Reflections in Writing: APA and Me
It is an interesting task to reflect. It forces one to stop; turn around and look at what actions have taken place. With academic writing, I find myself hurried and clamouring for the next idea even before my last idea has had time to settle in. It is no wonder I have always dreaded the act. The final product is always my prize, my sigh of relief. I have never found joy in the drafting. However, this task has shown me that pleasure can be found in the process of academic writing as long as I reflect on where I can do better.
Limiting word count has been a crux in my academic writing for as long as I have been handing in essays for assessment. I know from past professors as well as Royal Roads Universities Writing Center, that ‘wordiness’ can be a problem for other students as well (Blank, 2015). This propensity toward non-concise writing stems from wanting to write as my inner dialogue rambles. I get excited and lost in my thoughts, so I imagine that must be how to express myself. That is what Freud called ego (Freud, 2018). Concision is the act of using as few words as possible to deliver your thoughts to your reader (Bell, n.d.-a); a definition I sorely need to remember.
The need for concision is understandable. If all prospective and current researchers were to write as their ego guides them, the world of academia would be even more dense with heady, yet flagrantly intellectualized papers. The idea behind research and reporting out findings is to share them with the world. Nevertheless, if our writing is only accessible to the most elite, we are doing a disservice the world of academic writing. William Zinsser (2006) wrote; “Clutter is the disease of (…) writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.” I read that in an undergraduate writing class, and to this day, I still struggle with unnecessary words. I endeavour to move forward in my academic writing with the idea that my inner dialogue is not why my reader is lending their time. It is for the reader that I must learn to think ahead, plan and minimize my ego.
Since the early years of my education, and even now, teachers tout the benefits and necessity of planning in the writing process (Bell n.d.-b). To some, planning is the groundwork and foundation for impeccable writing. However, for me, it seemed to stall my writing. I found that if I just set pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, the words would flow. If I try to mind-map or diagram my thoughts beforehand, I would seemingly distract myself with irrelevant side thoughts and branches of ideas that did not belong to my topic. How can so many teachers be wrong? The answer is; they are not. I can see now, that in the act of planning, I can predict where I might get side tract, or what ideas do not belong to keep my thoughts succinct and understandable to my reader.
After considerable effort, I did plan this paper. Probably not to the extent that a research paper will be prepared, but I followed a guide put forth by The Royal Roads Writing Centre (Bell, 2016) and found the process to be helpful. Planning a paper is meticulous work and requires the writer to acknowledge holes in their thinking. Again, I owe it to my reader to design and rework my writing to be as concise and thorough as possible.
Through this exercise of analyzing my processes and old habits of writing, I have come to realize a few details. I have learned my inability to be concise is a product of my poor planning skills, and that one can serve to negate the other. If I work to be concise, I am practising the act of better planning, and if I plan my words ahead of time, concision will follow. Now I can move toward finding pleasure in the process, and not just in that last period stamped with a sigh.
Bell, T (n.d.-a). Creating a document plan. [Video]. Retrieved from: https://library.royalroads.ca/writing-centre/writing/structure/planning-paper
Bell, T (n.d.-b). Introduction to concision. [Video]. Retrieved from: https://library.royalroads.ca/writing-centre/grammar/concise-writing
Bell, T (2016). Plan writing with PowerPoint. Retrieved from: http://library.royalroads.ca/writing-centre/writing-tips/plan-writing-powerpoint
Blank, Kim G. (2015). Wordiness, wordiness, wordiness list. Retrieved from: https://library.royalroads.ca/writing-centre/grammar/concise-writing
Freud, S. (2018). The ego and the id. Retrieved from: https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca
Zinsser, W. (2006). On writing well: the classic guide to writing nonfiction. (30th-anniversary ed., 7th ed., rev. and updated). HarperCollins.