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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Removing the Sludge

Well, I did it. I finally wrote my one page Sociology response--it's due at midnight and I just, five blissful minutes ago, hit send. Writing it was like scooping-up sludge; I literally put it off till the last minute, and I usually despise doing that. I avoid doing that at all costs, but this assignment...geesh! I swear that single page was the most difficult assignment of the semester, so far. Weird, I can dish-out a 12 page personal narrative in a single day, but a one page Sociology response, that I had a whole week to complete, almost defeated me. It's moments--or weeks--like this one that really make me sympathize with the writers that I talk with.

Can you imagine what it'd feel like to scoop-up sludge every single time you sat down to compose something? I feel fortunate that it only happens to me once in a while and that I am able to get through it relatively unscathed. As I was sitting here thanking my (extremely late) sociology muses and trying to figure out how I was going to organize this post, a writer that I met with last week walked through my thoughts. This writer was a walk-in, and we only met for maybe five minutes--tops, but apparently he's left a lasting impression on me.

I was actually in another consultation when this writer walked into the center. The consultation that I was currently in was running over the allotted time, and so, thankfully, another consultant let me know that I had an appointment waiting, and that consultant helped to wrap-up my previous appointment. I turned the corner of the cubicle and there the walk-in writer was--out of breath and a tad red in the cheeks.

I'll have to say, he looked quite panicked. He was looking straight at me too, as if he'd been waiting a century to meet with a consultant--any consultant. I took his folder and we sat down at a table. He reached into his backpack and pulled out a very large biology book that was overflowing--and I mean overflowing--with loose-leaf paper.

"I have my lab paper introduction due in two hours," he said to me, still out of breath.

He pulled out a single piece of paper with the assignment printed on it. He then pulled out three more papers that had the assignments for the actual lab and the results section that he was to write on later in the semester. Then, he pulled out all of his notes, his research, and his findings--then, more notes, more research, and more findings.

I asked him which assignment was due for today...he responded, "The introduction." He showed me what he had written for the actual intro. It was pretty much an entire sketch of the whole lab--he'd already completed it, and was unsure how to fit everything into the introduction. We read through the instructions for the intro, and they stated that he was to state what was going to be used in the lab and what his hypothesis for the results was. As I finished reading the instructions, he smiled. He realized that all he needed to do for the current assignment was to put into his own words what he thought was going to happen and what was going to be used.

We talked very, very briefly about length and possible structures, but I didn't do anything at all for him. I read the instructions for him--period. He left as quickly as he'd come in, but he left breathing normally. That was an odd consultation, but it was oddly satisfying, too. It felt good to just be there for someone when they needed--well, someone...anyone.

Perhaps it was just the act of writing that freaked him out so bad? Maybe it was that he was a returning student, and was really unsure of protocol? Who knows? I think back on the situation, and I wish that I would have let him know that even writing consultants have freaky writing experiences--sometimes we just need someone to help us, too. Maybe if I had one of you sit down and go over the instructions for my sociology response with me, I wouldn't have had such a difficult time doing it?

Now, if only I could find a way to remove sludge from algebra...

2 comments:

  1. To me the hardest part of writing is starting. And until I'm in a groove, it's stop and go. Nine times out of ten, the most time that I'll put into a paper is that first paragraph or first page. It's the set-up for everything.

    The only advice I could give you is to just make yourself write, because chances are, even if it's crap (or sludge), it's probably not that bad. For me personally, it's the fear of writing crap that keeps me from writing at all. (Which is one reason why it has taken me so long to post something to the blog.)
    But it's okay to write crap...We need to be okay with writing just to write--revision can come later.
    Oh, Dave's Writing Tip #56: If you're writing something and you have to stop before the paper is finished, make sure you stop in the middle of a sentence. That way when you come back to it (God knows when) you will have an easy way to get back into the flow of writing, because half a sentence is easier to finish than beginning from scratch. Well, that's the theory anyway. I forget the professor who told me that or I'd give him/her credit.

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  2. Thanks, David. Love your tip #56...I've heard of that before, but I've never done it. I'll have to take your advice and try it when the sludge is flowing--or failing to flow! Thanks, again!

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