Monthly Archives: August 2013

We All Have Those Shitty First Drafts

Anne Lamott could not express my feelings towards rough drafts more perfectly in this excerpt from her book Bird by Bird.  It put my shame at ease and I did not feel so much discomfort after reading how a professional writer struggles just as much as I do.  Just Lmaott’s first sentence, “…the idea of shitty first drafts.  All good writers write them.  This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts,” (189) depicts that everyone struggles, not just students.  Lamott emphasizes in order to get a final product, one has to struggle with the first draft, the second draft, and even the third draft.  She reiterates that there is nothing wrong with writing as much down as he/she wants because later, that is what makes up the final product-in a more condensed, put together form.  Most of the time I feel like I’m the only one who sits there with a prompt in front of me, maybe even something I got to choose to write about, and I just stare.  Keep on staring. And stare some more, at a blank paper that is definitely not going to write itself.

What I have come to find out is I always try to make my first draft the best draft there is.  There will be little to no revision or editing needed.  I always felt like that was the way I had to do it.  Growing up, teachers never told me I could “let this childlike part of [me] channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page” (190).  I always had to turn in my rough drafts no matter how many of them I wrote.  Because of that, I always wanted to sound like I knew what I was writing about.  I’d use big words, I’d make my sentences sound so intelligent that I would not even know what it said sometimes.  Reading through Shitty First Drafts honestly changes how I will write first drafts from now on.  I won’t sit there for an hour questioning if what I want to write down will sound good enough or whether I need to look up a word in a thesaurus so it looks better in the sentence.  I have to remind myself that this rough draft could be as shitty as I want it to be as long as I can use bits and pieces to make my second rough draft, or even third and turn it into a final piece.

From that third draft, comes the final piece.  The one we all stress about.  The one we all question whether its good enough or not.  The one we wonder what our teacher is going to think of it…etc.  Lamott however, expresses that if “[we] just get it all down on paper…there may be something great in those six crazy pages that [we] would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means” (190).  In those six crazy pages, unfolds a terrific final piece of work, one that I know I’m grateful I survived through.  Heck, this is a shitty first draft of its own even though I revised it over and over again because I know the whole class has to read it…but we are all in the same boat.  Reading what Lamott has to share about professionals who struggle with writing should make us all feel better and to know that it is okay to express yourself in writing any way you want during the drafts in order to get the best final product.

Writing for an Audience

In the passage “Writing for an Audience” Linda Flower, author and well renowned college professor, described how you should write to an audience by advantageously depicting the process herself. Professing her skill in rhetoric, Flower uses her profound knowledge to establish logos while also using an emotional appeal of pathos to focus on sympathizing and “creating a common ground” with the us; thus, Flower uses her techniques to lessen our differences in knowledge, attitudes, and needs to focus on the best way to write for an audience.

Flower diligently articulates how we instill knowledge so that we powerfully get the point across the first time. I’m sure we can recall a time someone messed up telling a joke… that’s the difference between getting laughed with and laughed at. Luckily writing is a story with rough drafts.

Through the knowledge we give we can then develop a since of attitude that depicts an image the way we want it to We must generalize the emotions and associations so that we can relate to our audience and even let their imagination run some. Use the knowledge to outline the mental picture and some attitude to give it some color that will catch the audience’s attention. The more our attitude differs from our audience, “the more we will have to do to make him or her see what we see.”

We can drop knowledge with as much passion as we want; however, getting amped up about rainbows to someone that’s color blind will get us nowhere. Grab the audience’s attention and give them a sense of belonging, “adapt to them.” Grab them by the hips and teach them to dance. Flower does well with this as she implicates this with the inevitable teacher to student relationship or when she describes the weather which has affected us since we were born. Flower even exemplified a way to establish a common ground with us by using a generic third person approach by using words such as: you, we, us, and ours. For example:

It’s the ninetieth minute! Under the stadium lights, we move the ball around the perfectly prepared soccer field with such a serene flow that it is almost as if all the blood, sweat, and tears from practice has been poured onto the pitch and is connecting each pass as we ring out everything we’ve got into these last final minutes. We can see the crowd in a disarray of our fans at the edge of their seats and our parents at the edge of losing their voice. I ram a pass that breaks through their barricade of a defense and we storm towards the goal. As the longest final minutes our team has ever endured begin to come to an end we give it one last shot. With our hope streaming behind it, the ball is sent sailing through the air over our heads just out of their goal keeper‘s reach. For a moment I seem weightless as I watch the ball soar into my view. Within a blink of a moment my I gaze at the ball as it makes contact with my forehead. Shocked, their keeper attempts to capture such a moment, but he lets it slip! With the ball in the back of the net, the whistle blows and we rush the stands to meet our eagerly waiting fans half way, as the new national champions.

Imagine if we were to use “one time my team and I were playing soccer. It almost had to go into overtime, but I scored.” Imagine if we used my team and I instead of we, us, or ours. Imagine if we were to take out the knowledge and the details that gave the point of view at times.

Instead we grabbed their attention!” I closed the gap between us and the reader. I targeted my audience as athletes; therefore, we are then able to “establish a common ground.” I realized that most of them have parents that try to coach from the stands louder than the one on the field, that we could see the practice transition to the game, and that the flow and the passion in the game matched how I wrote. I’ve been apart of every single one of my best memories. Write to the audience to give them something to remember.

Writing for an Audience

Linda Flower, a college professor, did plenty of research on writing and in this particular selection focuses on the best ways to write for an audience. 

Writing for an audience is extremely important. In order to get your ideas across you must grab the audiences attention. A great way to do this is to find out who your audience is and put yourself in their shoes to give yourself a new perspective. Sometimes we do not know who the audience is. No matter what it is always important to have a target audiance in mind. According to Flower, “a good piece of writing closes the gap between you and the reader”. She means that if you take the time to research and think about the reader and their needs and wants, you can help the them understand you and where you are coming from. Sometimes the reader may disagree, but if you share your knowledge and have a good attitude, the reader should respect your opinions and try to see things the way you do. I believe as a writer it is important to stay true to ourselves and our beliefs. It is very easy and common to write to impress. Writing to impress is dishonest and ultimately causes you to loose credibility as a writer. We want the audiance to trust us and we should always take pride in our work and beliefs. 

The main purpose of writing is to communicate. Successful writers use their knowledge to grab the attention of the audiance. They know how to have a good attitude when writing that helps the reader understand and connect with their work. 

An Invitation to Change

Mary Pipher believes that writing always changes the world in some way, big or small. She discusses “change writers,” or composers who seek to change the world by inviting people to join a “struggle” (83, 84). I appreciate that Pipher’s premiere example was not a text written by a powerful politician, established activist, or rebel leader. Instead it was an essay written by a young Jewish girl living in the danger of Nazi Germany. When Anne Frank wrote her essay “Give,” she had no power other than the willingness to write about what she believed was unfair, unfortunate, and changeable. To me, the best part of this example is Frank’s call to action: “Give whatever you have to give, you can always give something, even if it is a simple act of kindness” (83). It is not about being rich, powerful, or famous. It is giving, it is action, and it might be writing.

My teaching of writing has been profoundly changed by book titled <em>Freedom Writers Diary.</em> It is a collection of journal writings produced by real high school students and a teacher that encouraged them to tell stories about their poverty, crime-ridden neighborhoods, and low expectations for educational success. As students wrote, they became more active in addressing problems and suggesting change. By writing, they took action in their own education and communities. As a result, other more powerful people noticed and took action by contributing money, time, and opportunities. The story has become famous and has motivated many teachers and students to write for change by telling their stories. I am one of them.

We can do the same. I believe that when we write for change, we indeed give something. It is that bit of us that cares, listens to, and empathizes with others. Writing can be an active resounding of experiences in which you may cast your light on problems that might otherwise fester in the shadows. When we write about literacy and speech communities, let’s be active in writing for change. Let’s write about what we see as unfair, wrong, and changeable. Writing is action. Writing is change!

Bert Wray

Welcome!

Welcome to the class blog site. Here you will take turns writing blogs about the readings and writing about your experiences with the issues discussed here. It is a chance to share your stories and understanding. It is an opportunity to prompt others to do the same. I believe that you will discover a greater sense of authorship and audience, two key components of the rhetorical situation. More importantly, you will create an archive of important student voices writing about crucial literacy issues. The world will be better for it!