Tag Archives: resources

The Connection Between Writing and Mental Health

How many of you knew that mental health awareness week was this month? My guess is not many of you. Unlike other health issues that receive more attention, such as breast cancer and heart disease, mental health issues often get pushed under the rug because of their stigma.

There is something wrong with this picture. How are we to understand mental illness and disorders and actively promote treatment and support for those affected by them? This is where writing comes in.

We’ve all read books for school (or for fun, if you’re a book nerd like me) that feature mentally ill characters. You and your peers might consider the authors of these books “crazy.” While this is certainly not the right way to label people struggling with mental illness, it may make you wonder why so many writers seem to struggle with depression and other related disorders.

Turns out, you’re not the only person who may think so. Recent studies have suggested a connection between mental health disorders and writers. Many successful and influential writers have dealt with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental disorders throughout their lives. Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf all battled mental illness. These are the authors of books you’ve read in your English classes throughout the years. These authors are brilliant. These authors demonstrate the power of the written word in coping with mental illness.

How can you apply therapeutic writing to your own life? I’m not suggesting you write a novel as a coping skill, but journal writing is an excellent way to cope with emotions. It’s helped me immensely over the years. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Scribble. Your journal might look like a two-year-old got ahold of it, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re getting all your emotions out on paper without inhibition. I know that when I am most upset, my journal entries are barely legible.
  2. Record your symptoms and treatment. Not only can this be therapeutic, it also serves as a great way to keep track of your mood, medication side effects, and possible triggers that could be causing certain symptoms. Being blatantly honest about the emotions and struggles you encounter sometimes helps you sort out your thoughts and feelings. Plus it serves as a great way to track the trends in your behavior and identify ways to cope with situations as you encounter them in the future.
  3. You don’t have to write every day. I always start out trying to write an entry every day, but it only stresses me out when I don’t follow my own rule. If you want to write every day, go for it, but you’re not obligated to. Write whenever inspiration strikes. Write whenever you’re feeling at your worst. Write whenever your head is overflowing with emotions and you just have to get them all out.

Journaling is a great coping mechanism for sorting through emotional issues, but be sure to also check out the resources that the MSU Counseling Center offers if you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness. Visit http://www.counseling.msu.edu/ for more information.

Writing Resource: Fallacy Files

Our new writing resource for this installment is The Taxonomy of Fallacies located at fallacyfiles.org. Let’s jump right in!

For starters, what are fallacies? Simply put, fallacies are arguments with poor reasoning that are often misleading and unsound, logically. Fallacies are incredibly important to avoid when making an argument because they can hurt credibility and jeopardize the reliability of entire ideas. Even a tiny bit of fallacious reasoning within an otherwise sound, well-supported argument can compromise the validity of the whole thing.

Bad news.

Therefore, it is easy to see how important it is to be able to identify and avoid committing a fallacy.

taxonomy

The Taxonomy of Fallacies is an incredibly useful resource for learning about fallacies. However, to unlock its full potential, it must be used correctly. This is not a resource that one can use to diagnose whether an argument is fallacious or not and it does not immediately provide clear answers. However, you should find it helpful when used in one of the following ways:

  • Simply read it! Browsing through it and looking at the examples can be a very easy way to quickly learn about each fallacy. Also, if you’re still having troubling understanding exactly what something means after reading what is provided, try clicking on another point that is connected to it in the giant web; this can provide contextual information that might clear everything up.
  • You can use this resource sort of like you would a dictionary, referencing it whenever you run across a word (or in this case, a logical fallacy) that you’ve never encountered before.

The sheer amount of information can be intimidating at first, but knowing all of this it you should find it to be a very useful tool.

Of course, if you want to talk more in-depth about fallacies and argument structure, you can come see us at The Writing Center @ MSU!

Writing Resources: Giant Golden Buddha (and 364 more 5 minute writing exercises)

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Giant Golden Buddha and 364 more 5 minute writing exercises is a series of writing prompts by author C.M. Mayo. Here’s how it works. There is a prompt for each day of the year. After reading the daily prompt, write on that topic for at least 5 minutes and become a better writer. Personally, I use Giant Golden Buddha as a warm-up exercise if I’m writing a long piece or am experiencing writer’s block.

Here’s an example prompt:

 

January 22

“Magical Furniture”

This is a little exercise in magical realism. With realistic detail, write a scene in which your character has a conversation with a piece of furniture. Assume that the person and the piece of furniture disagree about something.

 

Often you’ll find that these prompts are short, simple, and really fun to write about. When I wrote on this prompt, I wrote about a chair and a person arguing about the legitimacy of ergonomic furniture design. It was really entertaining to write and I feel comfortable assuming I wouldn’t have written that type of piece without being prompted.

This series is one that I really enjoy for a few reasons. First, it has helped me become a better writer. In most things practice makes perfect, and writing is no different. I’ve found that this kind of practice is really good at flexing those writing muscles. Also, as I said before, I find that these exercises are nice warm-ups for writing anything longer than a couple of pages. I use these exercises in my writing process to get the creative juices flowing before writing a piece that I’d rather not trudge through.

Writing Resources: Son of Citation Machine

Son of Citation Machine is a great resource for making citations in MLA, APA, Turabian, and Chicago citation styles. Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough to quick and easy citations.

Notice the bar on the left side where the different citation styles listed. Select whichever citation style you are using. You’ll get a screen that looks like this (I chose MLA) :

                            CM front copy

Next, notice that the central part of the page has many links. Select the link that corresponds with whatever type of source you are trying to cite.

                CM MLA copy

 At the next screen, you’ll see multiple text box fields and descriptions next to each box. This is where you will fill in as much information as you can about your source. Remember that you won’t always be able to fill all of these fields, so input as much information as you can. Once that’s done, click on the giant “make citation” button.

CM MLA example with button copy

That’s it! In the top box, there is a properly formated citation that can be used in your works cited page. Also, in the bottom box there is a ready-to-use in-text citation. Simple, right?

CM MLA final product copy

While Son of Citation Machine is a great resource for creating citations, it doesn’t teach you how to put citations into your paper or even how to cite correctly. Therefore, I usually use a style guide in addition to using Son of Citation Machine. For MLA and APA styles, Purdue OWL is really great.

Check it out, and happy citing!

Writing Resources: visuwords.com

Screen shot of "writing" search on visuwords.comVisuwords is an online visual dictionary and thesaurus. It is a great resource to use when you feel stumped during the brainstorming process, if there’s that one word that’s on the tip of your tongue, and much more.

Here’s how it works: when you search a word, you get a word map that contains a large number of related words, your root word being the center. These other words are related to the root word in some way, like pertaining to the word’s definition, being synonyms, antonyms, or derivations of the root word, and many other helpful things. Also, you are given the definition for each word on the map, which depending on your root word can be near a hundred words.

This is an incredible resource for brainstorming due to the enormous amount of information you will receive just by typing one word. But don’t be intimidated by the large quantity of information you’ll receive—the visual “word cloud” aspect of visuwords make this bombardment of ideas easy to digest. Plus with all the words you’ll be seeing, chances are you’ll improve your vocabulary as well.

I love this resource because it’s great for brainstorming, and a must have for visual learners. Go check it out!

Delicious is Delicious

delicious website logo
Working in The Writing Center, I first heard the word “delicious” relating to technology stuff when I realized we use the Delicious Library software to keep track of and lend out books. But about two weeks ago, I saw a speaker at a conference talk about how she tells her students to bookmark all of their sources for their research papers on Delicious.com…. I didn’t realize until that moment that delicious.com is a great resource for bookmarking. It’s like Facebook mashed up with Pinterest for internet bookmarks. I think it would be a great way to bookmark sources for a paper or research project (or, let’s be honest, for fun) — Brilliant! I’ll be trying this soon. Maybe you should check it out too. It’s Delicious!

From The Noun Project: Pictures for Everything

Have you ever wanted to find the perfect image to represent a word? Well, The Noun Project would like to help you out. They have small black and white images to represent just about any noun you can think of. Here’s a video that describes what they’re trying to do:

And, here are a few favorite symbols:

Lucha Libre designed by Simon Child from The Noun Project

Koala designed by Dmitry Sychkov from The Noun Project

Centaur designed by Luis Prado from The Noun Project

Trendspotting: A Cup of Coffee

Trendspotting with Alyson Gines logoAnother week come and gone here at The Writing Center. October has suddenly appeared, making this past week’s trendiest accessory a hot cup of coffee. The middle of the semester is almost upon us, which means one thing: midterms. Students are spending their time studying away in the library, and pulling late-night cram sessions to fit in just a little more review before the exam. Caffeine becomes a necessity for surviving all of these exams and papers. Help take a little stress off yourself about your paper by bringing it into The Writing Center (where we also offer coffee, tea, and other hot beverages!). We would love to read over it with you and help make that paper as good as it can be.

Hope to see you here soon, and good luck with your studies!

Cup of Coffee

Trendspotting: Résumés

Trendspotting with Alyson Gines logoAny guesses as to what THE must-have accessory was last week? Résumés, résumés, résumés! Many of the appointments students made at The Writing Center were to review and improve their résumé writing skills. With autumn upon us, job interviews, internship fairs, and graduate school applications are a few of the great reasons to make an appointment.

Will you be ahead of the curve with an up-to-date, impressive résumé?

Workshop your resume!

Featured Resource: TED Talks

This week we will be introducing a new bi-weekly article to our website users. The featured resource entry will cover different resources to help our clients more effectively construct and execute their writing.

As a consultant one of the most frequent questions I receive is: “What are good resources to help me write my paper?” The purpose of this reoccurring article is to provide our users with different resources that may help in many different aspects of your writing. Some of the resources will be websites that provide credible information that can then be cited within your document, while others will be resources that answer formatting questions.

This week we will be covering TED Talks. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and is nonprofit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” TED Talks is a resource that features videos of different types of presentations. Some of these presentations are scholarly conference presentations, comedy routines, motivational speakers, and music videos.

All of these videos are credible resources to use in your writing assignments, and many are downright interesting. In preparation for this article I watched some of the videos to observe and analyze so I could better understand the usefulness of this resource.

One of the videos I watched, titled “Cesar Harada: A Novel Idea of Cleaning Up Oil Spills,”  covers a revolutionary concept which multiplies the effectiveness of “oil absorbents” connected to fishing boats in the Gulf of Mexico.

This one example showed me many ways these talks can be useful. The first and primary way is the fact that these talks cover current issues in a way that is interactive and understandable across audiences. I didn’t need to know what the chemical properties of oil were or how the current method that is used is ineffective because Cesar Harada used visual elements to illustrate both of these properties. Harada was not talking about the Exxon Valdez, an oil spill that happened twenty years ago, but he spoke about an issue that was currently effecting the way people live in the Gulf today.

As a student, it can be difficult to find up-to-date resources that tackle “current events”, but TED Talks provides a large database of videos doing just that.

The second way that I found TED Talks to be useful was that all of these sources are credible. As a student at any level in the college process, credible resources can be difficult to locate, but more importantly, knowing what sources are credible and which are not becomes difficult at times due to the prevalence of websites like Wikipedia.

Websites like Wikipedia provide massive amounts of information and are always a good place to start, but rarely can we use Wikipedia itself as a credible source. TED Talks remedies this problem in a few ways: first, through a brief search through oil spills on Wikipedia, I found the previously mentioned video as a primary source for oil spill technology; second, TED Talks is its own massive database that has easy to locate tags, with nearly all of the academic videos being presented by professors, students still in college, or professionals who write scholarly articles and establish their credibility by presenting the different processes in which their video presentations are created and the topics they discuss are researched.

The third and last way covered in this article that I found TED Talks useful is: that it is a great resource when you are looking for ideas to start your paper. The amount of different topics on TED Talks is truly mind blowing. There is a little bit for every academic field, and quite a bit for pop culture.  These conversations cover all of the bases. Nearly any topic that may interest you can be easily found.

TED Talks is a great resource that provides credible sources that can be relied upon. Whether you are stuck trying to figure out a topic that you want to write about or you want to find a current approach to age old problem, chances are  TED Talks will have something to help you.