Name: Ana Jeanne Campion
Majors: Psychology and Spanish
Astrological Sign: Pisces
1. Other than class assignments, what kinds of things do you write or have you written?
Bad poetry. Good poetry. Clips of my life; lives I might lead; lives I may never lead; lives I hope to never lead. A little bit of everything, really.
2. What piece of writing are you most proud of?
First semester my freshman year I took a philosophy class, and I was terrified. For the first time in at least a year the readings for class contained words I didn’t recognize. We had three papers, three chances to prove ourselves in this class. Needless to say I wanted to do well. The professor hands out the guidelines for the first paper, two weeks to get it done and I’m thinking “Yeah! This might just be doable!”
That evening I get sick. Really, really sick. Dizzy spells, nausea, headaches – I can’t concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds. “Not the end of the world,” I’m thinking. “My head’ll… philosophy paper… two weeks? Yeah…”
My head did not clear. I missed class Friday, stayed in bed all weekend, dragged myself to class for a test on Monday then missed Tuesday and Wednesday. I wasn’t actually hearing anything the professors were saying, I was more of an observer in my own head than anything else.
I glanced at a calendar and realized I had a week left to write the paper and all I had were highlighted readings, most of the highlights having no bearing whatsoever on the prompt. I tried to make more relevant notes on the reading. No luck. I waited a couple more days, still drifting through class, and tried again. Still no luck. I emailed the professor, hoping I could get an extension because I still couldn’t really concentrate enough to copy down a basic compound sentence in my Spanish class, much less create original, thoughtful material.
“Thank you for raising your concern, blah blah blah, two weeks is plenty, due date to remain the same.” No email I have received, before or since, has caused so much terror. I sat down to try turn my rough notes into categories on notecards but I’d no sooner set one down than I’d have tto pick it up and read it to find out where in the text I was because I’d forgotten.
Less than 48 hours before the due date, my head cleared some. In a panicked frenzy I turned a quarter page outline and a handful of note cards into a 12-page paper. I did my final read-through half an hour before class.
I have never been so ashamed to turn in a paper. Sure it made sense to me; that didn’t really mean it made sense. I actually winced when I handed it to the prof, wanting to apologize for that which she was about to read. I was expecting a D, C at the best.
When the papers were passed back I thought I’d gotten the wrong one. My paper, written in a haze, earned me a very solid A. It went on to become one of the papers I used in my application to work at the Writing Center.
I change where I write based on what I’m writing. When brainstorming, the chalkboards in classrooms are lovely. If I’m struggling I’ll schedule a session with another advisor and rock out on the whiteboard in the Writing Center. For the outlining of class papers I stick to third floor of Hollenbeck after classes get done; it’s nice and quiet, and if you need to pace you have a long hallway to do it. Research for me happens at the big tables by the window of the third floor in the library; when I need a break I can just look out the window. Pulling everything I’ve found together into a paper usually happens in one of the study rooms, or on the long but narrow desks on the third floor in the library where there are no distractions from what is, for me, the most difficult part of paper writing.
My creative writing places reflect the change in motivation. I like heights. When it’s still warm out I’ll go behind Recitation and climb the fire escape that comes out of the old Chapel. Tuck yourself into the doorway and you have a great view across the valley, although it does get quite windy up there. Once it gets cold and rainy I’ve found that the topmost part of the education building collects heat nicely and still has a view.
4. Do you have any interesting quirks and/or routines you follow when writing or when you are preparing to write? What are they?
I don’t know if I’d call it a quirk, but I brainstorm the living daylights out of all my papers. Chalkboards in Hollenbeck are the best, because I can pace, scribble something out, and repeat until I’ve got all my thoughts up where I can see them. Only then do I pull out my computer and try mush them into an outline.
Robert Fulghum wrote a collection of short stories called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” If there is any author I would say I try to emulate, it is that little book. Each story is just a few pages long, easy to read before going to bed or heading out the door for the day. It’s not complicated language; the beauty is in the simplicity and the thoughts he put to paper.
6. What was the best writing experience of your life?
Last year I struggled with keeping my tone formal in papers I was writing for class. I hope to remedy that this year by means of putting a picture of Winston Churchill up on the wall in front of my desk so that when I’m mulling over my next sentence his visage is the one staring back at me… and increasing my visits to the Writing Center.
8. What advice do you have for other Wittenberg writers?
Write down your ideas. Every little thing that might possibly be the germ of a seed of an idea of a story – write that down. I have ideas that have been germinating for a year or two, four words, a paragraph, the beginning of a sentence. You never know what will set one of the ideas off into a full-blown thought.
Throw out ideas. If something isn’t working in a paper, cross it out, sometimes with extreme prejudice. If you’re in love with something, put it in your idea bin, but then move on with your original paper.
Take breaks! I see a lot of writers that come in so burnt out on a paper they just want to set it on fire. That’s not good when you’ve spent two weeks on it. Go for a walk. Do something purely physical and burn off that frustration. You can burn it after the professor has graded it.
9. What should students know about you when they come in to visit you in the Writing Center?
I’m really not scary. I love reading papers that make me think, or reexamine things dear to me or disliked. I especially enjoy papers that work with womens’ rights, GLBTQA themes, and personal narratives. I don’t claim to know everything but I’m happy to learn.
10. What’s the best part about working in the Writing Center?
It sounds cliché, but for me the best part of working at the Witt Writing Center is getting to see how each writer puts their own twist on everything they write. I have seen four papers in a row, same prompt, same prof, where each writer has a completely different end product. If that’s not a wonderful example of human ingenuity I don’t know what is.