For anyone voting in Michigan!!

ROCK THE VOTE

Hi everyone! So I figured I would pass this along…a professor told my class about this really helpful site for michigan voters

Just put your name into the website and it will tell you your polling location and everything on your ballot. You aren’t just voting for president, but there are a BUNCH of judges, regents, and other positions up for election as well as some referendums and whatnot. This just shows you what the ballot will say so you can know what to expect!!

 

How I Write: let’s all just cut the jargon!

I really enjoyed listening to Sheilah Murphy talk about her writing process at the How I Write event tonight. One thing that I really identified with Murphy about was her take on academic jargon: it sucks. There is nothing worse than reading a boring academic essay! Why would scholars want to put their readers to sleep, when most of the time their work is actually really interesting and potentially groundbreaking? I have always hated the unspoken “no I” rule within academia, because when I analyze something, whether it be a piece of literature, a political theory, or some social science research, I want to explain my process in my terms so that you can understand me. I actually am in a great English class right now in which the professor recently had us all write mock theses, read them to the class, and then explain to everyone in “real speak” what we actually were saying. It really helps when you are able to understand the writer’s voice, and one major take-away I got from this lecture was that cutting the jargon and using my own voice is ok.

Taking a risk with my writing

As an English major, having to write a lot of essays kind of comes with the territory. Nothing beats that feeling of figuring out an essay topic that you just know is going to be good- but how about those that make you feel kind of nervous and uncomfortable? For one of my classes, the assignment was to read a book then come up with a question about the novel then attempt to answer it in a paper. Coming up with a question that was both challenging and engaging was difficult in itself–and made answering it even harder. My question had no concrete answer, so I felt like I was taking a shot in the dark. In desperation, I wrote and re-wrote various answers until my brain turned to scrambled eggs…then I emailed my professor. All I can say is, it is SO AMAZING to get some reassurance that your writing risk is a good one. She recognized the challenge that I set for myself and appreciated that I was working hard to figure it out…which really validated my choice to choose a risky topic in the first place. In the end, I still have no clue if my paper is “right”…but that extra encouragement to take the risk really reminded me the point of writing. Don’t just take the easy way out and write about something obvious…rather, use writing as a means of figuring out something really difficult (maybe you will even learn something…).

Re-purposing woes

For my repurposing project I think I am going to take an academic analysis on the recession that I did for a Political Science class, and re-purpose it into a satirical piece for the New Yorker. I like the idea of making it a kind of open letter from “Mr. Bigg Banks” or “Ms. Lucy Lender” (or something along those lines) to the American people. I have two concerns about this, however. The first is that I am not a POLSCI major; this re-purposing would be a big challenge because it would involve a lot of research just to re-acquaint myself with the issues at stake.  Here, I was reminded about what Shelley said in class about picking something that may be a challenge and seeing how we can meet the challenge. However, I hope I am able to live with the piece for the rest of the semester.

My second concern is that my re-purposing will have a fairly evident political bias. I am hoping to use my e-portfolio as a showcase of my college writing to show potential employers, so do you think that having a politically charged piece on the website will be bad? What if the employer disagrees with my stance?

Can there be there such thing as a “reading draft”?

For today’s reading I read “Toward A Composing Model of Reading” by Tierney and Pearson. In the article, they argue that reading involves the same kind of recursive process that writing does, referring to this process as a “drafting” process akin to drafts for writing. While I agree that reading is a continuous process in which your first take on whatever you’re reading can evolve and change as you continue to consider and reconsider the piece, I would not necessarily call this a “drafting” process. When I think of the word “draft,” I think of storyboards, rough sketches, outlines, and other modes of planning for writing. It is confusing to consider the process of really actively thinking about reading a “draft” because of the current associations we all have with that word. I do agree that speed reading for fact retention is too static a process, and rather reading and analyzing our thoughts on readings ought to be a recursive and never-ending process like writing, I don’t think it makes sense to call this a mode of “drafting.”

That being said, I did agree with the piece when Tierney and Pearson recognize the importance of alignment when reading and writing. When reading or writing, you always play a role in the collaboration. Whether you feel like an outsider or an insider, a student or a teacher, a participant or an observer, both reader and writer always play some role. I like to consider writing (and reading) as a collaboration between reader, writer, and their respective backgrounds that they bring to the conversation. What I mean is, not only is our writing affected by our circumstance, where we live, how we grew up, our past experiences etc…but our reading is equally affected by such background. There is no such thing as writing in a pure vacuum for no audience! I like how the article recognizes this.

I’ll end with a visual idea of recursion…writing (and reading) never really ends, does it?

Question from class

So after class I was thinking about a quote from Susan Sontag’s “Write, Read, Rewrite and Repeat” that was brought up on Thursday:

“Here is the great difference between reading and writing. Reading is a vocation, a skill, at which, with practice, you are bound to become more expert. What you accumulate as a writer are mostly uncertainties and anxieties.”

Do any of you agree with the idea of reading as a “vocation” or as something you can become “more expert” at? Do you think that writing could ever be considered a “vocation” (in her sense of the word) as well? I would never think to compare reading to a job (rather I would more likely associate writing with a job, and reading with a pleasure activity), but I was left wondering about the possibility of Sontag’s comparison.

See you all in class!

Amy

Making something out of nothing

While at first you may be thinking that an assignment like “Why I Write” seems super easy (No page requirement!? No specific structure!? No list of questions that need to be addressed in the paper!? Crazy!), you are sadly mistaken. Or, at least I am.

For me, having a more structured prompt actually helps me generate more ideas than an assignment like this one that can literally go in a million different directions. So, my biggest challenge thus far has been stage one: making something out of nothing. Staring at a blank page, cursor blinking (laughing!) at me, my mind drawing blanks. Why do I write? What will I classify as “writing” in this paper? Will I only discuss academic writing? Or will I include speech writing, or text messaging, or Facebook posting? Will I start my paper off with an anecdote? Will I include some passages from ghosts of my writing’s past? Maybe I will just blabber on, stream-of-consciousness style, until by the last paragraph the answer will await me. Oh well, here’s to hoping I don’t end up like this guy…

Good luck everyone!

Steve Martin-I promise this will not fail to entertain you

Hi all,

So here is a link to Steve Martin’s essay from the New York Times titled “The Third Millennium: So Far, So Good.”

It’s quick, hilarious, and in a few pages attempts to use sarcasm and humor to completely tear down all of the greatest accomplishments of humankind up to the year 2000; reducing theories of art, philosophy, war, communication, and relationships to pieces of minutia while simultaneously asserting that Steve Martin is the sole voice of the nation and world at large.

Enjoy!

Amy

Response to Why I Write readings

Wow. After reading a phrase like “pleasure in the impact of one sound on another,” how can you not fall in love with the rhythm of a good sentence sentence, the beauty of words, or even just with George Orwell himself? That one phrase not only gave me a (perhaps too literal, but nonetheless effective) mental image of alphabet sounds body-slamming one another in the margins of a page, but it also spoke to that little jolt of pleasure I always get when I read a certain sentence or phrase that just works. Like a nugget of poetry within standard prose. Orwell’s later discussion of writing as a political and public act definitely resonated with me, although I feel like in today’s age there is a lot of writing out there that focuses on the personal rather than the political. Sure, it is impossible to write in a completely isolated vacuum; a writer has a past connected to others, lives in the contemporary world, has had certain experiences. But with the modern concept of blogs as a form of instant personal expression, (maybe even personal “word vomit”?) would Orwell be disappointed in today’s intrapersonal writers for our shortage of political drive? Do we lack sufficient Animal Farm’s in the blogosphere? Or are the fiery rants on sites like certain Tea Party blogs equally potent? I wonder what Orwell would be writing about if he lived in today’s world with us…

One thing I know Orwell would recognize as a universal mainstay with writers both then and now is the idea of writing as egoism. Joan Didion’s recognition of the inherent “I” sound in the phrase “why I write” humorously speaks to the idea of writing as an act of our own egos. Of course we write selfishly…writing is a form of self-expression begging to be seen/read/heard! Whether it’s a quirky tweet, an argumentative essay, or a letter to the editor—writing seems to me first and foremost a way for us to express ourselves and our own views to someone else. So what if that seems “imposing,” “aggressive” or even “hostile” as Didion recognizes? Humans, well at least all of the humans I know, sometimes need to use words in a selfish way to communicate effectively. Yes, I know in an academic paper you are supposed to take out all of the “I”s (which sometimes leads to funky stuff like “Therefore, one could say…”), but isn’t the “I” always implied? Well, here’s to hoping for some good, selfish writing this semester!