This portfolio will focus on the learning and writing process of this English 4830W, “Writing About Writing” course. This course shaped me as a writer, gave me confidence in my writing ability, and exposed me to new genres of writing that further opened new avenues of expression. I also advanced my thinking, writing, and ability to create. This course encouraged me to believe in my own abilities, and to use tools and concepts to gain a better understanding of what writing is. All these new ways of thinking allowed me to become a better writer. The new ways of thinking are grounded in the “threshold concepts” put worth by Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs in their book Writing About Writing.
I will analyze the process of taking this class, and how becoming aware of new concepts allowed me to experience a growth spurt in my writing. I will analyze how I came to understand what writing really is and does. I will show in this essay, and through the components in my portfolio, how I learned to embrace and use the writing process to achieve reachable goals. I will analyze the process of writing each of the four major writing projects this semester, and how I finally arrived at the finished pieces included in this portfolio. I will discuss how I assimilated what I learned of the three Artifacts- which are all related, and how I incorporated that knowledge and writing done on those projects, into what became my final research project. I view my work this semester as similar to what Annie Dillard, in her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, refers to as “blind growth.” She writes, “Down at the root end of things, blind growth reaches astonishing proportions” (loc. 2324).
I have always known that my family “roots” were important in my intellectual development, but never how much until taking this course. This portfolio will showcase the three major pieces I have written this final semester, to show my progress and development. Following is a brief description of the projects included, and my analysis of the writing process.
“Literacy, Geography, and Me”
I saw through the process of my first project, the autoethnography- which asked me to put myself in my writing for the first time, that connecting to my roots started an awareness of the “blind growth” that was going on in my writing all the time. My writing had been growing all along, but I would not fully realize the growth until I stepped back and analyzed the big picture of my writing this past semester. Wardle and Downs discuss how their idea of, “Threshold concepts, once learned help the learner see the world differently” (WAW 7). This project allowed me to understand my own prior literacy experiences in a very profound and thought changing way. As a writer I learned, “the threshold concept that writing performance is informed by prior literacy experiences” (WAW 7). I dove deep into my family past and educational experiences, to develop what I found to be an intriguing question about the differences between institutional literacy and folk knowledge.
This focus on writing in the first person, and tying a writing and research project to my own personal experience, opened new avenues of creative expression in a totally new genre of writing. This project spurred my interest in understanding what exactly literacy is, and lead to my subsequent projects like, “Preserving Literacy'” and the final research project,
I found upon analysis of the writing process for this project, that the roots of the ideas I discuss later are here in the first project, but they will only bloom above the surface in the future. I chose not to revise this piece specifically, but to include parts of it in my final research project. I will leave the door open to revise this piece further in the future to publish as a stand alone piece according to the excellent feedback I received from Dr. Davis and my peers.
Discourse Community Project
Following are a few quotes of excellent feedback I received on this project that changed my thinking and also allowed me to engage with another of the threshold concepts about writing.
“The big development thing to focus on is strengthening the argument that this kind of facility in an oral discourse community is a form of literacy.” and
“there are things that need development and revision work – it’s quite “choppy” for one thing and that’s an organizational issue about smoothing out the logical lines/connections from point to point to point all along the way in the essay.” – Dr. Davis feedback
I totally agreed with all this feedback. I have not yet fully revised this project on its own, although I did incorporate parts of it into my final research project, “Folk Literacy and Me.” I learned through this feedback that I needed to strengthen my argument, gain a clearer picture of exactly what my development might be for the future, and that this piece needed revision because of choppiness, transitions, and organization issues. This knowledge was invaluable, and something I might not have seen myself. This lead me to the concept that, “writing mediates activity. In other words, that writing gets things done, makes things happen” (WAW 8). Through the process of writing this project, and the autoethnography previously, I had started the discussion of what I was interested in. I had completed activities that would allow me to continue to refine that discussion in my final project. By completing all the steps of the drafting and peer review process, I had started an activity that had the potential to make things happen.
Final Research Project
“Folk Literacy and Me”
The final threshold concept from Wardle and Downs I will discuss in relation to my writing this semester is, “that writing is knowledge-making, that making knowledge requires ongoing and repeating processes, and that writing is not perfectible” (WAW 8). I learned this concept very early in the course, but it continues to resonate with me as the most important thing that I learned. When I first began this course, I believed in the fallacy that great writing just happens to great writers. I thought I was a decent writer, but that I just didn’t have what it took to succeed because I was not a “perfect” writer. I was familiar with the drafting and peer review process from other English courses. I knew that the first draft was not supposed to be great, but I still struggled with the idea that I had to get it nearly perfect the first time; and that if it wasn’t perfect, that I wasn’t a great writer.
When I reached my final research project, I realized with complete clarity that I am a good writer. My writing is not perfectible, but I can continue to work on it until it may be publishable. I have the tools to understand that I can use parts of other pieces to tie together into a larger whole, and that my writing is constantly growing and changing. I wound up changing my ideas, thesis, and pretty much everything about this project by the end of the process. I found that by combining parts of my other projects – which was my original intention that got sidetracked by a bunch of too large scope thoughts, that I have made a larger argument from all the different pieces in different genres.
I connected to the concept that, “writing is by nature a technology’ (WAW 8). This idea opened my mind to the thought of writing as an infinitely diverse, technical tool that can be used to facilitate communication across genres. A writer uses the tools they learn along the way to become a better writer. I realized through the threshold concepts that I was introduced to, that being aware of the blind growth of my literacy roots, and understanding the technology of writing allowed me to grow. Allowed my writing to bloom in ways that have forever changed how I approach writing in all genres. My blind growth has reached the surface, and I can’t wait to see what will grow there next.