Everyone Writes Drunk


Drunk Writing:   /drəNGk/rīdiNG/

noun
1. in writing, when the message isn't coherent on paper, but it's crystal clear in the writer's head, often marked by the writer's comment, "I know what I'm trying to say; I just can't write it down".

2. in writing, that fuzzy feeling the writer gets when the sentences and paragraphs fuse together, and the writer is certain he or she has read this line over and over but is unable to find it in the paper at the moment.

3. often the result of a writer re-reading his or her own writing in excess.

3. often the end result of a first, second and even third draft.

4. the cause of the defensive attitude a writer has when an outside reader asks, "what the hell does this mean?"

verb : 
4. in writing, the act of a writer dismissing that gut feeling that warns: "this doesn't make sense;" the writer chooses, instead, possibly due to overwhelming frustration, to believe that it does all work together well, and the point of the paragraph must be quite clear. It is, after all, quite clear to the writer.

My FYC students are currently working on a group research paper that should focus on their career field and some aspect of literacy. This has been a tremendous challenge for them, and I greatly applaud their efforts to "make it work" à la Tim Gunn.
Honestly, I couldn't be more proud. I saw a group formed of pharmacy and criminal justice work together to formulate a wonderful paper arguing the need for more pharmacy technicians to be bilingual in order to be able to communicate (literacy) with customers, thus avoiding legal liability and increase patient care. I saw another group argue that inmates sentenced to solitary confinement should be allowed more exercise time (criminal justice and exercise science) so that their social skills (literacy) wouldn't take such a hit once they are released. Suffice it to say, my students worked (wrote) their butts off.
What made this paper so difficult for many of them was that the paper required them to "add to the conversation". I introduced this assignment as an nontraditional research paper. I challenged them to find something fresh to add to the conversation, but the amount or angle of freshness varied, obviously.
On top of that, the students started off this paper trying to work separately, but as a group, which they learned is a big mistake. For example, they divided the paragraphs among group members, wrote the assigned sections separately, and then compiled their individual writing onto a doc. They then saw that they had written disparate paragraphs that all worked like mini-essays.
I knew that some of them would do this, but instead of forcing the issue, I let them reap the frustration in order to encourage growth.
When I met with students this week to provide feedback, the essays, unsurprisingly, lacked strong organization. We had already discussed coherence and using transitions and topic sentences as a way to provide links between ideas in writing, but my students suffered from the quintessential symptom of engrossed writing: they were writing drunk.
I told my students that often times, as writers, we write with our ideas solidified in our brains, but slippery on paper. Much like a drunkard speaks incoherently but "knows" what they mean, a writer who has spent too much time at their paper, "knows" their point, and believes with all certainty that it's coming through. They need that "sober" feedback from an outside reader to comment and ask, "what do you mean here"?
These are the strategies I provided:
1. Use topic sentences: this will force the writer and reader to focus on a particular idea.
2. The topic sentences you use should include old and new information: make sure that there is some mentioning of the previous topic sentence at the start of the next topic sentence.
3. Read your essay backwards: when a writer has read and re-read their own writing in excess, all sense is flushed down the toilet. Reading it from last sentence first will input the information in a fresh way and the paper will look and sound differently.
4. Get an outside reader to comment: they are sober.
5. Don't read your paper for a day or two: distancing your eyes and brain from the essay will make it look different, more clear, when you look at it next. This often results in a "writing hangover," as one of my students mentioned.
I found that once I communicated this to them, they felt more relaxed and understood that it wasn't a weakness in their writing. All writers do this. In a strange way, I think this made them feel more like writers, part of a group of creators who suffer from a common ailment.
We all write inebriated on our own argument most of the time; it's unavoidable, at least when we are most engrossed and passionate.
This was my first full-length group research paper I have assigned; and I am learning a lot. I think some points of frustration are incredibly helpful. For example, this has been the most meaningful exercise in topic sentence revision they have encountered because they are attempting to link ideas from different people.
The next step in this rhetorical endeavor is to create a digital research story in which they will create a video argument based on their research.