Name: Haley Beckett
Major(s), Minor(s): Financial Economics and Chinese double major, Political Science minor
Astrological Sign: Aries
1. Other than class assignments, what kinds of things do you write or have you written?
I’ve always had a semi-secret desire to be a fiction writer, so I’ve often tried my hand at writing short stories and occasionally longer pieces of fictional prose. In high school, I became a dedicated fan of David Sedaris essays, which inspired me to dabble in creative nonfiction. I don’t often finish projects, which I’m sure would make some people wonder why I even bother, but I get a lot of enjoyment out of the art of writing itself. Over the years I think I’ve accumulated stacks and stacks of unfinished pieces – a few that I’ve returned to and many that I’ve never looked at again – but the effort I’ve put into these fragments have made all of the difference in my writing ability. In addition to my personal projects, I’ve had three internships since the start of college, and I’ve had to write for all of them. I’ve written letters, procurement documents, memos, biographies, and among other random things.
2. What piece of writing are you most proud of?
I’m actually most proud of a whole slew of pieces, as opposed to a specific one: two summers ago, I interned at the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. and during that time, I wrote dozens of letters to constituents on behalf of my Member of Congress. I wrote letters on a multitude of topics, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Social Security reform. These letters weren’t masterpieces by any means – they’re intentionally crafted to be brief, concise, and uniform in style – but it was an interesting challenge to make my own writing conform to the needs of the Congressional staff. I also had to spend ample time before drafting to read up on each issue, picking out the most relevant and accurate facts to include in my letters. My Congressman would personally collect all of our drafts and comb through them, editing each one to ensure that it precisely reflected his views. At first it was nerve-wracking to have my boss critique all of my writing, but by the end of the internship, I would start getting my drafts back with few to no comments. I can now say that hundreds of Americans have read my writing as the letters arrived in their mailboxes last year, and even though I’m sure some of them threw the letters out after a perfunctory read, I know that many of them really did care deeply about the issues that I’d addressed and had been waiting for word on those issues from their Representative. It’s satisfying to know that your writing is serving a larger purpose and reaching such a large audience.
I’ll write any place where I can sit at a desk or a table. I’ve done my best writing at the dining room table at my parents’ house or at one of those big tables by the windows in Thomas Library. A table is imperative because I use a ton of surface area as I spread out my laptop, books, extra paper, etc. while trying to stay organized. If I’m going to be writing for a long block of time, then I always make sure to situate myself somewhere with a nice view or near something else that will provide me with minor distractions for the occasional mental respite.
4. Do you have any interesting quirks and/or routines you follow when writing or when you are preparing to write? What are they?
5. Who is your favorite writer? Why?
My favorite writer is David Foster Wallace, mainly because he has an extraordinary talent to articulate ideas and human experiences like no other writer I’ve read. I’m envious of his eye for detail, and his style is distinctive, which I think is freeing to read as a writer, because it allows you see how much room there is for creativity and personality within your own pieces. He’s funny, too, so his writing is a perfect blend of insight and humor. The complexity and experimental style of his writing (particularly his copious footnotes) can be daunting at first, but in the end, I always find that the challenge of working through his pieces refreshes and reinvigorates my own creative energy.
6. What was the best writing experience of your life?
I don’t think I have one specific experience that I can say was the best, but I’ve had times where I’ve felt a strong urge to get certain ideas on paper, so those collective experiences are probably the best I’ve had. Any time that the words and ideas are already formed before you even try and flesh them out, you’re bound to have an awesome writing experience, because the writing itself is effortless.
7. What would you most like to improve about your writing?
I would actually most like to improve my vocabulary. The more I read, the more I realize how grossly I underutilize the English language, because in comparison to other world languages English is rich with diversity in its words. Your range of vocabulary can either impede or facilitate your personal expression, and I would prefer that mine do the latter. An extensive vocabulary can be developed through simply reading more, so this is one aspect of my writing that I think will just take some time, patience, and diligence to make progress on.
8. What advice do you have for other Wittenberg writers?
If you’d like to improve your work, then start looking at your assignments as more than just pieces of writing – each one is a process. The early steps of the writing process (and the ones that people often rush through) aren’t about writing at all; they’re about thinking. Give yourself ample time to complete these stages by prewriting, outlining, and writing rough drafts. If you don’t have your ideas worked out and organized before you sit down to type, then it’s likely that you’ll have a harder time actually writing your paper. Physically typing your paper is important, of course, but in many cases it is significantly less important than what comes before it.
9. What should students know about you when they come in to visit you in the Writing Center?
Students should know that I love my job and that I’m eager to talk with any writer about their work, regardless of what department it’s from or what topic it’s about. I personally suffer from a sort of writing paranoia that makes me dread having others read over my writing, just because I’m afraid that I’ve made some terrible mistakes in it or that nothing I’ve written makes sense. I think a lot of writers feel the same way, though, so I also want students to know that I can absolutely sympathize. Every day I see writers bring great ideas into the Center, and my only priority is to make sure those ideas are expressed to their full potential.
10. What’s the best part about working in the Writing Center?
I think my favorite is getting the opportunity to talk with so many different people. No session is the same, because every student has a unique background, set of interests, personality, etc. I can happily say that I never get bored. Plus, I talk with people from virtually every department here at Witt, so it’s not uncommon for me to emerge from a session having learned about some fascinating idea, research, person, etc. that I never would have run across on my own. Students who use the Writing Center certainly benefit from sessions, but I think advisors benefit an awful lot too!