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©2000 Zhan Huan Zhou
Updated Jan-01-2000

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Off Topic

©1999 Zhan Huan Zhou, Winter 1999, Issue 5

Can you believe it? For the die-hard fans of this column, you will notice that as of this issue, "Take A Zhance" has appeared in 15 consecutive issues of the B-Soc edition of the Iron Warrior plus 5 issues of the A-Soc version. Including my poems and submissions before the inception of this column in Fall 1997, I have over 30 articles to my credit published in the Iron Warrior.

Many of you probably donít care about that little trivia tidbit. Some of you, however, may be wondering how I have come up with a topic of discussion for over 20 fascinating articles. Youíre in for a treat this time as I reveal a little of my writing secrets to you in this article.

The hardest part about writing an article for every issue is coming up a topic that satisfies three basic elements: interest, engineering, and randomness.

I must find a topic that is interesting enough for me to be able to write enough to fill up my place in the paper. Furthermore, the topic must be of interest to the reader as well. If the reader doesnít find my topic interesting then my article would simply fall upon blind eyes. The goal is to write about a topic that will entice the reader to continue reading until the end of the article and still wanting more.

Since this is a student engineering newspaper, I try to relate all of my topics to engineering and how they affect your time in Waterloo Engineering. As you may have noticed, my focus has strayed a little from the engineering focus this term, however, I believe that my topics and arguments are valid because they are applicable to all students and disciplines.

The final element and probably the most important is the randomness factor. Perhaps the "???" factor is a better term to use, but "randomness" is a word we can use in normal conversation. As with almost everything that affects us in life, randomness brings us the joys of life. It is the little unsuspected outcome, or unanticipated action where everything happens to fall into place and rewards you in ways unimaginable. The same random factor that makes life interesting is the biggest factor when I write. I have an uncountable number of interesting thoughts floating in my head at any given time, many of them related to engineering. Sometimes I grab onto an idea that appears amazing when I start, but then I realize I canít write more than two meaningful sentences about the topic. Then, there are other times when an idea just pops in my head and I just starting clicking away at the keyboard or scribbling with my pen. My best articles and poems are the ones where I start with my idea and donít stop until I am finished my product. The result is the collective work of an infinite number of possibilities coming together to create a beautiful work of art and I sincerely hope that you view my writings as works of art.

So there you have it, a glimpse into the inner workings of the writer of this column. I hope that this article will inspire you to pick up a pen and write whenever you have an interesting idea. Donít give up on dead ends. If I gave up on dead ends during my time writing for this column, there would barely be enough content for a single issue. Keep working at it until everything clicks and you see the words write themselves. Of course, this metaphor can be extended past creative writing into the realm of engineering. Perhaps there are times when your C++ code writes itself, or you can feel the laws of thermodynamics. At any rate, take a chance and perhaps everything will fall into place in your future.