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Letter of Reflection

Letter of Reflection

Dear Professor Myers and fellow UW bloggers,

 

Never did I expect this semester to be one of the most intensive, satisfying, and helpful periods of time for my writing ability. For a few years, I felt my writing stagnate, unable to reach a new high; UW was the push I needed to reach the next level of achievement in writing. As I walk away from this class I carry with me new knowledge to be used for the rest of my life. The first, and perhaps most lasting, thing I have learned this semester was that no draft is ever ‘final’, it is only ever improving with each revision, reshaping, reimagining. I was, through my academic career, fairly adept at rolling out an essentially complete product of a paper without needing significant revision to be presentable. This course let me realize that I’m only holding myself back by not going through a second or even third pass to make the most of my writing assignments. There hasn’t been a single instance in which another read-through or careful consideration didn’t lead to a substantial revision that benefitted me in the end.

Going back to my first essay for UW, entitled “The House of Stone” after a Poincaré quote: A project which begun in the first weeks of class and wasn’t finished to my satisfaction until this week. The process of looking over and shaping a single essay over the entirety of a semester really changed the way I think about my writing process, especially in creative writing assignments. In these kinds of assignments, there is no real ‘goal’ or aim in the essay other than to express myself in a constructive manner. But this doesn’t make it an easier accomplishment. In fact, I found through the semester that revising a creative writing piece ended up more radically changing the direction and the essence of the writing than in essays with a concrete, researched thesis.

To look at the essay time after time, it was a critical analysis of my own work. But it was a critique of a work I had the power to change. So every time I looked at the essay I saw something that would work better, something that didn’t quite fit, or something that could be reworked to be more effective. In the end the final product looked nothing like my original idea, but by god it was better, I never improved on an essay this much in the drafting process. This class radically changed my idea of how the writing process should occur, and in the end I’m better off for it. It means, to me, that I have to begin papers earlier and spend much more time on them. I’m not losing anything at all, it’s time invested that works more for me than any other use of time.

Give this class some credit; never has a writing class shaped my process and even thinking of writing in such a manner. This class was also my first collegiate experience with such intense research and scholarly expectations. In high school, a well-researched essay might have included a source or two and a citation, but (except for a notable 19 page Extended Essay for the IB programme) I was unaccustomed to the academic standards of a true ‘scholarly essay’. 

You might imagine that the rigor expected in such a course would dissuade me from taking a positive outlook on the class, but in fact it only makes me appreciate the time more. Now, I think about my writing more than ever before. I consider how I write and how to better accomplish my goals in writing. One of my personal challenges through my writing is to maintain a voice that can be identified uniquely, while still using diction appropriate for the audience of the piece. It is a struggle, but it’s worth the extra effort to be seen as having a unique and effective style of writing.

Up until this semester, I was slightly uncertain of what exactly a ‘scholarly question’ consisted of. I’ve come to realize through the semester that it is less of a matter of content and more of a point of view used to look at a set of data or a body of works. The first realization of this matter is that, unfortunately, scholarly questions are limited. You cannot possibly expect to resolve the grand questions of a genre or a literary movement in a paper, it simply isn’t feasible. The first step of creating a good scholarly question is to limit yourself to what is actually answerable. From there, it somewhat of a challenge to draw conclusions and make connections based on the research conducted, but not to overstep the boundaries of research, make unwarranted assumptions, or overly generalize and fail to make a powerful statement. I feel like I am finally at a point where I would be comfortable with conducting a serious scholarly essay on my own.

Never mind the issues involved in crafting a well-written essay. As much as this class has helped my writing, it did not lead to significant revisions to the manner in which I initially write. It is a skill that can only really be developed through practice and reiteration, but UW taught me some skills that I can use to critically analyze the effectiveness of my own writing. The process involves taking small snips of writing and actually diagramming the sentences, noting the gist of the information and how it fits in with the message of the paper. This micro-analysis of writing, while not applicable to the paper as a whole, allows for reworking on a sentence level to make an altogether more concise and effective piece of writing.

Going forward, this will be a class I remember, a class that I will carry with me long after I have left this campus.

To Professor Myers, and to fellow bloggers, I give a wholehearted farewell, it’s been a wonderful journey.

Let the love of life and all its rewards overcome the challenges that may come your way,

Brannon McGraw

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