Motivation and Writing

By Abby Crain

What motivates you to write?

If you’re writing a text message, your motivation may be the need to ask a question or just the desire to be communicating with someone.

With emails, which college students typically avoid like the plague, the motivation is usually that you need to ask a teacher a question that can’t wait until class time, or you don’t want to ask in person.

For an academic essay, let’s be honest—we are typically motivated by the deadline above all else. Sometimes the topic is to blame, because it’s boring; sometimes you have to choose your own topic and you’re waiting for divine inspiration to strike. Sometimes you just plain DO NOT want to write a paper.

I get it; despite being an English major, I sometimes struggle with academic writing and the box it tends to place around writers. That box is one of the main reasons I have always wanted to be a fiction author, because creative writing has rules but at the same time those rules can be broken for the sake of creative license.

This brings me to the point of this blog: motivation and the key to finding what yours is/are.

The ARCS Model of Motivational Design by John Keller (which can be read in detail HERE) discusses four steps of motivation that each build on the previous step and result in motivation: attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction. The design was written with the intent of having two people involved—one motivating and one being motivated—but it is also useful for self-motivation if you seek out feedback when you need it.

These steps can be used separately from the others, especially if you are stuck for a specific reason that pertains precisely to one of them, but it is ideal if you have time to go through the process in order. The ARCS model is definitely versatile and can be used to motivate any of the academic disciplines, but I will stick with discussing its use for writing.

First, attention—grab the attention of the writer in some way. Keller mentions perceptual arousal and inquiry arousal as two bases for this goal. Perceptual arousal indicates some sort of surprise or surprising events to the writer, while inquiry arousal creates curiosity by you asking the writer questions or you both finding questions to answer. For example, brainstorming for a short story summary-critique can involve everything from asking questions about the author’s life to making a game of how many times you see a certain story element in the piece. For those who are using the ARCS model to self-motivate, getting your own attention is not hard, but you also have a more difficult time of keeping it; therefore, seek out aspects of the piece that you can relate to, and think of questions to answer as you are writing about the piece.

Next, you need to establish some sort of relevance between the writer and what he/she is going to write about. Keller outlines six different strategies, but they all boil down to creating some sort of connection that is going to resonate within the writer as he/she is writing. This step relies heavily not only on your ability to demonstrate how the piece can relate to the writer but also on the inner motivations of the writer. Therefore, this step is one of the most difficult of the four if not the most difficult. Because you cannot force someone to relate to something else, with anti-motivated students you may have to skip this step and move on before returning to it later. If you are trying to motivate yourself, this step is completely in your hands and you may have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find something relatable in the piece.

Third, building confidence is so necessary in order to create motivation. Not only does it help when a writer feels able to write, but it also will help him/her to be able to think back at the encouragement you gave, and therefore increase self-motivation. I definitely do not want you to give false encouragement to students, but there is always something in their writing for which they can be proud (even if it is only the fact that they were able to get something down on paper). If you need to build your own confidence, you may simply need to pause and think about successful aspects of your previous writings. Positive self-talk is important to continue growing and stretching yourself as a writer.

Finally, to be fully motivated, students need to understand the satisfaction that comes with writing. If they have already experienced the gratification of writing a full paper or short story, it will be easier for them to become motivated again; this is even truer if they enjoyed the previous experience in most aspects. A satisfied student is more likely to look back on his/her writing with joy, knowing that the work was written to its full potential, and then use that to spark interest in the next topic. If the student is unable or unwilling to think back on previous works, then it would be helpful to go back to building confidence and prompting him/her to figure out what part of writing makes them the most satisfied. Self-motivating students are probably quite able to recall the satisfaction they have when a work is finished, so there would be little difficulty in that regard. Sometimes it is not a full finished work that satisfies a student but the process itself, or even one small piece of the process such as brainstorming.

John Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivation is just one approach out of many that targets the action of motivating students. There is no one formula to motivate a person, as we are all unique and have varied abilities, but there is something within each of us that comes alive when motivation lights its flame. It is nothing short of amazing when we first find that flicker.

 

Passion

By Rickie Ross

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” -Marc Anthony

I heard once that knowing what to do in life is just a matter of finding what breaks my heart, finding what makes me feel alive, and then incorporating the two together.

I am going to be graduating this May; so naturally my mind has been filled with attempted plans for the future and nervousness about the prospective consequences of making the wrong decisions.

What if I take on a job that I’m not ‘supposed’ to take on and then I’m miserable forever?

Who am I?

It is not that bad, and life is not that hard.

In stressing and trying to plan for the future, I have come to many realizations.

Perhaps the most important is simply to do what drives me.

I have felt, and fought with the feeling, for so long that passions and making a living cannot not mix. I have worked at Starbucks to make money while creating testimonial videos to fulfill my passions.

“Passions are nice and art can be fun, but the reality is those can’t make me a living.”

I feel that this is the belief of many, as it has been mine for some time, but I have come to disagree.

I know there are times when money is needed and anything must do. Life gets stressful, but feeling like I have to be a professional whatever while really wanting to make art is something I see as a sorrowful waste of life. Frankly, I think it’s bad advice.

Life is beautiful, and we don’t have to waste it.

Yes, money is important and extremely essential to life, but I think we have more important things to live for. I think there is real heart change to be witnessed and experienced.

Passion is a much more fulfilling and powerful driving force than material possessions. Do what you love to do. Change the world.

I am not at all saying that professionalism is not important or that any one career is wasteful. I’m saying it’s about mindset. If the passion is accounting, be an accountant. If it’s working in the writing lab (holler) then work in the writing lab. Don’t let the perceived commands of the world dictate future plans. Take on the world and change it to be how it should really be.

For me, the Writing Lab has been a way to do just that. I love writing and I believe it can, and does, change the world immensely, and I love getting to know people and being able to help them see fulfilled potential in themselves. This place has been an avenue for me to express myself in writing and experience pieces of students’ lives that no one else gets to experience. It has been a way for me to get to know the passions of others and push them to live, as I attempt to live, for what makes them feel alive.

We were all created with passions. That alone is beautiful, but let’s not waste them. Let’s use them to change the world.

 

Do We Repress Our Own Freedom as We “Fight” for it?

What does it mean to fight for ones freedoms? With that question comes many different answers. One can be a military service member fighting for a country on a battlefield or marching for civil liberties on the streets of the capital making themselves heard. The freedoms we have fought for for centuries are still being fought for today on many different fronts. The Issue that derives itself from this constant struggle is that society has a tendency to restrict the civil liberties of others to make sure their freedoms stay intact.
I am able to have my voice heard here by those who log online and view this webpage or meet with me in person, but people will always have the choice of whether or not they want to listen to my ideas or thoughts. Although we live in a society where freedom of opinion is held at the forefront of common law, we tend to surround ourselves with those with like minded ideals and values. Not to say there is anything wrong with getting together with a close friend to discuss something that you are both on the same page on, but its ignoring the other sides opinions which help strike up tension between the two ideological groups.
Contrary to popular belief, peoples goals, morals, and values tend to line up particularly down a straight and narrow path regardless of which “side” you align yourself with. We all want a good job, a good school to go to, a safe community, and enough money to live comfortably within our means. The difference is most apparent when it comes to how each group wants to achieve these overall goals or to overcome these issues. It doesn’t help to say that only one side is right or wrong without even trying to understand the issue from their perspective, or shutting down people who are trying to voice their opinions or those that want to listen to them, or to demand reform and change within society or individuals without a plan to fix the problems or have no idea what the real problem is in the first place.
It is a duty of citizens to be cognizant of the world around them, to be able to be open to the ideas of another and respect their platform to speak and share as they wish. If we become open to the idea that “everyone’s opinion doesn’t matter except my own and those that agree with me”, then we force ourselves to distance the sociological other. We cannot call for unity of the people when half of the country is unwilling to listen to the other group. The point of the republic for which we stand is that it allows us to have dissension of opinion, but be able to reach a consensus. In government, it has become a war between the two parties rather than a fair and balanced system. Each group is meant to balance the other one out and to maintain this system of checks and balances we desperately need. So before you say that some one is just ignorant or a fascist or a communist or a anarchist or a racist, be sure that you understand the entirety of the situation and go into a conversation with an open mind for discussion. It is when we become so hard set in our own belief system, that we repress others ability to maintain the same civil liberties we are all allowed to share in.

Robert Day

New Year, New You!

With this being the beginning of the new year and the beginning of a new semester there are probably some of you who made resolutions to be better in the classroom when it came to writing. Here are a few tips to help you become a better student in the classroom and become an even stronger writer:

  • Brainstorm: Brainstorming may sound juvenile but in all honesty, it could help you immensely when it comes to writing your paper in the end. Being able to go back to your brainstorm while writing your paper can help you to get that ball rolling again and you can see where your train of thought was going.
  • Getting started early: Starting your paper before the due date, or even the night before, will help you write your paper. Starting early will allow you to not rush and just throw random things into your paper. Also, you will be able to revise it a couple of times and get the perfect paper down.
  • Writing about things that interest you: When it comes to writing, it makes it so much easier to write when you actually love what you’re writing about. I know for some courses that isn’t an option, but when it is, take it to its full advantage and write about what you are really interested in.
  • Ask friends about your topic: Getting others input on your topic could possibly open your eyes to things that you hadn’t even thought about yet. They could also help you brainstorm and give you some insight if they know more about the subject.
  • Have good sources: Having good, reliable sources is so important in writing. When you are researching for an essay use website that end in .edu, .org or .gov. Also, Wiki is not a good source for any kind of research because anyone can go in and change information.
  • Critical thinking: When writing your paper, think deeper and longer. Get below the surface of what you initially think about. Dig deep and find interesting things. Asking your friends for additional help in this situation would also be really beneficial.

 

There are so many tips I could give you, but these are guaranteed to help you become a better writer this semester. Best of luck this semester and feel free to bring your essays and work to the Writing Lab for any help that you might need!

 

-Mason Crabtree

 

What You Missed at Writing Week!

By: Jeannie Buchanan

Writing Week took place October 24th -28th; this exciting week was filled with different activities related in some way or another to writing.

Activities were created by Writing Lab staff to combine writing and fun!

The first and most popular event was Mole Day, which was a way to celebrate science by performing an array of science experiments. Two of the most popular experiments were the dry ice Boo bubbles and the film canister rocket experiments. The writing coaches incorporated writing by having students describe what was happening in each experiment using words of imagery and onomatopoeia. Student practiced using descriptive writing techniques to show vs. tell what was going on in the experiments. They were also able to experiment with their own experiments using the ingredients provided. These experiments allowed students to create and play in ways that extended beyond the typical essay.

Including in Writing Week was a new and exciting event called Vote Smart. Writing coaches brainstormed a way to involve politics without the pressure of the 2016 election; the result was Vote Smart. This mock debate took place between favorite Disney and Nickelodeon characters. Participants had the opportunity to represent one person and debate with their peers on mock topics. Students were to stay in character as they responded to the questions. The finalist was voted the “President.” Vote Smart was full of improv, humor, and critical thinking. In addition, writing coaches created handouts for students to learn how to to chose their future president similar to how the Nick character Spencer (from iCarly) was elected. Even though this time was meant to be fun, its aim was to get student thinking about the election and how to use critical thinking and unbiased sources to choose their president.

Next on the schedule was Blackout Poetry! This event grabbed the attention of students at the Perk to evolve their creativity skills. Writing coaches handed out a page from a book and students were to black out the words that did not fit their poem. Once completed, they read their piece, and judges chose the best piece. Writing Lab Coach Mason Crabtree states that it was “cool when people would finish a page and go back to get another page to make another poem because they enjoyed it so much.” Even though there was only one winner, every student that participated had a great time learning this new creative way of writing.

Wednesday night brought comedy, singing, poetry, and good conversations with the Open Mic Night event. MBU students who were involved showed their creativity in a variety of unique performances. Prices were given out to the most creative and best performance. Both audience members and participants enjoyed snacks provided by the Writing Lab staff.

To wrap up a fantastic week of writing, the Murder Mystery was a great success. The theme for the Murder Mystery was book heroes/heroines. Characters included Harry Potter, Tris, Bella, Edward, and more! Students came together during this time as heroic characters. Bella (from Twilight) unfortunately met her demise that evening. After her death, the characters had to search through evidence to figure out the culprit.  As the event came to an end, the identity of the murder was revealed by the characters’ impressive detective skills. The entire night was filled with snacks, improv, and mystery. Participants would like to get involved again next year to watch another engaging storyline be uncovered.

All and all, Writing Week was time for students at MBU to relax, have fun, and enhance their writing skills. Many who partook in the events will be joining us next year for another week of new and returning activities involving writing.  

For Tutors with Suitcases Under Their Eyes

By: Abby Crain

This blog is for the peer tutors of the world who are getting a little burnt out.

First of all, let me just say that I am right there with you (figuratively, of course). I have had my moments of distress, even during a tutoring session, where I have questioned every decision that led to to that point. Tutoring is hard, and there is no doubt about that. Sure, it can be easy if you do not actually care about the results of your labors, but if you are anything like me you probably worry a LOT about whether you are actually doing any good in your occupation at all. Let me just say that on your worst day of tutoring, when you are running out of steam and you have your own homework looming in the back of your mind, you are still valuable and you are more helpful than you will ever know. The encouragement you provide in a tutoring session may be just the balm for a struggling English composition student’s soul. That day, you may be the only person telling them that they are doing a good job with something.

I am not saying that you will only get that type of students, because I have had my fair share of unwilling participants and extra-credit-seeking students. I know the struggle to hold my tongue when a student walks in, asks for me to only look for grammar and spelling mistakes, and huffs when I tell him/her we have to work on higher-ordered concerns first. My personal favorites are the students who try to nonchalantly get me to write their papers for them, acting just interested enough in their topics to make me think they are writing down catch phrases when in reality they are trying to copy down the entire paragraph of speech I just stated. Just beneath that category, in my opinion, is the student who sits back in the chair and can only listen halfheartedly due to either the headphones in one ear or the cellphone in his/her hand. As terrible as these specific appointments are, they are truly in a small percentile of my appointments. I only mention them to demonstrate how I can relate to bad days of tutoring.

Some of the best tutoring sessions are the ones I don’t expect to hold much at all. Many times, I’ll expect a lot of appointments to come in for the same assignment from one teacher, so I’ll assume they all care the same amount about the paper (read: not much. At all.). But I am often pleasantly surprised, and I have found myself trying to go into sessions with no preconceived notions whatsoever. Without assuming anything about what an appointment will hold, I leave more room for the student to take control of his/her own writing and dictate how much effort will be placed into the assignment. I encourage peer tutors to start trying the same approach, at least with some appointments; you may have a breakthrough with the one person you may have previously dreaded tutoring, or you may just have a few interesting appointments.

All in all, there is no one perfect formula to follow that will help you boost your morale with tutoring, but it is a delightful job most of the time. Bad days will happen, bad appointments will occur, but I try to think of those circumstances as stories to tell my friends later (still following privacy laws, of course). Peer tutoring is one of the most rewarding jobs, not because it pays well (it doesn’t always), but because we as tutors are able to help share our knowledge and talents with fellow students who have different strengths than we do. If we try to refresh our mindsets often enough, our sessions will be renewed and more fruitful, and we will hopefully be able to demonstrate to our peers how marvelous and practical writing is.

The Messy Reality

Students that come to the writing center often ask me how they can get better at writing. In my head I giggle to myself sometimes because it seems as though they are asking me for a “quick fix” so to speak. However, if one would ask any writer–any artist–how he or she became a good writer, I would be willing to bet that many responses would include something about time, trial, and error. There are very few of us that are born with excellent writing skills. In fact, I have yet to meet anyone that was a “natural born” writer. The reality is that writing is a skill as much as it is an art. In this sense one must learn the grammar rules, styles, professional vs. unprofessional writing, etc. before he or she can create independently. This reality involves a lot of editing, rewriting, rephrasing, and editing once more. The process can be quite grueling to many. However, this period of frustration presents artists with a choice: We can choose to let the frustration make us bitter (and eventually cause us to stay away from the pen all together) or we can take it as a challenge–rising to the feat. We can choose to take each road block as a chance to grow and learn. Life shows us in more than one way that in order to grow we must experience some sort of tribulation. As artists, we learn quickly how not to view this process as a set back. We wrestle with these rules and regulations so that we can get to the core of what our individual art looks like. We have learned that creating art is a journey, often taking more twists and turns than we expected. Perfecting the art of writing is a beautifully messy but wildly rewarding process.

So how do we even begin on this journey if we can’t see a path in the first place?

To begin, we have to give ourselves the freedom to create outside the realm of structure (i.e. putting something–anything–down on paper just for the sake of putting our thoughts out into the world; even if these thoughts are unorganized and unfocused). Think about it this way: When you wake up on a Saturday morning and (assuming your Netflix or Cable is down), how do you plan your day? Does this TERRIFY you? Do you think, “Oh no! I have a COMPLETELY FREE day! What if I make the wrong choice? What if I totally waste my time?! What if I MESS UP. I CANT START OVER. IM GUNA DIE.” Not typically, no. So, why do we look at a blank sheet of paper and suddenly assume the world is ending? Why do we look at a blank canvas and feel we don’t have the “grandiose artistic ability” to create something fantastic? Why can’t we just DO instead of thinkthinkthinkthinkthinkthinkconvinceconvinceconvinceconvince THEN do?

An issue with our culture is that we label everything, causing people to lie to themselves about what they can and cannot do. It says: To make art, you must be an “artist.” To write a story or put your thoughts down on paper, you must be a “writer.” To make music, you must be a “singer.” You get the gist. But in reality, this thinking is completely flawed. I cannot tell you how many times I ask friends to go to a coffee shop with me and paint, and the response I get is, “I’m not good at art.” Ahem, I didn’t ask you to create the next Mona Lisa with me at Starbucks. Why can’t we just take a risk and see what happens? The same goes for writing: Just because you’re sitting down to write intentionally doesn’t mean that what you put down defines you.

This is how free writing begins.

We have to give ourselves the freedom to put something down and not worry about how it comes out. This habit is a difficult one to form, but it is (in my opinion) the best way to practice giving yourself the freedom to create without boundaries. From there, papers will get easier and easier to tackle. Many times when students don’t take time to free write, they sit down to write an essay and immediately have writers block. They’re somewhat, “out of practice.” If they are free writing every day, or even twice a week, writing will be infinitely more free-flowing. They will get used to seeing their thoughts on paper and understand more of their writing style.

Free writing not only helps us with writing, but it also helps us better understand ourselves. When we allow our thoughts to run rampant on a page without regard to structure or focused subject, we get to see our mind in a concrete form. In fact, we almost get to look at ourselves from an outside perspective. When we see our mind on paper, sometimes we can more clearly understand our thoughts processes which could lead to gaining greater understandings of our lives as a whole.

 

I encourage any any and all students to engage in free writing not only to clarify and further their own skills, but to engage in a journey to a fully realized self.

A Story: In Six Words Nonetheless

By: Elizabeth Busekrus

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” –Ernest Hemingway

This sentence, albeit six words, implicates a story, imprints an image in the mind of what never was, and describes a scene of loss. For those who have read Hemingway, they know of his minimalistic ways of telling a story. He incorporates his journalistic talents into storytelling, a direct, no-fluff style based as much on assumption as on explicitness. As I read the story above, I wonder about the baby who never wore the shoes, of what happened to him or her, and of how long it has been since the baby passed.

Six words do not speak of the whole story but invoke the possibilities of what could be, leaving the reader thinking. From now until the end of September, Missouri Baptist University (MBU) campus will be abounding with these six-word stories. The MBU Writing Lab is hosting the third annual six-word story contest. For this contest, participants write a story in six words; the story can be in whatever format the writer desires. Posting these stories can be done via Twitter or a paper slip in the Writing Lab.

To differentiate the contest this year from previous years, we decided to use Twitter as the main platform. The Writing Lab’s Twitter account will hopefully reach a greater span of individuals and will be a more interactive format. In previous years, the entries were submitted to the Writing Lab without others seeing the entries. Viewing them on Twitter can inspire others to think of their own six-word stories and create more community across the campus.

My question for you is, why should you write a six-word story for the Writing Lab this year?

1)To win a $25 Perk gift card

College, for me, brought me into the world of coffee. Coffee from the Perk helped me function in my everyday life. Besides coffee, the Perk also sells a multitude of food products. For those who would disagree about this need to have caffeine for survival, you can purchase a variety of other items. Who wouldn’t want to have free food and drink from the Perk? The winner of this contest will receive a $25 Perk gift card and will be announced the first week of October.

2) To tell a story that shows your creative expertise and leaves the reader imagining

What message do you want to convey? What is your story? Freewrite for a few minutes, giving background about your story. This background information does not need to be included in the story but will provide some understanding of what you want to imply in your story. Similar to Hemingway, carefully consider word choice and punctuation. Hemingway focuses on the words “baby shoes.” Using a colon after “for sale,” Hemingway emphasizes what exactly is for sale, and the comma denotes a characteristic of the baby shoes, in that they were never worn. Based on your freewriting, choose six key words which convey your story.

3) To provide more community at Missouri Baptist University and more perspective on varying topics

Since the contest takes place via Twitter, the platform allows students to retweet their stories so that more can view them. This networking increases the sense of community at MBU, fostering conversations on particular topics and varying worldviews. The contest encourages interactions among MBU students on the Writing Lab Twitter page. It can give you, as an MBU student, the opportunity to share your voice, thoughts, and story.

Is it possible to write a story in only six words? Let’s put that question to the test! If you are interested in showing off your creativity, submit to this contest. Contact Elizabeth Busekrus at writing@mobap.edu or (314) 744-7629 for additional information.