USF Writing Studio

Archive for July, 2016


Maintaining My Focus During a Session by Marian Conklin

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Photo by Anupam Mukherjee on flickr.com
I love the Writing Studio, love working with writers, but, like everyone else, I have days where I don’t want to go to work or, worse still, shouldn’t be at work. I may be unwell, sleep-deprived, or preoccupied with something else. Whatever the reason, on those days I have to work harder at being present.
When I’m not at my best, my focus shifts inward and I find it difficult to connect with the writers and their writing. I become distracted, bored, negative. I don’t care much about outcomes and all students seem like whiners. Tutoring becomes a job. I have even dozed off momentarily during a consultation (and hoped fervently that the client didn’t notice).
To avoid this situation, I have learned to ask a lot of questions during the consulting session. Asking questions places me in the role of listener and observer and places my focus on the client, where it belongs.
Between sessions, I find that getting out of my chair and walking somewhere during my 10-minute breaks is much more effective than checking my phone or net surfing. My mind needs a break.
If I still cannot focus, depending on the writing situation, I might suggest that the writer spend 5 – 10 minutes free writing, drafting or revising a paragraph, or creating a reverse outline while I give the writer some privacy (by taking a quick walk). This method benefits both writer and consultant.
When pressed for time, I suggest we both stand and move around for a seventh inning stretch. This is a particularly helpful approach when I sense that the writer is as disengaged as I am. Physical movement increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, and this tactic saves valuable consultation time.

Of course, the best method is prevention. When under stress of any kind, I work on getting regular sleep and balanced nutrition, and hydration. I take the time to chat with coworkers or friends. In other words, self-care is essential for anyone in the service industry, and writing consultants offer a highly personalized service.


When Personal Statements Get Really Personal by Sandra Carpenter

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Image by u m a k on flickr.com
Most of us have experience working with students’ personal statements. More often than not, I find myself pushing the students to share a little more. To be a bit more specific. To share something captivating to hook the committee into reading the rest. What happens, though, when the student’s shared some of their most personal and painful moments in their first draft? How do you navigate this vulnerability, especially if you’ve never worked with this student previously?
I’ve had a couple of consultations where I have had to navigate learning a lot about a writer in a very short period of time. We often ask the writer to read their statement out loud in order to engage themselves in the revision process, and they almost always oblige. Even if it means reading a painful experience out loud for possibly the whole studio to hear.
When they navigate past the hook and into the details of their pasts, I am often tempted to keep moving along as if it were a normal consultation: give suggestions for clarity; point out misplaced modifiers; reorganize thoughts. I, however, do not think that this stoicism in the consultation does the writer and their work justice. So, in the past few experiences, I have allowed myself to react, respectfully, of course. I will nod, mhmm to demonstrate they’ve said something powerful, and even stop the consultation if the student seems they need to process.
Students have demonstrated their need for a break in the consultation in a few ways. Sometimes they read certain paragraphs more quietly than others and other times they actually break down and cry. So we stop. And I acknowledge that the emotional labor of writing a personal statement all too often goes unaccounted for. If they’ve shared something painful with me and become unsure of how to navigate the interaction thereafter, I return the favor. We put our pens down and I tell them about how difficult it was for me to share certain things in my statement, but how necessary it was because these experiences legitimately shaped my research interests. I ask them if that is also the case when it comes to their goals, and they have always confirmed that, yes, these experiences were key in leading them to medicine, physical therapy, non-profit management, and so on.
In intervening when discomfort arises, I am not suggesting that we avoid this discomfort during our consultations; rather, I suggest that we work through the discomfort and redirect students’ energies and insights to strengthen their focus and ultimately craft an insightful and honest personal statement.

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