Welcome to the Active Voice Blog, the official blog of the Wake Forest University Writing Center. You can find all the information you need about the Center around our main site, but this space is reserved for students, faculty, and staff to share perspectives on writing practices and processes. We hope you’ll find something here that speaks to you!
Have you ever visited Purdue OWL? Well, do yourself a favor and bookmark this amazing writing resource.
One of the many resources they share are tips on how to write a thesis statement.
Still need help? Sign up for our thesis statement writing worship taking place tonight from 7-9pm in the Writing Center.
Today’s post comes from Fahad, one of our Writing Center tutors.
Every Writer is a Chef
A blank page is like an empty pot. The tough part is filling it with something to make people come back for extra helpings. Here’s the actually tough part, though: how do you make something that fits everyone’s taste. Maybe the better question is: is it possible to make something to everyone’s taste?
That’s not quite the end of the discussion. How do you decide what to make? The first thing to do is peek at who’s in the dining room. A vegan at breakfast is going to appreciate a different dish from someone with a more permissible diet. In the same way, readers have different dietary restrictions – some of them are strict vegan readers: no fat; no bull; no waste. Some are less strict. One thing is key for both, though: does what you put out work as a whole dish?
“Vegan readers” appreciate a neatly edited piece which follows a strict set of grammatical and spelling rules. Keep in mind that just because you’re following some rules doesn’t mean you don’t get to be creative. If anything, limiting yourself to traditional grammar, or even a standard “academic” essay formula (no first person, and don’t even think about using the passive voice) forces you to garnish your writing with spices and make creative substitutions to make up flavor and lend some flair.
Some eaters are a little less concerned with ingredients and are okay with a little grease in the writing. “Omnivore” eaters are a little less restrictive when it comes to ingredients, but are definitely as demanding when it comes to flavor. Similarly, an omnivorous reader knows that mistakes happen, and stresses demands on content more than keeping your commas and semicolons in order.
No single dish will ever work for every eater, in the same way no one piece of writing will work for every reader. What’s important is to understand who your reader is: vaguely and broadly, but it’s important to have an idea. Do some digging and figure out how a professor, or a particular publication’s patrons like their dish prepped. The details can elevate a plate from a meal to an experience the same way the details turn a piece of writing into something tinged with art.
All this is great, and it’s fine to know, but every chef knows better than to serve a meal without tasting it first. Great chefs know better than to serve without enjoying their own meal. If you can’t read your own work, how are you going to serve your work to someone else? There’s no set way to cook a perfect meal for everyone, but you can at least make it something you’ll want to consume again and again.
This Tuesday’s Tips is brought to us by Dr. Eric Stottlemyer.
I never like to interfere with a writer’s process if that process works or leads to a desired outcome. If Never Brainstorming works for you, then Never Brainstorm away, I say. If you’re feeling adventurous, however, brainstorming can be a wonderfully creative and profoundly engaging way to access your inventive mind, and I guarantee that it will lead you into surprising mental territory. Think of your brain as a primordial sea and the act of brainstorming a 15-million-volt electrical charge: life emerges suddenly from nothing (or seemingly from nothing). We don’t write to reflect our thoughts, but more accurately to create them, and when we brainstorm by using writing, we do so without judging or restricting ourselves in any way whatsoever. This is critical, so it’s worth repeating: when brainstorming—whether free-writing, concept mapping, thought bubbling, or whatever else your amazing mind can generate—don’t judge. Just write. Then witness the amazing ideas as they emerge from the primordial sea.
Donalee G White originally shared this post in November 2014. It’s too good not to share again.
Writing for NaNoWriMo is like the wildest roller coaster ride at Carrowinds, or white water rafting, or skydiving at 10,500 feet above the earth, or even hiking the Appalachian Trail. I know because I’ve done all of these things. I’ve written a new 50,000 word novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every year since November 2008. All of these activities have several key characteristics in common: they’re adrenaline addicting; they take minimal to extensive preparation—your choice; they have their ups and downs; and best of all, they are exciting to the extreme.
Every year since 1999, when 21 writers got together in July in the San Francisco bay area, NaNoWriMo has grown into a worldwide online novel-writing party. In November 2013, there were 310,095 participants. To get started, sign on to the website. It is free, and it is fun! Find a writer’s group in any area of the country or world, including your own back yard, to join for virtual “write-ins.” Receive tips on getting started, story inspiration, digging out of the third week doldrums, and flying in for a fabulous finish.
For me, it is the ultimate writer’s block buster. Even if I haven’t written a creative word all year, on November first I’ll sit down at my computer and compose at least 1667 words a day for thirty days. And, it will be a wild, rollicking, story ride. Something magical happens; my muse possesses me; and the story lurking in the recesses of my cranium pours forth onto the page.