Part A → The Writer
- Attempted Perfection → Since we are given a lot of time to write our assignments, I have gotten better at proofreading, and effectively organizing my thoughts. Each time I read over my work, I try to find mistakes in attempts to achieve the closest thing to perfection.
- Genres → Before, I never really considered what genres I enjoy to write in, as they were usually assigned by the teachers. I only wrote when required, and always followed the rubrics incredibly keenly. However, writing now is not a chore to me, but a hobby. I only wrote your basic Cinderella stories, overdramatic poetry, cliche topics, but I grew out of that shell with this course. With a focus on war and social justice, I also explored loneliness and comedy. Poetry, short stories, and anecdotes were my focus. My journal had a variety of my philosophical ramblings that never made it to the blog because they were so jumbled up. However, they caused some of the inspiration behind the writing I did post.
- Ideas → After taking this course, I am able to develop ideas from the most random places. For example, my short story “TOUCAN PLAY THAT GAME” was inspired by a line that I found on a website. If this was February, I would’ve skimmed over that line, and wrote about flowers or something incredibly poetic. Now, I could look at my neighbor watering her flowers, and write a paragraph describing the scene.
- Details → I try to find something with little value or importance and write about it with excessive complexity. Before, the five senses the only means of description for me, but I have learned to use interesting literary devices such as a sarcastic metaphor. Additionally, I now pay attention to the placement of words. From getting rid of an unnecessary “the” to adding the best adjective, my word choice is now more deliberate and purposeful.
- Structure → I have improved greatly in terms of the variety of my sentences, and the sequence of events in my work. Before, I used to try to squish as much as possible into one sentence in attempts to sound sophisticated. Although this is still somewhat an issue, I have recognized it and made the conscious effort to decrease its frequency.
- Voice and Style → The image that comes to mind when I think of my voice, is a loosened noose. My “About Me” sounds as if I was wearing a stiff-collared shirt buttoned up to my neck the entire time I was writing. Through the progression of my blog, I have loosened up, inviting a bit of humor and irony into my work. Although that air of sophistication is still there, one can find a bit more vibrancy in my work than before.
- GUMPS → Grammar has always been an issue for me. From using too many commas and many run-ons, my fluency was being undermined due to this. The weekly No Red Ink assignments were very clear and forced me to master topics, which improved sentence variety and structure. The knowledge and practice helped me spot errors I would not have noticed before as well.
All in all, I would say that my style is sophisticated, descriptive, and emotionless. Even when I am writing with the intent of humor, I read over my work and see places where I sound too formal. I try to remind myself that not all writing has to be like a critical essay, and clarity and purpose is much more important than complexity. Regardless, I feel that it will always be a part of the way I write since I find comfort in this voice.
Being descriptive of physical things is one of my strengths. Whether it be sensory, or figurative, I am able to write continuously about one thing without running out of things to say. Usually, I start off with the five senses and then paint figurative images in the reader’s mind. When I run out of things to say, I like to humanize things. One criticism for myself, however, is my tendency to compile too many images at once, and confusing the reader. I am still working to balance myself in this sense.
Lastly, I am emotionless in my writing. People may mistake my descriptiveness as emotion, but if one pays attention, the feelings of the characters in my story are very direct. If they are angry, I explicitly say that they are angry. I struggle to describe feeling since I sound dramatic when I try. I find that it takes out the flow of the writing if I randomly start describing someone’s emotions with a metaphor, and continue the story. However, I want to be able to make my transition smoother, as added emotion is powerful if done properly.
Although I am getting better at writing, I would like to acknowledge that I am still learning from others, which is my first piece of advice to future writers. You are not the best swimmer out there, so learn from those who are masters, and one day you will tread the waters with ease. Additionally, make the effort to scribble down any inspiration from anywhere since it is like a block of wood that after many hours of polishing, could become something you are proud of in the future. This leads me to my last point: be proud of what you accomplish. You wrote that piece using your own intellect and there is nothing exactly like it in the world. When someone writes, their personality is reflected in their work. Over time, one is able to see their maturity and growth, which is satisfying and acts as a motivator to continue writing in the future.
In the near future, I plan on writing anything and everything. I do not want to limit my style by only writing about love or about history, but explore what else there is to offer. To set an achievable goal, I want to write about the six types of emotion: idealism, optimism, positivity, neutralism, pessimism, cynicism. I want to write a story where there are six characters, each representing one of these words.
Additionally, I want to try and write more nonfiction, as this is something I have not done yet. It would be philosophical and opinionated, written similar to a critical, but in a rambling format. By doing this, I will be practicing my thesis making abilities, which will help in other classes as well.
Part B → The Blogger
I really like my blog. The style is representative of me, and my writing covers many topics and styles. As discussed in my About Me, the theme and the quote are carefully selected to depict an individual of specific values. The featured image is beautiful because of the overall tranquility; it is supposed to complement the quote, as the viewer is not indirectly coerced to praise its composition. Thus, beautiful things only get attention because it is never asked of by them.
Although this was the intent, I did not let the theme influence my writing. Some of my writing is very poetic, while others are fun and bold. I wish to continue this variety next year.
My only concern is the looks of my blog. Currently, all my posts are after each other, making it hard for someone to get to the older ones. I plan on changing the format to something where all my posts are showcased in a small place, with a visual accompanying it.
Favorite student blogs:
- Jed → http://skyblueskies.edublogs.org/ Incredibly poetic and romantic. Jed’s writing is incredibly emotional, yet so fluid at the same time, which is something that I strive for in my own writing.
- Hefseeba → http://theshipwesail.edublogs.org/ Hefseeba’s writing style is similar to mine, except it is much more polished. I enjoy the religious focus of her work, as I can relate it, being a person of faith myself.
- Jimmy → http://pbwithj.edublogs.org/ I really appreciate the variety of styles that Jimmy’s writing has. From the humorous tone of, “Cow sh@ and crocs” to the intense description of, “Smooth Jazz”, Jimmy’s blog showed me how to be a whole writer and explore, rather than sticking to one theme and mood.
I explored Bookfox (https://thejohnfox.com/2016/06/short-story-ideas/) a few days ago when I had no inspiration for my short story assignment. It is a pretty simplistic blog, and our class blogs are much richer.
We were introduced to a poetry blog is class, called poets.org (https://poets.org/poem-a-day), where the post an unpublished poem every day. I enjoy reading these poems, and many of my inspirations come from these pieces. Some are free verse, while others have a specific format. While this was an easy way to add 30 pages to my page count a month, it allowed me to expand the variety of things I read, rather than only novels like I did before I started this class.
Part C → The Student
No Red Ink
Our weekly assignments were incredibly helpful, as many of my common grammatical mistakes were made obvious to me. It showed me that relying on apps like Grammarly and spell check is not enough to have fluent and correct sentences. I was able to use the things I learned from this in other classes as well. This was an epiphany for me personally, as I never really noticed how many mistakes I was making up until now. I think I will focus on improving my knowledge of grammar.
Usually, when I can’t write about a topic, I switch to something else, but the river writing assignment forced me otherwise. This was probably the hardest assignment we got in this class because I didn’t get the freedom to write what I want. However, it is important to build this skill, since I do not get to choose the topics in my exams. While writing this, I first brainstormed everything I knew about the river and looked for similarities in the ideas to find a theme. Then, I took phrases that I wrote in my brainstorming and polished them into a poem. River Writing made me realize that I do have the potential to write about anything, but I just need to think faster and have the will to write.
I loved making the monthly reading ladders. It is refreshing to take the chance, and reflect on my progress over the month, and use that to improve in the future. Additionally, writing a summary and evaluating the book is a good way to keep track of the books read, and the genres that I enjoy. The reading ladder taught me how to be accountable, and reach the goals I set. The “aha” moment for me, however, was taking the time to consciously consider what appealed to me in a book. Every time I revaluated my style in relation to theirs, I grew my understanding of writing. I will probably continue doing this for a long time.
I write slam poetry, but social justice is not a topic that I frequently wrote about. However, after hearing the spoken word pieces in class, I explored these ideas in my writing. “Pointless Pencil” and “Bike Ride in the Park” and my river poem dealt with the theme of war. I think war appeals to me because of the themes of purity and corruption, and the loss of innocence and truth. There is much left for me to write about in this realm.
Accomplishments as a Reader
Since middle school, I have been on the bandwagon of cheesy dystopian novels about love and adventure. Although they kept me motivated to read, I felt a shift in mentality this year, in that I found more interest in historical fiction. This genre is appealing to me because of the realistic aspect of it. We are told a story about someone that could have possibly existed, their hardships described in incredible detail. Therefore, this semester, I read, All the Light We Cannot See, The Book of Negroes, Help, The Kite Runner, etc. My favorite, however, was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The following is my reading ladder description of the novel:
This novel is written by Anthony Doerr and is a story of two teenagers during World War II. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl living in Paris but is forced to move away to Saint-Malo, as the effects of the war come closer and closer to her home. On the other side of the frontlines, Werner grows up in an orphanage in Germany and is intrigued by the intricacy of the radio. Due to his intelligence and wit, the German officials send him to a boarding school, where he is trained to work for the army. These two contrasting lives merge into one, with an ending that hits the reader with a pang in the gut.
My favorite line in this story would have to be, “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.” This is a powerful statement that captures the mental and physical processes of the two main characters in this story. Marie-Laure is literally blind, her eyes failing her, but her mind wide awake, processing the war, and the secret radio messages she and her grandfather transmit in the attic – in other words, she knows what she is fighting for. Werner, however, has perfect vision, but his mind is clouded with the propaganda and deception of duty and honor. He fails to understand the greater consequences of his actions and acting dogmatically.
This novel is a close second to my favorite novel, “The Kite Runner”. I would read it again and again until I know the sequence of events by heart.
When reading, I find myself hit hard by powerful lines. The author builds the story, increasing the tension, and then drops a bomb of a statement that I will never forget. There is at least one of these in every book. For All the Light We Cannot See it was:
“You know the greatest lesson in history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course, we do. Name me a person or a nation that does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.”
When I find lines like this, I get inspired to write immediately (my poem Pointless Pencil was inspired by this line). Reading is that extra push that makes me want to write. Additionally, I learn vocabulary in context, which then allows me to have a better understanding of how to use new words I learn in my own writing. I have the habit of plugging in unnecessarily complicated words into my writing in attempts to make it sophisticated. However, by reading novels, I learn that there is a time and place certain words should be used, and jumping for the hardest one is not always the best option.
To improve as a writer, I want to increase my speed and fluency. I habitually write lazily and then return and polish it up after. This is incredibly time-consuming and wrecks the fluidity of the work at times. I want to get to a point where I can write a piece with minimal grammar mistakes and strong sentence structure in a small period of time. If I constantly record ideas, read, and write with a time limit, my writing will gradually get to that stage.
Part D → The Fan
My writer’s seminar was on Ed Sheeran, an accomplished songwriter, and musician. I appreciate his literary depth and imagery. He is able to make vivid pictures with his words while having metaphors and ideas that have greater implication relating to the human condition. Many of his songs have an indirect storytelling aspect while keeping a structured form, and relatable lyrics. Lastly, his lyrics are relatable, simplistic, and appeal to a large audience. In other words, has emotion, which is something I strive for in my writing, as I mentioned before.
If Khaled Hosseini was not taken, I would do my writers seminar on him. I have read his work, and love the cyclical aspect of his storytelling. He builds up tension over a page or so and then hits the reader with an incredibly powerful line that provides bucket loads of inspiration. Since someone else in the class did his work, we were able to study his style regardless, since Kshef’s and Sadia’s presentation was excellent.
The most interesting genre for me was that of Marge Piercy. I loved the descriptive style of her writing, and the quote we were given in class brought out something in me that I did not know existed.
This was the quote:
“Mornings were chilly, frost on windows etching magic landscapes. I liked to stand over the hot air registers, the warmth blowing up my skirts. But the basement scared me at night.”
~The Air Smelled Dirty
This was my emulation:
We are scared of what gives us motivation. We are scared of the monstrous beast that lives within each and every one of us, providing the energy for our passionate desires. However, relying on this an individual’s only source of motivation is the worst thing one can do for themselves. It is like drinking wine: a little is enough to get the effect, but indulge in it too much, and you will cast your soul away into the basement of your heart. When you open your eyes and sober up, you will see the door resting at the top. However, the stairs are gone, and you can only touch the remnants of your sanity before the furnace destroys it completely. Too much passion can burn you, but too little can cause your tears to condense on your pupil, slowly crystalizing your rationale from within. Now the decision is up to you. Is it better to freeze or burn?
I do not know how I wrote this, but I am really proud of it. I like the ideas of the attic, stairs, and basement that Marge Piercy explored in that quote. It taught me too look for simpler imagery rather than jumping to the grand metaphors of life like I so immaturely do. Additionally, this emulation is on the borderline of being a thesis statement, if polished, now that I am looking at it. Maybe I will skim through my journal, and see if I can take any of my ramblings and make a coherent thesis statement out of it.
In general, all the writers we explored had their own style that was special to them. However, it is important to remember that they do write other styles, but the ones we read are the famous ones. For studying them, I was able to reflect on what people enjoy about their writing, and what I can take from them to make my writing better.
I want to study Lovecraft because of his cool name, and his life story was very interesting, and I like unorthodox fiction. I want to emulate some of my work from his.
Part E → The Critic
This is a short story with humor. It was meant to be carefree and enjoyable, while still having a subtle takeaway for the reader. The pun is supposed to reflect this humor and introduce one of the characters.
In summary, a penguin is supposed to model a suit in order to prove himself to the modeling agencies, but his enemy, a toucan has a bright neon beak that people love, and he is made the star of the show. In the end, their mutual jealousy ruins them both. As mentioned in my thesis, I tried to show that when an individual is met with adversity, they will develop feelings of jealousy, and negative intentions in their mind. However, by doing so, they are undermining their honesty and integrity, making them a loser in the grand scheme of things.
Anyone can read this and get a good laugh, but those who are wise can pick out its implications in a real-life context. The moral is: Focus on yourself, rather than bringing those around you down to bring yourself up, as that results in unsatisfaction and dishonesty.
It was 6 p.m. the evening before this assignment was due. I looked through my journal and found nothing that I was motivated enough to write about. So, I put all my faith behind google and searched up, “short story idea”. Lo and behold, Bookfox saved me with this line, “Tell the tall tale of a high-fashion penguin who goes shopping for a tuxedo and gets into the modeling industry.” That is exactly what I did, add my own spice, of course.
In class, we were told to start a short story with something that will hook the reader. What better way to do that then say that a French beard is popping out from under a beak? Immediately, the reader is caught, and I follow with regular human activities, but I “birdify” it to maintain the interest.
As I mentioned earlier, unnecessary complexity is something I struggle with, so a friend read over my story and pointed out places where it stuck out. For example, the line, “Watch where you walk you piece of shit!” used to be “Watch where you walk you piece of fecal matter!” Although this is an inappropriate colloquialism, it was necessary for the effect. Additionally, the line, “So, I did worse, but only because I had to.” used to be, “So, I did worse, but only due to provocation.” Just another example of my poor word choice skills.
All in all, I enjoyed writing this in a few stressful hours and editing it numerous times until midnight. Writing this showed me my capacity to write under a time limit, and unearthed my willingness to explore the realm of comedy in my writing.
This is a free verse poem, dealing with the story of some soldiers in war. After the world wars were fought, many children were raised by veterans and glorified war in their minds. I showed their eagerness by how they used torches of Freezies and paper planes to mimic fighting. Soon, these kids grew and passionately followed in their father’s (usually) footsteps. However, as they physically strengthened, many were not prepared for how mentally draining war is. War turned from a fun game of childhood, where killing was acted, to losing actual friends. It is easily seen how fighting can become less appealing. The children, not being exposed to the harsh reality, saw fighting as exciting, and could not wait to go on battlegrounds when they grow up.
The bike ride is representative of their innocence, as every day, they would end with this childhood activity. They were soldiers by day, and children again by the time they returned home. The bike also was the deliverer of war, in the form of newspapers, suggesting that their love for war was inevitable since it was always around them.
This piece started off as a messy left-hand written rambling in the back of my journal. Jade Bartlett’s poem, “Doll Face” had the line, “Up until now, the other girls and boys loved to play with me”. It reminded me of summers as a child where the neighbors would run around and play outside. Now, most of us are too busy with our lives too return to that former state of bliss. I incorporated that image into my poem with the idea of war, which I have subconsciously been thinking about all semester.
Although I did not get anyone to read this over, I read it over myself numerous times, catching holes in the sequence of events and grammatical errors each time. Stylistically, this poem had a serious tone and a storytelling aspect. I divided the day into morning, afternoon and evening for their childhood to symbolize how perfect and happy it was. After that point, everything scatters, and there is no sense of order, which is ironic since they are soldiers.
Creative Writing was the best class I have ever taken, and I can’t wait for more next year!