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The purpose of this exercise is to practice a tool for overcoming writer’s block and developing ideas for essays.
Here are the details:
1. Find a magazine article that sparks a reaction in you. This reaction can be agreement, disagreement, anger, fear, happiness, etc. Any reaction is fine. Your reaction might be the notion that you want to respond or say something to the author of the article.
It does not matter what magazine you choose. It can be any magazine. It can be in print, or it can be online. It also does not matter if the article is recent or old. The main thing is just that you react to the article. After finding the article, you will read it.
2. After reading the article, you will write this exercise. This exercise is made up of three parts.
A. First, you will write a paragraph where you give the title of the article, the name of the magazine it appears in and the author. Then in that first paragraph, you will briefly summarize this article. That is, you will briefly tell what the article is about.
B. Write at least one paragraph sharing your reaction. At this point, do not be concerned with the organization. This is not a formal essay (that will come later); this is just an exercise to generate ideas.
Your reaction can be whatever you like. Just whatever thoughts are flowing out of your mind as you are thinking about the article, write those down. The thought process of this part of the exercise relates to the tools and ideas presented in the Ideas for Essays Lecture Notes in Unit 2.
This second part of the exercise where you share your reaction should be one to two paragraphs long.
C. Finally, after you write one or two paragraphs sharing your reaction, write a paragraph where you discuss possible essay topics that you see coming out of your reaction.
Here is an example: Let’s suppose I read an article about a recent hurricane striking the Gulf Coast. My first paragraph would identify the article, magazine, and author and briefly describe what the author is writing about in the article. Then I start a new paragraph and begin sharing my reaction. My reaction could be how scary it is that we are having so many more hurricanes and that they are so severe. Then that makes me think of all the suffering that takes place during natural disasters. My thoughts then begin to realize it is not only people that suffer but animals as well. I start thinking about homeless animals and how hard it is for them to get homes, especially older animals. My thoughts and reactions are not organized and very disjointed, but that is okay for this exercise because it is generating ideas. Finally, my last paragraph discusses possible essay ideas such as questioning why we are having so many storms, the government role in tragedies and help for homeless animals, especially older animals.
3. This exercise is to be at least one full page using our formatting guidelines of 1-inch margins, double spacing between lines, and Times New Roman 12 point type. It will follow the MLA formatting.

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