Happy Writing!

Cornell Writes! Tips from our community of writers is a digital newsletter sponsored by the Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines and the Cornell University Graduate School.

Each week, a member of our writing community – a Graduate Writing ServiceEnglish Language Support Office, or Cornell Writing Centers tutor; a writing specialist from the Knight Institute; a writing instructor from our First-Year Writing Seminars or Writing in the Majors programs; maybe YOU – shares a writing strategy from their own writer’s toolkit. #writelikeabear

Contact Tracy Hamler Carrick with questions and ideas.

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Meet Tracy Carrick

Hello Cornell writers! My name is Tracy Carrick. I’m a writing teacher, writing tutor, and director of the Knight Institute’s Writing Workshop and Graduate Writing Service. I am also a writer and editor. Right now, I am writing lesson plans, a conference presentation, and administrative documents. 


Here is this week’s Writing Tip!

Welcome back, Big Red Writers! It is September and that means it is time to write!

Some of us have been working on writing projects all summer, exploring, building, and refining ideas, and discovering new things about writing and ourselves as writers. Others may have taken “time off” for research or teaching or adjacent adventures – though I suspect that writing, if only informal, was somehow a part of the experience. Writers are going to write…or at least be aware that they are not…writing.

Summer days can feel elastic! They can bring fresh air (except during wildfire season, alas), increased and warmer sunlight, and more flexible schedules, and so writers may feel more able and inspired to linger or play, to pause or delay.

For those of us in academic spaces, the fall semester brings a different tone, a differently energizing landscape. We are back to our bustling campus with scheduled hours in classrooms, labs, and offices. It is time to get to work on that writing project! We have deadlines.

If you are looking for some excellent practical tips on how to get back to writing, I urge you to follow this link to Tamar Gutfeld’s March 2023 Cornell Writes! post titled Reignite a Writing Project! Here Tamar describes a series of “clear, small tasks [to] give you a sense of direction and help create very achievable steps that are easy to schedule and feel great to attain.”

But if you want to splash around a bit more in the crisp waters of a gorge, read on for some whimsical hold-on-to summer ideas that will make you smile and laugh and ease back into writing.

🙂Make yourself SMILE🙂

Read a draft that you intend to get back to. Ignore your critical eye and look ONLY for sentences or passages that make you HAPPY.

  • Underline or bracket sentences or passages that make you SMILE.
  • Take a few minutes to study them. What precisely about these sentences or passages makes you HAPPY? Do they capture a clear or interesting idea and/or present it succinctly or elegantly?
  • Open a new document or turn to a fresh page of paper and write out your reaction to these sentences or passages – so that you can hold your gaze a bit longer to celebrate yourself and explicitly articulate writing goals as you reach toward sentences and passages like these tomorrow.

😂Make yourself LAUGH😂

Read that draft again. Invite that critical eye in over a cocktail or a treat and look ONLY for sentences or passages that make you LAUGH OUTLOUD.

  • Underline or bracket sentences or passages that make you LAUGH and not because you were making a joke.
  • Take a few minutes to study them. We all write those sentences or passages that get away from us – perhaps they include a humorous typo, or more likely an idea that just got lost somewhere between the brain and the keyboard or page. What do you think happened and why?
  • Open a new document or turn to a fresh page of paper and write out your reaction to these sentences or passages.
  • If you feel ready, try revising! Try out few revisions.
  • If you your revision ideas do not come easily or quickly, perhaps you need to do some more thinking. Try freewriting to help you do some figuring out. A student recently recommended this exciting freewriting method: WRITE IN WHITE Cue up a document using your preferred word processor. Change your font color to white so that you cannot see words as you type. Set a goal (number of pages, number of words, time limit) and just type. Since you cannot see what you are typing, you cannot self-edit or second guess, and you can think/write uninterrupted.  You could also tape a piece of paper to your computer screen.

We can do the hard stuff—we’re Big Red Writers! But before settling in to tackle your next Big Red Writing Project, I hope you’ll give yourself and your words a little bit of LOVE!

Consider too how you can share joy with these amusing prompts by exchanging drafts, laughs, and smiles with members of your writing group and/or the Knight Institute’s incredible writing tutors.

❤️Happy writing!❤️


Follow these links for more information and to schedule appointments.

  • Graduate Writing Service GWS tutors are experienced writers and teachers of writing from multiple disciplines -- with scholarly and professional backgrounds in the humanities and social and physical sciences. We are available weekdays and evenings to work with Cornell graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and staff to refine and develop strategies for drafting and revising writing projects and teaching materials. 
  • ELSO Tutoring on Writing and Presentations: Need help writing a research article, diversity statement, statement of purpose, or some other paper? Working on a presentation for a conference or other event? Maybe you want to polish your resume, CV, and/or cover letter? ELSO tutoring can help! Our eleven tutors are graduate students from across the disciplines (humanities, biological sciences, engineering, social sciences, and law) and are available for synchronous and asynchronous consultations. This service is available to all multilingual graduate students, professional students, and postdocs.
  • Cornell Writing Centers The CWC provides support for individuals at any stage of the writing process. It is a free resource available to all of Cornell—undergraduate students, pre-freshman and high schoolers in summer programs, graduate students, staff, faculty, and alumni—for nearly any kind of writing project: applications, presentations, lab reports, essays, papers, and more. Tutors serve as responsive listeners and readers who can address questions about the writing process or about particular pieces of writing. They will ask questions that foster critical thinking about your writing, and they will also consider questions of confidence, reading, analytic thought, imagination, and research. All tutors have training in supporting multilingual writers, working with writers remotely online, and in supporting writers working on application materials.

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