August 2009 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Do Not Come Lightly to the Page

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by Jamie Patterson, Writing Specialist

One book that rests on most of the desks in the Walden Writing Center is Stephen King’s On Writing. Even though it isn’t a book about academic writing what King has to say about writing in general is better than just about any how-to guide you can find.

In this part-memoir, part-writing guide King begs of his reader “do not come lightly to the blank page.” As a writer and a writing teacher I read these words for the first time and felt what sports fans feel when their favorite team wins. I embraced these words and repeated them, probably to many of you.

Do not come lightly to the blank page.

But now I’ve changed my mind.

As a writer my number one source of writer’s block is the feeling that I need to get just the right words down the first time and the frustration that follows when the sentence just isn’t quite right squashes my writing spirit.
As a writing teacher, though, I promote the rough first draft; that it doesn’t matter what you get down on paper as long as you get something down. And oh, by the way, don’t come lightly to the blank page. I’ve just recently realized what a difficult mixed message this is to navigate.

I still remember the exercise we did in grade school where the teacher asked us all to name the most effective weapon and once guns, bombs, and the like were exhausted without the right answer she stood before us and held up a pen.

Do not come lightly to the page, indeed.

It’s time to negotiate between the need for the rough first draft and the acknowledged power of the written word. The sixth edition APA Publication Manual has a section on revision that includes the statement that “Most manuscripts need to be revised, and some manuscripts need to be revised more than once” (APA, 2009, p. 227).

Words are powerful. Your words are powerful. The work you’re doing here at Walden is powerful and meaningful to communities within and outside of our university. The end product of this work will be your thesis or dissertation. We start, though, with one word, one page at a time.

The process here at Walden focuses on slowly building to this powerful final document. A series of documents from KAMs to proposals are designed to help you embrace the rough first draft. Our services here in the Writing Center are aimed at guiding you through the revision process: a process even the APA manual took time to point out is simply part of the writer’s work.

Next time writer’s block hits remember this and maybe, just maybe, try coming lightly to the blank page.

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APA: The Secret Knock to Academia

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By Jamie Patterson, Writing Specialist

Even though it’s our job to know APA style like the back of our hand, we still appreciate the struggle students have becoming acquainted with the nuances of APA. With the advent of a new edition we experts thought it would be good to remind ourselves, and you, the student, just why adhering to a particular publication style is so important.

Let’s start with the book itself, shall we? The foreword in your sixth edition publication manual points out that elements of writing “are codified in rules we follow for clear communication, allowing us to focus our intellectual energy on the substance of our research” (APA, 2009, xiii).

Your research and subject matter are yours to master, whereas mastering a publication style is simply learning the rules of the game. We’re passionate about being guides to the rules so that your biggest concerns are related to the information you’re presenting to the broader academic community and the social change this information will affect instead of the nuts and bolts of how this information is presented.

Even though your content is the ultimate contribution to your field, adhering to APA style is the way you indicate to your readers that you are part of the academic community. This makes APA a secret knock of sorts to a very prestigious group. Improper formatting, or failure to talk about someone else’s research in the past tense, tells your reader that you aren’t quite a member yet. A paper that is APA adherent in form and style, however, is the calling card of an academic.

We believe in what Walden students do and want each of you, and your research, to contribute to positive social change. Learning the secret knock of APA, with our help, will help you achieve this.

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Writing Center Summer Break!

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This is an exciting time for the Writing Center. Because of such a steady increase in our services since we launched the Walden Interactive Reservation E-System (the WIRE) it is time we make some updates to continue to serve you to the best of our abilities. And what better time than over summer break! Don’t worry, though, we aren’t going anywhere. Rather, over the next 2 weeks, we will be offering some new services in lieu of our traditional reservation system. This will allow us to make some much needed updates to the reservation system, launch our new website, and create new resources and update our current resources to comply with the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual. During this time, you can still send us any writing-related questions to In addition, we will honor all reservations in the consultant schedule through August 31 and in the editor schedule through the end of September. We will open up for new September reservations the first day of the semester/term (September 8). During this time, you might also want to participate in one of our webinars about common writing issues. Contact for more information on the webinars.

Thank you for your continued use of the Writing Center and for your patience while we make these changes to our services!

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