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!
Do you love to write? Are you looking for new and creative outlets? Do you think a good challenge?
Enter My 500 Words!
According to their website, the rules are simple:
- Write 500 words per day, every day for 31 days.
- You can write more if you want, but 500 words is the minimum.
- Don’t edit. Just write.
- If you miss a day, pick up where you left off. Don’t make up for lost days.
- Encourage, don’t criticize (unless explicitly invited to do so).
- Blogging counts, but email does not.
- All of this is completely free.
- “Of a person or a person’s disposition, actions, etc.: smiling, mirthful, cheerful, light-hearted.
- “Of a thing, esp. a landscape, place, etc.: having a pleasant aspect, agreeable to the sight, looking bright or cheerful.”
“The riant little girl was always giggling. Her attitude was contagious.”
“riant, adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2015. Web. 22 September 2015.
Today’s tip (from our archives) comes from the eLearning librarian at ZSR Library, Kyle Denlinger.
When I think back on all the research papers I wrote when I was in college, I’m struck by the countless hours I must have spent organizing, formatting, and proofreading my citations and bibliographies. Those were the dark ages. You see, back then, we didn’t have EasyBib. We had to format our citations by hand, on note cards, in the snow, uphill both ways! And we liked it!
We all know that punctuation saves lives, but have you ever wondered where the comma came from? What about the history of the semi-colon? The BBC recently shared an interesting article about the Mysterious Origins of Punctuation and it’s definitely worth a read.
“The comma, colon, semicolon and their siblings are integral parts of writing, pointing out grammatical structures and helping us transform letters into spoken words or mental images. We would be lost without them (or, at the very least, extremely confused), and yet the earliest readers and writers managed without it for thousands of years. What changed their minds?”
We’re digging in the archives today and wanted to again share a wonderful piece written by Writing Program faculty member Phoebe Zerwick.
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
“The process by which something becomes its opposite, and the subsequent interaction of the two: applied esp. to the adoption by an individual or by a community, etc., of a set of beliefs, etc., opposite to those held at an earlier stage.”
“The Writing Center hopes that students will become enantiodromic in how they approach writing; changing from writing papers the day before they’re due to starting early and taking their time.”
I had to laugh out loud when I read the title of a blog post from Crew: Dear Writing, I hate you: Lessons from 7 famous authors who hated their job. Wow. Just wow.
It’s no secret that writing is a hard job.
“Despite their successes, there are hundreds of famous authors and writers out there who loathe the process of putting down words. The solitude. The long stretches of time away from any sort of human contact. The inability to think or talk about anything other than the topic at hand. And don’t even get me started on self-doubt, inner criticism, and writer’s block.”
Whether you write professionally or personally, for work or for play, on a deadline or on a whim, if you struggle to get excited about the process, you are not alone.
Even if you love writing, it’s ok to hate it sometimes.
As Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing. I love having written.”
If you’ve ever been there before, check out the post. There’s lots of great tips and quotes from famous who sometimes loved to hate writing.
“That offers physical resistance to motion, deformation, or pressure.”
“The renitent tumor did not respond to the treatment as the doctor’s had hoped.”
“renitent, adj. and n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2015. Web. 22 September 2015.