Roll The Windows Down, And Enjoy the Ride

On the first day of Writing 220 class, I remember the feeling of being in way over my head. We were asked to talk a little bit about our favorite books and our favorite authors, and my answer came up short. In all honesty, I am not much of a reader. When I was little, I was more interested in playing outside than sitting down and reading a book. That character trait has stayed with me into college, and I still do not devote much of my leisure time to books. Although reading was never a huge passion of mine, my love for writing has only grown over the years. I get bothered by the fact that there is an assumption that people become writers because they love to read; can’t I become a writer because I just love to write?

After getting home from class that night, I started doing some research about famous authors (embarrassing, I know), in case we were again asked about this topic in a future class. I wanted to be able to fit in and not admit the fact that I don’t devote much, if any of my free time to books. Looking back on this now, I am more mad at my past self for trying to morph into a stereotypical writer and fit in, than I am about the absence of novels on the shelf in my room.

So…

My advice to you, and to my future self is this:

Slow down, and enjoy the ride. Maybe even pick up an ice cream cone just because you can. Let the process happen to you, don’t try to make yourself fit the process. Although ‘you’ as a writer may not fit the mold of your peers or those who have come before you, you were accepted into this minor for a reason. You obviously have talent and a passion for the written word, so don’t let your differences make you feel inferior.

Celebrate the fact that you are different, and if you aren’t much of a reader either, hey, shout it out! Let your writing speak for itself, and enjoy the process of experiencing the minor. The air outside is nice, so roll those windows down and keep on driving.

Good Luck!

Abigail

words and moving words

The more I’ve gotten into reading for pleasure online, the better I have realized my ideal type of work I prefer to interact with. I’ve always been a huge fan of long, informative articles on topics I admire such as Detroit sports, college culture and anything Michigan. If a writer attracts my attention in a topic of interest for the first 30 seconds it takes me to read their piece, I’m hooked.

With my discovery of booming centers of creativity like BuzzFeed, The Rsvlts, and The Daily Pregame (formerly known as College Town Life), I have become an avid reader of not only blocks of text pieces, but ones that incorporate impressive infographics, list and memes. I browse these sites for laughter, inspiration and occasionally to learn about something that I was uninformed of before. I look forward to updates and love going through the archives to stumble across articles I might have already read but wouldn’t mind reading again. It’s sites like these, with much user-generated content, that get me excited about writing and what you can do with it beyond the bounds of the English language.

As much as I enjoy these websites, I find myself being turned off from BuzzFeed video or the same material presented in video form. I was trying to figure out why I can go through Jimmy Tatro’s entire video library and not be bored, but resist watching a segment like two-minute 10 Scrumptious Facts About Your Favorite Cereal Brands or one of the other playful videos found on their site. I think this is because I can’t easily scroll through a video and get a sense if I want to “read” it fully or not, or even skim it. Short videos are meant to be watched all the way through, and with my busy schedule I’d rather spend 30 seconds skimming a BuzzFeed article than taking a full two minutes on a BuzzFeed video.

This article over video preference is somewhat topic specific though. If a video headline really caught my eye I wouldn’t hesitate to watch that. But with the wide range of videos on the net, I’d rather spend my time watching Ted Talks or ESPN’s 30 for 30 series or movies I’ve been dying to see but haven’t got around to or Netflix. Producers of culture and content are vying for our time, our screen time and intellectual time.

Even we are engaging in trying to get each other’s attention through flashy titles and strong writing that will get a reader through to the very end of our pieces. It’s a tricky thing, both muddling through a sea of content and producing content ourselves to be muddled through and plucked out as worthy of attention. Sometimes I feel as if even trying is a winless battle in a place where the top dogs leave little room for other mutts to emerge.

As we become more digitally saturated, I hope that I’ll eventually like to watch videos more often but until that time, I’ll take my learning traditionally, through text. Even though it’s old-fashioned, it feels more comfortable to me.

 

Evolution of a Reader/Writer

The readings this week made me think a lot about how reading affects writing and the ways in which they are positioned and valued to us in society. How we learn and the level at which we master these two integral life skills greatly shape our life paths and what we do and contribute to the world. According to Brandt’s “The Status of Writing,” we’re switching from a nation of readers to a nation of writers, in part because we have the ability to read so much more than we used to with the spread of mass communication and information technologies.

I always have considered myself first a reader then a writer. I read to learn about something, I read for class, I read to borrow and steal techniques of good writing. Instead of reading exclusively for content, nowadays I look to form and function too, as my college education has instructed me to do. Before college, my reading/writing life was content-driven, simple, and largely taking everything at which I read at face value neglecting to reflect on and think critical of the text.

While reading the Penrose and Geigler’s “Reading and Writing About Authority” about the different methods in which Janet and Roger composed their reports given the same prompt, I was able to explicitly realize how much my own reading and writing habits have evolved since entering the University. When I track my growth as a writer, I’ll try to detect the evolution of my writing samples and how my writing has sophisticated over time. When I track my growth as a reader, I can pinpoint my shift from teen fiction to more nonfiction texts and then academic articles and reading for intellectual curiosity, as well as an abundance of online content.

By highlighting the study of the college freshman as an “outsider” to an “insider” in his domain, Penrose and Geigler have reasserted my own feelings I had as a freshman and how I used to feel when writing academically. Roger knows that knowledge claims can be contested causing him to write with authority. My graduated high school self certainly did not know I could formally challenge what published authors had written through my own writing. In fact, most of the ways in which Janet went about pursuing information from the article pool I would have done myself back then, heavily focusing on the content rather than the methods and form. Janet’s habits were so closely related to my own just a few years ago I thought I was reading an article about my own habits.

It wasn’t until last semester when I finally began to understand that reading an academic article (or anything really) relies heavily on understanding the claims the author is making. My International Studies course on development had us reading many articles on the different facets of the topic, and when my lecturer covered them in lecture, she consistently used the author’s names to describe arguments. While I didn’t remember author names as well as I did the content of their arguments, I understood that their words and writing was meant to be challenged and discussed in a constructive manner.

These readings have given me a lot of perspective on growth and the complex relationship that reading and writing share with each other. While I was always implicitly aware of how my reading affected my writing habits and styles, these authors shed to light more clearly my position in the context.

who needs a degree when we have books

I’m getting excited for the upcoming overwhelming amount of free time that comes with our impending winter break (though I’m sure this week will feel like the longest of the year). I get the sense that I’m not the only one who loves to read in their spare time, something I don’t get nearly enough of during the semester. That said, I’ve been making a pretty ambitious list of books to read, many of them coming from npr’s super distracting “book concierge,” a mosiac of some great books of the year.

No, but seriously, my list is getting longer and longer as I keep judging these books:

image of collage of best books of 2013

by their covers (and blurbs, i’m not that shallow…). This whole finals-studying thing is going really well, in case you can’t tell.

Do you guys have any recommendations? also, PSA, everyone read Tenth of December.

“Toward a Composing Model of Reading” Response

Overall, I think the idea of reading mirroring the compositional form of writing, complete with planning, drafting, aligning, and revising stages, is a useful one. Three key ideas from the article I took away were:

1. “The goals that readers or writers set have a symbiotic relationship with the knowledge they mobilize…” The point about how just as writers give meaning to a piece by envisioning the audience for which they are writing, readers also ascribe meaning to the same piece of writing by taking into account both their viewpoints and the author’s. This is important because it means that the ultimate message of writing is influenced by both the reader and author.

2. “…schema theoretic studies involving an analysis of the influence of a reader’s perspective have shown that if readers are given different alignments prior to or after reading a selection, they will vary in what and how much they will recall…” This is interesting in terms of cognitive schemas: the context in which we perceive the world, or in this case, a piece of writing. Readers assuming an intended audience member can draw more/different ideas from readers that assume a generic position.

3. “We have found that readers of the first text usually assume a sympathetic collaboration with the writer and identify with the characters.” Viewing reading and writing as an act of indirect collaboration reinforces the idea of approaching each in a similar compositional model. It is interesting how readers critical of an author often do not identify with the author’s content, or cannot align their own viewpoint with the author’s.

Many ideas mentioned in the article resonated with me, but I did have a few qualms with the authors’ stance. First, I do not think reading and writing can be viewed as completely mirrored processes. This is because with writing, although the author’s work is shaped by his/her intended audience, the compositional process is far less dependent on the reader than the act of reading is on a concrete piece of writing. Secondly, I do not think that a compositional process of reading is entirely practical for every scenario. Rather, I think the reader can engage in simultaneous planning, drafting, and aligning, and that their comprehension will still be improved.

constant conversations

Brandt’s essay made me think back to my own k-12 schooling and experiences learning to write. I remember clearly the system my kindergarten & 1st grade teacher used to teach us new words we’d eventually be able to read in sentences – we’d start off with red, then graduate to orange, then eventually the end of the rainbow. (I used to be really proud that she ran out of words for me before the end of the unit and ended up adding spanish words instead). I remember later being asked “how old were you when you learned to read?” but never the same question about writing.

Writing was always taught formulaically, a book review or later maybe a five paragraph essay all easy to master with the right conventions – topic sentence here and conclusion there.

I think Brandt’s point that “mass writing is given less ethical and moral value than mass reading” is really interesting. I think because reading is so quantifiable and objective – you read something or you don’t, and you read x many books a year – it’s easier to measure in terms of value. Yet we ingest so much more information on a daily basis today than ever before I wonder how school curriculums will adapt. I remember my english classes in high school being so focused on comprehension of classic books (and sparknotes saving my grades), and I agree with Brandt that something seems to be shifting the relationship between writing and reading. thanks to technology we’re constantly in conversations with not only our peers but strangers in the world. I can’t help but think that my initial education didn’t really prepare me for these constant conversations (didn’t intend to name drop but i really like that Passion Pit song…), but then again we need to learn to walk before we can run, so who knows.

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

Composition of Meaning in Reading and Writing

When I write, all I have to rely on are my own past experiences that have shaped my background. On the other hand, people who read what I write may see the same words yet finish reading with a completely different understanding of my writing than the understanding I have when I read through my own work. Although it seems easy to write this off as something reasonable and obvious, I’ve only come to fully understand and appreciate the importance of this not too long ago.

Through workshop sessions with my classmates, I came to realize and appreciate the differences that arise in interpretations of the same text. My classmates asked me questions I’d never even think of while I was writing my paper. Sometimes they asked if I’d intended for the reader to think X and I’d say that I was expecting the reader to think Y. Sometimes their questions baffled me. Why were they reading so much into a section that I’d thought was so straightforward? Why were they wondering if I’d meant something deeper when, really, I’d meant that sentence quite literally? Why were my readers so different from what I’d expected them to be? Suddenly, my own classmates, whom I’d presumed thought pretty much the same way I did (aside from some issues in which we all had steadfast opinions about), seemed so different. And then I felt the tension that I had to ease between being a writer and being a reader.

This quite accurately depicts my feelings during writing workshops sometimes. Photo credit to: agsblingblog.wordpress.com

This is what the reading “Toward a Composing Model of Reading” focuses on. Its argument is that reading and writing both involve the construction of meaning since meaning is essential to both a reader and a writer. An interesting point that this reading develops is that the ways in which meaning is constructed in reading and writing may be much more similar than we think even if the processes produce different meanings as an end result.

“Toward a Composing Model of Reading” discusses how reading and writing share in common these aspects: planning, drafting, aligning, revising, and monitoring. In the planning stage, both writers and readers set out with specific goals in mind – before writing, the writer plans to use the right words to convey his or her message; before reading, the reader plans to go through the text to pick up specific information. The authors define the drafting process as “the refinement of meaning as readers and writers deal directly with the print on the page”. In aligning, writers and readers approach a text differently depending on what roles they take on as they write or read. A writer is conscious of the audience that is going to read and interpret his or her work. The reader, in return, responds to the writer’s intentions either with agreement or disagreement. Next, in the revising stage, a reader has to rethink his or her interpretation of a text while a writer has to go through a draft and decide how to improve it. The authors state that in the monitoring stage, “readers and writers must be able to distance themselves from the texts they have created to evaluate what they have developed”.

While I generally agree with the points raised in the reading, I am still unsure about the revising process that a reader goes through as the authors put forth. The authors highlight that “[readers] must examine their developing interpretations and view the models they build as draft-like in quality – subject to revision”. I don’t doubt that this is a very effective reading strategy (after all, we’ve all done these: rereading, making notes in the margins, arguing with ourselves if we agree with something in the text); however, I think it will be quite difficult for me to employ this method as a normal, everyday reading practice.

I just can't read when I'm frustrated. Photo credit to: sthmmorden.blogspot.com

Maybe I am being swayed by my own preconceived notions of the difference between reading and writing, but I think that if I were to keep consciously reevaluating my interpretations of every text I read, I may just end up feeling lost. I feel that interpretations form and shift naturally as I read and if I were to track all the little changes that happen in the way I view a text, I may feel as though I cannot find a clear stand in the topic addressed. While rereading and debating over the meaning of a text are necessary and highly useful, sometimes I want to just read without nitpicking on every detail of not only the text but also my thought process. That is not to mean, though, that I fully oppose revising every time I read. There are times when I actually enjoy critically analyzing what I’m reading and tracking my responses to the text, but there are times when I simply want to be a passive reader. (At the risk of sounding shallow, I will say that I think there’s some joy to be found in being a passive, “superficial” reader. But, of course, there’s more than one way to interpret that.)

I was surprised by the conclusion I found myself reaching after I’d typed the whole chunk of text above. In many ways, my own post mirrored exactly what the authors had proposed in their writing. I started reading the text with my own biases, found myself looking out for specific details (the what’s and why’s), assumed a position that was at times in favor of the authors and at times stubbornly opposing the authors, reconsidered my assumptions in line with the ideas contained in the reading, and monitored myself by way of evaluating my opinions to form this post.

So, yes, now I think that reading and writing are much more similar than I’ve previously assumed. But, I guess, somewhere inside, I’m still not completely opposed to changing my mind. (Now I feel like an extra critical reader – can’t decide if that’s good or bad.)

Untitled

Despite the articles being a little repetitive, I found parts of the pieces interesting.  Obviously, writing and reading are inextricably linked to each other, as Brandt points out, “There can be no reading without writing, nor writing without reading.” But, I personally had never really considered either of the two activities in the ways Brandt presents them.  The concept of mass literacy through writing was interesting to me. It seems to implicitly make an argument for the value of effective communication and the importance of what I think Kenneth Bruffee would call “social discourse.”

In my peer tutoring seminar, we’re talking a lot about writing, what writing is, how to best learn how to write, and effective strategies for making good peer tutors, and thus, better writers.  I’m noticing a trend in these writings towards a more collaborative learning style. Advocates of this particular style of teaching cite the effectiveness of communicating with other writers, at all skill levels, about writing and the writing process, and Brandt’s piece seems to reinforce this theory. In a society that’s tending towards a mass population of writers, writers are forced to communicate with each other and, in doing so, they make their writing better. There’s a trend of moving away from defining knowledge as this abstract good to be transferred from the knowledgable (the instructor) to the ignorant (the student). More and more, knowledge is being defined in a collaborative sense, where understanding is something to achieved through conversation, according to writing scholars like North and Bruffee.

It’s then interesting to think about what Brandt says, and how she classifies reading as good, but writing as good.  If knowledge is no longer a commodity, but a goal to strive towards, then reading as the sole mean of disseminating knowledge becomes obsolete.  Obviously, I don’t think people should stop reading, but I’m tempted to say that far more emphasis needs to be placed on, in academic institutions especially, the value of writing.