Challenge Blog Three: First Year Writing 2.0

I am taking a First Year Writing Requirement as a second-semester senior. This was entirely by accident. I only decided to enroll because the course is focused on pop culture and music. So obviously it looked interesting! As a MiW, I have taken plenty of argumentative essay courses. Then why am I having trouble starting this first paper? It is a 4-5 page rhetorical analysis that unpacks an interview with Blondie (well, just Debbie Harry and Chris Stein). This should be right up my alley, right? But I just can’t pin down the exact problem, because I think it’s two-fold. First, my professor provided some¬†incredibly¬†confusing guidelines for the paper-writing process that I am not used to. She is almost guiding us too much! For example, she gives us concepts to consider for each text we want to close-read and then we are meant to answer a set of questions of our classmates creation. I feel like I do this process (asking questions of the text) in my own natural way as I start a paper. So, her guidelines may be too constraining. Secondly, I feel pressured to write an interesting and revealing paper in just four or five pages. I have been writing longer papers since my last FYWR, so I simply feel stuck right now and can’t jump in.

im out

What did I do when I felt this way in my other writing courses? The upper-level requirements were definitely more challenging, but they had incredibly open-ended prompts. I don’t enjoy feeling like I have to answer a specific question, so I may approach this paper in a similarly flexible way (while still acknowledging her guidelines). I would like to reveal new perspectives on this interview rather than arriving at any solid answer. Because this Blondie interview is complicated! I won’t forgo the assignment guidelines altogether, but I think I have to just start this paper knowing I will arrive at multiple answers (and finagle a way so that I am not too bogged down by rules). Is that too rebellious? I don’t know. But I am a senior in a freshman writing class and feel like I can be more creative with a rhetorical analysis.

One thought to “Challenge Blog Three: First Year Writing 2.0”

  1. Amanda,

    LOL I also accidentally took a first year seminar in world politics last semester and can completely relate to having too much guidance. In my class, the professor told us exactly how he wanted the paper structured. “Tell me everything I need to know in the introduction,” “analyze one point in each body paragraph.” Aside from the three-point thesis flashbacks, this felt like it robbed me of the ability to create something refreshing.
    It seems like the stringency in your course is trying to limit you in the same way. Thought I’d share a couple of things I used to get me out of the pre-writing funk.

    A) focus on looking at the content from a different angle. Because this was a policy paper based on current events, I knew everyone would have the same sort of facts presented to them (in your case, the interview with Blondie). I was determined to come up with a new way to same something that was already said. My paper was on the Colombian/FARC peace agreement. Instead of taking the classic approach of analyzing the agreements effectiveness, I watched Al Jazeera videos to get the guerilla soldiers’ perspective and highlighted that. It made the paper a lot more exciting to get through.

    In your case, maybe this would mean taking your professor’s guidelines as a starting point but evolving them into something new through research beyond the singular Blondie interview. It may be risky/added work, but I think as a senior you have earned the right to be bold in your approach and say screw it.

    B) Change my perspective on the page constraint: My policy paper was 900 words, which forced me to be more concise than I ever had during undergrad. I think you could definitely write something riveting in 4-5 pages. It will just challenge you to be as precise as possible. Taking a paper that’s too long and re-framing your points for the sake of brevity can become a super fun mental process. I’d say, try jumping right into a provocative thought from the intro paragraph and see where that takes you. Don’t worry about giving background info until the very end.

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