View the step-by-step solution to: Chapter 1 Prewriting GETTING STARTED (OR SOUP-CAN LABELS CAN

write a responsive essay and a summary to the article "Our Youth Should Serve" by Steven Muller *the attached document has the essay on page 177-180 or 179-182 * i just needed a sample or gathering of ideas as to care out these writing.
628 pages Steps to Writing Well, Wyrick.pdf

Chapter

1

Prewriting

GETTING STARTED (OR SOUP-CAN LABELS
CAN BE FASCINATING)
For many writers, getting started is the hardest part. You may have noticed
that when it is time to begin a writing assignment, you suddenly develop an
enormous desire to straighten your books, water your plants, or sharpen your
pencils for the fifth time. If this situation sounds familiar, you may find it reassuring to know that many professionals undergo these same strange compulsions before they begin writing. Jean Kerr, author of Please Dont Eat the
Daisies, admits that she often finds herself in the kitchen reading soup-can labelsor anythingin order to prolong the moments before taking pen in
hand. John C. Calhoun, vice president under Andrew Jackson, insisted he had
to plow his fields before he could write, and Joseph Conrad, author of Lord Jim
and other novels, is said to have cried on occasion from the sheer dread of sitting down to compose his stories.
To spare you as much hand-wringing as possible, this chapter presents
some practical suggestions on how to begin writing your short essay. Although all writers must find the methods that work best for them, you may
find some of the following ideas helpful.
But no matter how you actually begin putting words on paper, it is absolutely essential to maintain two basic ideas concerning your writing task.
Before you write a single sentence, you should always remind yourself that
1. You have some valuable ideas to tell your reader, and
2. More than anything, you want to communicate those ideas to your
reader.
These reminders may seem obvious to you, but without a solid commitment to your own opinions as well as to your reader, your prose will be lifeless
and boring. If you dont care about your subject, you cant very well expect
anyone else to. Have confidence that your ideas are worthwhile and that your
reader genuinely wants, or needs, to know what you think.
Equally important, you must also have a strong desire to tell others what
you are thinking. One of the most common mistakes inexperienced writers

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PART ONE - THE BASICS OF THE SHORT ESSAY

make is failing to move past early stages in the writing process in which they
are writing foror writing tothemselves only. In the first stages of composing
an essay, writers frequently talk on paper to themselves, exploring thoughts,
discovering new insights, making connections, selecting examples, and so on.
The ultimate goal of a finished essay, however, is to communicate your opinions
to others clearly and persuasively. Whether you wish to inform your readers,
change their minds, or stir them to action, you cannot accomplish your purpose by writing so that only you understand what you mean. The burden of
communicating your thoughts falls on you, not the reader, who is under no
obligation to struggle through confused, unclear prose, paragraphs that begin
and end for no apparent reason, or sentences that come one after another with
no more logic than lemmings following one another to the sea.
Therefore, as you move through the drafting and revising stages of your
writing process, commit yourself to becoming increasingly aware of your
readers reactions to your prose. Ask yourself as you revise your drafts, Am I
moving beyond writing just to myself? Am I making myself clear to others who
may not know what I mean? Much of your success as a writer depends on an
unflagging determination to communicate clearly with your readers.

SELECTING A SUBJECT
Once you have decided that communicating clearly with others is your ultimate goal, you are ready to select the subject of your essay. Here are some
suggestions on how to begin:
Start early. Writing teachers since the earths crust cooled have been
pushing this advice, and for good reason. Its not because teachers are egoists
competing for the dubious honor of having the most time-consuming course; it
is because few writers, even experienced ones, can do a good job when
rushed. You need time to mull over ideas, organize your thoughts, revise and
polish your prose. Rule of thumb: always give yourself twice as much time as
you think youll need to avoid the 2:00 -A.M.-why-did-I-come-to-college panic.
Find your best space. Develop some successful writing habits by thinking
about your very own writing process. When and where do you usually do your
best composing? Some people write best early in the morning; others think
better later in the day. What time of day seems to produce your best efforts?
Where are you working? At a desk? In your room or in a library? Do you start
drafting ideas on a computer or do you begin with paper or a yellow pad? With
a certain pen or sharpened pencil? Most writers avoid noise and interruptions
( TV, telephone, friends, etc.), although some swear by music in the background. If you can identify a previously successful writing experience, try duplicating its location, time, and tools to help you calmly address your new
writing task. Or consider trying new combinations of time and place if your
previous choices werent as productive as you would have liked. Recognition
and repeated use of your most comfortable writing spot may shorten your
hesitation to begin composing; your subconscious may recognize the pattern

CHAPTER 1 - PREWRITING

(Hey, its time to write!) and help you start in a positive frame of mind. (Remember that its not just writers who repeat such ritualsthink of the athletes youve heard about who wont begin a game without wearing their lucky
socks. If it works for them, it can work for you!)
Select something in which you currently have a strong interest. If the
essay subject is left to you, think of something fun, fascinating, or frightening
youve done or seen lately, perhaps something youve already told a friend
about. The subject might be the pleasure of a new hobby, the challenge of a recent book or movie, or even the harassment of registrationanything in
which you are personally involved. If you arent enthusiastic enough about
your subject to want to spread the word, pick something else. Bored writers
write boring essays.
Dont feel you have nothing from which to choose your subject. Your days
are full of activities, people, joys, and irritations. Essays do not have to be
written on lofty intellectual or poetic subjectsin fact, some of the worlds
best essays have been written on such subjects as china teacups, roast pig,
and chimney sweeps. Think: what have you been talking or thinking about
lately? What have you been doing that youre excited about? Or what about
your past? Reflect a few moments on some of your most vivid memoriesspecial people, vacations, holidays, childhood hideaways, your first job or first
dateall are possibilities.
Still searching? Make a list of all the subjects on which you are an expert.
None, you say? Think again. Most of us have an array of talents we hardly acknowledge. Perhaps you play the guitar or make a mean pot of chili or know
how to repair a sports car. Youve trained a dog or become a first-class housesitter or gardener. You know more about computers or old baseball cards than
any of your friends. You play soccer or volleyball or Ping-Pong. In other words,
take a fresh, close look at your life. You know things that others dont . . . now
is your chance to enlighten them!
If a search of your immediate or past personal experience doesnt turn up
anything inspiring, you might try looking in the campus newspaper for stories
that arouse your strong feelings; dont skip the Letters to the Editor column.
What are the current topics of controversy on your campus? How do you feel
about open admissions? A particular graduation requirement? Speakers or
special-interest groups on campus? Financial aid applications? Registration
procedures? Parking restrictions? Consider the material you are studying in
your other classes: reading The Jungle in a literature class may spark an investigative essay on the hot dog industry today, or studying previous immigration
laws in your history class may lead you to an argument for or against current
immigration practices. Similarly, your local newspaper or national magazines
might suggest essay topics to you on local, national, or international affairs
that affect your life. Browsing the Internet can provide you with literally thousands of diverse opinions and controversies that invite your response.
In other words, when youre stuck for an essay topic, take a closer look at
your environment: your own lifepast, present, and future; your hometown;
your college town; your state; your country; and your world. Youll probably

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PART ONE - THE BASICS OF THE SHORT ESSAY

discover more than enough subjects to satisfy the assignments in your writing class.
Narrow a large subject. Once youve selected a general subject to write
on, you may find that it is too broad for effective treatment in a short essay;
therefore, you may need to narrow it somewhat. Suppose, for instance, you like
to work with plants and have decided to make them the subject of your essay.
The subject of plants, however, is far too large and unwieldy for a short
essay, perhaps even for a short book. Consequently, you must make your subject less general. Houseplants is more specific, but, again, theres too much
to say. Minimum-care houseplants is better, but you still need to pare this
large, complex subject further so that you may treat it in depth in your short
essay. After all, there are many houseplants that require little attention. After
several more tries, you might arrive at more specific, manageable topics, such
as houseplants that thrive in dark areas or the easy-care Devils Ivy.
Then again, lets assume you are interested in sports. A 500 -to-800 -word
essay on sports would obviously be superficial because the subject covers so
much ground. Instead, you might divide the subject into categories such as
sports heroes, my years on the high school tennis team, women in gymnastics, my love of running, and so forth. Perhaps several of your categories would
make good short essays, but after looking at your list, you might decide that your
real interest at this time is running and that it will be the topic of your essay.

FINDING YOUR ESSAYS PURPOSE AND FOCUS
Even after youve narrowed your large subject to a more manageable topic,
you still must find a specific purpose for your essay. Why are you writing
about this topic? Do your readers need to be informed, persuaded, entertained? What do you want your writing to accomplish?
In addition to knowing your purpose, you must also find a clear focus or direction for your essay. You cannot, for example, inform your readers about
every aspect of running. Instead, you must decide on a particular part of the
sport and then determine the main point you want to make. If it helps, think of a
camera: you see a sweeping landscape youd like to photograph but you know
you cant get it all into one picture, so you pick out a particularly interesting
part of the scene. Focus in an essay works in the same way; you zoom in, so to
speak, on a particular part of your topic and make that the focus of your paper.
Sometimes part of your problem may be solved by your assignment; your
teacher may choose the focus of your essay for you by asking for certain specific information or by prescribing the method of development you should use
(compare running to aerobics, explain the process of running properly, analyze
the effects of daily running, and so forth). But if the purpose and focus of your
essay are decisions you must make, you should always allow your interest and
knowledge to guide you. Often a direction or focus for your essay will surface as
you narrow your subject, but dont become frustrated if you have to discard
several ideas before you hit the one thats right. For instance, you might first
consider writing on how to select running shoes and then realize that you know

CHAPTER 1 - PREWRITING

too little about the shoe market, or you might find that theres just too little of
importance to say about running paths to make an interesting 500 -word essay.
Lets suppose for a moment that you have thought of a subject that interests youbut now youre stuck. Deciding on something to write about this
subject suddenly looks as easy as nailing Jell-O to your kitchen wall. What
should you say? What would be the purpose of your essay? What would be interesting for you to write about and for readers to hear about?
At this point, you may profit from trying more than one prewriting exercise,
designed to help you generate some ideas about your topic. The exercises described next are, in a sense, pump primers that will get your creative juices
flowing again. Because all writers compose differently, not all of these exercises will work for youin fact, some of them may lead you nowhere. Nevertheless, try all of them at least once or twice; you may be surprised to
discover that some pump-primer techniques work better with some subjects
than with others.

PUMP-PRIMER TECHNIQUES
1. Listing
Try jotting down all the ideas that pop into your head about your topic.
Free-associate; dont hold back anything. Try to brainstorm for at least ten
minutes.
A quick list on running might look like this:
fun
healthy
relieves tension
no expensive equipment
shoes
poor shoes wont last
shin splints
fresh air
good for heart
jogging paths vs. streets
hard surfaces
muscle cramps
going too far
going too fast
sense of accomplishment

training for races
both sexes
any age group
running with friend or spouse
too much competition
great expectations
good for lungs
improves circulation
firming
no weight loss
warm-ups before run
cool-downs after
getting discouraged
hitting the wall
marathons

As you read over the list, look for connections between ideas or one large idea
that encompasses several small ones. In this list, you might first notice that
many of the ideas focus on improving health (heart, lungs, circulation), but
you discard that subject because a running improves health essay is too obvious; its a topic thats been done too many times to say anything new. A
closer look at your list, however, turns up a number of ideas that concern how

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PART ONE - THE BASICS OF THE SHORT ESSAY

not to jog or reasons why someone might become discouraged and quit a
running program. You begin to think of friends who might have stuck with
running as you have if only theyd warmed up properly beforehand, chosen
the right places to run, paced themselves more realistically, and so on. You
decide, therefore, to write an essay telling first-time runners how to start a
successful program, how to avoid a number of problems, from shoes to track
surfaces, that might otherwise defeat their efforts before theyve given the
sport a chance.

2. Freewriting
Some people simply need to start writing to find a focus. Take out several
sheets of blank paper, give yourself at least ten to fifteen minutes, and begin
writing whatever comes to mind on your subject. Dont worry about spelling,
punctuation, or even complete sentences. Dont change, correct, or delete anything. If you run out of things to say, write I cant think of anything to say until
you can find a new thought. At the end of the time period you may discover that
by continuously writing you will have written yourself into an interesting topic.
Here are examples of freewriting from students who were given ten minutes to write on the general topic of nature.
STUDENT 1:
Im really not the outdoorsy type. Id rather be inside somewhere than out in Nature tromping through the bushes. I
dont like bugs and snakes and stuff like that. Lots of my
friends like to go hiking around or camping but I dont.
Secretly, I think maybe one of the big reasons I really dont
like being out in Nature is because Im deathly afraid of
bees. When I was a kid I was out in the woods and ran into a
swarm of bees and got stung about a million times, well, it
felt like a million times. I had to go to the hospital for a few
days. Now every time Im outside somewhere and something, anything, flies by me Im terrified. Totally paranoid.
Everyone kids me because I immediately cover my head. I
keep hearing about killer bees heading this way, my worst
nightmare come true. . . .
STUDENT 2:
Were not going to have any Nature left if people dont do
something about the environment. Despite all the media
attention to recycling, were still trashing the planet left and
right. People talk big about saving the environment but
then do such stupid things all the time. Like smokers who
flip their cigarette butts out their car windows. Do they
think those filters are just going to disappear overnight?

CHAPTER 1 - PREWRITING

The parking lot by this building is full of butts this morning
where someone dumped their car ashtray. This campus is
full of pop cans, I can see at least three empties under desks
in this classroom right now. . . .
These two students reacted quite differently to the same general subject.
The first student responded personally, thinking about her own relationship to
nature (defined as being out in the woods), whereas the second student obviously associated nature with environmental concerns. More freewriting might
lead student 1 to a humorous essay on her bee phobia or even to an inquiry
about those dreaded killer bees; student 2 might write an interesting paper suggesting ways college students could clean up their campus or easily recycle
their aluminum cans.
Often freewriting will not be as coherent as these two samples; sometimes
freewriting goes nowhere or in circles. But its a technique worth trying. By allowing our minds to roam freely over a subject, without worrying about correctness
or organization, we may remember or discover topics we want to write about or
investigate, topics we feel strongly about and wish to introduce to others.

3. Looping*
Looping is a variation on freewriting that works amazingly well for many
people, including those who are frustrated rather than helped by freewriting.
Lets assume youve been assigned that old standby My Summer Vacation. Obviously you must find a focus, something specific and important to
say. Again, take out several sheets of blank paper and begin to freewrite, as
described previously. Write for at least ten minutes. At the end of this period
read over what youve written and try to identify a central idea that has
emerged. This idea may be an important thought that occurred to you in the
middle or at the end of your writing, or perhaps it was the idea you liked
best for whatever reason. It may be the idea that was pulling you onward
when time ran out. In other words, look for the thought that stands out, that
seems to indicate the direction of your thinking. Put this thought or idea into
one sentence called the center-of-gravity sentence. You have now completed loop 1.
To begin loop 2, use your center-of-gravity sentence as a jumping-off point
for another ten minutes of freewriting. Stop, read what youve written, and
complete loop 2 by composing another center-of-gravity sentence. Use this
second sentence to start loop 3. You should write at least three loops and
three center-of-gravity sentences. At the end of three loops, you may find that
you have focused on a specific topic that might lead to a good essay. If youre
not satisfied with your topic at this point, by all means try two or three more
loops until your subject is sufficiently narrowed and focused.
* This technique is suggested by Peter Elbow in W riting Without Teachers ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1975).

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PART ONE - THE BASICS OF THE SHORT ESSAY

Heres an example of one students looping exercise:
SUMMER VACATION
Loop 1

Center-ofgravity
sentence
Loop 2

I think summer vacations are very important aspects
of living. They symbolize getting away from daily routines,
discovering places and people that are different. When I
think of vacations I think mostly of traveling somewhere too
far to go, say, for a weekend. It is a chance to get away and
relax and not think about most responsibilities. Just have a
good time and enjoy yourself. Vacations can also be a time
of gathering with family and friends.
Vacations are meant to be used for traveling.
Vacations are meant for traveling. Last summer my
family and I drove to Yellowstone National Park. I didnt
want to go at first. I thought looking at geysers would
be dumb and boring. I was really obnoxious all the way up
there and made lots of smart remarks about getting eaten
by bears. Luckily, my parents ignored me and Im glad they
did, because Yellowstone turned out to be wonderful. Its
not just Old Faithfultheres lots more to see and learn
about, like these colorful boiling pools and boiling patches
of mud. I got interested in the thermodynamics of the pools
and how new ones are surfacing all the time, and how algae
make the pools different colors.

Center-ofgravity
sentence

Once I got interested in Yellowstones amazing pools,
my vacation turned out great.

Loop 3

Once I got interested in the pools, I had a good time,
mainly because I felt I was seeing something really unusual.
I knew Id never see anything like this again unless I went to
Iceland or New Zealand (highly unlikely!). I felt like I was
learning a lot, too. I liked the idea of learning a lot about the
inside of the earth without having to go to class and study
books. I really hated to leaveMom and Dad kidded me on
the way back about how much Id griped about going on the
trip in the first place. I felt pretty dumb. But I was really
glad Id given the Park a closer look instead of holding on to
my view of it as a boring bunch of water fountains. I would
have had a terrible time, but now I hope to go back someday. I think the experience made me more open-minded
about trying new places.

Center-ofgravity
sentence

My vacation this summer was special because I was willing to put aside my expectations of boredom and learn some
new ideas about the strange environment at Yellowstone.

CHAPTER 1 - PREWRITING

At the end of three loops, this student has moved from the general subject
of summer vacation to the more focused idea that her willingness to learn
about a new place played an important part in the enjoyment of her vacation.
Although her last center-of-gravity sentence still contains some vague words
(special, new ideas, strange environment), the thought stated here may
eventually lead to an essay that will not only say something about this students vacation but may also persuade the readers to reconsider their attitude
toward taking trips to new places.

4. The Boomerang
Still another variation on freewriting is the technique called the boomerang,
named appropriately because, like the Australian stick, it invites your mind to
travel over a subject from opposite directions to produce new ideas.
Suppose, for example, members of your class have been asked to write
about their major field of study, which in your case is Liberal Arts. Begin by
writing a statement that comes into your mind about majoring in the Liberal
Arts and then freewrite on that statement for five minutes. Then write a second statement that approaches the subject from an opposing point of view,
and freewrite again for five minutes. Continue this pattern several times.
Boomeranging, like looping, can help writers see their subject in a new way
and consequently help them find an idea to write about.
Heres an abbreviated sample of boomeranging:
1. Majoring in the Liberal Arts is impractical in todays world.
[Freewrite for five minutes.]
2. Majoring in the Liberal Arts is practical in todays world.
[Freewrite for five minutes.]
3. Liberal Arts is a particularly enjoyable major for me.
[Freewrite for five minutes.]
4. Liberal Arts is not always an enjoyable major for me.
[Freewrite for five minutes.]
And so on.
By continuing to throw the boomerang across your subject, you may not
only find your focus but also gain insight into other peoples views of your
topic, which can be especially valuable if your paper will address a controversial issue or one that you feel is often misunderstood.

5. Clustering
Another excellent technique is clustering (sometimes called mapping).
Place your general subject in a circle in the middle of a blank sheet of paper
and begin to draw other lines and circles that radiate from the original subject.

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PART ONE - THE BASICS OF THE SHORT ESSAY

CHAPTER 1 - PREWRITING

Cluster those ideas that seem to fall together. At the end of ten minutes see if
a topic emerges from any of your groups of ideas.
Ten minutes of clustering on the subject of A Memorable Holiday might
look like the drawing on page 12.
This student may wish to brainstorm further on the Christmas he spent in
the hospital with a case of appendicitis or perhaps the Halloween he first experienced a house of horrors. By using clustering, he has recollected some important details about a number of holidays that may help him focus on an
occasion he wants to describe in his paper....

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