Category Archives: Writing

Crossings (first draft)

This post is the first draft of a classification paper written to demonstrate the necessity of the revision process.  Check back next week to see the improvements.

 

Life is hard. Many unexpected things are often thrown at us, and we have to choose how to respond to them.  People lose their jobs, find themselves in the midst of a health crisis, or struggle with relationships that are out of their control.  These battles not only take a toll on us, but they also challenge us, strengthen us, and mature us if we allow them to.

It seems that there are times in our lives that we face a crossing of some kind.  Perhaps it is a railroad crossing and it seems the road is blocked. Or it could be a pedestrian crossing and we are just trying to get through it without getting hurt.  Maybe, though, the crossing is a bridge, and we travel across to a new place as a better person.

I have discovered that I respond with several different reactions when I face a crisis in my life.  In some of those responses I feel like I must be in control, even when it is not possible. In others, I completely give up and become apathetic in my response.  However, as the Lord deals with me in these situations, I am finding that there is a more mature response.  I have not learned all that I need to yet, but as I look back over my life, I can see more and more lessons I have learned and tests I have passed.

Crossing bridges

While I have no problem being spontaneous in my day to day life, I am a long-term planner. I need to know where I am right now, and what I will be doing next week, next month, or next year.  In my mind’s eye I can see the expected course of my life, and when something threatens to disrupt it, I fret. I worry.  I plan out scenarios, and they are usually the worst case scenarios.  My stomach can be tied in knots for weeks on the inside, but externally I appear calm and rational.  Once, when my husband was having some health issues, I remember literally chanting Philippians 4:6-7 over and over again as I did my daily walk. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything …”  Even during a period of time in which I had no control, I would think, “if I can just make it until Friday,” or “by the first of the year this will all be over.”  Thankfully, although I cannot say that these thoughts never plague me, I am certainly much better now.  I have learned that my times are in His hands, and I would rather be a part of His story for me than my own.

Crossing fingers

Another passive reaction I have is one in which I leave the results of a situation or crisis to luck.  To be sure, this is not the same as faith.  This is more of an apathetic approach that borders on denial.  My mother says that my mantra has always been if I don’t look at it, it is not there.  This is how I have handled many stressful situations.  When my cholesterol was high, if I didn’t get it regularly checked, I wouldn’t know it was high.  When we were struggling financially, if I didn’t look at the bank statement, everything was fine.  Even when I had a cold, if I denied it enough, I wasn’t sick.  This approach is one that I still deal with.  I have a hard time finding the line between denial and faith, and I still feel as if not acknowledging the problem will make it go away.  I need to find the place where I can recognize the problem and trust God for the solution.

Crossing my T’s

The first two responses involve a very passive response from me.  I do not try to accept any control over the situation.  However, there are several other responses that require me to take too much control.  For example, sometimes I think that if I just do everything perfectly, it will mute the impact of the crisis.  If I pray hard enough, spend enough minutes doing my quiet time, or memorize the right scripture, then the hard times will go away.  In a non-spiritual sense, I feel pressured to follow the doctor’s orders exactly,  research a new business excessively, or micro-manage my children’s lives.  If I exercise enough, or manage my time well, or drive the speed limit, I will avoid catastrophe.  Unfortunately, life is unpredictable.  It happens, and sometimes it is hard.  My efforts will not keep me and my loved ones from crisis.

Crossing the line

Sometimes I actually try to manipulate God.  I pray for Him to guide my daughter in her relationships, then I bombard her with opinions and advice.  I pray, “If it is Your will for us to make this purchase, provide the money,” then I consider more credit card debt as an option.  I ask God to open doors of opportunity, then I want to pick and choose which opportunities I want.  In other words, I try to answer my own prayers.  It is as if I don’t believe that God is big enough to handle the requests I throw at Him, or I think that I have better ideas and plans.  I don’t rely on Him to be sovereign with my best interests at heart. 

Being cross

Every once in a while, a situation will just make me mad.  My anger leads to irrationality and a distortion of reality.  When I am upset, I might blame or offend someone who has no more control of things than I do.  I spout off without thinking and put up a wall around myself that guards against the truth.  I am a very passive person, so these reactions often occur internally, but they are no less lethal.  Once anger has gained a foothold, bitterness and resentment is not far behind.  Once I become angry, the trivial matters grow in importance and consequences seem more dire.  It is very difficult to let go of this anger.

The cross

Of course there is a solution to all of the false ways of handling crisis situations, and it is found in the cross.  Jesus died not just to save us from our sins, but also to give us abundant life.  Life is a series of lessons that grow us closer to the likeness of Jesus.  Instead of being cross, we need to be …Rather than crossing the line into manipulation, we need to realize that God loves us even more than we love ourselves and has specific plan for our lives.  When we want to rely on the fact that we have dotted all our i’s and crossed all our t’s, we must realize that whatever control we think we have has been given to us by God.  While it is easy to just cross our fingers and hope everything turns out well, we need to actively place our trust in His plan for us.  There is no need to cross bridges before we get to them because many of those bridges lead to nowhere.  In fact, FEAR actually means False Expectations Appearing Real.  By contrast, a life of faith is a life of Fabulous Adventures in Trusting Him.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Beep Beep

The other day I was driving my Prius, and I heard another car blow its horn.  My first reaction was to look to see why they were blowing it, and I began to wonder if that were a normal reaction.  Perhaps I had done something illegal or otherwise irritating.  Were they blowing at me?   How would someone else initially respond when they heard the same sound?  I concluded that the possible reactions to this situation actually represent different types of drivers

.
The first type of driver, the friendly driver, will probably wave when he hears another driver honk his horn, thinking that the sound is a light-hearted “hello” directed at him. This driver is a naturally pleasant fellow who is unaccustomed to having enemies and will probably toot back.  It never occurs to him that the gesture is a warning of some kind,  because it goes against his very nature to do anything intentionally that would cause offense to someone else.  His sanguine personality invokes a warm, enthusiastic response to the people around him, and he assumes they feel the same way about him.

The defensive driver has more of a knee-jerk reaction.  He shakes his fist, gestures, and  blames the other driver instead of evaluating himself to see if he is at fault.  His attitude is one of “get out of my way.”  Ironically, though he considers the other driver to be rude and impatient for blowing at him, it is actually the defensive driver who more often exhibits these traits.  This is the domineering, independent personality of a choleric individual.

The driver whose immediate response is “I’m sorry” is the contrite driver.  His melancholy nature causes him to be insecure and to doubt himself in both this and other situations.  He tends to second-guess his decisions and driving ability, and likely has a negative and critical view of himself. He will analyze the situation to determine what he did to deserve to have the horn blare at him. If he determines he is indeed at fault, he might slow down or accelerate to avoid the driver he has offended because the attention he has drawn to himself by making an error embarrasses him.

Finally, the indifferent driver is in a class by himself.  While the friendly driver, defensive driver, and contrite driver all assume the beeping horn  is directed at them, the indifferent driver assumes the horn is being blown at someone else.  This is the person who enters the highway, accidentally cuts in front of an oncoming car, and never looks back when he hears the horn.  He never even notices that he almost caused a wreck.  A person who has this phlegmatic-type personality is calm and easy-going, and he is oblivious to his own shortcomings on the road.
The lesson we learn from examining the different types of drivers is one that can be translated into other areas of our lives.  It is important for us to recognize what type of “driver” we are.  By understanding our own strengths and weaknesses, we are better equipped to cooperate with our friendly, defensive, contrite, and indifferent acquaintances.  In the end, life’s highway can be maneuvered much more easily if we are able to work together and understand each other.

This is an example of a classification paper.  A classification paper breaks down a subject into distinct divisions.  The introduction includes the thesis and introduces the divisions of the topic.  A paragraph is devoted to each division, and the conclusion restates the thesis and concludes the essay.  Each paragraph should include a label for that division, examples, descriptions, characteristics and/or illustrations.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Developing character through writing

The students all had loose leaf paper on their desks, a pencil in hand, and a dictionary within reach.  I wrote the essay topic on the board and announced that they had until the end of the class period in which to complete it.  Then I watched.

A few students began to write furiously on their paper, filling it within just a few minutes, and turning it in.  Several others stared blankly at their papers, soon losing interest in the assignment, but gaining interest in the ceiling, the floor, the person next to them, or the inside of their eyelids.  Other students looked to be intently writing, but upon closer examination, it was apparent that they were actually doodling, drawing, and elaborately writing their name over and over.  Only a few made the effort to complete the assignment in an appropriate manner.

Why is it so difficult to complete a writing assignment?  Why does it feel like I am working harder at persuading them to write than they are at actually writing?   Why is it so painful?

I think that the answer not only lies in the disciplines involved in writing, but it also teaches lessons in developing the character of the writer.

The hardest part of any writing assignment simply beginning it.  It is easy to put off a task that is unappealing or difficult, but once it is begun, half the battle is won.  Procrastination is a character flaw that leads to guilt, dread, and panic.  At first, it is easy to put the assignment out of your mind, but it is always lurking there, making other activities a bit less enjoyable because of the knowledge that it eventually must be completed.  Finally, when time is at a premium, the paper is quickly written and turned in.

Turn procrastination into self-discipline. Set aside a specific amount of time to work on an assignment in one sitting.  Even thirty minutes can yield a surprising result.  Then, set aside some more time until the job is done.  You may even be surprised that once you start, you are motivated to complete it right away. Disciplining yourself to complete projects in increments ahead of the deadline brings satisfaction and reduces your stress level.

The next biggest complaint I hear about writing compositions is not knowing what to write about.  Generally, a topic has been given, and the student must write within those perimeters.  Sometimes these topics are broad, and sometimes they are very specific.  Maybe it calls upon the writer’s life experience or creativity or opinion.  Everyone has something to say.  Instead of spending a great deal of time wrestling with which idea to use in your paper, just go for it.  Seize a topic and run with it.  Be self-confident in your writing and express your voice.  As long as you can elaborate on your ideas in an organized manner, it probably won’t matter what your opinion is. However, it is important to learn to express yourself in a clear, concise manner.  Self-confidence is an admirable quality as long as it doesn’t cross the line into arrogance.

Once you choose a topic and get started, you must stick with it.  This is called perseverance.  It is easy to become distracted or bored with what you are doing, especially when it isn’t your favorite activity; but if you persevere, you will discover a self-satisfaction and pride that comes from following through with drive and determination.

It is not enough just to choose a topic and start writing.  A good writer has a plan; his thoughts are organized.  A poorly organized paper is frustrating for the reader, and it shows that the author did not thoroughly consider the topic prior to writing. Try jotting down all the thoughts that relate to your topic, then group them into like ideas.  For example, in a paper about a person’s life, you might have the following groups of information: his family, his career, his hobbies, his future plans.  Then, put the ideas in a logical order and write a paragraph for each section.  Or, if you are writing a paper about why your school should start a soccer team, list and explain the reasons one at a time.  Have a logical, easy-to-follow order to your paper.  Once you have a plan and know the direction in which your paper is going, writing is easy. Organization and the ability to express your thoughts clearly will serve you well in many aspects of your life.

Finally, once you have written the paper, take the time to proofread and edit it.  Only a lazy writer turns in his first draft.  Go back and change the wording to express exactly what you mean, combine sentences to make it more concise, vary the sentence structure, check for grammatical errors, and polish your style.  Read the paper out loud to yourself to make sure it makes sense.  This process does not take very long, and the improvements are well worth the effort. Learn to self-critique your work, and don’t settle for less than your best.  Develop the character traits of being methodical and proficient in your work so that others know they can rely on you to take on a job and complete it with pride and competence.

Good writing takes practice.  As you learn to write good papers, you will receive the benefit of reaping self-discipline, self-confidence, perseverance, organization, and competence.  Learn from your mistakes, but find the satisfaction in a job well done.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing