What I Need to Compose and Write

Beth Wilkerson • English 885 • Dr. Cynthia Haynes • 17 February 2009
As I complete this assignment, I am sitting on a hotel bed, my back propped up with a down pillow, my legs curled under the sheets, and my head resting gently against the headboard. My laptop sits lightly on my upper legs, offering the perfect tool for developing my ideas. I am wearing PJ bottoms and a T-Shirt, with my hair pulled back in a ponytail, no shoes or socks on. There is no noise except for the faint hum of an air conditioning unit and the clickclacking of my fingers. The temperature is a comfortable 66 degrees, and an incandescent lamp supplies sufficient lighting for me to see my laptop without being blinded. I have everything I need in an ideal writing environment: A comfortable space. Comfortable clothing. Privacy. Little to no noise. Adequate lighting. Few, if any, distractions.

The aforementioned elements are essential for me to produce the best writing possible in any situation. No matter the type of writing assignment or the timeline for it, I require an

environment that allows me to sit, back, relax, and put the pedal to the metal (or the fingers to the keys, if you will). What constitutes a

comfortable space varies depending on my mood, my exact location at the time of writing, and the availability of spaces I feel are conducive to my writing process. If I am stressed or confused by a writing

assignment, I am more apt to produce quality work in a structured environment, such as the library, that forces me to focus on the task at hand. If such a space is unavailable, my writing suffers. For example, there are areas of the library, such as the first floor, that I find adequate for writing because they afford me privacy, and they are relatively quiet. However, these settings are not always available due to limited access to the library on weekends and

game days. In situations like this, I may spend hours procrastinating on my writing, using the excuse, “Well, if I can’t go to the library, then I just can’t write!” or “If my writing sucks, it’s because I was in the writing center! So noisy! Not conducive to good writing!” If I am in an upbeat mood or completing an assignment I enjoy, I am more likely to be a productive writer in settings with more distractions (with low noise, other people, the TV, etc.), but I still prefer locations that are distraction-free as they allow me to focus the best.

Since I share an apartment with five relatively noisy roommates, only two of which are human, I generally find myself writing academic papers either in the computer lab in Martin on Sunday mornings (when there are only a handful of students nearby) or in a far corner of the first or second floor of the library. Occasionally, whenever the library or Martin is unavailable, I will write in what I call more “natural” settings, such as coffee shops or parks. As a last resort, I will write in my apartment while sitting on my bed with earplugs or headphones in, assuming that my roommates are home watching TV or listening to music. Even though writing in my apartment is not ideal, as it seems particularly distraction-inducing, I have produced some of my best writing there, provided that the headphones have blocked out enough noise and I have not fallen asleep while sitting on my bed.

No matter where I am writing, there is one constant requirement: It must be a quiet space. Anything more than or light, low-key an air conditioning hum music bothers me

immensely. The TV questions asked. In now watching the TV subtitles because I concentrate on this

has to be turned off, no fact, my boyfriend is on told the him couch I with

couldn’t

paper with noise in the

background. His response: “Reeealllly?? Do I have to turn it off?” Me: “Yes, you do; otherwise, this paper will be complete crap.” If you find that this paper begins to trail off, chances are he
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turned the volume back on  All this to say…quiet is necessary for me to get the creative juices flowing, especially if I am stalling for ideas and/or writing about something I have little interest in.

In addition to a comfortable, quiet space free of distractions, I need to be under a bit of a time crunch in order to write for school. By time crunch, I don’t mean 20 minutes before the assignment is due, but perhaps What I consider procrastination ahead” to many students. a day or two beforehand. may, in fact, be “planning Maybe the time element I need imposed time crunch.” For

is better described as a “selfacademic writing, I try to keep when I will complete certain too far behind. I told myself, complete this paper

myself to a strict schedule of assignments so that I don’t get for example, that I would

yesterday (Thursday), so the fact Friday at 10 p.m. bothers me paper is not due until 2 p.m. on

that I am writing it on a greatly, even though the

Tuesday, and I would have more than enough time to write it before then even if I weren’t writing it now. Imposing an earlier deadline on myself forces me to complete an assignment ahead of time, thereby relieving future stress while also adding the last-minute pressure I require to pump a writing assignment out in an efficient manner.

My Composing Process
My composing process, like my learning location that allows me to think my ideas considering a writing assignment, I talk my car and in the shower. I process, requires a quiet through orally. Whenever

to myself a lot, particularly in frequently ask myself

questions while driving to school, write about such and such?” or think of this?” or “Are you sure you

such as “Could you feasibly “What would your professor could argue that?”

Sometimes talking aloud in my car makes me seem a little crazy, as was the case the other day

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when a woman noticed me talking to myself at the intersection of 123 and College Ave. But if I don’t talk aloud, then I am not likely to generate good ideas for my writing. If I’m unable to think through things aloud, I prefer to at the very least think them through over and over either in my head or on paper.

One place I tend to think about ideas for academic writing the most is Fike, where I generally go at least three times a week. minutes on the Usually I spend about 30 to 60 elliptical machine, which can get have something to keep my mind have at least one writing

kind of boring unless I occupied. Since I usually assignment coming up on think of ideas for the paper to organize those ideas in my time as a way to compose feel exceptionally productive as something for my body while Fike is a particularly adequate

any given day, I will generally while working out and attempt head. Using my workout

work for school makes me I am multitasking by doing also doing something for a class. environment for the generation of writing ideas

as well because I can plug my headphones into the machine and drown out the noise of all the other gym-goers. Working out also lifts my mood, which seems to boost my creativity.

If I’m in an environment that is not conducive to talking aloud, and I’m struggling with coming up with ideas for a writing assignment, I will sometimes freewrite. Sitting down and forcing myself to write without pausing allows me to develop ideas I didn’t even know my brain was capable of. read After freewriting, I will through what I’ve

written, gleaning it for information that seems particularly exciting or appropriate for the assignment. Once I have determined the best ideas from the freewrite, I transfer them to other sheets of paper to separate them from the disorganized mumbo-jumbo
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of the original paper. For this reason, the desk in my bedroom is covered with sticky notes, each containing tidbits of information reminding me to incorporate certain ideas in papers.

After writing ideas down, I must find out as much as I can about them right away before I either forget about them or lose interest in them completely. When I was thinking of possible themes for my Visual

Communication portfolio, for example, I thought of flamenco while in the shower, then rushed out to Google and YouTube as much about the dance as I could. I opened a Word document and went to town typing up ideas for all the subprojects we will have to complete for the class throughout the semester. A week later, I appreciated the fact that I had gathered so much information about flamenco because I no longer felt like conducting research on the topic, and most ideas I had about subprojects the previous week had escaped my mind at that point. My point being that, when the excitement and intense interest of a subject hits me, I must capitalize on that feeling right then, lest I lose that enthusiasm later on and begin to second-guess myself, questioning my initial interest in the subject.

With only a few ideas in mind as to what I want to write, I will generally begin typing without an outline, stream-ofconsciousness style. I need a computer to write

academic papers since I type much faster than I write by hand, and I edit my writing over and over. I research my topics as I type, opening up numerous Internet browsers and strewing hard-copy books about on my desk, bed, or on the floor—on whatever surface is appropriate for my current location. As I write on my computer, my writing often takes turns in the wrong direction, sometimes weaving unrelated
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ideas together and tearing cohesive paragraphs apart. If one were to read an initial draft of one of my academic papers, he or she would assume I had the writing ability of a fifth grader. But putting chaos down on paper is all part of my process. I need the mess before I can even attempt to group my ideas logically. For this reason, Microsoft Word is my friend, as I am a copying and pasting, editing and deleting, fiend.

Ironically, even though I tend to write in a jumbled fashion, I prefer clear, organized instructions for writing. I am one of those students who needs this assignment in order to write. I want specific prompts to guide my writing; ambiguity annoys me to no end! I want examples of previous students’ work, and I want that work to be representative of the ideal so I will have something to aspire to. If I am unclear about a teacher’s expectations, I tend to stall and procrastinate much more, ultimately making me a less productive, although not necessarily worse, writer. However, if I know what is expected, then I will start the writing process much sooner, providing myself with adequate time for revision.

Although there are not many specific things, such as a certain pen or type of music, that I need in order to write, I do require a quiet, comfortable environment, and I do need to feel inspired in some way. Whether that inspiration comes from a self-imposed time crunch, an idea I came up with while on the elliptical, or from a poster I saw in the hallway at Daniel, it has to be there. As I finish this paper, I am now lying down on a couch with my feet propped up on a pillow. My boyfriend is snoring on the bed, creating a distraction that didn’t exist at the beginning stages of this writing. Therefore, it is probably best that I end this assignment now.

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