Oh Blogging, Where Art Thou?

It has been quite some time since I last wrote a blogpost. I take that back.  It has been quite some time since I’ve done any sort of writing…

Many months have passed since the Winter 2012 semester—the semester I joined the MIW; the semester I did more writing than is probably recommended for a maturing, over-analytic mind.  Many months have passed since I was enrolled in both WRI200 and ENG325.  Many months have passed since my evenings were occupied with reading, writing, writing about reading, and reading about writing.  Many months have passed since the last time I was forced to articulate—in tangible, written form—all of the thoughts circulating through my head.

But, oddly enough, I think I miss it.  I miss the nights I spent in the library—with one album on repeat and a cup of coffee—outlining, drafting, and writing.  I miss how the writing assignments began to occupy all of my time—even during the hours in which I was not actually “writing.”  I miss having an epiphany about the analysis in an essay which, in turn, forced me to stop walking through campus and, rather franticly, reach into my backpack for a scrap piece of paper so that I could see what I was thinking.

These things have pushed writing to become some other “force” in my life.  It has become some sort of escape; it has become some sort of expression.  Writing has become, I now realize,—especially after writing this blogpost—something I cannot live without.  It has become something that I am not supposed to live without.  Writing has become a necessity for me.

And maybe, if I am at all lucky enough, I’ll be able to accurately articulate—through the process of writing itself—just what this process means to me.  But, until that day comes, I guess I’ll just have to continue writing…

Reading and Writing: A Composition

As much as I’d like to say that I’m a “writer,” I certainly cannot say that I am a writer to the extent that Teirney and Pearson are. They outline a process of writing that completely transcends the lines of what I do. My process generally goes like this: come up with awesome idea; some days I’ll decide to do pre-writing if I’m having trouble putting down my thoughts; spit out all of my random ideas into a very rough draft; revise; revise; revise; then finalize (though of course, no composition is ever finished!)

On the other hand, these two exemplify a manner of writing that I didn’t quite understand. For example, they wrote that “one must begin to view reading and writing as essentially similar processes of meaning construction.” I have never thought of reading and writing as similar processes but, come to think of it, in some ways they are. Teirney and Pearson claim that BOTH reading and writing are about “planning, drafting, aligning, revising, and monitoring”. This process is something new, yet enlightening to me.

Lets take one of the elements that I glean the most from: revising. I’m a HUGE proponent of revising. Almost everything that I may write for a class will be revised multiple times. What was interesting, however, about “Toward a Composing Model of Reading” is that they also wrote that “if readers are to develop some control over and a sense of discovery with the models of meaning they build, they must approach text with the same deliberation, time and reflection that a writer employs as she revises a text.” At first I thought, come on, who revises as they’re reading? But then I realized this–every single time I read a book, a poem, or a textbook, the meaning of what I read is continuously changing. In fact, I am revising any time that I re-read a textbook for class to better understand the concept. It finally made sense.

The best portion of Teirney and Pearson’s piece is the last section entitled “monitoring.” At first, I didn’t understand what they were telling readers and writers to do. Wait what, monitoring? What do you mean? But then, I re-read this section, and my mind automatically revised the very meaning it gleaned from the text. Monitoring is simply the ability to separate oneself from whatever he or she composed, and discovering how we can develop what we wrote or what has developed.

When reading this piece, the biggest takeaway I notice for me is this: I must always write and read mindfully, or I will be missing the best parts of what I’ve written or read.

 

 

You can’t have one without the other

Craft of Research brings up the excellent point that we should not just accept every point made in our sources. When writing research papers I become so concerned about finding information that aligns with my points that I accept almost anything. I need to think more critically about my sources content. When learning the research process, my teachers emphasized what was considered a reliable source and what was NOT! I tend to focus more on the reliability of the source rather than its makeup. Although reliability of a source is important, I need to shift some of this energy in my research.

I also really enjoyed  suggestions for connecting the reader and writer by working in groups. I think this gateway class will be a great opportunity where we can utilize group resources to ensure  this connection. I feel that our peer editing has already helped the “Why I Write” paper we wrote.

Teirney and Pearson bring in the idea that the reader and writer must be connected as well. It is important for a writer to ensure their intent of the peice is clear to the reader. A good writer should be able to step back and observe if their writing is engaging or not. As a reader one must work hard to grasp what the writer is trying to portray. As Frank Sinatra said, “Love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other,” Teirney and Pearson claim: reading and writing – you can’t have one without the other.

I agree that reading and writing are strongly correlated and must be considered together. Do you feel that they are completely different aspects, or do you agree with Teirney and Pearson?

What’s the meaning?

Some of the readings this week really resonated with me, especially the parts about meaning creation. I have definitely thought about meaning and how what I get out of reading may be slightly different that the meaning that the writer intended. Now, being in a writing class, it is interesting to change my perspective to think about the meaning I am creating in my writing. I particularly liked what Teirney and Pearson wrote about (this is my summary):  All writing and reading, therefore, is an interaction between the writer and the reader: what the writer wants the meaning to be, what the reader thinks the meaning is, and what meaning the reader then associates with the text.

However, this makes me question how often the writers meaning is actually the meaning that readers get out of a text. That’s kind of a scary thought…what if you’re a writer who really wants to get your meaning across, but you have to question whether a reader will extract a completely different meaning based on his/her experiences? Maybe that’s where ideas from the “Craft of Research Reading” come in… the reader also has a role to play, and, as Teirney and Pearson discuss, it is the reader’s job to think about what meaning the writer wants to get across. 

For my own writing, I think that I need to become more cognizant of my role in creating meaning that is relevant for myself, but also relevant for other readers and something that they can understand. My experiences influence how and what I write about, so I need to make sure that these experiences are either something that people can relate to, or a least something that they can understand! 

(and I got bored with black font, so I’m changing it up) 🙂

No author is beyond reproach, and that’s okay.

As a sophomore in college, I took an English class themed around 20th century American literature.  It should have been titled “Moby Dick and postmodernism.”  My final paper for that class is probably the one paper that I have exerted the most concentrated effort on in my career at Michigan so far.  In about fifteen pages of prose, I tackled the question “What is postmodernism, and what implication does it have for authors and the writers of history?”  The basic conclusion I came to was that postmodernism is a movement that actively defies our ability to define anything—it forces readers to be hyperaware of the fact that every text you read is constructed by someone for someone.  Every text has an author, and that author is not above reproach, beyond scrutiny, or without bias.  Putting that learning in context with “Reading and Writing without Authority,” the ideas the article brought up reiterated what I already knew but in a way I hadn’t previously considered.  Studying postmodernism made me feel a little (okay, a lot) cynical towards non-fiction writers in the sense that I started to see everything as at least partially fictitious (they don’t say history is written by the victors for no reason).  But this week’s reading put the idea in a different light: how I can, as an author, embrace the postmodernistic idea that all texts are authorial constructs by writing in a way that says “These are the preexisting ideas in this field, here’s why I agree/disagree, and how I’m going to contribute to the conversation.”

Writing About My Brother, The Comedian

I was eager to start my new personal essay English 325 class this year because I love writing about myself.  Our first essay assignment was to write about a person, any person. I immediately knew who I would write about: my brother Michael, the comedian.  Michael is one-of-a-kind and I have enough stories about him to write an entire novel that would probably sell off the shelves on day one.  He’s just that entertaining.

When I actually sat down at my computer and began to write, I was having major writer’s block. I had so much to say but I didn’t know the perfect way to say it. I wanted to paint a picture of Michael that would leave readers glowing with happiness just to have had the opportunity to see life through Michael’s eyes. At the same time, I wanted to showcase Michael’s little idiosyncrasies and deep thoughts. After reading through some essays written by top writers, I had a better idea of how to write my essay. I began with a scene summary from when Michael was just a small child:

“If you happened to look in the window of my childhood house and saw what my family did for after-dinner entertainment, you might have thought we were exploiting our youngest family member. You would have seen a short and stocky three-year-old boy running around half naked with his belly hanging out playing the air guitar and screaming so loudly to ACDC songs that his face turned a firey shade of red. It’s everyday episodes like these that could easily appear on America’s Funniest Home Videos. But to my family, it’s just part of our crazy, funny life with Michael. You don’t need a week, a day, or even an hour with him to know it’s going to be a good time. Everybody loves Michael.”

I continued to thread the “happy-go-lucky”, living life on the edge story line throughout my paper.  Overall, I’m happy with the first draft of my essay. I think I used great direct scenes and detailed descriptions. However, I feel like the order of my essay is all over the place.  We’re doing a writing workshop in class so hopefully I can get that part straightened out.  I do have to say, I’ve had more fun writing this paper than I’ve had writing any other college essay. I guess personal essays are the perfect format for me!

Say What You Mean. Mean What You Say.

 

“So, what are you trying to say?”

This phase has been uttered far too many times in the history of phase uttering. Why can’t everyone just understand what everyone else means? (Do you understand?) What’s wrong with a little clarity in our lives? And besides, mystery is SO overrated.

But what if all the misunderstanding is due to our reading inadequacies? Christina Haas and Linda Flower make a case for the weight of “rhetorical reading” and, in turn, meaning construction (“Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning,” 1988).  The piece addresses rhetoric from the lens of the reader, the person whose eyes stream across the page picking up language and turning it into meaning. The authors argue that the way in which readers read varies across experience levels as they employ techniques to make that meaning. They also claim that a reader must read for purpose, motivation, intended audience and a foundation of deeper understanding as opposed for “merely an information exchange.”

We’ve been drilled through grade school, almost as if our hands write and our eyes read like puppets on the end of an instructor’s string. What’s really interesting is that our minds are the true pieces of value, according to the authors. It’s what we believe and interpret that’s important, not simply what we see and regurgitate.

Frankly, I’ve never been so meta with my own meaning making before. I would never think twice when constructing my thoughts on a Boxcar Children chapter book, TIME column, E:60 short documentary, etc. Was I thinking original thoughts or thoughts that the author intended me to think? Was it me they were targeting or was I a new sector of audience intruding with interpretation? I don’t have any answers, but I do have a new perspective from which to view.

So, do you get what I’m trying to say?

Blogging and Repurposing… Madelaine Mitchell-Ward

 

Blogging, how I saw it before participating, was rather self centered, and a little foolish, valuing your thoughts and opinions so much that they should be shared with the world. However, after blogging and reading other’s blogs, I have somewhat of a changed outlook. I think now, that blogs are pretty interesting when it is a blog about a topic the blogger and reader are both exploring and interested in. Reading blogs provide accessible information, however skewed it may be, and introduce other opinions and outlooks besides your own into the mix. I think that blogging, and I touched on this in my “Why I Write” Essay, is a nice way to rehear, or read for the first time others responses specifically to topics discussed in class. It gives me an opportunity to better figure out what others think of readings and nice pieces they have come across and wrote about. As far as writing is concerned, I found it easier to blog what I thought as I had more experience and with gamification, I now feel free to do pretty much whatever I want, exploring my opinions without over complicating them to sound important or correct even, just relay honest opinions and explorations of text.

Blogging is different than other types of writing because of its structure, its unhindered opinions. Unlike essays or books or magazine articles that are painstakingly edited, blogging, as Sullivan pointed out, can be published with confidence, and then looked at afterwards to see cracks. Also, blogging allows multimedia presentation within the blog; readers have the possibility to find out more than they might if they were just sitting down to read a book. What bloggers also need to keep in mind is audience, and I think that is another difference between blogging and other forms of writing. Readers of blogs aren’t reading for straight factual news. As a reader of blogs, I want to be entertained by an opinion, a point to agree or disagree with, or a witty sarcastic remark. I am less looking to read for rhetorical devices, and more for understanding of thought process behind the blog.

In this way, blogging has prepared me for my repurposing project. My original piece was a pseudo- magazine article in Dance Teacher Magazine, cheesy, graphic and very colorful. Pictures, captions and pieces of text highlighted in purple are everywhere, the topic being how to sell out a dance show or recital. The audience for my work was dance teachers, not looking for a piece of work to spend significant time with, but more of an easy read to maybe amp up their Nutcracker programs. I have decided to repurpose as a business article for a business publication like a Wall Street Journal. Needless to say, the audience has changed. I am now talking to a lot of business people looking for data, variables, fixed spending, and other economic terms I haven’t learned yet. So in my repurposing I will change my vocabulary, replace the pictures with graphs and amp up my “profit margins?”

 

 

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tierney and pearson

Tierney and Pearson’s mention of active reading resonated with me. Oftentimes I find myself becoming a lazy reader when reading things that are not of particular interest.  Rarely will I ask questions of the text, I usually just take it for what it is.  There are seemingly endless deadlines in college so finishing an assigned reading as quickly as possible is usually the desirable outcome.  Once the authors started talking about “monitoring” and the “other self” I started to become slightly confused as to what they were exactly saying. It seems like the authors are suggesting some sort of third person view of things.  All in all it was worthwhile to read Tierney and Pearson, as I will apply some of their techniques to my future writing practices.

Reading to Write, or Writing to Read?

In Deborah Brandt’s “The Status of Writing” and “How Writing is Remaking Reading,” she argues that in an ever-increasing commercial world, people are now reading in order to write, rather than reading for the sake of literacy, moral or culture. Brandt seems to have done exhaustive research on how the individual disciplines of reading and writing have developed and eventually intersected. She seemingly bemoans the fact that because of writing’s commercial value, reading has merely become a steppingstone for its more commercial complement and is no longer regarded as its own discipline.
To me, the convergence of reading and writing is nothing new and not something to look unfavorably upon. Granted, Brandt might have better perspective on this and has done more research, but I would think that reading and writing have always had this relationship; at least that’s been the case in my experience. Writers have always read to improve their craft. How else can you improve yourself besides reading other work? You learn new ideas and information and are introduced to different mechanisms and style choices. No idea or thought is wholly original; it has some basis or root in something else. Our writing is a response to something we’ve read, an expansion of the information that was presented to us. I cannot argue against Brandt that reading has lost its moral standing; I do not have enough information either way to make a statement. But I can say that reading and writing have always had this complementary relationship. Commercialism didn’t really change that, but it may have made it more apparent.