parenting / writing

Midway

No, not the sea battle, although that is a pretty amazing story in and of itself. Nope, this is me looking at the semester and noting I’m midway through it. Today I have the last two midterm exams, a lab practical for microbiology, and the organic chemistry that is going to kill me. Stereochemistry is not my friend.

I was talking to my daughter and giving her some tips and tricks for writing an essay. As I told her, you should start with the bones of the project – an outline – and hang flesh and skin on it. Don’t forget the skin, or it’ll look really gross. When I am blogging I don’t do all that. Actually, when I’m writing a paper I don’t do that – at least not on paper anymore. It usually happens in my head first, and then I can just write it down as it ought to be, with perhaps some tweaking for impact and better structure. Blogging? Well, that’s rarely in proper essay form, it just sort of falls out of my head onto the screen. Which is about as gross as that metaphor about putting the skin on.

But writing an essay off the top of your head requires practice. Keeping the blog has been good practice for me, and although it might not be right for everyone, making yourself write often is a good thing. I know it’s hard to do. It’s really hard to come up with ideas, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve stared at the screen trying to come up with something my readers will actually enjoy reading about. I don’t want to write about myself all the time. I’m not all that interesting, and I certainly don’t think I’m the center of the universe! But I can use personal anecdotes as springboards into something that might be interesting, and I do that a lot.

For a while I was participating in a challenge, where we got a weekly random challenge assigned, and had to write fiction, poetry, or nonfiction to meet the challenge. This was a whole lot of fun, and I had a blast with it. In some ways school is like that, I get an assignment and have to meet that challenge. For my daughter, it’s still hard work and not much fun. I’m hoping my silly idea about the bones helps her. The other idea I gave her, of reading it backwards to catch typos and errors, is something I’ve told classmates in college. It forces your brain to slow down and really process what you are seeing. The brain is an amazing thing, it will fill in and correct typos without being told, especially if you have looked at that piece of writing many times.

Finally, check to make sure you have your pieces in all the right places. It can be easy to see if the opening and the conclusion are in the right place, like the headless horseman holding his head at his side, but making sure the points inside the essay are ranked in order of importance is good, too. Usually, you will want to decide how you’re going to organize it; most important to least important, chronologically, or? In the essay she is writing about rocketry, chronological might be most important, from the birth of rockets (in the 1930s, yes, that far back, dear) to the Space X program now. Are you going to put in something about what might come in the future? That would be a great way to open your final paragraph and conclusion.

Good luck with your essay, Redhead. I look forward to reading it!

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