November 14, 2005


Follow-up to Work from Jane's Blog

I've been thinking a lot about my stlye of thinking and writing over the past few days. This all came about through the PPE assignment which ground to a halt for me midway through last week. I found myself trying to find excuses to do statistics. I mean, honestly! Some assignments go well; they seem to get done quickly and I enjoy doing them. Others just hang around. Why is that? Is it just me?

Doing maths is a very linear process as 99% of it involves a clear starting point and end point with a void in the middle which one should fill with a clear, logical argument. At a first glance, essay writing looks a lot like this, but no matter how much effort, it is impossible for me to write in a linear way i.e. beginning, middle, end.

My thoughts have always been jumpy and it has been a long term stress factor in my life that I can't hang on to a thought for more than about 5 seconds. I wanted to work on it in my head and be able to write somethng on paper that was reasonably well developed.

After a conversation with my tutor, i'm exploring the idea that being scatty can be a strength and that one can get more original ideas by allowing my mind to have ideas and not to stop them coming because i'm busy working on another thought. If the brain is faster than the pen than I should work on methods to increase the speed of recording my thoughts rather than to slow my brain down.

I think a good analogy for what I was trying to do is this: I was trying to paint a perfect picture from a description without a sketching it all out first. I don't allow myself to 'just write'. I realise that I should save the perfectionism for the end 'tidying up' part, and try to appreciate the difference in the two distinct processes in writing an essay.

After reading the first part of Writing your dissertation in 15 minutes a day by Joan Bolker, it's clear that that i'm not writing enough. So, I will write more. For a start, I will aim to write something in the blog about how work is going. And I will stop torturing myself when something is not exactly how I would like it and move on.

Mindmaps seem to be the best way forward for me. I will use them properly for my next assignment, which happens to be accounting. Yummy. I thought that I was using mindmaps correctly, but I don't think I was. I didn't believe that I was making 'progress' on an assignment unless I had it in essay form and it had a work count. I don't stick with it long enough and I don't use mindmpas for brainstorming, just for structure. This is something that i'm going to change in my next assignment.

So I'm thinking about what I mean by progress at the moment. How do you determine how your essay is going? Is it by word count? How you feel about it? In comparison to others? If anyone reads this, do reply as I am really interested.

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Progress on an essay… hmmm…

    Well I have to write them all the time and I have to say, I find the most satisfying thing is getting that twinge of inspiration that is the starting point of an original argument. But in an essay, you only have a given starting point and you define where your essay ends, unlike stats. All of the void in the middle is the space you take up to convince your (assume educated) reader that the direction your essay is going in is a believable and cohesive one.

    So I guess I feel that I'm making progress on an essay when I've:

    a) defined the terms in the question clearly in my head so I know exactly what I'm being asked to consider
    b) got to the know the stimulus material well enough to:
    c) be able to feel the orgasmic delight of my own train of thought coming through.

    So I guess essentially for me it's all about planning. Sitting down and writing the essay takes a matter of a few hours, but planning it and thinking it through takes much longer.

    14 Nov 2005, 21:54

  2. I tend to write haphazardly too. Rather than stare at the screen wondering how to begin, itís more satisfying to write a component of the essay I feel more comfortable about. That way youíre always making progress, even if much re-organising and editing is needed later on.

    Itís great to see a word-count creeping slowly upwards. Still, Iím most confident (even before any writing at all) about an essay when a clear structure is in place and a rough no. of words allocated to each section. An essay title, word limit and blank page are daunting unless a real strategy is in place. Time spent planning is well worth it. I reckon mind maps would definitely help.

    15 Nov 2005, 00:23

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