Does the following quote sound familiar?

Writing is stressful. Sitting in my computer chair my neck and shoulder muscles almost immediately tense up as I dig around in my brain for the best phrase or even any coherent string of words, whether I am writing an essay like this one, a book chapter, a letter of recommendation, or an email message to a friend. Writing is time-consuming.

In an article published in 2010 in Perspectives in History, “How Writing Leads to Thinking,” UCLA professor of history Lynn Hunt distills the frustrations and joy of writing. For some, words come naturally but strong ideas, and provocative thesis arguments, are a bit of a struggle. For others, it is quite the opposite. Maybe you are one of the lucky few whose ideas and words flow beautifully in tandem; or, maybe you are one of the unlucky who struggles with both.

This semester, you will likely discover which of the four categories you might fall under. Ultimately, though, writing is inherently a thinking process. This is especially true in the field of history, where research becomes an exhilarating endeavor that bears a vast amount of notes and sources, while writing can seem overwhelming when trying to put those notes and sources into a coherent product.

Hunt’s article offers several suggestions, but two stand out: be consistent with your writing (a little bit each day goes a long way!) and be patient (learning to write well is a lifelong endeavor). In HIS 3630, writing is textual – both formal and casual – and hypertextual by making use of multimedia approaches. As you tackle your work this semester, remember these words from Dr. Hunt: “Writing means many different things to me but one thing it is not: writing is not the transcription of thoughts already consciously present in my mind. Writing is a magical and mysterious process that makes it possible to think differently.”

  • Chicago Manual of Style (simply known as “Chicago style”) is the standard for the field of history. It is sometimes known as “Turabian style,” for University of Chicago dissertation guru Kate Turabian. All footnotes/endnotes and bibliography (or works cited page) must adhere to Chicago style according to the type of source you are citing, and following the conventions for the notes & bibliography system.