Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I admit to being quite the Ur-writer.

I don’t like to plan things out, even in the most rudimentary sense. I have to start at the beginning and get to the end before I can do any serious editing. Especially that starting part. Starting in the middle does nothing for me.

Sometimes it shows. But since the ur-writer in me will eventually get to the editing and revising portion of any bit of writing, things usually work out for me. The method we're teaching in one of the BYU-Idaho classes I'm teaching this semester is to demonstrate that planning things out by outlining introductions, background, lines of argument, opposing views, conclusions, and references, is that sometimes some of the editing can be skipped if the organization beforehand is taken seriously.

But I do sympathize with a student who shared a bit of frustration with me today when he wrote of an assignment in which they’ve been asked to plan out their research essay in minute detail:

As such I will not proceed to write my entire (probably 12 page) paper here. You’ll just have to wait.


The climax will be a surprise. Again, I refuse to write this paper 6 thousand times in 18 different formats a piece. I will be content if this gets me a lower score.


I did not cite any of my sources here, except I got the Balfour Declaration info off of Wikipedia. Once again, I’m not writing my paper here in this format.

I have to admit he made me laugh out loud. I feel his pain. Though the “6 thousand” thing is a bit of an exaggeration. This is, in fact, the first time they’ve been asked to think out their paper on paper, aside from little assignments that don’t amount to much more than 150 or 300 words or so, so I’m not quite sure why he’s on such a freak-out.

Just hope this doesn’t turn out like Homer’s BBQ pit.

But it’s a good thing he’ll be content with a lower score. Writers, the good ones – and this student is pretty damn good – earn the right to write however the hell it pleases them. But students have to jump through the hoops.

But there are a lot of hoops in this class I’m teaching (the curriculum is pre-set and I can’t touch it). It’s geared toward the less-skilled writer, the kind of writer who has to meticulously plan things out in advance, probably on a stack of 3 x 5 cards, before the writing may commence. Can’t do anything about that. I know it’s not my style. But my student style – as opposed to my writing style – says that you will jump through the hoops.

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