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!
“To revolve, turn over repeatedly in the mind; to meditate deeply upon.”
Once he was done ruminating on his course material, sure he had learned all he could from the semester, he went and rocked his final!”
“ruminate, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2014. Web. 10 December 2014.
Dr. Ryan Shirey has some great advice for those tackling final papers this week!
1) Write with and in response to any texts that you’re supposed to be using. Don’t wait to “add quotations later.” Your professors want to see you engaging meaningfully with the readings or data you’re using, so if you’re writing a whole essay and then sprinkling that material in later, your work is likely to suffer.
2) Take breaks. It’s tempting to try to do everything in one or two sittings, but building in short breaks can provide an incentive to keep writing and, more importantly, valuable time for your brain to recharge so that you can revisit your work with fresh eyes.
3) Don’t focus on the size of the task but on what you can do in each moment. There’s an old adage that goes: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” If you let the overall scope of the task overwhelm you, you can feel paralyzed. If you focus on writing a good sentence or paragraph, however, you can manage your writing process one step (or bite) at a time.
4) Leave yourself time to proofread and revise. It’s tempting to want to mop the sweat from your brow and close the file once you’ve finished a draft, but make sure that sense of relief doesn’t extend to never reading back over your work. Taking the time to read your work again, especially after a break, can mean the difference between a polished draft and one that is rife with avoidable mistakes. Better yet, take the time to read the essay aloud (either to yourself or a roommate) and imagine how your audience is hearing your words. If you find yourself struggling to catch the right emphasis or rhythm to make your meaning clear, you have a pretty good indication of which sentences might require some work.
5) Reward yourself! Give yourself some treats for each of these steps. If you can delay the gratification of playing that next game of Call of Duty or making that Subway run until you’ve reached a goal, you’ll have all the more reason to focus on the task at hand. If you have to get back to work, though, make sure you’ve set some limits on just how long that game or that meal should last…
BONUS: Visit the Writing Center [the finals week schedule is now up on our website, If you aren’t finding an open spot on the schedule, make sure to sign up for the wait list by clicking on the clock icon next to your desired date.
ZSR and the The Writing Center are teaming up to bring you the #myzsr Guide to Finals Week– a weekly series of valuable advice, tried-and-true strategies, and insider information to help you
survive THRIVE during exam week! Week Two: Finding Your Happy Place.
You don’t have to be a New York City real estate mogul to understand the key concept in property valuation– it’s all about location, location, location! Just ask any seasoned WFU student about their study habits & they are likely to provide a list of reliable campus locations that provide the ideal setting for an effective study spot. Location is key. And not just any location, but one that matches the desired characteristics for a comfortable & efficient study space. If you are still searching for your perfect study space, check out our list of recommended spaces in ZSR, on WFU campus, & beyond!
For Absolute Silence
The 6th, 7th, & 8th Floors of ZSR are designated Quiet Zones
The 24 Hour Study Room (across from Starbucks)
The Basement floors on both Reynolds & Wilson wings
The Ammons Gallery / Red Room (Room 401)
The ZSR Special Collections Reading Room
Balcony Nooks on Wilson 4 & 6
Video Conferencing Room / ZSR Room 204: Located on the hallway that runs behind the Circulation Desk on Level 2 of the Reynolds wing (ask for directions at any service desk). The room seats 38 and provides access to ample power outlets.
Study carrels and tables on Wilson 6
For Group Study
Book a Study Room
Tables in the Atrium & on the 4th floor of the Reynolds Wing (GovDocs area)
Room 476 (Wilson 4)
Elsewhere on Campus:
Benson study rooms & public areas
Kirby & Manchester
Business Information Commons at Farrell Hall
North Campus Dining Hall
The Green Room in Reynolda
Venturing Beyond Campus:
More Advice for Setting Up Your Study Space: (for students, by students!)
“The most essential part is that if you’ve allocated a certain time to study, use it to study. That means do whatever it takes, but don’t end up on that same old social media haunt or trawling the internet instead of doing the work that needs to be done.”
– Matt Avara (’17)
“If you don’t have a space reserved it’s helpful to have a short list of spots in your head for when you are looking for a place to study in ZSR. Find some areas that are suitable for your type of studying (dead silence for some, a little activity for others). Most importantly in choosing a spot in ZSR is finding a place with outlets. The majority of areas around here have plenty, but there is nothing worse than working for an hour then having to move because your computer is about to die.”
– Evan Altizer (’17)
“After having worked in the Special Collections archives this past summer (6th floor of ZSR), I would recommend that students visit and take a look at some of the rare book collections/displays, as most people seem unaware that Special Collections even exists. The main room looks like a scene straight from Harry Potter, and students are welcome to study there when researchers aren’t using it!”
– Kristin Weisse (Graduate Student, English Department)
Share your expertise!
Let us know what you look for in your ideal study space, or provide a recommendation! Add your comments below, or share with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.
Don’t forget to add #myzsr!
Writing takes on many forms and shapes – the academic writing you do for class, the personal essays you write to get into graduate school, the poems you pen for a loved one, or the prose you draft for your forthcoming memoir.
And like so many, you might keep a journal (with or without heart-shaped lock circa elementary school).
Writer and humorist David Sedaris makes a great case for keeping a journal:
“I’ve been keeping a diary for thirty-three years and write in it every morning. Most of it’s just whining, but every so often there’ll be something I can use later: a joke, a description, a quote. It’s an invaluable aid when it comes to winning arguments. ‘That’s not what you said on February 3, 1996,” I’ll say to someone.”
But there may be something else to those “dear diary” entries.
Research was recently done about the benefits of journaling and the impact it can have on our stress levels – specifically, the habit of journaling can make us less stressed out! And who doesn’t want that?
Folks at the University of Minnesota “found that noting your accomplishments and positive events at the end of the day and why those things made you feel good helps to reduce your stress levels.”
And if you need to de-stress even further, try your hand at making your own journal. Very cool tutorial (and photo above) found here.
Thanks so much, Phoebe Zerwick, for sharing your thoughts with Active Voice!
I’ve been talking with my students all semester about stance. It’s a tough concept to explain. How does a writer find the balance between argument and tone that works for the audience? This month, an article about abortion that I’ve been working on for more than two years was finally published in the December issue of Glamour magazine. And as I read over it, for possibly the hundredth time, I realized that it makes a terrific tool for talking about a writer’s stance.
I started in July, 2012 just as a new law that mandates an ultrasound before abortion and a 24-hour waiting period took effect in Virginia. The Falls Church Healthcare Center, about 10 miles outside of D.C., was generous enough to open its doors to me and allow me to interview women who were either waiting for their ultrasound or there for an abortion. I wanted to get beyond the political rhetoric and get to the voices of real women facing an unwanted pregnancy. And because I wanted to provide readers with a nuanced discussion, I headed next to a crisis pregnancy center in Norfolk, Va., where pregnant women can get an ultrasound and counseling – but not an abortion. I did the rest of the reporting by phone, eventually talking with 20 women about the ways in which the ultrasound shaped their decision about abortion.
Then it was time to write, and this is where the question of stance came in. I tell my writing students to avoid the first person, that is, unless there’s a compelling reason to insert themselves into the text. My admonition to my journalism students is even stronger: they are to leave themselves out of their writing. I knew before I started my reporting that abortion is one of the most polarizing topics in our culture. But I found that even in the world of experts, there were no neutral sources to help me interpret my findings; the researchers are either for or against abortion. So it was up to me to find the middle ground. I wanted transparency. I wanted readers to know exactly how I had found the 20 women who made up my small sample. And I wanted my readers to trust what I had to say and feel that they had learned something new about a subject most of us have made up our minds about. I decided that the best way to enter into this fraught conversation was by writing as honestly as I could – in the first person. I did so sparingly, using the first person just four times. Here’s an example: “The more stories I heard, the more I could understand how both sides have become so convinced they are right.” I would describe that as a stance that’s factual, friendly and a little removed from the fray — as compelling a reason as any for writing in the first person.
Phoebe Zerwick, November, 2014