“Looking Back on English 111,” Collin Gurtner (2016) — Inquiry 5

Dear Collin,

I am getting ready to start my first semester at Miami and am really anxious about my English class. I took English in high school, and while I got good grades, I feel like this will be completely different than high school. I’m extremely anxious about having to write very quickly as well as procrastination, things that I did not excel at in high school. Additionally, I’m not very creative, which I feel like is a hindrance to my writing abilities. To sum this question up, my mom has more confidence in my writing than I do. Do you have any tips that will help me pass this class?

–Stressed Freshman

Dear Stressed,

I completely understand where you’re coming from here—I remember when I started college and our concerns about English 111 sound eerily familiar…but that’s not the point! The point is that I was able to make it out of this semester alive (barely) and I can give you some tips so you can do the same. First off, college English is so much different than high school English; some love that difference, and some hate that difference. Personally, I loved it. You get the chance to realize who you are as a person and write works that are special to you. I remember writing inquiry one and just realizing who I was as a person; the feeling is so incredible it’s impossible to describe in words. This writing helped me to grow as a person, but also in my writing abilities. I was able to take on a specific style when I wrote from that point on because I just felt like I had a sense of purpose in writing.

Secondly, I will let you in on a little secret: English 111 is not that difficult if you put in the work. If you don’t put in the work, it becomes very challenging. So, your anxiety about procrastination is valid but you really need to monitor yourself so you don’t put off work that needs to be due. I learned this early in the year when we first started doing discussion posts. I remember thinking that they were easy enough that I could push them off until the last minute. When I finally got to them, my responses were rushed and I realized that I was not going to grow as a writer if I kept procrastinating. The first time I truly didn’t procrastinate on a paper was for the second inquiry, which I finished a few days early! This helped me to grow in the sense that I realized my true potential and that I could write well if I just took my time. I used this thinking to apply to all of my classes, because the only way to grow as an individual is to put in work.

I also noticed that you were nervous about having only a little bit of time to write a lengthy paper. Unlike high school, professors in college are (for the most part) pretty reasonable with their due dates. For example, when writing the third inquiry, the research paper, we had over a month’s worth of time to research and write. Having this time was beneficial because it allowed for me to accurately gain multiple perspectives on a social issue of the current time. Having this long amount of time also helped me to grow as a writer. In high school, I always seemed to have so much left of a long research paper to finish right before the deadline. In English 111, I learned how to accurately plan out my time in writing so that I wasn’t rushing at the end of the deadline. Also, I grew because I learned how to effectively incorporate concrete facts into a college-level research paper, a skill that is needed throughout any college career.

Finally, you brought up that you are not a creative individual. Stressed, you most certainly are. Everyone is creative whether they realize it or not. At the start of my first semester, I was dead-set in the notion that I was the least creative person in the classroom. Throughout English 111, I began to break free of that notion. The inquiry that finally enabled me to believe that I was creative was the fourth one. I took the biggest step of growth as a writer during this inquiry and was able to step outside of my comfort zone by generating a work from scratch that wasn’t a paper. To accomplish this, I created a satirical website on a serious topic: gay marriage. I grew from this inquiry because I learned that risks in writing produce rewards outside of it. It is the prior sentence that I want you to pay the most attention to, Stressed. This is something that can’t be taught, but rather it must be discovered on your own. Use that sentence as a motto when writing all of your academic works. When you’re stuck on a topic for an inquiry (which everybody is at least once), dare to be different in your style. Think out of the box. Take the paper in a direction that you did not know was possible based off of the prompt that was given. I promise you, these risks are the ones that will help you grow as a writer and as an individual.

I wish you the best of luck Stressed, not only in English 111, but in finding yourself as well. Don’t worry; I think you will do just fine.

–Collin Gurtner