Saturday, March 26, 2016

No One Told Me I'd Have to Write This Much in Course 20

Do you remember that episode of Spongebob where he has to write a Boating School essay about stoplights?  Or that other episode where he can’t answer what he learned in Boating School?  Yeah, those were basically me writing the Module 1 journal article.

Procrastination at its finest.

Crying because this feeling is all too real.

I’ve never considered myself an amazing writer, but I at least thought I was decent.  I’m usually able to sufficiently complete a humanities essay with the flourishes of complicated language and obscure literary devices (has anyone heard of charactonyms?).  Of course I get feedback, but it’s typically along the simple, vague lines of “show, don’t tell” or “develop your argument even further”.  Nothing soul crushing, that’s for sure.

When the journal article assignment came along, I thought it would be okay.  Not a piece of cake, but also not hair-pulling hard.  I also told myself that I wouldn’t procrastinate because something like this takes time.  I wouldn’t make those stupid mistakes that actual journal articles make!  Psh, how could they ever make their figures so confusing?  Why on earth did they think it was a good idea to use volumes instead of concentrations?  I was confident that I could do waaaay better.

Nice try, Nicole.

(Let it be known that I am willingly admitting my flaws to benefit others.) 

I procrastinated.  A lot.  In my defense, that week was super busy for me, and the assignment got pushed down on my to do list.  (I have this system in my planner where I write everything with an open box next to it.  If I don’t do it, I write an arrow in this box to push it to the next day.  “20.109 report” had an arrow next to it for 5 consecutive days!!!)

When I actually sat down to work on the assignment, I found that my writing did not correlate at all with the ideas going through my head.  It all my sense to me and I knew what I wanted to say, just not exactly how to say it.  Plus, none of my humanities writing skills came in handy here; scientific writing is so dry.  At the end of my first round of writing, it felt like I just vomited a ton of science information onto the paper.

So Jackie and I edited and edited, and it (sort of) came together.  I thought we had come over many obstacles and communicated our experiment.  And then we got our first draft back.

Noreen, I love you, but my heart died a little inside when a saw a list of ~40 things to improve on.  Scientific writing is a lot harder than I thought.

Basically, I learned that my figures are terrible.  My original method was to build my results around them, rather than building them around the results.  I also didn’t plan them in advance and created them on the fly.  In result, our findings were fragmented and disorganized.  Plus, I had a lot of poor labeling that made sense to me but wouldn’t make sense to readers. 

I need to step out of my own head and view things like an outside reader.  I need to make things clearer and super explicit; the results are the most important part of the paper, so why did I make them a puzzle?  It all seems obvious to do these things before you begin writing; but once in action you forget that other people don’t think in the same way as you.

With all this, I am determined to be a different, better person for the Module 2 report.  Please, hold me accountable to this.

Here’s my list of advice for others (and my future self):
·      PLAN AHEAD: Please, please, please stop procrastinating.  Honestly, the assignment isn’t so daunting once you actually begin it.  Plus, you’ll have more time to think about what exactly you want to say.  It’s better to complete things like this in tiny bits rather than one large, sleepless, stressed-out, double expresso-shot chunk.
·      THINK ABOUT OTHERS: Like I said before, just because something makes sense to you, doesn’t mean it will make sense to other people.  Make your figures clear and concise.  Make sure you help people understand why you did something, what you expected versus what you found, and why your project is important.  Thinking in a larger scope will make your writing acceptable in the eyes of others rather than just yourself.
·      COME UP WITH A KILLER PLAYLIST: If you listen to music while you work like I do, get some music to pump you up.  Sometimes, I pretend I’m in the song (dorky, I know) and it gets me motivated to keep going. 
·      TAKE A DEEP BREATH: Assignments like these can be extremely frustrating and seemingly fruitless.  But we have to remember that we are students who are learning and growing.  It’s hard now, but we’ll be so thankful that we’re making these mistakes. 

I hope by seeing my struggles that others can take a little bit away and apply my advice to other communication assignments.  Lets hope that I can also take my own advice.

P.S. Don’t convince yourself that watching Frozen is more important to your future career than the assignment.  Trust me, it’s not impressive to employers that you know all the words to “Love is an Open Door.”

No comments:

Post a Comment