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Trent’s Letter of Reflection

Dear Professor Myers (and any other lost souls floating about in the ether),

Looking back upon my maturation as a student this semester, I am beginning to appreciate not only the transformation of my writing, but also the transformation of the way I view my writing. When I first enrolled in this UW course, I was very much a victim of my own arrogance and complacency – two traits that, when combined, generally impede any form of personal growth. Having occupied the top positions with both my school newspaper and a local medical journal, I became strangely accustomed to a situation in which my own credentials as a writer were seldom in question. Apart from the occasional editorial, the vast majority of my work involved revising the submissions of other students and colleagues. All the while, I coasted through my junior and senior year English classes with relative ease, much thanks to a pair of young professors eager to grade on far too lenient of a curve. It is impossible to improve one’s writing without first recognizing room to improve. And, as my high school career came to a close, I simply wasn’t quite ready to do so.

Having never been one to shy away from unnecessary or irrational challenges, I chose to undertake 18 total credit hours during my first semester at GW. This decision, in many regards, was facilitated by my conception of UW as an inherently easy experience. On the first day of the academic calendar, I strolled into class wearing pajamas. But room 311 of the Elliott School, as I would soon learn, was hardly the place for a nap.

Professor Myers, as I recall, was adamant in her message that Section 54 of the Rhetorical Intersections of Science, Media, and Culture would require tremendous dedication from all those students wishing to receive favorable grades. As I returned home the evening of our first class, I admittedly examined the notoriously melodramatic posts of “RateMyProfessors.com”, searching for a more accurate gauge on past students’ experiences. At the time, Professor Myers’ UW20 had received a cumulative 1.2 points out of a possible 5 in the category of “easiness”. Although this discovery was certainly foreboding, it was not until my first major assignment that I would receive a true wakeup call.

Upon reviewing the prompt of our initial 1,000 – 1,200 word paper, I found myself disconcerted by the notion of a so-called “associative, segmented” essay. After all, my writing process had always mirrored a “stream of consciousness” approach, and I was uncomfortable with the prospect of organizing my work into discrete sections. Rather than adhere to the criteria set forth in the prompt, I submitted a melodramatic reflection upon two separate personal events – neither of which shared any consequential relation to the “nature of science”. Looking past the extravagant language and thespian passion, Professor Myers recognized my first draft for exactly what it was – a C+ paper.

It would appear as though a poor grade proved the ideal tonic to cure my chronic indolence. Rather than choosing to simply manipulate superficial wording, I reshaped the entirety of my essay in time for the second grading period. Eliminating nearly all of the “fluff” that had plagued my initial submission, I was left with a piece of writing that, for the first time in years, valued meaningful content over lavish style. It was only after I ensured that each segment of the essay was structurally sound that Professor Myers advised me to begin “picking bee shit out of honey” – a process of minute improvements that she promised would culminate in a clean, lean, and concise product.

Appreciative of the improvements to my essay that occurred over a span of nearly two months, I adopted a similarly systematic approach to future assignments. Deliberately striving to decelerate my train of thought, I composed my second essay bit by bit, making certain to express as many concrete ideas with as few words as possible. Whereas I was forced to resubmit my first essay a total of four times to achieve my target score, I did so with my second paper within only two grading periods.

Two assignments, obviously, do not present ample opportunity to truly reinvent one’s approach to writing. In this regard, I am thankful for my involvement in the class blog. Having contributed a total of eight posts, I took advantage of our WordPress account as an outlet to explore additional thoughts and topics in a more logical, structured fashion. A solid 300-word entry took nearly an hour and a half to compose at the beginning of the semester. My final two posts – both among my personal favorites – were completed in less than half that time.

Our final project has proven a tenuous experience, considering the advanced research requirements outlined in the assignment. Even so, I have made certain to employ the tactics that I have so proudly cultivated over the course of the semester. Forcibly prohibiting myself to simply write without direction, each and every paragraph of the research paper has a definitive purpose.

Although my tenure in the University Writing Program has come to an end, I by no means feel as though this is ‘goodbye’. After all, the lessons that I have learned in this class will continue to serve me throughout the entirety of my college experience. It therefore feels appropriate that I leave you with a guarantee: No longer will I attempt to write above my readers; I will write to my readers.

It’s time that I stop hiding behind vapid sophistication. From now on, my writing is out to make a point.

 

Cheers,

Trent Hagan

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