come straight from their inner dialogue, chances are they will be connected and flowing. This is where the writer can get “lost” in writing. When they come from a place that’s familiar to them, they can write and write and write and lose track of time because the thoughts keep coming. Many times, when a writer experiences this, they can go back and read what they have written and actually see their mind laid out as a map on the page. From here they can react, realize, and become aware of themselves in a deeper way. This is the exploration. We realize thoughts and ideas we hold inside ourselves that we might not have thought about during our day to day thoughts. And when we put them on paper we bring them into the world, expanding their potential. Essentially, we are putting ourselves down on the page, and although this may seem scary to some, to others it means liberation.

The next step in the experience is to shape, reshape, and refine the writing. Once we have put ideas down on paper, we can analyze and determine what should stay and what is important but maybe not necessary for the purpose of the assignment or goal. This can be difficult for many people because it means eliminating or reshaping a part of the writer’s mind. Many people have difficulty being critiqued on their writing because they feel vulnerable–the writing is directly connected to them. But what we must remember is that exploration is about growth, and growth is not possible without some difficult decisions. That being said, we should take critiques as learning opportunities and new perspectives that might, in fact, help our art to be even better than what it is. We must also remember that the nature of writing is that it comes from a single individual’s mind, making it clear that that mind only has one perspective. Reading from the writer’s perspective might make sense, but from an outsider’s point of view, the ideas may be difficult to understand. Getting help from a second party might allow the writer to clarify ideas and improve upon what is already there. This concept helps us to hold one another accountable as well as grow and learn. These processes teach us things about ourselves while also creating something that is unique and beautiful.

Writing is not some far off skill that only specifically gifted people have. Writing is a process that yields beautiful ideas and solutions–not beautiful because they are pleasing to every eye and ear, but beautiful because they are the culmination of minutes, hours, and days of thinking, wrestling, shaping, and reshaping. That being said, taking time to write is just as much a part of the art as the finished paper is. If we can write with the goal of having an experience, our art has a potential even greater than itself: It has the potential to grow an individual, to influence a group, open the eyes of a society, and so much more. Art as experience holds qualities that make us better people rather than simply giving us something inspiring or entertaining for a moment.

Finally, I would hope that through these thoughts you, as writers, are encouraged. I hope through these thoughts you might see that writing is not either academic or artistic, but that it can please both sides. Writing does not have to be a painful, tedious, disconnected, checking of a box on a degree sheet. It is not just six hours pushing buttons on a computer, waiting until we have enough sentences to fill four pages. Writing can be liberating, exhilarating, and exciting if we learn to look at it as a process–a whole organism that creates and is created: Writing as art, an experience.

 

Work Cited

Leddy, Tom, “Dewey’s Aesthetics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2016/entries/dewey-aesthetics/&gt;.

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Why I Tutor

By: Kelsey Mundle

A tutor, by definition, is a private teacher, typically one who teaches a single student or a very small group. To me there is so much more to tutoring than this basic definition. Here in the ASC, the writing coaches are so much more than tutors due to the fact that they are also students at Missouri Baptist. We were once in those same shoes. We have had some of the same professors, so we are able to help the students know what each professor is looking for. This makes the writing lab more approachable to the people who are seeking help in a particular subject, like writing.

When I first began tutoring, I was terrified. I had no idea what I was doing. I found myself dreading my first appointment. Well, you can only dread for so long until it becomes a reality. Just like that, I had finished my first appointment, feeling less than confident in my tutoring skills. However, I had succeeded. I had tutored someone! After this I became less and less anxious for my appointments. Over time, I have found that I actually look forward to my appointments. I thrive on the energy that follows a good appointment. I enjoy the relationships that come with tutoring. There are some students who come into the writing lab who are very strong writers and honestly, those are some of my favorite appointments. As we dive into their papers, I see details that I wouldn’t have thought to add to a paper. When this happens, the relationship seems to take off, because it feels as though it is more of a peer level of conversation. We sometimes go off topic and discuss other topics that are not related to writing or the paper. I think that is needed in a tutoring session. You take a little bit of a break from the material, and the student builds trust with me, the tutor.

I find that when I tutor, I grow my own writing skills! Now, I feel more confident in my writing skills than ever before. Part of me even wants to go back to English Comp. 1 and English Comp. 2 so that I can compare my writing strategies now to how they used to be. I would never actually go back, but the feeling of being inspired is good, right? After all, it is the thought that counts!

In all, I have discovered that I tutor because I learn from the process too. With each person I help, I gain a new skill; whether that skill is tutoring-related, friendship-related, or writing-related varies from appointment to appointment.  I never thought that I would get so much out of a job that doesn’t even feel like a job.

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Practicing Mindfulness: Learning How to Pay Close Attention in Your Writing

By: Elizabeth Busekrus

I woke up, started my daily routine to get ready for work. After I showered, got dressed, and packed my lunch, I grabbed my phone. It blinked 12:32 am. Used to my morning routine, I had not even thought of checking the clock before going through the steps. This example shows how mindless I was that morning. At times, we don’t even have to reflect on how we think, what to do, or even how we feel. With my morning mishap, I simply changed into my PJs and went back to sleep for another six hours. Being mindless only disrupted my sleep momentarily. When it comes to writing, being mindful becomes a trickier animal to manage.

Mindfulness is defined in many ways, but a few common definition are “nonreactive awareness and concentration of one’s self and experiences” (Le, Ngnoumen, & Langer, 2014); “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p. 4), and “sustained moment-to-moment awareness” (Siegel, Germer, & Olendzki, 2008, p. 17). These definitions might seem complex, but mindfulness is basically an act of paying attention.

Within each tutoring appointment, I try to practice this act of mindfulness to better understand the student’s point of view. In the same way, I think mindfulness is an important process to practice within writing as well. When writing an essay, pay attention to a few key questions:
1. What is your writing process like?
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses in writing?
3. What are some writing beliefs that are impacting you as you write this essay?
4. Reflect back on when you started to have those writing beliefs.
5. What are the expectations of your instructor and of yourself?
6. What is your opinion about the essay topic? What are some other opinions that you could have about this topic?
7. Think back on prior experiences you have had about this topic.

Mindfulness is an intentional process that you can develop in your writing. It involves looking at all of the choices that you have, all of the paths that you can take in writing the essay, and choosing the best one for you. Perhaps your researching skills need some work. If so, consider how you are researching the topic and what some other methods are for researching. Experiment with various options to see which one is the most effective for acquiring good and varied search results.

Think of an area of your writing that could use some improvement and practice paying attention to what you do in that area and how that affects your attitude about writing and your writing overall. What you do in the writing process always affects your final draft.

You might occasionally start getting dressed for work/school at 12:32 am, but as you practice, it will happen less and less. Be mindful, and see what becomes of this practice.

References
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life.
New York, NY: Hyperion.
Le, A., Ngnoumen, C. T., & Langer, E. J. (2014). The Wiley Blackwell handbook of mindfulness
(1st ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.
Siegel, R. D., Germer, C. K., & Olendzki, A. (2009). Mindfulness: What is it? Where did it come
from? In F. Didonna (Ed.), Clinical handbook of mindfulness (pp. 17-36). New York, NY: Springer.

The Writing Space

The Writing Space is a place where MBU students can merge the technological and social with the academic. Have fun while learning to improve your writing skills!

We have two main sections in this space: handouts and blogs.

  • Handouts: MBU writing lab handouts can help students with grammar, resumé building, and everything in between.
  • Blogs: MBU Writing Coaches will post prompts and musings in each section throughout the week. Students can then respond and receive feedback from other students and from writing coaches.

The MBU Writing Lab offers many other services in addition to The Writing Space. All services are free to MBU students. We are here to help you with your writing needs, whether you are just getting started or need help revising. We offer workshops, a biannual writing contest, and face-to-face appointments.

If you want to make a face-to-face appointment, use our scheduling tool.
We look forward to working with you!

What is this All About?

By: Rickie Ross

I am here in the Writing Lab today working to help students to become the best writers they can possibly be. Well today is my second day of work, and to be honest, I have already realized that I am, in fact, not the best tutor out there. This may come as a shock to some of you, although somehow it does not to me, but it’s the absolute truth, I must admit. So what does that mean? Give up? Not at all! My job is to make the students I tutor believe in themselves and help them to become the absolute best writers they can be. This takes time. It takes practice. It takes… relationship. The people that come to have their papers worked on are just that, people. They each come with their own successes and failures, their own hills and valleys.

That being said, I need to be the best tutor I can be so that I can help students to become the best they can become. I need to build relationships with the people that come to me for help so that they will feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas with me. I want to make people realize the potential in themselves and, therefore, have confidence in their writing, knowing that they too have a voice to be heard. Yes, some of my job will consist of editing and fixing small grammatical mistakes, but I think my overall purpose as a writing tutor is much more than that. I think it is to help students fulfill the potential they have as writers and to make themselves see just how much power they have in their own voices. Attitude makes all the difference.

So… as an extremely inexperienced writing tutor, I hope to reach other inexperienced tutors going through the same nervous, unprepared feelings I am. I guess I don’t really have advice because anything I say at this point would simply be my feeble opinion, but I do know that if our job is to help students see and live up to their full potential, we should be able to do the same. We should believe in ourselves and keep trying, even when we fail. They don’t know we’ve never done this before. So let’s try our best and learn from our mistakes and work our hardest to become the best tutors we can possibly be. No matter who you are reading this, believe in yourself, work your absolute hardest, and be a better tutor (or whatever else you do) than you were yesterday. We can do this!

Summary-Critique

To respond to the exercises on the Summary-Critique handout,
To ask a question about summary-critique essays, OR
To practice the prompt below,

Comment on this post and a writing tutor will respond within 24 hours!

Practice prompt:
Why is it important to critique? Think of five reasons why critiquing might be a useful skill that you could use throughout college and your lives.