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How to Get After Your Next Writing Project

When I taught college writing courses, almost no one enrolled willingly. Whether it was required for their major or expected on their transcript for graduate school, many of my undergraduate students would have been quite happy to skip a composition course altogether. And with classes called College Writing or Research Writing or Advanced Writing, who could really blame them? 
Over the years, however, I noticed an interesting trend among the truly motivated. The students who admitted, even at the cost of their social currency, they wanted to become better writers generally had two reasons: 
  1. They would imminently face an important writing project. 
  2. They were graduating, and although they were almost ‘college educated,’ they felt their communication skills were poor. 
Both groups were dealing with as much fear and dread as the uninterested students, but they’d decided that becoming a better writer would make their lives easier and...
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How Healthy is Your Writing Mindset?

"If you don't like something, change it.
If you can't change it, change your attitude.”
—Maya Angelou 

On the first day of classes at the University of Portland, I routinely asked my freshman students to free-write about a series of questions. Before I gave them the list, I’d ask the class just the first one:

What is your relationship to writing?

Our class was an introduction to college writing, yet despite this emphasis students were often surprised by the question. I’d give them a few minutes to take out their paper and pens, before I invited them to begin. Most first days looked like this: two students furiously writing, a few whispering for more instructions from a peer, half of them staring at me in bewilderment, and one student bravely raising her hand for clarification, “You want us to write about what exactly?” 

If I knew this scene was likely to replay, semester after semester, you might be wondering why I continued to let...

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