Self-Growth in Writing: I Know Where I am Going

Writing for Social Change has been my all-time favorite class.  As the end draws closer, I am starting to become very sad because I have learned so much, and I do not want to stop that expansion of knowledge.  However, I know that there is always much to learn outside of the classroom; I just have to own up to the challenge of seeking the information for myself.  I would say that this class has helped me become a better writer because it has shown me the empowering side to writing and reading.  Before, all I had known of these skills had been associated with feeling like my creative spirits were trapped in a box.  Through this class, I was told to experiment outside of my comfort zone because if I did not, I would never learn anything from the experience.  If I were not empowered to follow my own writing dynamic, I probably would still be a very stagnant writer.

Visiting my first blog posts from earlier on in the semester brings me back to moments of pure excitement.  For the first time in my life, I had felt genuinely excited to put words down on paper – or in this case, a computer screen.  I always thought very deeply about what I would write down because I wanted my best work to public.  That being said, I do not think I would change the content with which I answered the blog prompts assigned to me through this class.  That may come across as if I think my writing was perfect, but that is not true.  I always included many different perspectives in my blog posts, especially the ones in which I talked about my role in my local DC organization, the LAYC.  Regarding the intellectual content of the class, I am in the same headspace that I was many weeks ago, but I have improved my understanding and employment of the rhetoric.  If I were to change anything, I think it would be to become even more transparent to my audience.  Throughout the duration of the class, I was paranoid that I might have been too blunt at certain points, but I realize now that that pure honesty is something valuable.  Now that I have improved my rhetoric, I could continue to be honest, but still keep it classy and tactful.

Visiting my blogs from when I first wrote about my involvement at the LAYC, I see my spirit start out as a flame, then later get put out and smashed to ashes.  Honestly, volunteering at the LAYC was more stressful than it was helpful I think.  Most people might take this as I was annoyed to travel there – which I was not.  I was just stressful because it led me to question everything.  I guess I could retract my statement of this experience not being helpful, as we can learn something from everything.  This experience forced me to confront my role in perpetuating the White Savior Complex.  Although this may have put a lot of worry into my daily life, I have to take it upon myself to make sure that I continue to educate myself and others about the potential negative consequences of something like this occurring.  I can not be too caught up on feeling guilty; I have to recognize what is happening and do something to change it.  In addition, considering I am not from the racially marginalized community, this stress is nothing I should complain about.

Concerning my research process, I look back and think to myself, “Wow you had such great ideas, Erin, but you could have done so much better.”  One thing that I know about myself is that I am terrible at managing my time.  This is something I have to consciously remind myself of to improve, but, combined with the research project in this class, it gave me insight into how procrastination can debilitate the research and writing process.  I also noticed that I changed my question a lot, so over the summer, I want to initiate my own research project to retouch on the question I initially wanted to research.  If I start disciplining myself this summer, I know that my writing abilities and time management will only improve as well.  Once again, it simply comes down to accountability of self.

What stands out about this Writing for Social Change class to me the most is the way we structured our research.  We used “Frameworks” and “Objects of Study”, which if I were to use those two terms in daily life, I do not know how many people would actually understand the meaning.  I have to admit, these terms left me confused for most of the semester until the day I turned in my research paper.  In that moment, I actually started to get a hang of how to employ each (I might not have done it right, but I still felt like I did).  This strategy was helpful to me because it was an “outside-of-the-box” technique.  Another thing I had to accustom myself to was the fact that I was adding to an educational conversation, not arguing my opinion.  At first I thought this was stupid because I am only 19 years old…how would I gather my own stance in a world where many other scholars already elaborated on what I wanted to say?  I realized that I could add my own flare by talking about the LAYC because I had not come across research from the LAYC concerning “diversity” rhetoric, and now I am much more confident in my researching skills and my ability to formulate an informative document.

For my final project, the Public Writing Portfolio, I want to elaborate on my concern about perpetuating the White Savior Complex.  I feel that in pursuit of a Revolution, and in order to uphold solidarity, this must be addressed.  The white community will only stall the Revolution if it feeds into this notion.  I want to start a dialogue about this notion in a letter to the Nashman Center for Civic Engagement so that they are aware that this is happening.  I am not going to attack them, I just want to work on finding a solution to this detriment.  I would be more than happy to work with the people there on this issue.  Furthermore, I really want to present at the UWP Writing and Research Conference.  I know my essay might not have been the perfect essay, but I know that what I have to say brings to light a new stance and will facilitate a necessary discussion about diversity on GWU’s campus.  Also, if I presented, other students would be able to ask me questions, which would help me to delve further into research and to continue challenging my way of thinking.  Overall, my mission would be to connect my research to my role at the LAYC throughout the semester.

I imagine myself having to create and revise a shorter paper accompanied by a powerpoint, but I want to also include my personal experience at the LAYC.  As of right now, I just want to know how I would be able to present at the next UWP Writing and Research Conference.  I was so inspired by the presentations I saw when I attended, and I honestly want to pass that inspiration along to at least one other student, who could eventually pass it on to more students.

Coming to a Close

The writing process is a journey unique to each individual.  For me, it is unnecessarily complicated in its own way, with this final essay for my University Writing class being no better.  The best analogy I can think of is when your mom looks at you and says, “Your room is so messy.  How do you know where anything is?”  It is so disorganized that it actually is organized because you know where everything is among the chaos.  With my writing, I know what I want to say, and my thought process makes sense to me.  However, achieving a coherent way of conveying my knowledge to others is where I struggle. In my pre-undergraduate academic career, I would avoid writing as much as possible because I felt intimidated by the messiness of the writing process.  The looming approach of the inevitable University Writing class bothered me all first semester because I knew I would have to be pestered with the chaos of the writing process.  As I have finished the writing process for my final draft of this research paper, I can only say one thing: I have to come love and appreciate the writing process, messiness, disorganization, and all.

Before, I never felt inspired to write.  I felt like I would maybe stumble on a different manner of conveying my beliefs.  During this University Writing class, I was exposed to the raw struggle that everyone goes through, even people who have years of experience and have published books.  There is always something comforting in seeing other people struggling with the same things, but this was not the main contributor to my newfound inspiration.  I was actually given the chance to write about something I cared about.  Usually, the prompt is given to me, and I have to make do with what I was given.  This time around, I had everything at the tips of my fingers.  This was relieving at first…but soon after, the never-ending list of potential topics began to overwhelm me.  I had so many areas of interest, how could I narrow it down to one?  My mind went straight to one thing: Diversity.  What could I do with this? Even more endless possibilities.  It was hard to narrow this down, but what helped me was just reading a bunch of different sources and seeing which information grabbed my attention and maintained it.  If I was able to keep paying attention to a certain topic, I knew I would be able to elaborate on that particular conversation.

It was weird being assigned to write in a way that continued a conversation rather than argued a certain perspective.  After becoming accustomed to this new approach, I came up with my question by asking myself a question.  I am a curious person, so I like to acquire random knowledge.  If I could not answer my own question, that implies that there is knowledge out there that I must acquire.  I started thinking about what I never hear regarding diversity.  My first thought was to ask myself, “How did the definition of ‘diversity’ change from the Civil Rights Movement Era to now?” because it already changes so much between different people in just this New Jim Crow Era.  This is relevant for social change because as with any revolution, solidarity is a key component.  There cannot be solidarity if there is no clarity in the meaning of certain words, values, etc.  Because “diversity” is a word that gets taken advantage of by many institutions, I was curious to know how it is employed and/or misconstrued.   To relate it back to my community, I wanted to know if any local DC organizations had different definitions of “diversity”.

This idea seemed to foster so much potential, but as I actually started writing my paper, I realized I based my framework around the educational institutions.  This made sense to me as the writer, but looking from the reader’s perspective, I could see why it strays from the original question.  As I continued my research, I tried to find resources relating to my question more, but I was too interested in the role of the education system to drop that component of the research.  It was either drop it or change my question.  Thus, my new and improved research question was born.  This time is had to do with whether or not the educational institution sets up a misconstruance of the word “diversity” and if so, how community organizations counteract this.  This ignited my revolutionary spirit as I encountered more and more research.  Clarifying the framework was the hardest part, but I always knew my object of study would be the Latin American Youth Center because it was one of the institutions that made me wonder what “diversity” meant to others.  Needless to say, organizing my essay took a while, but that refinement only made it sparkle more.  Honestly, what helped the most was labeling the sections and sub-headers.

The introduction was the part I was excited to write because I was able to introduce my mission.  I love sharing why I care about this topic, but I had to be sure to not get carried away with information that would distract the reader from the main point of the conversation.  For me, at least, it is hard to eliminate certain aspects of my personal anecdote because I see each step as important.  Having two to three other people read this in a writing workshop helped me gain an outside perspective on what was unnecessary.  There was no problem with persuading the intended audience that I have the capacity to add to the discussion…I think I might have written in such a way that could have startled the intended audience as they might not have been used to that amount of vigor coming from an author as young as me.  I learned to find the balance between vigor, passion, and conciseness.

All the other parts I wrote together, but I came back to writing the conclusion separately in order to give myself a few days to reflect.  My intent was to see if I actually reflected, would that show in my conclusion?  I am not sure if that is the typical way of going about this, but it worked for me better.  I normally rush my conclusions so I can be done with the paper, but this allowed me to not feel pressured to just abruptly end everything.

With the revising process, I knew my grammar would be fine.  I have always been very picky with sounding grammatically correct, and I just naturally implement proper grammar structures into my writing.  The main question I had to remind myself of was, “Would this be coherent to an outside reader?”  In the beginning, my framework was jumbled up, but towards the end, I adapted to a more condensed topic, so the coherent aspect followed suit.  “Wordiness” is also something I had to watch out for.  As a university student trying to sound wiser than her years, I tended to overstretch the boundaries on that, but I would catch myself and remind myself that it was highly unnecessary.  Now that I think about it, this could have contributed to any incoherent stream of ideas.

This was the first time I had ever used the APA method of citation.  The citation workshop in class helped me a ton because at first, I saw no difference between MLA and APA.  In retrospect, APA is more detailed than MLA (what I normally use), so I had to go back and double-check that my sources were cited properly, especially with in-text citations.  The in-text citations were very casual at first, so I am glad I fixed them.  I am not looking to plagiarize ever.

~Overall, I am truly grateful for going through this writing process.  It came at a time where I almost gave up on it, but now it is something I actually want to engage in more so I can improve it within myself.  The process of adding to a conversation, especially given the freedom to talk about my passions, has given me a determination to learn more and a humbling feeling of self-growth, which is something I can never take for granted.