Friday, October 7, 2016

how we write

Today in class we talked about our writing process.  We started with the journal topic asking you to describe yours, then we shared ideas, and then I took one for the team by talking and writing my way through the prompt we had recently.  Here are the notes and the essay I wrote on the screen while we talked:

Key Elements of Writing Process
  • Read the question
    • not just with our eyes, but for deep understanding
    • scan for the action words that tell us what's needed (in the case of the E.M. Forster prompt, the key word is EXPLAIN)
    • Circle or underline anything we need to emphasize or remember
  • Do a pre-write
    • Thesis statement
    • At least three key supporting reasons, details or facts (depending on type of essay)
    • This is your trail of bread crumbs so you don't have to remember your entire train of thought as you write
    • Can be outline, word web, bulleted list... any structure that helps you (mine below is a combo of a thesis statement and bullets)
  • Write
  • Proofread
    • Hard to overstate the importance of giving yourself a couple minutes for this
    • Close your eyes, stretch, wiggle your fingers, and try to read your paper as if you've never seen it before or someone else wrote it and asked you to fix it
    • As you read, listen for any grammar that clanks-- you don't have to know WHY it's incorrect, you just need to know that it needs fixing
    • Watch for mechanical issues (punctuation, spelling, capitalization, legibility)

Here is what I did:

Agree with EM Forster’s idea that personal relations are more important than patriotism or causes.  Or don’t.  Hmmm.

Thesis: I agree with Forster

Personal relations are the building blocks of countries and causes—you can have personal relations without patriotism, but you can’t have patriotism without some sense of connection to other people.

I. Personal relations are building blocks for community
II. Community gives us a sense of belonging and purpose
III. Personal relations are the stuff of sacrifice

A couple presidential elections ago, a candidate made a commercial in which she was asleep at 3:00 AM and the phone rang.  It was an international crisis.  The commercial asked who voters wanted to answer the phone.

When I’m asleep at 3:00 AM and my phone rings, there is only one reason for me to answer.  Love.  Who needs me?  What am I being called to do?  Is it someone I care about, someone who’s been there for me?  Or is it a military officer or someone who wants me to sign a petition?

There may be causes and countries in the world worth supporting, but E.M. Forster had it right when he wrote that personal relations are more important than patriotism or causes.  Personal relations are building blocks for community. Community gives us a sense of belonging and purpose.  Personal relations are the stuff of sacrifice.

Personal relations are the basic connections we make with other people.  Our lives begin with connections to our parents.  We build connections with friends.  We fall in love.  Our relationships define in ways that lead us to a sense of our life’s purpose and even who we are.

Our personal relations add up to our neighborhoods, our extended families, our communities, and, in the end, our sense of tribe.  We come together when there is a crisis or a need.  If we have confidence in our personal relations, we know exactly who to turn to when the need arises.  In fact, sometimes when a need arises and we turn to the people near us, we find out exactly who our friends really are.

Our true personal relations are those for whom we would give all.  This is also the operating value of every patriot and every follower of the world’s great religions.  The word “Islam” means to break oneself before God; every military demands the ultimate sacrifice.  But personal relations come from a different place.  They come from within.  Each of us determines what is true for ourselves.  In the end, no sacrifice can have integrity if it is demanded.  Sacrifice only matters when it is freely given. 

Therefore, E.M. Forster was right.  However important patriotism and causes are, they are only as strong as the people who support them.  And the business of being people is strongly related to the business of being personal.  This is the wellspring of our connection and our ideals.

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