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Eight Students Talk about Their Writing


Eight Short, True Stories from Students

1. Student Uses Writing as Learning

2. Student Falls in Love with Writing

3. Student's Writing Steps

4. Student's Three Forms/Occasions for Writing

5. Student's Four Writing Situations

6. Student's Processes with Three Professors

7. Student's Four Styles of Writing

8. Student Uses Four Major Steps to Write


1. "Writing as Learning" by Carissa Barbur, University of Minnesota

            As I begin to write about writing, my mind dwells on the statement you made that writing is thinking.  I do agree with this, for if you do not engage your mind, you simply stare at a blank sheet of paper or an empty computer screen.  (Most people can relate to this set of circumstances.)

            However, more than thinking, I feel that writing is learning.  There are many reasons I feel this way.  First, I am the type of person who can read a chapter and not get a thing out of it, but if I put the information into a short written summary as I read, I have a clear understanding of the material.  It is as if the extra process of sending the message from my brain to my hand after it is received cements the idea in my mind.

            Another reason I feel writing is learning is the “Oh Yeah” reflex.  The “Oh Yeah” is the sudden spark, the significant detail, the perfect word or the catchy alliteration.  It is the idea or thought that pops up only because you were in the midst of writing.  It is also a learning tool because you can proceed to use one spark in the current piece and a spark spin off on another.  Sparks also teach you to include writing tools in future works.  For instance, if your spark on Tuesday was an alliteration, on Thursday you may knowingly write an alliteration into your piece.

            Finally, I feel writing is learning because of the “Roll.”  The Roll is a two-part skill.  The first is that while you are in the Roll, you are frantically writing—and probably in ways you were unaware you could use, and probably using ideas you were not in connection with beforehand.  The second part is the revision of the Roll, learning from your mistakes.  

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2. "My Most Memorable Experience with Writing" by Katie Campion, Inver Hills Community College (Eng 1108, Journal 2)

        My most memorable experience with writing came when I was in the fourth grade.  I attended a very small, private, Catholic elementary school in which our most familiar major form of writing was the Bible.  When I was in the fourth grade, I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who thoroughly enjoyed her job (although she hated me) and got a writer she knew to come in and talk to us every Wednesday for an hour, for several weeks.  He brought his own poems and stories that had been published, and he taught us a lot about how to write.  This was very much like a remedial creative writing class.  First we wrote poems.  We wrote about flowers, our mothers, church, school--you know, typical elementary stuff.  I wrote one poem about my parents' divorce, which didn't go over too well with my Catholic teacher, but that's not the point.

        This man's name was, as far as I was concerned, "The Word Man."  I even gave him a logo.  It was like the Superman logo but with a "W" instead of an "S."  He had a long ponytail of scraggly black and white hair and was always pulling on it and putting it back into its hair binder.  He used his arms and hands a lot when he talked to us.  I was completely enamored of him.  I wrote way more poems than everyone else did, writing constantly in my free time.  I loved to write with crayons, as it brought my words into color, into life.  I even wrote him a poem when he had to leave, and then I cried.

        I don't remember much of the details of what he wrote or what he told us except that he wrote a book called "Coffee" and told me that no poem should have a line that was over three words long.  I didn't understand why, but it made the bodies of my poems exceptionally long.

        I think it was when this all occurred that I finally decided that I wanted to be a writer.  I had always had an affinity for words, probably due to my mother's extensive education and the way she talks, using words like "sporadic" and "allocution" all the time, and then explaining to me what they were.  When I told her about The Word Man and showed her all my colorful poems, she bought me my first writing album.  It was a lime green book with a page marker ribbon and three hundred completely blank pages.  I used to love to simply flip through and imagine the possibilities.  I began to write in this book until I got another one just like it, but dark green.  Then I wrote all over that one.  Even now I still find little slips of paper or napkins with my juvenile handwriting on them.  I have been collecting them and cautiously putting them in the green albums.

        I still have the albums, and occasionally look through them and laugh a little.  The things that mattered most to me, like recess and strawberries for dinner, are what my writing was about.  I will always remember the feeling of importance and dedication I had when I filled up these albums, and so I still cherish them.

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3. "Sketching Out My Writing Routine" by Andy Kaskubar, University of Minnesota (Eng 3027-5; pictures added by Kaskubar courtesy of MS Word Picture Editor) 

As I sit here on my girlfriend’s laptop with the TV going in the background, I try and think of what to write for this paper.  Fortunately for me, this paper has to do with the things I do to prepare and eventually write a paper.  The best way to describe what I usually do to get a paper written would obviously be to jot down what I am doing at this very moment.  Usually the writing would not come so easily for me, because the paper is usually not about what I am currently doing.  To start a paper, before I even sit down to my computer, this is what I usually do: procrastinate.           

I find that I write papers the best when I am under pressure.  I don’t, however, like to be desperately under pressure.  The night before is one thing, but late into the night or the day of just doesn’t work well for me.  By doing other things before writing a paper, I relax with my thoughts, allowing them to seemingly flow more smoothly.           

The above is just an example of what I might do before getting into writing a paper.  Sometimes I’ll get something to eat or talk with my friends.  Sometimes I’ll take a nap.  As long as I can do SOMETHING before I actually get to my paper, knowing that I still have time to get it done—though pushing it—I can usually succeed in writing something decent.


1) The first thing I usually do is check the date that the paper is to be turned in.  I then have an idea of when the best time would be to start on it.  I want to always make sure that I won't just run out of time because I ended up having other plans or something.


2) When the right time comes around for doing my paper, I tend to sit at my computer and start MS Word, the program I use for writing my papers.  Perhaps I will come up with a title for the paper, but usually nothing more than that.  If I'm very motivated, only then might I start writing actual contents of my paper.  Usually what I do is find something else to do.  I either putz on my computer, or I will do something entirely different, away from my computer.  


3) While I am doing other things other than my paper, I can relax my mind,  allowing the paper to sink to the back, relieving any stress I might have about the paper.   


may listen to music, watch a movie, or watch some TV. Whatever I find to do, it is worthwhile
     because it allows the paper to be in my head without invading it entirely. As I said above, this
     helps my mind to flow more freely.


4) Once I am relaxed, I then head back to my computer and NO MATTER WHAT, I try and get something typed.  If I can, I will finish my whole paper in one sitting.  Perhaps once or twice I will get up to snatch something to eat and/or drink, but that is pretty much it.  I try not to take any more breaks than I have to.


5) The final step is obviously to turn my paper in.  In most cases, I will have gone over the final draft of the paper a couple of times to make sure it is what I want it to be.  If needed, I do some revising.  Off to class I go then, paper in my backpack, ready to be turned in.



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4. "Three Diffferent Forms/Occasions for Writing" by Petter Woll, University of Minnesota (EngC 3027, Class Journal 3)

My first form of writing I choose to mention in this class journal is a (mini‑) project that I did at the College of Sor‑Trondelag in Norway. The thesis project was part of the project in the program I attended, and we were assigned to work together, two and two, for a period of four months. However, we were able to choose whom we wanted to work with. I worked with a friend in my class. After we had finished the laboratory work, we sat down to write our results and interpretations. It was an interesting experience. Because we had somewhat different ways to express ourselves through writing, we needed to make compromises during the whole writing process. Also, we sometimes had different interpretations of our results, so we had to debate with each other until one of us was convinced by the other.

 In addition to paying attention to each other's opinions, we also needed to pay attention to our tutor's opinions. Since our paper was regarded as a research paper, there was a certain structure and way of augmenting it that needed to be followed. We spent a lot of time editing the paper to fit these requirements, but finally our tutor and we were satisfied. The paper was handed in for grading and we got a very decent grade for our work.

My second form of writing is also related to my time at the College of Sor-Trondelag, but which I also used elsewhere. I am talking about writing reports. In my program at the College of Sor‑Trondelag, we had a lot of laboratory exercises that required written reports in which  we evaluated our results from the lab exercises. It is pretty similar to what I am doing now in this journal, but instead of evaluating my writing, I was evaluating blood values of chemicals, blood cells, and bacteria. To be able to write these lab reports, you needed to have an understanding of the theoretical material relevant for the analyses done. You then were able to interpret the results correctly.

My third form of writing that I would like to mention is the writing I do when I write an application, maybe for a job, getting into a school, or applying for a foreign visa. When I do this kind of writing, I try to put myself on the situation of the receiver of my application. I try to see what he or she might be looking for when he/she reads an application, and write the application according to that person's guidelines.

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5. "Four Writing Situations" by Lucy Vang, University of Minnesota (EngC 3027-12, Class Journal 3)

Situation 1: Sometimes I'm sitting in class, and I get really bored. With nothing else in mind, I begin to write whatever comes to my mind. It may just bescribbles, or it may be a letter to a friend. It could be anything, just as long as it helps pass time. I start out with a clean sheet of paper, of course.  Then, I start to write. If I seem to be running out of things to write, I begin to doodle and scribble. It's kind of like a signature. It makes some things more complete.

Situation 2: Another time I find myself writing is late at night. I keep in touch with some friends and relatives outside of Minnesota. We write as often as we can. I tend to get tired, but I feel as though it's my best time to write. All my ideas and thoughts just seem to come out and flow freely and endlessly. I turn the radio on, but I keep it low. Then, I take out a few sheets of paper andbegin to write. I almost never write in pencil though. The lead is rather distracting and tends to smear away.

Situation 3: Procrastination doesn't always work. However, sometimes it works out just fine. I'm the kind that seems to work better when under pressure. I tend to leave things until time is almost up. I do, however, accomplish my work. I'm a procrastinator, but I'm very organized. I like to plan and set things. Procrastination comes in but it's planned to be as it is. I set up enough time to do what needs to be done. However, my best working times are late at night or early in the morning. That seems to be the only time my brain is functioning well and things seem to be flowing.

Situation 4: Sometimes, I don't always have a choice of a place to study. There are times my father picks us up from school but takes us with him to his office. Being bored as can be, I whip out my homework and do it there. For some reason, I can't do much reading there so I tend to do all my writing assignments, whether it's a paper or some mathematical calculations. A lot of the time, the atmosphere just gets to me, and I end up just going to sleep.

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6. The Research Paper: Professor Jewell, the Hidden Gem in the Making of a Diamond by Renee Thompson, Inver Hills Community College (Eng 1114, Final Class Journal)


It takes some effort and external force to turn carbon into a diamond. My writing journey is analogous to turning that carbon into a diamond. I felt very inept at writing. A diamond forms from the application of both external and internal forces. The external forces to make me a writer came from my professors and peers. The drive to make my writing skills sparkle was the internal force. Putting the parts together made me a better writer. Part of this was due to my final writing course with Professor Jewell.

The Beginning: Carbon


Writing class? Are you crazy? I dreaded taking my first English writing course. I might not have taken any writing course if it had not been a requirement.  I started with ENG 1108, Writing and Research Skills. The first week was rough. I thought that I was way over my head, and I felt lost. Most of what the professor was saying made no sense. I shed many tears trying to get the assignments done throughout that semester. I knew that my biggest hurdle was to know how to start the paper. Another hurdle was that my study group chose to do research on the drug cartel. I had very little interest in this topic. It was a struggle to narrow down a topic, pick a precise research question, and then make sense on paper. I was not enjoying writing at all.


I will not bore you with the details, but I did manage to get through this course with help from my team members. I ended up with a pretty good grade, even though it felt like I had not learned much. In hindsight, this course did help me by laying a foundation from which to build. After all, a diamond needs beginning pressure to get its final brilliance.


The Process of Pressure


At times, pressure is also necessary to become a good writer. It can be either external or internal. I found the external pressure comes from the skills that the professor is teaching and pressure from peers when working as a group. The internal pressure comes from myself by applying the new skills that I learned.


My second writing course was ENG 1111, Research Writing in the Disciplines. Right from the beginning, I felt more engaged because the professor allowed us to pick our topic. From there, he helped us mold our research papers. This course built upon my previous foundation by guiding us to the proper resources for correct formatting of the papers and writing accurate citations. We also received helpful information on how to organize our resources in logical, sequential order.


In the end, I was happy with the finished paper and received excellent feedback to make it even better. I did not shed any tears during this course, and I had more confidence in my skills.


The Result: A Gem


A real diamond takes time to become a good quality stone. I did not have to take another writing course, but I felt I needed more time and practice on the subject to improve my writing skills. These are the reasons I chose Professor’s Jewell’s course, ENG 1114, The Research Paper.


I liked the course schedule that Professor Jewell developed to create a quality research paper. I found that it was important to stick with the schedule. Again, I was not able to choose my topic, but it was not as difficult this time around because I had the skills to work through it. In reality, college subjects are usually selected for us, so I needed to learn the skills and confidence to write a paper regardless of the subject.


The research paper took a while to develop. Along the way, I received good feedback so I could make improvements. I absorbed what Professor Jewell was teaching, and I am very grateful for my new skills. The paper was a carefully executed process, which proved successful in the end. I would have to say that the diamond is still being developed, but my skills do have more brilliance and sparkle than in my first months at this college.


Putting My Skills to Work


I am currently a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. My new writing skills have been an integral part of my undergraduate college career.  Every course I have taken at UW-Stout has had multiple writing assignments. I had one course that had a writing assignment due every week. I have three writing projects due over the next three weeks in different classes. As you can see, writing skills are essential if you plan to continue your education.


I am so grateful that I took this final course with Professor Jewell. Once you have completed a good writing course, do not throw away your notes. They will be a useful resource for your future writing assignments. My hope is that you are beginning to enjoy writing and that you will sparkle and shine. My writing confidence is due to the right teacher, too: Professor Jewell. He is a gem.


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7. "Different Styles of Writing" by Jason Dreyer, University of Minnesota (10/04/00, EngC 3027-11, Class Journal 3)

It is necessary to use different styles of writing for different situations. A professional environment requires a more professional style of writing than sending a personal letter. This journal will discuss, and graphically depict four styles of writing that I have used recently.           

The first type of writing I will discuss is the memorandum. My roommates and I have an ongoing feud with the people who live two floors below us. They are smokers and we are not. They are not allowed to smoke in their apartment, so they sit right outside the main entrance and do their deed. Not only does the smoke rise and enter our apartment, but sometimes we have to walk by them on our way out.

I have two lasers. They are very bright. Since the beginning of the school year, whenever we see them outside smoking, we turn off our lights and laze them. They get very upset. In retaliation, they buzz the call button to our apartment, which is loud and annoying. They also shout profanity and pound on our door. We do not respond in any other way, which infuriates them more.

Recently I had an idea. I checked our lease agreement, and saw that rules dictate they smoke thirty feet away from the building. I typed up a very formal looking memorandum stating the policy, and that it would be enforced. I posted it on the entrance and an hour later I saw the benefits of my writing. The smokers were in the middle of the parking lot ruining their lungs. I felt like I had won a small victory.

The second form of writing that I have used recently is the academic essay. This is the obvious method with respect to this class. I think about the parameters of the assignment, then apply it to my life experiences. I attempt to fit the most interesting experience that I have had to the assignment. This usually works well for me.

A third type of writing I practice is chat room language. In these situations it is necessary to express as much as possible in as few words as possible as fast as possible. I admit that I am not too experienced at this form of writing. I end up having to think for much longer than the other people before I say something half as witty. Consequently, I carry on fewer conversations. I do not like to pressure of chat rooms.

The last style of writing I will discuss is emailing. This is another form of writing that originated with the Internet. Email is easier than chatting because there is time to articulate and modify the message as desired. I like email because it is like writing a letter that is delivered instantaneously. In my opinion, email is the best application of the Internet.    


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8. "My Writing Process" by Stephania Garcia, Inver Hills College (Wk. 12, Spring 2014, Eng 1114-01, Homework Option 5)

I guess that I would like to start off by saying that this class has taught me a lot of things about writing papers.  This is the first time that I have heard about specific types of papers, such as dialogic, evaluation, critical review, etc. Most of the papers I have done in the past have asked various pieces of the papers we have done in class, but none have actually wanted a specific type of paper from me.  Most classes give you a list of requirements and then the rest if left up to us.  It was interesting to write something that is so structured.

For this homework option, I will discuss my writing process in writing my evaluation paper, from the first draft to the last draft.

Draft 1: Draft 1 was quite easy to write the first draft.  Richard really didn’t ask for much.  What I did struggle with was trying to find something to meet all of the categories (six) that Richard wanted in this draft.  Because of the section from my book that I was focusing on, I did not think that I could find something to fit all of these six categories.  In order to meet that requirement, I twisted things to suit the category, and this made me anxious.  I was not confident in what I was turning in. Luckily, I had a game plan.  I knew that I would eventually turn this into a Draft 2, and I knew how I would change my paper for Draft 2, so I was confident about that.


Draft 2: Draft 2 went better than the first draft.  I knew what I wanted to keep or move, in order, as required, to condense the number of categories, from six down to three. The only thing I struggled with was keeping the word count maximum limit in the paragraphs.  I have never done this before. It was a struggle, but I can understand why Richard wanted it done this way.  It ultimately helped cut down my wordiness and my tendency to over-explain things.  Additionally, I think that the fact that I did not read the directions as carefully as I should have (sorry about that) really set me back.


Draft 3: It went smoothly. I think it helped that I actually read the directions this time and I knew what Richard was looking for.  What was new in this draft was the usage of keywords that Richard wanted in the beginning and at the end of each paragraph.  I have never done this in any of my papers, but I can see why they are good to have.  They just sort of remind readers about what is going on, in case they get lost while reading something.


Draft 4: It also went smoothly. I did love the way Richard wanted us to correct and edit our essay.  I have never proofread my essay in this way before, but reading the paper by starting at the end, and checking it sentence by sentence backwards [and out loud], really helps catch a lot of mistakes, and I did find a lot more while doing this. I had pretty much covered my paper in red when I was done with it.


Overall, I am thankful to Richard for the skills that I have acquired in this class.


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1. How I Learned

2. Focus

3. First Drafts

4. Self & Others

5. Modes

6. Thinking



Activities (Exercises)

8 Students' Writing Stories

UNO Universal Organizer


 Related Links in

  2. Process & Focus 

  3. Thinking & Reading


14. Free Readings




Updated 1 Aug.. 2015

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1st through 5th Editions:: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012.
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted.
Permission is hereby granted for nonprofit educational copying and use without a written request.
Images courtesy of Barry's Clip Art, Clip Art Warehouse, The Clip Art Universe, Clipart Collection, MS Clip Art Gallery and Design Gallery Live, School Discovery, and Web Clip Art
Click here to contact the author: Richard Jewell.  Questions and suggestions are welcome.