As we were setting up for the day, we were excited although we weren’t quite sure what to expect. We had researched other campuses’ celebrations, planned with colleagues across campus, purchased a variety of swag, so we were ready to celebrate the National Day on Writing for the first time on Mason’s campus.
Our plan was to set up two booths in busy campus locations, so we reserved the North Plaza and the atrium of Fenwick Library. As people stopped by, we asked them to tell us why, when, what, where, or how they write, and we gave them large, colorful sticky notes on which they could record their answers. Our campus’ most famous writer, George, helped us demonstrate the activity. We didn’t ask our participants to adhere their sticky notes to themselves or throw them on the ground in crumpled balls, like George did. Instead, writers placed their notes on the windows inside Fenwick’s atrium and on large poster boards on the North Plaza. And note by note, the windows and boards were filling up!
Like we’ve been seeing in our Writers of Mason profiles, these writers demonstrated just how diverse our campus’ writing culture is. Certainly, some of the notes repeated similar ideas, but others took us by surprise. Here are some samples of what people shared:
- #whyIwrite: to clear my head; to prove my point; to express my feelings; to show my creativity; to pass my class; to make sense of this crazy world; to teach; to analyze; to remember and to resist; to share unheard voices; I can be weird and spooky in a socially acceptable way
- #whatIwrite: Emails! (written next to a big smiley face); proofs; my feelings; turtles; research papers; my dog; Facebook posts; French secularism and how it affects Muslim identity; travel writing (to manifest more travel); short stories
- #howIwrite: unapologetically; slowly; not very well; fueled by coffee, surrounded by snacks, and buried in notes!; on bar napkins when I run out of paper
- #whenIwrite: when I see something that inspires me and it is usually #where I am at the time so I don’t forget my words; whenever I can (next to a clock with six arms alternately pointing to numbers and exclamation marks); in the morning; late at night when I can’t sleep and no one else is awake
- #whereIwrite: literally everywhere; in my hammock; lying down on the floor; coffee shops, while I’m driving and talking to Google docs, in my favorite chair; in the library; anywhere that’s outdoors, calm and quiet, whether it’s 1000 or 00
In all, we had nearly 300 writers join us during the day, but Yoda might have been our favorite; we didn’t know that we had canine writers on campus!
All of these writers helped us to generate a lot of content on social media too. We had been tweeting all week from Mason’s official twitter account (@georgemasonu), but this day was our most prolific. We tweeted 132 times, and 234 times that week thanks to a lot of help from friends around campus. Some of our favorite tweets came to us from some graduate students in INTO Mason, our international academic program. They shared their thoughts about writing in two languages (and some in video):
— George Mason Univ. (@GeorgeMasonU) October 20, 2017
All of this couldn’t have been possible without the help of some dedicated volunteers either; five student groups and a bevy of tutors from the writing center joined us. By the end of the day, we were all tired but we had a lot of fun talking with people across campus about writing.