Working through my theory of writing, I have come to understand that for me writing is a form of critical thinking about my place in the world. Dry information is sufficient for a dictionary entry, a Wikipedia page or an owner's manual, but writing is applying the writer's skill, experience and opinion to a subject.
In the evenings I write in my journal and narrate the events of the day. Reflection helps to refine my conclusions and reveals flaws in my thinking about events and people. Memories of the day are sharpened and placed into perspective. It's said that during sleep the mind files and collates our experiences and places them in perspective. I would say that writing does the same thing.
Our experiences are reshaped many times by repetition of the stories we tell ourselves and others. The story changes from a simple narrative, to the emotions that result, to a conclusion, to a solution. I've found that the process speeds up when I write. The solution arrives much more quickly and is usually more practical. I hope to inspire and encourage the reader to conclude that writing is thinking, and thinking makes life more fulfilling.
A Writer Emerges
Struggles In telling a story, written or verbal, I have struggled with organization. My writing tends to be verbose and hard to read. Reading should be easy and effortless, a painless way of receiving information. My goal is to be able to write so that the reader can almost ignore the act of reading.
One of my worst struggles is a self-diagnosed case of anomic aphasia. It's very difficult to find the words to express myself, verbally and in writing. When I started writing a blog I realized that the same phenomenon was happening in my writing. I have no idea if there is a physical reason for it, but it scared me. I've found that writing every day is helping, both in writing and speaking. I feel very fortunate to have no difficulties in reading or comprehension. I love to read and have averaged about one book a week for many years. Accomplishments So far my only foray into writing has been The Don and Lisa Show, a photo blog. The premise was the stories I wanted to tell about my husband's and my life for a set amount of time. We have a theory about life-if you call the less pleasant parts Adventures, it helps a lot. In essence I was producing the narrative of my life.
For each post the goal was to take a photo or screenshot of locations, everyday experiences or learning opportunities. With each photo was an explanatory text of a few paragraphs. In a blog post named'Sweet Home 3D', I explained how to use a free CAD program with which I designed my house and apartment. I enjoyed sharing the posts with my friends and not having to tell the same story many times. Abilities One of my strengths is an insatiable thirst for learning. My response to things that interest, confuse or scare me is to dive head-first into learning about it. For example, during the 2016 election cycle I was horrified by the outcome of the election. In discussing the subject I realized I really didn't know much about how our government runs. I enrolled in a Harvardx course called 'Introduction to American Government'. There was a problem, we have to write 4 essays. I didn't have any conception of how to write, so I enrolled in this course in English Composition 101. I've always wanted to write well, but never made the time to learn.
Writing, Outcomes, and Habits of Mind
Rhetorical Knowledge The Writer's website we are required to build for the course is an excellent introduction to producing a writer's portfolio. The free Weebly WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web page builder is relatively easy to use once you get used to it. It's a far cry from the 'good old days' when you had to learn HTML and CSS or hire a web designer for the simplest website. Writers can build an extensive online portfolio in a few hours showcasing their own work. When my site is complete at the end of this course and I've refined it a bit, I wouldn't be ashamed to show it to anyone.
I took some of the photos and enhanced all the images for my Writing Projects and Writer's Journals. Over several years, I've become proficient in GIMP (free analog to Photoshop). This skill has stood me in good stead for the images I need to use in blog posts, web pages and the Writer's web page. The ability to manipulate images for the web has been a valuable tool. Studies have shown that readers are much more likely to read content if an attractive image first catches their attention. The image of Carla Sanchez's painting for our interview demonstrates her style and skill in oil painting. When a reader sees it, they are much more likely to want to know more about her.
The use of embedded videos, when used appropriately, can greatly enrich your writing. For example, the video embedded in Writer's project #2 showed how the Llano Art Guild coordinates with the Llano Earth Art Fest to promote the arts in Llano, Texas. I've learned how to record and process videos. If I were unable to find an appropriate video for a project, I would be able to produce one.
Accessibility tools have made tremendous strides in helping people with disabilities. Tools such as text readers for the sight-impaired requires that we use readable text, appropriate titles and headings, and alt text for images. Anything we can do to make our work more accessible is going to positively impact the people who need it. This W3C Accessibility article describes the importance of making our work available to the millions who have learning disabilities, hearing and sight problems.
A practice that started out as an accessibility tool turned out to be good for everyone. Descriptive text links allow screen readers to open links to additional sites while still providing a smooth reading experience. The practice is used extensively in articles, Wikipedia pages, news outlets and many other venues. I've used it exclusively in this essay to provide support for my claims.
Critical Thinking, Reading and Composing I didn't realize it at the time, but producing a public blog was introducing me to the concept of critical thinking. I had to decide who my audience was, how to present the subject, research the subject and explain it. Then I had to read it carefully and consider whether I'd accomplished my goals. If it didn't I had to rethink my premise or add enough information so that the reader would understand and enjoy the post.
Composing is a new form of learning for me. From experience I knew that when I wrote about something, and especially if I taught someone what I had just learned, the information was 'cemented in' and I truly had learned it. Reading and retaining information was always a sort of hit-and-miss affair.
Processes Developing a writing project through multiple drafts taught me how to get to a point in a work that was 'good enough', then to walk away and let it marinate a bit. Coming back with fresh eyes always helps to see the opportunities for improvement. In the Rough and Final Drafts of Writing Project #2, the versions differ significantly. The peer reviews I got for the First Draft of Writing Project #2 were all positive, with one suggestion that my word count was much lower than required. That prompted me to do a little more 'digging' and make a few more observations and opinions which I feel enhanced the piece. Then I simplified many of the sentences and rearranged some of the paragraphs. Knowledge of Conventions So far in this short course we've been required to write according to three different writing conventions; essays, blog posts and interviews. The reading materials we have been assigned have been of additional styles that we can study and emulate. We've been instructed to write for a couple of specific audiences, our peers and the course staff who will be grading the work. I've been taking my cues from the reading material assigned to us and the template that has been provided for this essay.
I'm looking forward to keeping up with technology and watching how it affects the evolution of writing. I've already seen how writing for the web has affected writing styles, usually for the better in my opinion. There are more writers and readers than ever before and that trend continues. The ability to place live links in any piece has enriched writing beyond measure. I used to bring stacks of books home from the library every two weeks and couldn't absorb a fraction of what I can now in an evening's web-surfing.
Habits of Mind The habit of mind that is already an intrinsic part of me is Persistence. When something appears to be difficult, I just take one bite-that is, I start. Then I plug away until the project is done. It's difficult to make time for real life when I'm obsessed about something. My friends make fun of me when they see the time stamps on my messages, I do my best stuff after 2am.
Persistence has helped me to tackle one of the WPA outcomes which is very difficult for me, Processes. When I write something, I want to get it done and move on. Frankly, I don't want to see it again. I now know that's not how writing works. When I see the difference between the Rough Draft and the Final Draft of Writing Project #2, I'm a convert.
My Growth, My Writing, My Future
I have no experience with academic or professional projects yet, but it's quite likely that I will continue in the Global Freshman Academy on Edx to obtain a freshman year of college. This course will turn out to be invaluable. Now, rather than being unprepared for college writing, I'll have the tools to continue my education. For the near future I can start writing blog posts that are more content-rich rather than so dependent upon images.
I've always wanted to write well, having been a voracious reader all my life. Since starting this course, I can see myself writing more and being prepared to write for college courses.