holding pattern

I’ve got pretty much everything on hold right now as I attempt to draft out my exam proposal. I thought I was getting some generative writing done, and then a friend sent me *his* proposal draft, and now I find that what I’ve been hacking at has been crap all along.

Crap, I tell you.

This exam stuff is strange. As far as I understand it, the proposal outlines the area(s) from which your examiners construct questions. I’ve been trying to work it backwards, so that I can better focus what questions might be, but my writing feels stilted, novice, trying-too-hard, and completely audience-unaware.

So frustrating. What a strange genre. Maybe I should attempt to construct the draft as a letter:

Dear Exam Committee:

The questions I’d like you to ask me concerning rhetoric and technology should deal with issues surrounding ideas of authorship/ethos, readership/pathos, style/perspective, and public/private spheres as such issues are transformed and shaped by social software (weblogs and wikis, mostly, but I’m open to others as well).

The questions I’d like you to ask me concerning action research are: what the heck is it, how can composition as a field use it both in the classroom and in professional scholarship, and how can/does it broach/bridge the academic- and pop-culture divide?

The questions I’d like you to ask me concerning feminist methodologies are: what do feminist methodologies in composition and rhetoric look like, what do they mean for the academic- and pop-culture divide, how can we reconcile them with traditional “scientific” methodologies, and how do such methodologies shape and inform product genre?

Thanks for asking me the questions I wanted to answer.


Madeline the lame-o can’t-write-a-proposal-to-save-her-life student.


4 thoughts on “holding pattern

  1. But the revised proposal thingy should make it easier. . . HA! That’s what they always say. If it is any consolation (file this under the misery loves company category) I have a couple seminar papers this semester that I feel the exact same way about. I mean if I could write a letter that gave the reasons of why they should give me a good grade rather than write the paper, I would feel much better.

    In other words, I feel your pain. . . struggle on. You can do it! I mean, hell, you ran a freakin’ marathon . . . that’s gotta count for something. ; )

  2. As a professor once said to me, “Anytime you move into a new genre, you become a beginning writer all over again.”

    I don’t know if that’s any consolation, but what you’re feeling is normal. There is ALWAYS tension when you move into a new genre, and why wouldn’t there be? You’ve never done it before. Plus, you’re right: the exam proposal IS a strange genre. And look out, because these new genres are only going to get stranger. I never feel like I know what I’m doing on That Damn Diss. I just fumble around until my advisor tells me to move on to the next draft. 🙂

    Try to get out of your head your ideas of what you *should* be doing, what your friend’s draft looks like, etc. Focus on what YOU want to do with this proposal: the questions you have, the story you want to tell about your field and your particular interests. Imagine it as a conversation, not only amongst you and your committee, but amongst you and your field–position yourself in the scholarly conversations that matter to you. It will come to you, I promise.

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