Introduction to Writing
This semester has been eye-opening in exactly the way I hoped it might be when I decided to go back to school. While I’ve always been interested in writing and read a great deal about it, I felt I was missing something crucial to my foundational understanding that was holding me back from being a more effective writer. The threshold concepts, especially my new appreciation for what rhetoric is and how it works, have been things I can immediately apply in my personal life, as I now pick up on the rhetoric aimed at me and in my professional life, as I strive to influence others to share my viewpoint. Likewise, learning that the different stages of writing happen in different parts of the brain has helped me to plan better for how long invention, revision, and editing will take and to realize they need to happen in separate mental spaces.
The way in which we offer peer reviews and have meetings with various instructors and tutors has been helpful to my growth as a writer. Getting different perspectives on my writing has helped me to see where I need to sharpen my focus and to strive for more clarity. It’s also helped me to be more confident. No one laughed at my work unless I meant them to.
Offering peer reviews has often sent me back to my work to fix problems I only recognized when I saw them in the work of a fellow student. Finally, understanding that research questions are organisms that should be expected to shift as we build a body of research was freeing. My research question squirmed quite a bit throughout the process, but I eventually contained it through whittling away at the bigger picture until I’d found a focused topic.
Below I have included each of my unit writing assignments for this semester, along with explanations of the revisions process involved in each. I also detail my intended audience and goals for each piece.
My goal for this piece was to amuse the reader and to touch on the theme that even happy couples can be a bit vindictive with one another because they know each other so well. At a thousand words, the revision process was mostly about eliminating all the non-essentials. Then, peer reviewing helped me to see a few areas where I wasn’t as clear about the surroundings as I could have been. Peer reviewing in person has been particularly helpful since it allowed me to gauge whether the piece was working on a humor level. Because this is a narrative, my audience is anyone that enjoys reading short stories. One of the most empowering things I learned during this unit was about how non-fiction can tell an “emotional truth” without having to stick to the bare facts. This freedom allowed me to make a couple of changes like condensing time and adding dialogue that hadn’t occurred but that kept the pace of the humor going.
Learning about rhetoric was one of my favorite parts of this unit and the most challenging. I read a lot outside of class to try to make more sense of the topic and get different perspectives. I chose Barbara Jordan’s speech to analyze because she wrote it around the time I was born and gave it during an election cycle similar to the one I was experiencing during this semester. My goal was to dissect what Jordan did in her speech that made it so powerful and to try to understand what makes one oratory a timeless thing and another just a bunch of “rhetoric” in the pejorative sense of the word. While my audience is always my fellow students and instructors, I imagined while I was writing it that the analysis would be useful for someone learning about rhetoric or public speaking.
Obesity is a topic so broad in scope that narrowing my focus was the biggest struggle of this unit. The suggested strategies of localizing or narrowing a topic to specific stakeholders were helpful. After reading dozens of studies and countless articles, I chose to focus on bariatric surgery as my main theme. Surgeries are expensive to insurance and public health programs, so we’re all stakeholders on a financial level. My audience was, therefore, the public. Finally, I decided there wasn’t even room to mention children and adolescents if I wanted to keep the focus on my main idea: how can surgeries can seem unsuccessful to one group, dangerous to another, but quite effective to yet another group?
James Joyce said, “Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives.” I may have expressed something similar a few times this semester, but I’ve learned something valuable about myself through all the various assignments: I process complex concepts best by writing about them.