Best of Both Worlds

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            Thanks to English 101, Michelle, and some great classmates I can confidently say that I can write an essay. There is always room for improvement, and I know I have gained a lot of improvement this last quarter. And I’m glad that this isn’t where it stops, this class has gotten me interested in taking more English courses to further my writing and thinking skills.

            This class was full of reading and writing, but more than anything, critical analysis. From analyzing Scholes to Allison to Arora and Abruawa. I think this is easily the best thing I took from this class, because it has opened up a lot of new ways to think about ideas all the way from literacy, luck and the media. I can’t even watch a commercial without critical analyzing it- thanks to English 101. I think a lot of other students feel this way too, because we really hit this idea dead on all quarter. I would say I had an early version of this skill before this class, but not nearly as much I do now. It is imprinted into my mind and I will not let it go. The world needs to be critically analyzed, like Robert Scholes says, to become the, “Greatest patriot’s in our time.” And I want to be that.

            I can’t pin point one over arching or important skill that you must know to effectively write an essay. There are so many, and maybe many many more than I have gotten to learn this quarter, but I will share with you one that has helped me out a bit more than the others when it comes to pumping out long essays. It’s this move called countering. When countering you can use an author to support your ideas, but may identify a gap in their thinking. You use a “Yes I agree, but…” and when doing this you are adding to a conversation or even creating a conversation. In my last essay, I used this by countering Dorothy Allison’s essay, This is Our World, as she mentions the jobs or actions of artists and the “majority.” When reading this I agreed with Allison on a lot of her views on the world, but I felt left out. I don’t consider myself an artist, and I felt like being apart of the majority was a bad thing. I didn’t want to be in that category! So I created a new category, so that I (and anyone else in the same boat) would have a place too. I named this category the, “Middle Category,” I know, clever. But this Middle Category was basically in between these two categories and seemed to be stuck. A Middle person, as defined in my essay is, “a person who sees big ideas but doesn’t share them through any form of art.” This is a big category of people and I think many can relate to it. The big ideas were the “dark” problems we have in the world, like genocide, poverty, animal extinction and the like. My essay was basically a talk through of how the Middle Category works and what kind of problems we face, such as how we contribute our ideas without being an artist or in an art corporation, etc. It can be tricky, but I think there are a few ways that we can help make a difference in the terrible things we try to leave out of everyday conversation. And in the things we mask by saying, “Dark” problems, I do it all the time. In fact I did it earlier in this paragraph. It’s a tricky thing, because you don’t want to focus on the terrible bad stuff, but we can’t, (using art terms) “paint over” them. This is getting us nowhere.

            So, yes countering, it is a great tool and has helped me a lot in my essay writing in English 101 because it is a clear idea of where I am headed for my readers and a clear explanation of what conversation I am joining. I also like this skill because it isn’t dismissing Allison’s work in any sense, it can still agree with her opinions and still go off another direction. It’s the best of both worlds really. I can share how she’s right in the beginning and then say, well… actually this one tiny part is wrong, but the rest is still right.

            This writing skill that I have just described may not work in every essay type, but when you have an idea off of another’s this can be a very useful skill to execute. Whenever you need to show or explain a gap, an objection or a complication, you will now know to pull out this handy skill to perform an effective inquiry of another person’s work, while also including your thinking.

            Revision is one of the best parts of writing a paper, in my opinion. I love dragging the highlighter and pens to cross out stuff and give people feedback to help them make a clear case in their paper. But, when it comes to my own paper…It is hard! I have to try and critique myself? I just wrote something, I obviously think it sounds pretty good. Because of this flaw in my editing, I have begun to love conferences with teachers and friends. To sit down and swap papers with some one has so much benefit and I’m learning that. For example, when I went in for my conference with Michelle on my first essay I felt lost. I wasn’t sure where to continue my paper to get the length that was required. And her feedback gave me so many new angles and ideas to work with I practically ran to the library so I could sit down and type all of it out before I lost the ideas. I was so excited to work on a new idea and brainstorm. I now love revising my own paper- with someone. Like she’s said, “Life’s tough, grab a buddy!” So many life lessons this quarter!

            As I continue on with future classes and many more writing opportunities I would like to continue working on expanding my ideas when I write. As I mentioned before I hit a wall. I wasn’t sure where to continue in my paper, and I felt like I had mentioned everything necessary. But, when I spoke with other people after they had read my paper we were able to come up with some new ideas and ways of continuing and complicating it even more. I enjoy sharing my ideas with other people as much as I love receiving others, thanks to this quarter. I think that with what I have learned I will be able to continue trying and working towards gaining new angles and complications in my writing. Thank you for such a great quarter. 

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The Evolution of your Claim

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            The process of my writing now compared to a few months ago has changed dramatically, but in a great way. I have learned to write with purpose and to create better organization. There are now a few new important concepts to consider when I begin to write a rough draft.

            An important, and maybe most important concept is to have a clear and strong claim. A claim being a position we take in our essay, what we believe to be true, and the thing that we make clearer throughout our essays. This claim is what leads you through your essay and without a strong one it can be hard to find evidence or representative examples. This claim can help you join a conversation. Joining the conversation. This also has been a very important technique so far in my essays. Where do we come in? And how do our claims seek importance? Without joining a conversation we are simply just stating our opinion. But by using this technique of joining the conversation and using representative examples we can effectively sway a reader into believing our opinion. At least that’s what we hope for.

            This conversation that we bring up may or may not be controversial, it defiantly helps when our claims are. When we read our own essays it can be hard to see what were missing or what isn’t making sense to our readers because- well were the ones writing it so we understand what we meant. But this idea of reading against the grain can come in handy in a time like this. Reading against the grain is critically analyzing a paper, essay, or anything for that matter. While reading you look for gaps, or find any objections your reader might make. This is best to do a day or two after your write your rough draft, giving your mind a fresh read through. I don’t know about you but reading it days later help it become much easier to spot out the mistakes or weirdly worded sentences, etc. For me, I put a lot of commas in my paper making every sentence much more complicated than it needs to be. So this is a good time for me to re-read it and read against my own writing to see how my reader could pick out issues.

            Your claim isn’t a set in stone idea; in fact it’s an evolving idea throughout your essay. You can end the first paragraph with your initial claim, but during your essay while sharing your thoughts and questions you can bring up new claims throughout your essay to push your readers thinking as well. It’s a way of leading your reader along, stringing them behind you- like Hansel and Gretel with breadcrumbs to find their way back! I like that. It’s a technique of leading them where you want them to go. Luring them to your claim by sharing your evolving thoughts on your claim. For example to make this clearer, I began my last essay by saying essentially that we (the police) paint over street art because it is illegal but also because it makes us uncomfortable with its big ideas. Then I define comfortable and street art so that all of us as readers are on the same page. Then by the middle I state artists views on their art, like Allison’s, “Art should provoke more questions than answers and, most of all, should make us think about what we rarely want to think about” (10). And by the end I get to the conclusion or claim that art is supposed to make us think and engage, so why is it being covered up? I also talk about how these big ideas can become overwhelming and we tend to put them in the back of our heads. I also let the readers off the hook by saying, “We all want to be a superhero and solve them, but it’s not reasonable. All we can do is recognize that there are bigger issues than petty arguments, clothes that fit us right, and the crust on our bread.” My claim defiantly evolved from beginning to end, but it’s that leading technique that gets you to the biggest idea of all.

            Reading my first essay now I have seen many ways I could change my last claim and make it a better argument. And that’s what gets me so excited about writing this Essay #2 because I can redeem myself once again and make my last claim even more complicated and add new angles. 

Paul Simon deserves more.

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I decided to write this little piece on Paul Simon. First and foremost because I am still jazzed from his concert, but most importantly, because I caught myself on a comment (s) I made.

If you’re unfamiliar with Paul Simon, let me break him down for you. Singer, songwriter, guitarist, solo now but was with Art Garfunkel, which created the duo Simon and Garfunkel that became popular in the sixties. Their folk rock music was considered one of the most influential and successful, with their melodies, harmony’s and ringing acoustics. (I recommend that you try a listening if you haven’t before!)

Paul Simon, being no larger than 5’3” receives a lot of attention for his stature. Especially as we begin to watch old Saturday Night Skits, one where Simon wears a 0.1 jersey in a basketball game not nearly a whole player. Me myself just barely making 5’1” I began to adore him for it, creating this adorable small teddy bear language to talk about him. I started to call him, “Paul-y pocket,” I wasn’t sure why- maybe because it was a little punny? Although I’m sure and almost positive I am not the only person who has talked of Paul Simon in such a way. In our culture we have an idea of what small is, and in a lot of ways small equals cute. But aren’t small people more than cute? As another example in our society we see in women positions in the office, men don’t look at a women CEO and think, “Wow, she’s smart,” it usually jumps straight to, “She’s hot.” Don’t these people deserve their talents to be recognized rather than what we see?

Talent Vs. Appearance. What do you think is more commonly talked about in American stars, musicians, etc.? How many comments did Miley Cyrus receive after her VMA performance solely based on her tongue and mouse leotard? I can tell you that from owning a twitter account it was an enormous response. Although pop culture is different from folk music, and we will never see Paul Simon dressed in a mouse leotard- there are similarities here. We are letting their image get in the way of their talent. And I can guarantee that any artist who gets in the music industry has one goal and that is to spread their love of music, and I believe we’ve done them a disservice.

Paul Simon is an extremely talented artist whom creates these embraceful lyrics with rhythms that move your body and throws in melodic horns and piccolo sounds that make his music an even more diverse genre. Every song he ever wrote was a hit, and no one could ever pick a favorite, only favorites. I have realized how much more the man deserves, and little I was giving him. Not that I didn’t believe he was talented because I knew that for sure- but I wasn’t giving him enough of the credit that a talented man like him self deserves.

It’s so easy to get caught up in what we see because it’s easiest to believe; we see it, its right in front of us. And for many artists, actresses, actors, bosses, CEOs, teachers, friends, parents, and siblings this is what we critique each other with. We are all more than our appearance. If we just took the time of day to really understand what a person, of any height, color, age, gender, etc. is capable of doing- we would have so much more respect for the others around us.

Breaking Down Writing Concepts

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Starting an essay can be tricky. Gathering enough information to make a claim can be hard enough, and then putting it in an order that will be affective on top of that can be overwhelming. But there are a few concepts that I know that may just be able to help you in your next essay assignment.

First off, when writing an essay it is important to have a few things laid out. Your claim, an Idea path and which representative examples you will use in order to make your claim a good one. Lets start off with explaining what these things are. A claim is your argument or point that you want to share with the reader. This is an important part of your paper and it is crucial that it is clear throughout your paper. An Idea path is an order you have made in how you will present your information to the reader, this is also a crucial part of your paper because starting off with the wrong angle could cause the reader frustration rather than gathering information from beginning to end. And last but not least, a representative example is a specific piece of evidence drawn from anywhere that will help you prove your claim. For example, in my last essay I wrote about street art so I chose to use Banksys art work as a representative example because it tied directly with my topic. These ideas may seem a little hard to grasp right now, but you will get the hang of it.

After starting with those basic concepts, we can dive into some more essay writing concepts.  A new concept to me was this idea that I’m going to call, “Learning as we go.”  Instead of telling the author this is what you think an this is why, you think with the reader, expanding the question into multiple angles and then in the end tie all of these angles into the claim you found. For example, in the middle of my essay I shared a question, “ So how did street art become illegal? How can we choose what forms of art are illegal and which are not? “ And then, going deeper I explain, “The story goes that in the seventy’s, an age of anti- war, new found AID’s, flower power and a fight for freedom, led to many anti-war protest graffiti and this led to the banishment of graffiti or street art (Digitaljournalist.org). Ah, now were getting somewhere.” This gives the reader a sense of where I’m, as a writer, going with my claim throughout the paper. I do this again in the next paragraph starting with a statement, “When Allison shares this idea of appropriate, and we must define what it means in art terms. Are we talking about nudity or anything most adults wouldn’t want young children seeing? Not necessarily, it seems that this idea of appropriateness is based upon what our world wants us to see, what were allowed to know, and how its presented to us. It is appropriate when art is in an art gallery but not on the brick walls in the street.  It is appropriate when it shares the beauty of the world, but not when it shares a deep message. But can we define the word in the constraints of art?” And I end with a question, in which I further discuss in the next paragraph. These two examples from my own work share just how to sting ideas together through questions which engage the reader.

These concepts that I have used in my first essay will be forever useful in university writing. From this lesson you should be able to start with a claim, build a structure and lead the reader in your thinking for them to gain your claim. Its not as complicated once you can break your essay down into these different concepts.

Writing about writing.

vintage-lady-writing-at-desk-woman-50s-60s-retro1Writing can be hard to start. For example, when I have no prompt, like in this blog post, I don’t know where to start. I would say though that just typing and writing helps more ideas come into mind about writing, and remembering that you can always make edits later. Writing is such an incredible way to get a story or point across to your readers. But, you have to make it sound good enough to convince the reader to finish reading it. In English 101 we have read from authors that really know how to organize and create a read-able piece of work.

Robert Scholes, an author we’ve read from uses a strategy of what I would call weaving. He “weaves” common information with opinion; this creates a background for us so that we can understand his opinions. This background that he provides us with is a specific commercial that most people have seen, this also creates connectivity amongst the readers. And then he comes in to tell us that this image we all agreed with and understood as a community is false and twisted. And he tells us why. His idea path uses visual fascination as an intro and then comes in with his argument, and even explains further anticipating objections. This idea we get from his essay, “On Reading a Visual Text” is to always use critical analysis on anything we see, to question the media.
This idea is similar to Allison’s essay “This is Our World”, that art must provoke questions and cause uncertainty. Both of these essays share the idea of questioning and reality. Allison shares with us that, “The world is meaner than we admit, larger and more astonishing. Strength appears in the most desperate figures, tragedy when we have no reason to expect it.” Allison sees the reality, even when it’s cruel, in life. Scholes believed that the media sugar coated life, making it seem like “we were all in this together” positive attitude, when in reality life is not like that. That it’s the American Dream that we all shoot for, and hope so bad that it is the truth. These essays both share with us the same idea, but they both use different strategies to get us there. Allison uses a personal childhood memory to get us thinking about the way art makes us feel, where Scholes uses a popular commercial that we have all seen.
I can’t define writing; I’ve read and wrote so many different kinds that all make me feel a different way. There’s poetry, music, descriptive, informal, persuasive, and probably a million more. And I cant say what strategies are the best and which ones wont work to grab my reader because everyone connects to different things, and that’s why when you read something that you really understand, you love it. And it sticks with you throughout your life, like the Jesus painting in Allison’s childhood did for her. And we can use these essays to better-read visual texts.
Writing is a battle of choosing the right words, and using organization skills like these authors used very well. Their idea path was different, but it’s interesting how they got to similar places, isn’t it?
I hope that in these next posts on my blog, you will see a difference in my writing skills, and will see new concepts of writing intertwined into my own thinking. Brainstorming isn’t so hard; you just have to get started, even if in the beginning you don’t know what you’ll end up talking about.