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  • Cassandra Holcombe

Story of a Writer

Hi, my name is Cassandra Holcombe, and I am the assistant editor of this blog. I am a great fan of the idea of showing and not telling. So instead of telling you a lot of boring facts about myself, I am going to show my writing process through the story of how I came up with my latest paper. The story will show you what kind of writer I am and how community helps you grow as a writer.


I could hardly believe my eyes as I stared at the screen.

There sitting on my laptop, was five pages of perfect bliss. I had been worried when I received my assignment to write a literary analysis paper on a short story. Even when I chose “The Ice Palace” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and my mind bubbled with ideas, I worried that they might not work out.

But here. Here was the proof that I could do it. Every word was perfect. As if written out by the hand of God. I could rest in peace with the knowledge that I had created the best paper ever.

Best of all, I was able to relate the paper to my own experiences as a student from Washington but at school in Mississippi.

Then my conference with my professor came, and reality socked me upside the jaw to leave my mind lying dazed on the floor.

My rough draft was just a rough draft, after all, and lacking in more than just a period here and a comma there. I found that I was missing crucial context and details. Some of my points just made no sense, especially if the person reading my paper had never read “The Ice Palace” before.

I awoke from my daydream to realize that I was not Moses who had been handed a table with words written in stone by the hand of God. I was a student like any other and needed to step down from my imaginary mountain of superiority.

I should have expected it. After all, hadn’t I struggled just to meet the page count while I was drafting it? Felt like David facing down that Goliath of a page count?

Still, I didn’t anticipate it and left the conference with my professor with a heavy heart and paper filled with as many holes as a piece of Swiss cheese.

So I chewed on my bitter mistakes, made the changes, and added context. I also found a few more fun details to add. I became like a bunny, spreading fluff as I jumped from part to part of the paper, and ultimately jumping over the page count by accident.

I went to peer review the day before the paper was due with a paper that was a half of a page too long. I had no idea what to leave out! My partner in peer review was nice enough to offer me suggestions on what to cut and revealed another problem with my stunningly awesome paper, once again showing that a second pair of eyes is always invaluable.

I had been so focused on building the rest of the paper that I had entirely forgotten to write a main point. In my excitement, I had created a Tin Man without a heart. With my partner’s help, I quickly found a heart that worked for my entire paper and not just part of it.

I left the peer review session with a smile and some excellent ideas for how to fix my paper. On the way, I spotted a friend, and she was nice enough to help me further with my paper. There I discovered a problem with my last paragraph.

My last paragraph was acting like a limp and boneless fish without a skeleton to hold it up. I had to deviate from the original outline which made the paragraph fishy. So I returned to my outline to give the last paragraph more spine.

Then, finally, after four drafts, I was ready to turn it in.

The problems I encountered in writing my paper are far from unique. These are common difficulties we all face as writers. They illustrate a truth that we all must come to recognize: writers cannot do it all alone. If I hadn’t had my professor, my classmate, and my friend read my paper, it would never have grown beyond a rough draft.

The MC Writing Center is a place where writing can be done as it ought to, in a community with people you can trust. Its door is open. Will you come in?

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