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Gannon University Writing & Research Center: Rough Draft Times

Silencing the Sixth Grade Assassin

You're doing it wrong. You've made a mistake. These types of statements have a way of infecting us.  They get inside our heads and nest there like parasites. Self-doubt can discourage us from trying new things or taking on new projects. The words "I can't" are stamped on a cloud over our heads like some sort of sadistic cartoon caption. Can you remember who said it first?

When I was in sixth grade, I was a distracted, energetic, and highly creative child. I considered myself to be quite the budding writer. After all, I had composed my twenty-page autobiography at the tender age of nine. It was profound and transcendental, I was sure.

But sixth grade changed all that. To be specific, my sixth-grade English teacher changed all that. And she did it swiftly, like a ninja with a poison-tipped arrow, sailing through the air, assassinating my sense of self. She had weapons of mass destruction: prepositional phrases, diagrams, gerunds, commas. And when I tried to comply with her fascist propaganda, she made a big red "X" on my paper--the whole paper--and said, "You're doing it wrong.  You cannot write if you cannot do this!"

 My arsenal of stories, my profound autobiography, and my notebooks of sappy poetry lost all their power. My entire sixth grade year was an exercise in self-defeat.  No, I couldn't keep the grammar rules straight. No, the diagrams weren't right. I can't write if I can't do this. I can't. I can't.

Six years later, another teacher came along with another mantra: "You can! You are!"   he would tell me incessantly. This teacher never let me utter anything negative. He made me write every day. "Who told you you couldn't? Why does their opinion matter so much to you?"   I didn't know. Why had I let her voice silence my words for six years? Why had I let her define me?

Every semester, at least four students per class pull me aside to share their secret: "I can't write," they say.  They need to disclose this immediately, because they believe it. They want to tell me before I tell them with a giant red 'X.' The curse is ingrained in their psyches; it discourages them from trying new things or taking on new projects. I see you, I want to say. I see you in the sixth grade, with that giant red "X" on your paper. I hear that teacher's voice. But I'm here to tell you it's a new day. And this is your new mantra: "  You can! You are!" 

After all, who told you you couldn't? And why does their opinion matter so much to you? That voice is gone; that "X" has been erased. This is the present, where only you and your words exist. Only your words define who you are.

So write your words. And just in case you were wondering: yes, you're doing it well.

~Beth Kons


The Importance of Brainstorming

One step in the writing process that writers tend to skip is brainstorming. When your professor or boss presents a topic for a paper or assignment, it can often be overwhelming to choose what you want to write about. Maybe it is choosing a moment in your life to include in your memoir. If you are a health science major, maybe you have to pick a disease process for your research paper. Whatever assignment you are struggling to pick a topic for, brainstorming can help organize that “storm of ideas” you have floating around. First, write down each idea you have, whether that be the topic or‚Äč aspects of that topic you wish to address in your paper. Next, weigh the positives and negatives of each topic or idea. Finally, choose what interests you most! The more invested you are in a topic, the better the outcome of the paper. By following just a few simple steps, you can decrease the anxiety of choosing a topic and get started with the rest of the writing process.

~Lydia P. 

Editing: It Doesn't Stop with the Draft

I am not a person who would identify 

herself as loving to  write creatively just for the sake of writing. Instead, I find the process of reworking sentences to make the flow and editing a paper to make it the best it can be the most enjoyable part of writing. As an Occupational Therapy student, I am required to do  a lot of research. At first, writing scholarly papers was extremely daunting, but now that I am in the thick of my master's thesis, I can't imagine writing any other way. I love to take multiple sources and weave their ideas together to create one cohesive paper. While most people hate to go back and tediously read through a paper, that is the aspect of writing I find most enjoyable!           

                                                    ~Julia F.      

The Em-Dash

Em dashes —perhaps the most versatile of punctuation marks— are named such because their length matches that of the letter "M." They may be used in place of commas, parentheses, and colons. The significance of the dash changes based on the context in which it is used, although the mark generally creates a break within a sentence.

~Renée L.

What writing means to me...

Along with photography, writing is my favorite way to creatively express myself. There is no better feeling than being hit with a wave of inspiration and being able to put those thoughts to paper. The process of writing helps me reflect on my experiences and gives me an outlet to relive my favorite memories as many times as I choose.

~Kate R. 

A Love-Hate Relationship

You cannot deny it. The stubborn writer's block will always make you feel absolutely frustrated and can leave you staring at your computer screen for hours. It can be tough when the words will not flow out and your fingers won't glide across the keyboard at ease. However, when that writer's block phase is officially over and the words finally come together on the page, it can be extremely satisfying. The feeling of triumph always crosses my mind when my paper has officially been started; I actually feel as though I have won the day! This is what I believe is the best part of writing: when the frustrating writer's block comes to and end and the paper can finally begin.

~Taylor R.