My Theory of How to Approach Writing

When discussing theory, there are many possible definitions, maybe so many there will never really be one set way to define it, kind of like genre. The definition that I was given is, “a theory is a system of ideas intended to explain things”. When theory pertains to writing however, the “system of ideas” can become quite large and complex. There are a ton of different qualifications that must be met before something can be considered a good piece of writing. I like to use the term “appropriate” writing because I believe that what is suited for one piece of writing is not always appropriate for another. Writing is contextual and cumulative, it has to paint a picture of the situation for which a piece is being written. In that picture there must be pictures, kind of like a slide show or flipbook. One person’s writing builds off of everything previous they have written and conceptualized in the past. Purpose and context are the two things I find most important when defining a great piece of writing.

The first idea of my theory of writing is always understand your purpose. Before you begin to write you have to know why you are writing and everything you hope to accomplish in that piece of writing. Of course these things should never limit you, often times in a good piece of writing these expectations will be far exceeded. Whether the writing is for academic, personal, promotional, conceptual, subliminal, general or whatever purpose it may be, you have to understand that before approaching the writing situation. It is important to have a driving force behind what you are writing and make sure that it shines through for your readers. Even if what you are writing is to yourself, when you write something one day for a specific purpose, you want to be able to return to it and have sight of what was intended to be perceived when you originally wrote it. The picture in your head should be maintained from the time the piece is written to the time you revisit that piece. The purpose of your writing is also more than just your choice of words, it’s the arrangement, placement, punctuation, it’s everything. When you take hold of the purpose behind your writing, the way you write will more accurately reflect the message you are trying to present. Your purpose doesn’t have to be something that blows minds or changes people’s perspectives; it may be something as simple as a quick reminder email to someone. Even in situations where you may think that stopping to evaluate your purpose for what you are writing is unimportant, taking the time to do so will always yield a better end result of your writing and a better understanding of it by the readers or recipients.

The next important aspect of my theory of writing is context, which goes right in line with purpose. In terms of writing, the definition of context by Google is, “the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.” Context is all about interpretation, situation and perspective. While writing, one must chose the context or contexts they want their readers to understand while evaluating their piece. Context must be established, especially when discussing something that could have many differing interpretations. Blanket statements and open-ended questions can sometimes add dramatic affect to one’s work, but only result in confusion if the appropriate context is not established. Many times a good writer will try and strike up controversy and questioning by making such statements, but this is usually done to reiterate and help readers further understand their purpose. That purpose however, will be unable to be recognized without proper context being explained. Context is also important to you as a writer before beginning your piece. You have to narrow your research or focus to maintain the bigger picture of your writing. If you are writing a research paper than you will probably spend more of your time filling in content with facts and research than focusing on the word choice or beauty of the piece. However, if you are writing a novel or short story, or even a love letter, the context of your writing should reflect more of passion and visual in addition to the elegance of the flow you have with your choice of words throughout your piece. Context is interpretation, especially as a reader. If your purpose and context were clear throughout your writing, then your readers will interpret the piece the way you intended.

The last thing I’ll say about approaching any given writing situation is know how to articulate your words in a way that is both detailed and concise. No one wants to read something that is all words and no understanding. Sometimes less is more but always know how to articulate your message in your writing through use of vocabulary, terminology, extended or prior knowledge, references, punctuation, but above all focus. Keep in mind your purpose and context(s) throughout your writing and you will be able to beautifully articulate the words that paint the picture of your piece.

My Final Reflection Letter

Dear Professor Cook and UWRT 1103 Peers,

I am writing this letter to you as a conclusion to completing the UWRT 1103 course this semester. As I enter in to unraveling how I have developed as a writer, I will share with you some past moments that have impacted my journey. When I look back on these moments now, I can see how I have grown as a writer and that my views have further developed and expanded on the given subjects. My development, like writing is progressive and contextual. I have realized and acknowledged more about writing in this past semester than I have in my entire life with my writing experiences.

The first moment this semester that had significant meaning to it, was when we as a class evaluated literacy. We talked about what it means to be literate, what literacies in writing are, and how the terminology and definition may be evolving to suit our given place in time. Almost everyone in our county these days is by definition “literate”, so how might we expand upon that definition now to reflect today’s society? Well, originally when I asked myself this question in class I decided that my understanding of being literate meant, “to be able to read and write well and with proper technique”. After reflecting back on this moment I still agree with this more in depth definition, but I also want to expand upon it. After analyzing all that it means to be literate and applying it to my experience throughout this course, I realize that being literate is more understanding what good writing is and how to be a good writer, rather than something as narrowed as following technique or format. I consider myself to be more literate now than I ever have been; I believe literacy is progressive. To apply this concept to my life and writing, I would say that understanding what it means to be literate, is growing and developing my writing in such a way that I will always strive to be more literate. Now that I have this new understanding of literacy I can apply it to my writing and work towards a goal of mastering literacy. I now perceive literacy as something personal to each writer and each writer has their own level of literacy of which they hope to achieve.

The next moment that really made an impact on my development as a writer was when context became a topic of in-depth discussion. Before talking about context and what it meant in terms of writing, I never really thought twice about it. I always viewed context as something that pertained to vocabulary being interpreted in a sentence. I never saw the bigger picture that context aids in developing. When I think back to when context was first explained in class and in terms of literacy, the understanding I formed was “literacies are contextual, and context is interpretation”. I remember thinking to myself that context really just meant the situation or position of what was being written and how the readers perceive it. I have come so far since that first initial understanding and have really embraced the meaning of that statement. My biggest new understanding of context is that, it is something that should be mutual between the reader and the writer. The context of which something is being written should ultimately be the same for which it is being read. Or maybe the reason someone is reading the piece isn’t the same reason for why it was written, it may just be a requirement, but that’s where the word interpretation plays a major role. The writer’s context should always be the reader’s interpretation. If something was written with intended purpose, the context should be the framework by which that purpose is articulated and interpreted. After analyzing context and forming this new understanding I have applied it to my writing and will continue to take it into account every time I write. Context is so important and is the difference between just reading, and really understanding a piece of writing. I will continue to work on improving my use and presentation of context in every piece of writing I develop.

The last moment significant to my development as a writer this semester, was when we talked about genre. For so long I had always thought about genre as a title or category for a specific type of writing, movie, or song. It wasn’t until our group discussion one day in class, that I was enlightened on the real meaning and context of genre in writing. There are a lot of different ways genre can be looked at in writing. Most people think of genre as a “type”. Well they aren’t completely wrong because genre can be a type, but instead of it being looked at as solely descriptive, it can also be viewed as its own thing or way of doing something. A genre is its own unlimited descriptor of other things. When I came to this understanding, in that moment, I remember thinking to myself, “but how is genre a thing?” It wasn’t really until completing my group facilitation project, doing research, and making connections of my own, that I fully grasped this concept of genre. Even now I still believe that genre can be viewed in a couple of different ways, there really is no set definition. If there was one thing I learned about genre after analyzing this moment and forming this new understanding, it’s that genre is very commonly misunderstood and overlooked. Often times we don’t consider the genre for which we are writing or forming, we just write and then try to match our writing to a given genre or category. What I have come to realize is that genre is actually its own production. It develops and evolves throughout ones writing and can sometimes work to contradict itself. What I’ve come to realize is most important when analyzing genre, is simply to remember it is not a type of category that shapes writing; but rather it presents a new form of which to classify writing and all of its attributes. Genre works to present both understanding and question. After developing this new understanding of genre I have realized that our typical misconstrued definition of genre actually limits our writing; and if we have this set “genre” in mind to which we are trying to fit our writing into, we are only restricting the potential of our work. Now that I have come to understand genre in this new and unlimited way, I can apply it to my writing by working to create and form new uses for genre, and challenge myself and my readers, through uses of this commonly overlooked concept. Genre will always be an influential aspect of writing and should never be overlooked or misinterpreted as this common definition of it being a category. My goal as a writer is to keep investigating all aspects of genre, and try to further understand its importance and usefulness in my writing.

Overall this course has taught me a lot about myself as a writer and bettered my understanding of what it takes to be a good writer. After reflecting back on these very pivotal moments throughout the semester it is my understanding that writing has no limits, only guidelines to help making a piece of writing easier to understand and interpret the way it was intended to be. Things like literacy, context, and genre are only but a few of the important components that make up great writing. It is my goal to continue to develop my writing skills through better understanding of these concepts.

My Midterm Reflection

There is a time in every person’s life where they experience an epiphany. For me, one of the biggest epiphanies I ever experienced pertains to writing. At the beginning of this school year, coming to UNCC straight out of high school, my only writing experiences had been those restricted by the confines of a standard curriculum and format of writing. These restrictions even flowed over into my first semester in college and I was asked to write “five-paragraph essays”. It wasn’t until this semester and being enrolled in UWRT 1103 with Professor Cook that my writing became much more than that. It’s not all just format, length and criteria, but it’s context, purpose, and interpretation that make a great piece of writing.

This semester, I am taking four courses plus a lab. In one of these courses, an LBST course, I was asked to write a five-paragraph essay. This was about three and a half weeks into the semester and I had just become so “enlightened” by the fact that the five paragraph essay and thesis statements and all that were really just wrong to require. I remember my LBST professor saying “Okay so for this assignment you will be writing a simple five paragraph essay for your research on the Health Care System.” As soon as she said it I remember I got all hot and frustrated and I went from super distracted to all of the sudden being to tuned in but out of shock and disagreement. I felt like a spoiled kid whose parents had just flipped a switch and decided not to allow them to have such luxuries any more. Instantly, my hand shot up in the air and I was ready to protest or suggest instead of such a standard format, if we could just have content requirements instead of format requirements. But then I remembered what we had talked about in UWRT earlier that week. We discussed that as much as we would like writing to be about what we it to be, and include lots of personality in our writing and what not, sometimes the contextual part of writing includes a very narrow and fact based criteria. One form of writing that is appropriate for one assignment may not be as appropriate for another. “Good writing” I believe should really be looked at more as “appropriate writing”.

Since further developing as a writer and student in UWRT 1103, I have reevaluated that moment over and over in my head. It still frustrates me and that assignment itself still frustrates me. When it comes down to it, I really don’t enjoy standardized writing anymore. While in high school I considered myself to be a “good writer” I had mastered the five-paragraph essay. But now, I realize just how limited I was and that since learning what I know now about writing, I have been able to place myself in a specific writing community. I would consider my new style of writing to be highly expressive and well articulated, something I was never able to say before. Also I have been able to enjoy the writing process. There are so many aspects of writing that I can see now that I was never able to see before. Such as context, contrast, narrative vs. reflection, analytical vs. expressive, and what it truly means to be a good writer. All of these things influence my current standpoint on writing and I have fully learned to appreciate writing in a whole new light.

If there is one thing I can take away from this experience with writing, its what it takes to make create a good piece of writing. As long as an individual has correct grammar and spelling, articulates the information necessary in the assignment thoroughly, and meets the length requirements of the assignment, there shouldn’t be many other restrictions. Even though there are times when simple facts or analytical collections need to be expressed, one can do so in their own unique way of writing reflective of them that still captures the reader’s attention. Writing should be a form of personality, like art. Individuality should always be able to shine through in a persons writing regardless of the topic. As far as things like the five-paragraph essay go, as “good writers” we know there would probably be a better way to write about something than through that. However, another important part of being a good writer is being able to adapt and articulate certain tasks in writing even when we don’t want to, in order to accomplish a given task. I believe that writing should never be something we look at as a chore. Rather, it should be a creative outlet no matter what the purpose. Writing is limitless and should never be taken for granted. After reflecting upon everything I’ve learned thus far in the class and throughout the course of the semester, I cant say I have truly grown as a writer and know that I will continue to grow as the semester progresses.