As a business major, I didn’t think writing would come up that often in my major-specific classwork. Instead, I had pictured lots of class participation, teamwork, and presentations (all of which do occur). But I’ve had to write a few papers every semester as well, to analyze different industries and companies. And I’ve learned that even presentations are a form of communication which can be prepared in advance and outlined to ensure clarity. Writing is how we convey that we’ve done the research, formulated ideas, and created a game plan or strategy on how to improve the situation we face.
It makes sense why writing would be prominent in classes that don’t seem literature focused. Writing allows the transfer of knowledge and it’s essentially your thoughts and opinions captured on a page. No matter what you’re studying, writing can help exemplify your point and help others know that you understand the subject. Communication becomes tangible in the written form.
One of the most important skills I’ve developed during my time at college has definitely been my writing. Whether I’m taking a class within an English/writing focused department or not, written communication comes up regardless. My friends in science-based majors comb through research papers and academic journals to help spread knowledge acquired from experiments and studies. My friends majoring in public policy and government are active readers and writers, for the purpose of disseminating information and keeping up with the news through journalism.
One way to develop this skill is to not overthink it. At the writing center, one of the biggest things we encourage is simply engaging with the content – this most importantly involves talking about it. Once you start vocalizing your ideas, it becomes easier to transfer them to paper to later organize or revise.
Writing is universal – since its invention, it has carried civilization forward by allowing each generation to learn from the last. Across our schoolwork, it allows us to be more critical with our course material and facilitate the transfer of knowledge between us as students, our professors, and anyone else we wish to share with. I’ve always loved how writing helps me communicate across time and across subjects – it helps me keep in mind there’s always something to learn and to share.
Shilpa Garg, 2017
During my first upper-level creative writing course, my Poetry Workshop professor commented on a progress report, “You often write about your obsessions.” Most of my poetry is reflective of my personal experiences of gender, race, and family dynamics, but I had never thought of any of these things as “obsessions.” My professor intended for his statement to be a compliment, and I thought about it for a long time after reading my report and then adopted it into a mantra of sorts: “write about your obsessions.”
I have interpreted his words to mean that I constantly write to explore my interests, whether conscious or unconscious, and to seek out information that is important to me. I now use this idea of writing about obsessions to guide both my creative and academic writing.
In the context of creative writing, it is easy for me to identify personal experiences and aspects of my identity as topics for my poetry. Most kinds of writing serve the purpose of exploring a topic or finding some kind of resolution to a question or problem; creative writing is arguably the most personal way of accomplishing this purpose. When I apply the concept of writing about obsessions to my creative work, I usually end up with more questions than answers, which is preferable, because they get me thinking. I ask myself questions like “Why is this idea or theme significant to me?” “How can I best convey my feelings about this obsession?” and “Am I obsessed with this idea, event, or person in a good or bad way?” Identifying my underlying motivations for any given poem helps me feel more connected to my work and makes for clearer writing.
Writing about obsessions is also applicable to academic writing, though in a more abstract and constrained sense. Whenever I have to write a paper on a topic I am not particularly enthused about, I take time to think about what I want to know and how that may relate to the assignment. When I find the answer, I have an easier time writing the paper because I can investigate a question that satisfies some obsession of mine, however superficial it may be. It seems like a stretch to find something you’re obsessed with in, say, a Biostatistics research paper, but the point is to avoid limiting yourself. Thinking about obsessions goes a long way in pinpointing your own interests and making the writing process more meaningful and enjoyable.
Obsessing in this sense is more about writing the work that you would want to read.
(Image via https://openclipart.org/detail/196174/question-girl)