Writing has never been one of my strongest subjects. I have always struggled to get my ideas and thoughts down in a coherent and organized manner. Creative writing in particular has always been difficult for me because I have never felt comfortable in my writing capabilities, and I have always struggled to choose an interesting topic to write about. However, this class really helped to push me out of my comfort zone. Through all of the different writing assignments and styles of writing we explored through the various assignments, I feel like I have really grown as a writer.
Over the course of this semester, we were exposed to multiple writing styles and genres. As a result, I have learned how such genre conventions shape both the readers and the writers’ purpose. This exposure to many different genres and writing styles also helped me to be able to respond to a variety of situations and contexts that I was unfamiliar with before. One assignment that stands out is the open letter assignment. At first, I was nervous about the assignment because I had never written anything like it before. Most of my writing consists of lab reports and scientific papers. However, this assignment turned out to be one of my favorite assignments. I learned how to tie in a lot of different writing strategies, which really showed my improvement as a writer. For example, in my letter, I incorporated research as well as presented an argument using rhetorical appeals to present my opinion on teenagers being glued to their cell phones. This assignment really helped me to grow as a writer because it challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and incorporate a variety of different writing aspects and strategies that I was unfamiliar with and I was quite pleased with how it turned out in the end.
The memoir that we completed was another assignment that really helped me to grow as a writer. As I said before, I have never been comfortable with my writing, especially when it comes to writing about myself. I am very used to writing very factual papers in the typical five-paragraph format. At first, I struggled to come up with something I thought would be worthy enough to write about. When I finally came up with the idea to write about my experience moving oversees I wrote my first draft and realized it was the most boring memoir ever written. I failed to include any imagery or dialogue and instead I just stated the facts for five pages. After going through it and trying to make it a little more exciting I was pleased with how it turned out. However, it was a challenge for me to write abut myself in an interesting and creative manner instead of just stating the facts like I am used to. As a result of completing this assignment I feel like I have grown as a writer and I now feel more comfortable writing about myself and incorporating things such as imagery and dialogue into my writing, something I was not comfortable doing before.
After writing my memoir and the open letter, I saw a lot of improvement in my writing and especially in my confidence as a writer. Through doing these assignments, I have become a much better story teller as I now understand the importance of using descriptive words along with other rhetorical devices such as imagery, pathos, ethos, logos, audience and voice. Before, my writing used to consist of mainly logos based appeals. Now I understand the significance of using pathos and ethos in my writing as it really helps to draw in the reader and brings attention to the story in a much more interesting way. For example, when I fist wrote my open letter about people texting, I filled my paper with all kinds of facts and statistics. After re-reading it and getting advice from my peers, I realized that this paper was incredibly boring to read and I didn’t really do a good job of addressing my intended audience because no one wants to read two pages of straight facts. So, instead I incorporated some personal stories and described how people constantly being on their phones affect me. By doing this, it made my open letter a lot more enjoyable to read as it drew in the audience and allowed them to relate to the stories I was telling.
One of the things that I learned in this class that will really stick with me is the importance of balancing all three of the appeals (ethos, logos and pathos) in my writing. Like I said before with the open letter, I learned that in order to better appeal to my audience, I needed to incorporate more pathos and ethos rather than just state a bunch of facts and statistics. In addition to pathos, ethos and logos, another rhetorical device that I think is very valuable to writing is voice. I think that the use of voice is extremely important to capturing the reader’s attention and appealing to your desired audience. Voice allows you to be creative and it makes your writing stand out. Another rhetorical device that I think is extremely important and valuable to writing is audience. For me, the tone and voice I use in my writing changes dependent upon who my audience is. For example, in the compare/contrast blog that we did, my intended audience was to night owls. Therefore, I used a very sarcastic tone when I was talking about how they party all the time and do not perform well in school. I used a very negative tone to describe the night owls whereas I used a very energetic and positive tone when I was talking about morning people. I was able to structure my essay and use certain rhetorical devices as a result of the audience I was writing to and for this reason; I believe audience is a key rhetorical device to writing.
Besides learning some of the major techniques for structuring a well-developed piece of writing, one of the most valuable things I learned this semester is the importance of the writing process. The quote “writing is a process, not a product” applied to me through many of the different assignments I completed over the course of this semester. To me, this quote signifies the importance of the writing process and implies that the process of writing is more valuable then the final product. An example of an assignment that allowed me to learn through the process of writing was the very first major assignment of the year, the literacy narrative. From the start, I knew that I wanted to talk about the time that I did my internal oral commentary for my IB Hl English class. I knew that this was a good example of how writing and reading in the past had affected my perspective of reading and writing today and my abilities in the subjects. What I didn’t know was how to explain the story in an interesting way without just stating the facts and retelling the events that took place. Well, it was no surprise that that was exactly what I did. My first draft was simply a retelling of all the events that took. However, through the process of peer reviewing and re-writing a second draft, I was able to improve my narrative and describe my story in a much more interesting and less mundane way. I used much more descriptive language and made the tone of the piece very suspenseful. Instead of simply going through the events that took place step by step, I added a lot more voice to the piece in addition to using a lot of imagery and descriptive language. I found that through re-reading my work and getting advice from my peers and my teacher that I was able to complete a much more creative and interesting narrative that flowed well.
In addition to learning the importance of the process of writing, I also learned a lot about myself as a writer as a result of the many different assignments that we did. For one, I learned that I am a very factual writer. What I mean by this is that I tend to write using a lot of logos based arguments. In all of the major assignments I did, all of my first drafts were filled with facts and I simply retold the events that took place in step-by-step manner. I also learned that I write to organize my thought and relieve stress. For example, after going through some of my free writes, I realized that most of them were about my day and all of the things I needed to do. In the free writes where we were asked to write for seven minutes non-stop, I decided to write about how busy I was and all of the things I needed to do. I proceeded to make a schedule to organize my time. After doing this, it made me feel relieved and a lot less stressed.
Another aspect of this class that I found to be very valuable was the collaboration we did with the NOVA students. By doing peer review exercises with the students, I felt that I was giving a lot of good perspectives and insights to help improve their writing. I also got a lot of helpful advice from the students when they read my work. For example, when we did the compare/contrast blog assignment, one of the NOVA students mentioned that they were not clear on who my intended audience was after reading my essay. The student mentioned that I should use more negative language and give more negative examples when describing the night owls. This advice was really helpful to me and I took it into consideration when I was editing my second draft of the piece. I really enjoyed getting to know the students and reading their stories. They all had very unique backgrounds, which was very interesting to learn about and it allowed them to bring forth many new insights that I would not have considered. One of the drawbacks to the collaboration with the NOVA students was that many of them shied away from giving constructive criticism. A lot of the time I found that the students did not want to give advice to college students so they tended to only point out the positive aspects of the papers. While it is nice to be complimented, it would have been more beneficial if the students also offered some ways to help improve the paper. I understand why they would be apprehensive about offering their opinion to a college student but at the same time it would be very beneficial to learn how they think we could improve especially because many of the pieces of writings we did were intended to have them as the audience.
Overall, I believe this class was very valuable. I learned a lot about myself as a writer as well as learned how I can improve my writing. In one of the first assignments this year, I explained how my confidence in reading and writing was shattered as a result of a bad grade on an assignment I had devoted hours of hard work into. However, after taking this class and learning some of the techniques on how to improve my writing, I feel like I have gained back a lot of confidence in my abilities as a reader and a writer and I look forward to continuing to work to improve my writing as I move onward.