My Confidence in Myself as a Writer thus far in College

When I began college I was an extremely confident writer.  My freshman year of college I took English 125 and English 225 and I received 2 grades I was extremely pleased with.  Considering the fact that I didn’t have to consult much outside help with my writing in those courses, other than the professors, my confidence in myself as a writer continued to grow.  In addition, when I edited papers my peers wrote freshman year, I didn’t see that they had a better command of the English language than I did.  After freshman year, before I officially declared my History concentration and Minor in writing, I was confident that I could articulate myself in a sophisticated manner quite easily through the written word.

 

When I began the fall semester of my sophomore year everything changed.  Once I began fulfilling requirements for my major, History, my confidence in my writing began to dwindle.  One class in particular, History 318, really made me realize that my writing wasn’t as advanced as I thought it was.  I had a 500-word blog post to complete between Thursday and Sunday every week for that class worth 50% of my grade.  It took me about 5 hours to write and revise that assignment every week.  However, despite my best efforts, my GSI ripped my blog posts apart quite regularly.  She cited a plethora of mistakes I made throughout the posts every time I turned in the assignment.

My pride was hurt in History 318 because I was no longer receiving the grades that I wanted for my writing assignments.  My subpar performance in the class was due to the fact that I didn’t really take advantage of the feedback my GSI gave me.  In addition, I didn’t take advantage of my peers’ writing that was readily available to me in the class either. In History 318 we the course blog was readily available to me throughout the semester.  When I began Writing 200 in the winter semester of my sophomore year, I decided to make a change.

I had to blog every week in Writing 200, as did in History 318, but this time I paid more attention to the writing style and the word choice of my peers.   In addition, I decided to critically analyze the feedback my instructor gave me.   As a result, I began to see how much I could improve as a writer.  My peers in my cohort for the minor in writing also contributed to my growth as a writer as well.  In Writing 200 I saw that some of my peers wrote more coherently than I did and that they used more advanced diction than I used.

Writing 200 was the class that helped me begin to restore my confidence in myself as a writer.  Writing 200 forced me to analyze the comments my instructor gave me and analyze the writing of my peers.  Those actions contributed significantly to my growth and development as a writer. Experience begets knowledge and I am confident that my experience in Writing 200 will bode well for me in any and all of my writing endeavors my 3rd year at U-M.

 

 

Je suis fini!

WHEW!  I am SO happy I am finished with this semester.  I don’t want to think about Michigan, grades, or classes for a very long time. AND I DON’T HAVE TO, NOT FOR 4 MONTHS!  HA! #WINNING

Here is the link to my portfolio.  If you are so inclined, check it out!  It’s unfortunate that this cohort will be split up, but to those of you graduating in the Winter 2013 semester, good luck in your future endeavors.  For those of you graduating in the Winter of 2014, I’ll see you guys in a couple years!  However, if I have a class with some of you, or if I see you around campus, or if I see you laboring in the library, I will say hello.  Don’t act like a stranger!

The picture accurately depicts what state I will be in for the next few days.  I need to decompress.

But guess what, I can do that!  You know why?  BECAUSE I AM FINISHED!

A VERY Brief Synopsis of What I Learned This Year

As the year is coming to a close I think it is about time that I reflected a little bit on what I learned about myself.  I reflect quite often, and for the purposes of this post I will keep it brief and only address a few things.  The first thing I want to talk about is my schedule.  I came to a lot of very important conclusions this year regarding my schedule, and I’ve spent no less than 100 hours thinking about my schedule.  This year I spent a great deal of time trying to determine what classes I need to take in order to graduate a semester early while still fulfilling all my requirements.  I declared my major and minor this year, two things that will stick with me for the rest of my life.  Acclimating myself to my History major and Writing minor has been a struggle. I’ve worked hard trying to determine a sufficient amount of time to spend on my difficult classes, and that fact certainly contributes to why I spent so much time thinking about my schedule.  I also spent a lot of time trying to schedule my work hours, my homework hours, my tv show times, my sleep time, and my calling home time J.  I’ve had hectic schedules before, but I think this year was probably the busiest year of my life.

Despite the fact that this semester was busy, I can honestly say that I’ve learned more about others and myself this year than ever before in my life. The most important thing that I’ve learned this year is that SLEEP IS IMPORTANT!  I have a few friends with 4.0s and all of them get an average of 7-8 hours of sleep per night.  I don’t have to take naps during the middle of the day if I get a good amount of rest as well. Not to mention the fact that sleeping is extremely relaxing.

I learned this year that the rate at which I retain my reading assignments for history diminishes significantly after 11pm.   I also learned that the latest I can produce a reputable written document is about 1am, nothing later.  Finally, I learned that I am most productive studying French for about 45 minutes at a time before the rate at which I retain knowledge significantly decreases.   I guess what they say about college is true; you do learn how to be more efficient as college progresses.

I also came to important conclusions about many things outside of school. For example, I learned that the best time for me to go to the gym is at night.  I say this because when I come back from the gym I am SO tired, mentally and physically, that I have no incentive to do anything.  Therefore, if I go at night, I can just crash when I get to my bed.

I also came to the conclusion that I will not be learning any more languages other than French in college.  There are too many words in the English language that I don’t know for me to seriously try to learn too many other languages.  I’ve successfully integrated a multitude of million-dollar words into my vocabulary this year, and I am quite proud of that fact.  I would rather bolster my English vocabulary than learn a new language.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned, other than the fact that sleep is the key to success, is that learning shouldn’t be limited to the classroom.  I think I learned more outside of class than inside of class this year.  This year, I think I grew more as a person than ever as well.  However, that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t work hard in classes.  This year has also shown me that there is a direct correlation between the amount of time I put into a class and my grades.

What have you learned this year?  I hope you have learned as much as I have!  I am so thankful to be a part of this minor, to be on this earth, and last but certainly not least, to be a MICHIGAN WOLVERINE!

Stereotypes

A few weeks ago I made a presentation in which I talked about stereotypes.  I argued that although stereotypes can be problematic, I don’t think that the existence of stereotypes is inherently negative.  When I was reading an article concerning Trayvon Martin this idea of the importance of stereotypes came up again.  I think the title, and a lot of the information in the article, A fight for Trayvon Martin is a war against Stereotypes, is problematic because I don’t think stereotypes are negative.  I think it is absolutely necessary to be aware of stereotypes in America.  However, to be aware of stereotypes doesn’t mean that you have to perpetuate stereotypes.

I took Roland Martin’s opinion that he expressed in this article into consideration when I made my second analysis of the relevance of stereotypes in America.  I came to the conclusion that I don’t necessarily agree with his point that there should be a war against stereotypes. If the American public thinks that there should be a war against racial profiling, then I agree.  However, being aware of stereotypes is very important, and I think a war against them would be detrimental to American society. If Trayvon Martin would’ve taken into consideration the stereotype that a black man with a hoodie on at night generally means that they are a menace to society and altered his dress, would he still have been murdered?  I don’t think it is fair that African Americans should have to alter their dress to be safe in America but I think it is one of the harsh realities of the American system.

The murder of Trayvon Martin is a tragedy; there is no denying that fact.  I don’t think any murder is justifiable unless it is clear that the murder took place as a result of self-defense or in the interest of national security. I have not analyzed all the evidence available in the Trayvon Martin case, and I probably never will.  As a result, I will not take a stance on this case whatsoever. I can only hope that justice will be served in America.

I think it is the responsibility of every American to be aware of stereotypes.  I think it is especially important for African Americans to be aware of stereotypes so that race can remain safe. Growing up I was exposed to a lot of negativity, but I am safe, and that is a testament to my parents’ teachings.  I was always taught by my parents to be aware of what I wear, what I say, and what I do, in order to stay safe.  I don’t think wearing a hoodie is problematic, but I do think that people should be extremely selective about when and where they put the actual hood on the hoodie. My parents often discouraged me from wearing the hood on a hoodie because of the perception it gives off to other people.  Do you think all of the people who support this hoodie march for Trayvon Martin would wear it at night if they were in Trayvon’s situation?  I know I wouldn’t wear a hoodie at night as an African American male in an affluent community when I think someone is following me because I think wearing it will jeopardize my safety.

The purpose of this post is to log my thoughts and to express the way I feel about stereotypes.  I don’t know if I will feel the same way about this 5, 10, or 20 months or years from now.  However, at this point in life, I think that stereotypes are extremely important to be aware of in society.  I think being aware of stereotypes is tantamount to being an informed citizen.  As an informed citizen, you will be able to make wise decisions based on the American system as it stands.  I think the perpetuation of a stereotype is the problem more so than the stereotype itself.  I think the perpetuation of a stereotype legitimizes it.  Legitimizing stereotypes is problematic because doing so perpetuates it.  By perpetuating stereotypes the doors open for racial profiling and the occurrence of negative racist events.  I think we should seek to live a life beyond stereotypes, but we should be aware of them at all times.

 

People Need to Relax to Escape

This week, in lieu of attending How I Write, I will be writing about a writer I admire, James Patterson.  The novels he has written and co-written have sold more than 180 million copies worldwide. In one of the two videos I watched on him for this blog post he said, “people need to relax to escape.” He said this when he was talking a little bit about all the responsibilities people in America are faced with everyday.  I have been overwhelmed this semester with all my responsibilities. Consequently, when he said, “people need to relax to escape” it resonated with me because I don’t think I am relaxing enough, I feel as though I am always engulfed in a strenuous activity.

I enjoy doing a lot of things.  However, reading is one of my favorite pastimes.  In order to enjoy reading, I need to be relaxed, and since I am rarely relaxed during school, I don’t find a lot of time to read.  The most relaxing activity I envision doing in my life is sitting in one of the chairs shown below, with my girlfriend or wife next to me, reading.

 

Albeit that I enjoy reading, I don’t know how to find the time to read for fun, while still balancing all of my other responsibilities.   Patterson gave me an idea that I can implement in my life to help me incorporate reading in my daily routine.  He said that when his son was 8, he and his wife made him read a novel for 30 minutes to an hour everyday.  That doesn’t seem like a long time at all.  I think I can do that, for at least 5 days out of the week, and I believe doing so will make me a happier person.  Patterson also says that people should, “Do what you love, no matter what.”  I found those words to be extremely powerful, and I think they’ll help me reorganize my priorities in my life.

One of my characteristics that I’d like to continue to develop is my perseverance.  37 publishers turned down Patterson’s first novel, “The Thomas Berryman Number” before it was finally published.  However, the novel won an Edger award, an award given annually by the Mystery Writers of America to the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction television, film, and theatre published or produced within the previous year.  His perseverance didn’t allow him to give up hope, and as a result, he has become one of the best writers in America.  In my “Why I Write” essay I said I wanted to develop more confidence as a writer.  After watching the video on Patterson and reflecting on what he had to say, I think he has the amount of confidence in his writing that I aspire to have in my writing one day.  If you are interested in watching the Patterson videos I watched, the videos can be found below.

 

http://youtu.be/Rbp10LYAk6A

 

The Most Affective Writing Process

What is the most affective writing process?  Throughout my life, I’ve always thought the methodology one uses to write is unique to them as a writer and it differs from person to person.  However, I’ve read an abundance of information on this topic over the last few weeks that discount my prior assessment of the writing process. I talked about what I thought was the correct writing process briefly in a response last week.   Since I was so conflicted about this topic, I felt that writing a full blog post on this topic was absolutely necessary in order to reflect on this issue in a more in-depth manner.

In my opinion, the “proper” writing process entails organizing my thoughts, writing a first draft, revising and editing the first draft, taking time away from the paper, and coming back to the paper to revise and edit it again to refine my thoughts.  However, a problem that I have with this process is identifying when I am satisfied enough with my first draft to move on from.  I know that everyone typically has shitty first drafts, but how do I know that the second draft isn’t shitty?  If the first draft is really that shitty, is it possible to doctor up the first draft enough to make the second draft un-shitty?  Will it be necessary to write three or four or five drafts to produce a reputable written document? Trying to come to terms about this leaves me feeling like the man shown below at my computer. 

 

I did a little research and on this website I found a lot of good information on the writing process.  It has interesting information about writing for a multitude of different venues and genres.  When I was reading through this I thought about what we read for class Monday about The Craft of Research.  I felt that this site, and The Craft of Research reading both contain information essential for any writer to assess reach their greatest potential.

Recently, one of the things that sparked a lot of questions in my mind about the writing process was the idea that one should take a day or two off from your writing and come back to it in order to produce a reputable document.  Everything in me and everything that I’ve found as a result of my research has said that one should take a day or so off from a written and come back to it in order to assess it objectively.  However, how can one take a day off from writing when there are already so many other things involved in the writing process that are time consuming?  Should I just do all my research and complete my first draft the day possible and not worry so much about the other steps in the writing process?  Will doing that devalue the other necessary steps in the writing process? How can I gauge what the proper amount of time spent on the different parts of the writing process should be? Over the past few weeks I have been pressed for time for a lot of my assignments, and I have found it arduous to complete everything in a timely manner.  In writing there is rarely ever a “right” or “wrong” answer because it is so subjective so I think there is always room for improvement in my writing.  But how can I distinguish between  having ruminating thoughts about my writing and when I actually need to change some things around? Can writing ever be complete?

 

 

Grisham: The Lawyer/Author

Because I was unable to attend How I Write I found an interesting interview with a writer that I absolutely love, John Grisham.  There were quite a few things that resonated with me from this interview but I really liked how there were “Key to Success” references made throughout the interview.  Those references were instrumental in helping me coalesce his ideas.  The keys to success Grisham discussed were vision, The American Dream, perseverance, passion, integrity, and preparation. Although all of the Keys to Success were relevant, I think The American Dream and preparation were the salient themes in the interview.  They are the two themes Grisham brought out that I think will help me most as a writer going forward.

First of all, what is the American Dream?  If a family lives in a house as shown below with a couple kids and a dog, does that mean they are living the American Dream and that they are happy?

 

 

According to Grisham the American Dream is “for one generation to keep building the dream for later generations.” I am inclined to agree with that statement more than the popular definition associated with the American Dream.   Grisham’s definition doesn’t suggest in any way that the American Dream means one has to have a home as pictured above.  In my opinion, his statement suggests that the American Dream is about having aspirations and bringing those aspirations into fruition for your sake and for the sake of future generations.

My two greatest dreams in life are to be a great writer and to develop my interpersonal skills.  I am developing my interpersonal skills and writing skills everyday in school, therefore, I am living the American Dream right now right? I think I am, but can the popular definition of the American Dream apply to me if I don’t own a home or have kids?    This idea of the American Dream relates to my writing because by developing the skills necessary to make my dreams come true I will be a better person and a better role model.  Making my dreams come true will allow me to make a profound impact on people’s lives and help people express themselves in a more cohesive and intellectual manner.  One of my main goals in life is to help myself so that I can help others in the future, and I think that is a characteristic of what Grisham and I think the American Dream is.

 

In order to make my dreams come true I need to prepare. So how do I prepare to be a good writer?  I think for now, the answer is that I need to read, not just for school, but for pleasure as well.  Why can’t this be me on the beach reading?

 

Reading can be relaxing, fun, educational, and it can develop your writing skills all at the same time. Grisham suggests that:

“It is terribly important to read extensively. Virtually all writers I know are voracious readers still, and that is preparation.”

Grisham was a lawyer and an author and I think that is quite an impressive feat. Does maintaining a legal career and writing career spark enough curiosity for you to look at this interview in its entirety?  I encourage my audience to take the time to read and listen to the entire interview.  Grisham is one someone who I look up to as a writer, and one day I hope to one day be able to emulate the aesthetic tone he writes in. First, I will complete all the books he has written.  After all, there is no better way to prepare to be a writer than to read.

 


P.S. If you have time, read this book if you haven’t already done so!  Honestly, this reads like a whirlwind.  It is a great example of how I aspire to write in the future.  I literally couldn’t put this book down towards the end until I finished.

Blogging, Confidence, and Happiness

As I stated in my post for last week, I am definitely starting to respect blogging as a mode of self-expression much more as a result of this class.   Last semester, I had write a 500-word blog post for history class every week, but the experience I had there doesn’t compare in the slightest bit to the experience I’ve had thus far in this course.  I’ve learned how to incorporate multimedia into my posts now, my peers are commenting on my work on a consistent basis, and I am always writing about things that resonate with me.  In my opinion, this is how blogging SHOULD be.  I can feel my writing improving as a result of the blogging I have to do in this class.  A 500 word academic argumentative post on a running blog for 125 students in my history class last semester on topics such as 19th century liberalism, Nazism, and the Scramble for Africa was interesting to a certain extent.   However, I wasn’t passionate about every topic that I blogged in that class. My blogs for this course are better than my blogs from last semester because I feel more connected to the subject matter week in and week out.  Generally, I am able to successfully articulate myself on subject matter I’m more connected with better than subject matter that I’m less passionate about.

I am glad I had to re-read Sullivan’s piece this week.  Sullivan has a wonderful section in his article where he talks about the art of blogging.  Sullivan contends in his article:

“The wise panic that can paralyze a writer—the fear that he will be exposed, undone, humiliated—is not available to a blogger.  You can’t have bloggers block.  You have to express yourself now, while your emotions roil, while your temper flares, while your humor lasts.” (Sullivan 11)

This quote resonates with me for a couple of reasons.  It helps me think about how blogging different from other types of writing.  Considering the fact that one can’t have bloggers block, but one can certainly have writers block, it leads one to believe that writing and blogging are certainly separate entities.  But how different are they?  If one procrastinates and writes an essay at the last minute for a course, is that paper an essay, or is it more of a “blog” perpetrating an essay?  This quote helped me classify what category the document I am going to re-purpose belongs in as well and I am happy I found it.  It gave me an answer to the arduous question I had concerning what genre of writing the document that I am repurposing belongs to.  I am re-purposing a blog-post that was never posted.

The quote also resonates with me because it helps me articulate how important it is to express oneself without having to worry about humiliation, being “exposed”, or “undone”.  A friend of mine sent me an interesting link that I think relates to this and is great food for thought. In this link it discusses the “top-five-regrets-of-the-dying ”.  In my opinion, at the crux of 3 of the top 5 regrets there is a common denominator, a lack of confidence.  In numbers 1 and 3 it is explicitly stated that people wish they had the courage to do something.  The more confidence one has, the more courage they have to embark on courageous endeavors.  I think that number 5 relates to confidence as well.  People who are confident, typically, are happier.  That is a generalizing claim, and I caution my readers to quote me on that.  The reason I made that remark is because I know when I am confident in what I am doing, I am the happiest that I can be.  Blogging helps build my confidence.  So in essence, it is helping me live my life to the fullest, and in a way conducive to happiness when it’s time for me to move on.

“Life is a Beach, I’m just playing in the sand”-Lil Wayne

First of all, I would like to give a shout-out to Katie Brown, Dana Narens, and Page Szymanski.  They all made amazing e-portfolios and their works have definitely stimulated positive thoughts in my mind about how I am going to tackle this endeavor.  When I read that I’d be making an e-portfolio when I applied for this minor I thought to myself, “How am I going to do this, and what is an e-portfolio anyway?” I paid particular attention in the orientation meeting for the second cohort of the writing minor when the first cohort talked about their e-portfolios.  The students gave off the impression that the task of making these portfolios was quite daunting.  Therefore, when I saw titles expressing extreme relief by my peers after completing this assignment, I was far from surprised.

Thus far in the class we have done a lot of work with the blog and we have completed our “Why I Write” essay. I appreciate the academic essays on the e-portfolios I’ve looked at and the integration of the blog into the e-portfolios.  As a result of all the blogging I’ve done thus far for this class, I have a new level of respect for bloggers.  I think by reading the blogs in conjunction with the academic essays readers can get a better understanding of the writer. One of the portfolios I read had a few blog posts and snippets of what they were discussing in one of the subsections on the main page.  I liked that because the action allowed the reader to get exclusive insight about the way the author feels about the blog before the reader reads the blog and extracts his or her own meanings.  Another person compiled all their posts and provided a link for inquiring minds to read through all their blogs posts.  I like this as well because it gives the people who are reading your e-portfolio a sense of how much writing you’ve done and it allows the reader to gauge your improvement.  I know I will integrate my blog into my e-portfolio, I just haven’t decided how to do so yet.

In all the e-portfolios I looked at, there was a draft of the “Why I Write” essay, a resume, a bio, and the repurpose assignments were on there as well.  However, I didn’t see a lot of writing from outside of Writing 200 on the e-portfolio.  This was a bit of a letdown because I wanted to see how these people wrote for other classes.  I enjoyed seeing that Dana decided to place her essay for her Communications 381 class that fulfilled her ULWR on her e-portfolio.  I need to get more information on the e-portfolio, but I wish there was more writing, or links to more writing, from outside of writing 200 on them.

Looking at these e-portfolios has definitely given me an idea of how I want to beautify mine.  I saw a lot of beautiful pictures and inspirational quotes on the e-portfolios and there will certainly be some of that on mine as well.   This photo is an accurate representation of everything I envision my e-portfolio being about.

I put this here for multiple reasons.  I intend to have a lot of beaches on my e-portfolio in an effort to beautify my e-portfolio because I love the scenery at the beach.  Secondly, I’ll most certainly incorporate things from my life in the blog.  Thirdly, this is an example of a quote, and I intend to incorporate quotes into my e-portfolio.  Last, but certainly not least, I love well-kept beaches.  I have a tattoo of a beach on my arm—and I am Ronald BEACH, II—so I think incorporating the beach into my e-portfolio is wonderful idea. I am quite excited about the e-portfolios.

 

Experience begets Knowledge

The process started when I was alone in the stacks at the graduate library.
When I started reading the academic piece by Christina Haas and Linda Flower entitled Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning I felt extremely disconnected from the subject matter. Although I was in a model environment to get work done, I couldn’t understand what the reading was saying during the first encounter I had with the concepts Haas and Flower were discussing. I knew that it was going to be a challenge for me to get through this scholarly article, so I tried something new, something stated in the text that helped me tremendously. The process that helped me was thinking and reading aloud. So there I was, in the stacks alone talking to myself in an effort to understand the advanced writing styles of Haas and Flower. Surprisingly, it helped me feel much more engaged with the piece. I was beginning to feel like this reading process wouldn’t be such a drag after all.
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