Writing Yourself into Your Future

Christina Davidson, Writing Consultant

The start of a new year lends itself to thoughts of beginnings. The gentle rhythms inspired by the calendar year can be wonderful reminders of work we intend to do in our own lives. I’d like to use this space to invite you to do a little deeper work than just forming a resolution to meet a few goals. I’d like to suggest the use of writing as a way to dig into discovering what you want out of your academic career, where you want to go, and how you intend to get there. I’d also like to ask you to consider how using your assigned writing tasks can accomplish these purposes, too.

First, try to think back to one of your earliest writing projects. For me, I immediately think of my very first course in research writing that I took my freshman year. I was excited to take this class since I had always loved to write. However, after the opening class session of the course, I found myself full of anxiety about how to create a proper research paper. I remember thinking to myself, “What is APA exactly? – and how in the world do I format in-text citations?” This is certainly hilarious to me now considering my current position on our campus, but it illustrates what I’d like you to think about today. Everything you choose to pursue in life will have a beginning. And writing is a great way to take yourself into a new identity you’ve never held before.

Our Program Assistant, Maddy, as well as our Assistant Director for Graduate Student Writing, Kendyl, explored these ideas in recent posts, asking us to fully accept the identity of a writer. Today, I’m asking you to think of the other identities your writing may ask you to accept. In my earlier example, I decided to claim “researcher” as a title. In other courses it may have been “poet” or “essayist”, or in this instance, the title of “blogger” becomes something I can write myself into.  Each new writing task can provide us with an opportunity to step into a new future.

I’d like to turn to my original example of “researcher” because I think it is of particular relevance in the spring term. Many college freshmen will be taking ENGL 102 this semester and developing a research project for the very first time. If this pertains to you, I ask you to consider how you can take your class assignment and make it meaningful for your future. What kind of research interests you most? Where do you see yourself headed in your academic and professional career? Many times, we may feel we will assume some kind of professional authority once we graduate or achieve the job we desire in our field. I have certainly felt this way in my own professional experience. But in truth, our voices are developing now. The research work one does in an ENGL 102 course can begin to “write into” a new field and a new professional identity. And if we fully adopt this idea, suddenly all our coursework can achieve a profound relevance into the development of our futures.

Once you have embraced the title of “researcher”, I would like to invite you to take it one step further and to share your discoveries with others. You might be amazed at how your learning will deepen once you make this critical move.  One wonderful opportunity to do this is at the UofL Undergraduate Arts and Research Showcase. I was fortunate enough to serve as a judge for this showcase in the spring of 2022. I was so impressed with the work presented by UofL students, as well as the collegial spirit in the room. If interested, your chance to get involved will arrive soon; abstracts are due by April 17, 2023.

The University Writing Center is a great place to obtain feedback on any research project. If you are considering becoming a part of the Arts and Research showcase, please come in and talk with a consultant. We can help you to review your project, plan out your poster presentation, and even help with writing the application.

The new year is a great time to reflect on the previous year and to focus upon what you would like to accomplish in the next. Give yourself time to think about how your own writing, be it assigned by an instructor or personal writing, can be a way to lead into your goals. Sometimes all it takes is a new perspective to make all the difference in how we view our writing. We can deepen the meaning in our assigned writing by considering how it fits into the larger picture of our future goals. At the writing center we look forward to working with all writers this semester as we aim toward our futures as writers, researchers, poets, essayists, bloggers – wherever writing may lead!

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