Welcome to CUNY Academic Commons. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!
As I write this, it occurs to me that before this assignment I haven’t thought much, if at all, about my theory of writing. I began this essay sitting on my bed, legs folded with a pillow on top and my laptop propped on top of it as I typed. I typed from a mix of new ideas that popped into my head plus what I had already written on a paper in answer to all the different questions asked of me about my theory of writing. My class syllabus and other papers, a pen, a highlighter, and my phone were within reach, and various websites were open within my browser. My water bottle and some mini chocolate bars that I occasionally reached for and enjoyed sat on my bedside table.
Today, some weeks later, as I’m revising and finishing up to post, I am sitting at my dining table, snacks and a pen and said water bottle are within reach. I once again have my syllabus and phone at hand, along with multiple tabs open within my browser. In addition, I now have the email information with specific revision details requested by the professor. The background is currently quiet, although sometimes I play music when I write – lately smooth jazz.
I realize that when I write I try to make things as convenient for myself as possible so there are fewer chances that I need to be taken away from the writing process. For example, the syllabus tells me if I’m staying on track with what my assignment asks, having a pen handy means I don’t have to get up and go in search of one in case I need to jot down a thought.
Ideas/Inspiration and Reflection
The botanical garden as a major local setting for time spent outside of school; two teenagers, one who was born with HIV via the parent; self-identity as a theme. These are all quickly jotted down to reflect more on later when there is time. The thoughts come anywhere and so having a notebook or using the notes app on my phone has proven beneficial. Questions come next: How much do I know about these places and subjects? Who else is involved in this story? What is the point of the story? I begin to reflect on these questions. As I write down whatever thoughts that come to me about the story, I also research the topics. In this instance, my research process may include the likelihood that a child may be born with HIV, including the factors and complications that may be involved in conception, birth, and survival after birth.
So many creative writing ideas come in so many different ways over time, and I have not had a good approach to organizing. Sometimes these ideas are abandoned. Other times I allow new ideas to permeate current work and cause me to lose track. I have been trying to better organize and this involves less “versions” of a piece of writing, sticking to one idea at a time and drafting to help myself stay on track. Reflection has also been helpful to separate ideas that might be useful at the moment from those that may just need to be set aside to marinate and may be useful in the future.
I recognize that I’ve developed a greater sense of the importance of reflection in the writing process. Previously, my reflection mostly focused on revision as I wrote to improve a certain work before submission. However, once submitted, the work became abandoned. Occasionally, and more-so unintentionally, I happen upon previous bodies of work and realize the changes that have taken place in my writing over time. Even then, the reflection focused more on how I have improved from then to now, but now how I can continue to improve moving forward. Now, I also reflect to improve current work. For example, I’ll ask myself how that piece of work can be improved, what is missing and what would have made the reading experience better. Perhaps it was too much telling and not showing or not enough examples to support my argument. I’ll use that information to gauge the same information, as necessary, in my current work.
My audience is usually one of the first things I think about even before I start writing and as I do my research. This is probably one of the most important topics that reflect in my theory of writing because I believe knowing who will read my work makes a difference towards how it should be written. At the same time though, I do not allow too much focus on the audience that it can distract me from what I, or my characters, want to convey. But knowing my audience is simply meant to help incline me to write beyond my personal view and with a broader perspective to make my writing more relatable to the general readership of my audience.
The same thing holds true for my academic and research writing. For example, a professional article I wrote for my working environment titled Becoming A Manager, was heavily audience focused. Being able to identify who I would be talking to and what I could say that would be relevant to their experiences made a great difference in my overall approach. For example, in this article, I discussed why the reader may be interested in becoming a manager, avenues to take to get to that step and how they can go about building the necessary skill-set that the role will require of them. Had I not known or focused on my audience going into writing this article, it would have been hard for readers of that particular publication to relate to the topics being discussed and how it was presented.
Audience, along with tone, is also reflected in my writing based on the format in which I’m writing. For example, I aim to take a professional tone for business emails. There are times when an email needs to be firm and direct – perhaps when giving a directive to a staff member who has not been responsive in the past. Other times the message can be a little lighter. I recently sent the emails and gif below to my staff .
“We each make this community a little better everyday with the great services we provide. High five for all you do and be reminded that I appreciate you!”
Writing as a Practice
I recently read Writing as a Practice from the book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, where it talks about practicing writing whether what’s produced is good or bad, as a way to grow one’s writing skills. One page 12 it’s explained that, “One of the main aims in writing practice is to learn to trust your own mind and body; to grow patient and nonaggressive. Art lives in the Big World. One poem or story doesn’t matter one way or the other. It’s the process of writing and life that matters.” This stood out to me because it can be difficult to actually make time to write as a writer, but it’s important to do so because it increases the ability to practice and get better at my craft. Additionally, I found the quote useful in showing that the practice of writing is actually an important overall aspect which I think zooms in on the revision process that can ultimately improve a piece of work if revisited after writing it.
In an essay I read recently, Kimiko Hahn noted that she didn’t have time to “sit and wait for the poem.” I think this is true particularly when writing creative pieces. In those instances, allowing whatever word will come on the page to flow is important. But then, like in writing academic research papers, the editing process is extremely essential. This is the process that will help to create synchronization and flow on the page. Revision and editing is the process that will determine whether one’s writing meld together and communicate the message intended by the writer effectively. To encourage this in my own writing, I generally try to complete my draft, at least of longer essays, as early as possible and give myself enough time to revise my work at least twice, having put it down at least two days in between. This is important to me because I recognize the value of distancing myself from my work and revisiting it with fresh eyes. One recent example of my revision process is shown in my attempt at this anaphora poem. Below I show the first lines in their original form and then results after editing (in red are new words inserted):
I’m aware this could have ended more ways than one
Arianrhod (ah-ree-AHN-rhohd) has risen from slumber
I am in control and I beseech you to
Return the love, the life
, the of coupled youth,
in their with hope of life together anew
soft lips, to her hungry ones rejoin their hands
they make made to hold on tight (moved)
Arianrhod has risen from slumber
I am in control and beseech you to
Return the love, the life of coupled youth
Bright with hope of life together
Return his lips, rejoin their hands
The promises made to hold on tight
I believe this approach to revision can be successful in situations both outside and inside of the classroom. Reflection and revision give opportunities to view works at a distance and with different lens – as a reader as opposed to as a writer. As a writer, I am critical of how I say something and what I am trying to get across to my audience. As a reader, I focus more on how the writing is being received and whether the information is clear and relatable. In taking these two different approaches I am able to improve my own writing and also help others to improve their writing by focusing on the specific goal areas. For instance, as a teacher, reading a student’s work as a reading audience will help me to focus on isolating different areas to be addressed without overwhelming the student. A focus on whether the writing clearly conveys the topic it’s meant to deliver and whether the supporting details are relevant and are used efficiently can be two main areas of focus that, upon revision, has the potential to help improve a student’s overall writing. Additionally, using the portfolio approach is a great way of getting students to see how they have improved in their writing over a semester since they will be able to reflect on various stages of the same work.