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PARTS & SECTIONS

Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar 

   www.OnlineGrammar.org
 
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 Study Questions
     

 

                                                    

Chapter 4: SELF & OTHERS

                 
What is your "writing self"?

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Writing Self
     

     

     
Strategies
     

     

     
Community
     

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This chapter asks you what your "writing self" is and helps you learn how to talk about your writing self in detail.  It also asks you to think about some of the structures of writing you already know, and it explains how your writing--past, present, and future--is partly developed in a community including friends, teachers, and even the authors whose books you use. 

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   Writing Self

What is your writing self?  It is, simply, the part of you that is a writer.  Everyone who reaches the college level has a writing self composed of your awareness of writing and your experiences of it.  For most people, these experiences come primarily from previous schooling--writing essays, solving math problems, answering tests, taking notes, doing grammar or math drills, etc.  However, your writing self also has non-school writing experiences in it such as making lists, writing email or notes to others, keeping a journal or diary, and perhaps creating some poetry, songs, stories, or something similar.  In many ways, your writing self is like a tree.  Some parts are trimmed, some wild, some parts grow evenly and some jut out at odd angles or perhaps are just beginning to sprout.  The leaves and flowers in some parts of it are quite colorful; in other parts, they are dried up or even missing.  And some roots are deep, others shallow, short, or close to the ground.

Your writing self also is composed partly of your feelings and impressions about writing.  Do you love it?  Do you hate it?  Generally, as with other parts of our basic, inner self, not all of our feelings and thoughts about writing are neatly organized or even necessarily connected.  A part of us, for example, may hate one type of writing--perhaps math or grammar drills--and love another part--like writing notes, emails, or instant messages to friends or other people in our lives.  For example, I can remember even now with a remnant of anger the hell I went through in my second semester of college learning to write literary interpretations for a rigid, unkind teacher who disliked giving us any examples or personal help.  I also can remember with great fondness several months of study hall in which a friend of mine in high school, Keith, exchanged notes.  Sometimes we shared school news, gossip, or help with homework, but just as often we played a word game.  We would try to top each other with creative ways of putting each other down, working to get each other to laugh out loud so the other person would disrupt the quiet of study hall and get in trouble.  This was before personal computers had been invented, so it was sort of an early form of email or instant messaging.

Another part of your writing self is your thoughts about your writing.  It is the way you can back off from your writing and take the time to reflect about it and about your way of doing it.  The word for this act of your writing self--this thinking about the acts of writing and about your writing knowledge--is metacognition."  Metacognition means, simply, thinking about thinking.  The more you do this--reflect upon your writing acts and knowledge--the more easily you will be able to remember what you know and use it again in slightly different writing situations.  

This kind of thinking sometimes is called "mindfulness."  In mindfulness, you are mindful of what you are doing and thinking before, during, and/or after you write.  You do not have to be mindful--to use metacognition--when you are in the midst of actually writing, as this can sometimes interrupt yoiur creativity or flow of writing or thinking about your subject.  However, little instances of mindfulness during writing sometimes are worth jotting down so you can think about them more later.  And being mindful of your writing acts and knowledge before and after you write can be very helpful.  This is especially true, for example, when you face an assignment in school or on the job to produce a type of document that you've never written before.  Mindfulness before starting means, simply, asking yourself, "What do I already know about writing that might apply here?"

All your feelings and mindfulness about writing and your knowledge of it are parts of our writing self.  Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself about your own writing self:

Writing Self Questions

  1. "What writing experiences have I liked and disliked?"

  2. "Why, when did they happen, with whom, and how?"

  3. "Do they still affect me today when I think about taking a writing course or doing other writing?  If so, how or why?"

  4. "What types of writing do I seem to do fairly well, and what kinds give me trouble?" 

  5. "Of all the types of writing there are, school and non-school, what kinds do I feel I must learn, whether I like them or not?  What kinds, if any, do I actually love?  What kinds do I think I will always continue to dislike or hate?"

  6. "What kinds of writing by others (my friends, my teachers, my relatives, authors of books I've read, etc.) do I especially admire?  Why or how?"

  7. "How are my speaking self and my writing self alike?  How do they differ?"

  8. "Considering all of the above, what do I think are several important parts of my writing self?"

  9. "If I could name one visual image of my writing self--an animal, an activity, a place, a thing, or a type of person--what would that image be?  How would I describe it in more detail?"  (For example, try to develop it as a simile or metaphor: "My writing self is like a _____ because it is _____, _____, and _____."  For example, I, Richard--the author of this textbook--could say that my own writing self is something like a panther or leopard.  That is because it spends a lot of time lying around, sunning itself to keep warm, thinking about past and future things.  Then when the time to write comes, it first slowly stalks the subject, circling it and trying to figure the best way to get at it.  Then, suddenly, it is off and running, faster than lightning, going to the heart of the subject and making a meal of it.)

  10. "Then who is my writer self?  Who was it several years ago?  Who might it be in several more years?" 

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   Your Strategies of Writing

What are your writer strategies?  They are, basically, the methods and patterns you have learned about writing.  Here are just a few examples of the many writer strategies or writer patterns that you may already have: 

Writing Strategies/Patterns

  • the basic pattern of writing an argument

  • the basic pattern of having a fair debate

  • the basic pattern of writing a work proposal

  • your usual method for starting a first draft

  • the way you make a grocery list

  • what you know about how to revise

  • what you know about punctuation

  • what you know about grammar and spelling

  • how you research a subject

  • how you write letters to people

  • how you tell a story

  • and many others

Each of these patterns--and the many others you know--have smaller patterns or sub-patterns within them.  In short, you already know a lot of strategies about writing, literally dozens or even, perhaps, hundreds if you count all the little things you remember about spelling, punctuation, etc..  Many of these strategies are patterns you have learned from others.  Some of them--especially the ways you use to put patterns together to form your own beliefs and your own styles when you are writing and talking--are uniquely your own: they are strategies that you have developed.  Most of your total strategies--learned or uniquely your own--are good strategies most of the time; some don't always work as well as you might like them.  As you learn more strategies in your writing and other college classes, some of these strategies will be ones you develop for (and from) yourself, as you actually experience writing and try different methods.  Other strategies are those your instructor may teach you; still others, strategies that you may learn from fellow classmates or friends, and from books (such as a composition textbook).  Some strategies you will remember well, others only hazily, and still others not at all.  

Writer strategies are, basically, the ways, methods, and patterns you use to make writing happen.  The most basic strategies  are as simple and childlike as how you hold your pen or keyboard and form letters with it.  The opposite--the most complex strategies--are the ones you use at the cutting edge--the forward edge--of your abilities.  These are strategies you still are learning to use and that you are experiencing intensely for the first time as you try to write a type of paper that also is new to you.  

There are many other forms of strategies.  Strategies are the clothes you wear on your basic inner self, and the tools your basic inner self picks up, to accomplish a given task.  Your writer strategies are the clothes and tools you adopt when you write.  In other parts of your life, you have other sets of strategies: for example, a set of shopper strategies, a set of having-fun strategies, a set each of science, math, and gym-class strategies, a set of dealing-with-family-members strategies, and so forth.  Strategies are the patterns your basic inner self takes up, from birth onward, to deal with life.

Here are some important and helpful questions to ask yourself about your own writer strategies:

Writer Strategies Questions

  1. "What are some of my general writer strategies for academic writing in school (e.g., ignore it until the last minute, rush through it, talk someone else into helping me, etc.)?"

  2. "What are two or three other basic kinds of writing or speaking I know how to do [e.g., list making, letter writing, telling a good joke, telling a story, etc.], and what are one or two basic strategies I use to write each [e.g., write the grocery item's name, size, and quantity to buy; always start with "once upon a time" and then keep people hanging until the very end; etc.]?"

  3. "What are the basic steps I often use to write an academic paper?"  (Don't describe what you think you are supposed to do; rather, describe four to eight steps of what you actually do--e.g., place a six-pack of pop and a box of cookies on your desk, and some new songs on your music player, worry and sleep and worry some more, etc.)

  4. "What are several writing methods I would like to learn or practice more often?"  (E.g., you could say "editing step by step" or "brainstorming good stories.")

  5. "What are several strategies I have learned from others, and who taught them to me?"  (E.g., you could say that your dad taught you to always state your main subject first.)

  6. "What are a couple of negative strategies--ones that don't work well for me?"  (E.g., you could say "skipping class the day a paper is due," "making choppy sentences to avoid using commas," etc.)

  7. "If I read other students' papers, what are one or two strategies I sometimes can give to others to help them writer more easily?"

  8. "What are a couple of strategies that I think the author of this textbook chapter is using in writing this chapter?  Do I think other textbooks use these strategies?  Why or why not?"

  9. "What writer strategies or methods would I like to learn this semester or next?"

  10. "What writer strategies or methods would I like to learn sometime in the next five or ten years?"

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   A Community of Writing Selves

What is your community of writers?  Your direct community is the people in your universe with whom you write, think about writing, and learn about it.  Your indirect community is the society or culture around you that have made you into the writer that you are today and who continue to influence your personality, interests, and ways of thinking and speaking.  There are several levels or spheres in your community of writers, from closer to more distant, depending on your course, work situation, and/or how willing you are to extend yourself to the world around you:

Your Writing Community

  1. Yourself and your immediate friends or family with whom you talk about your own writing

  2. Your classmates in your class that has writing assignments (or in the workplace, your colleagues with whom you are writing)

  3. Your writing instructor, writing tutors, and librarians who help you (or in the workplace, your writing supervisors and research aids)
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  4. The authors of your textbook, grammar or research handbook, and other written aids

  5. Professional writers whose articles, essays, books, etc. you find enjoyable or useful

  6. Other teachers, librarians, family members, and friends who have influenced you as a writer in the past, and the various authors and teachers who have influenced them

  7. Your family, friends, neighbors, and wider communities (e.g., the neighborhood, school, church, extended family, etc.) that have made you into the person that you are today and continue to affect the way you think, speak, and thus write--and what you think about, speak about, and thus write about

Take a second look at the list.  The first three writing communities--friends, classmates, and teachers--are fairly obvious.  However, you might first ask yourself how well you are taking advantage of these communities.  In addition, you might want to consider that the second group--numbers "4," "5," and "6"--aren't just something "out there" or completely different from you.  They, too, are part of your wider community circle of writing.  After all, they deeply affect how you learn to write, both directly when you read them and indirectly because your instructor, librarians, friends, family, or other people influential in your life have brought these particular authors to your attention, and not the many other authors that the instructors could have chosen, instead.  Your writing community is really a vast web with you at the center, those directly influencing you right now on the nearest branches of your web, and other influences at various distances.  Each of these influences is connected to other parts of this web of influence, too, by having similar teachers who have chosen similar books published by similar textbook companies with similar goals, and so forth.  Just like a small town or a large, extended family, the influences are interconnected in many ways.

A wider sphere of influence indirectly affects the way you write, but it does so quite strongly.  This is your wider community or communities--the ones in which you have grown up, gone to school, learned to be what you are, and influenced how you tend to think and believe.  All of these elements directly or indirectly affect not only the content of your writing (what you choose to write about) but also the way you tend to say things and write about them.  It's just a matter of people talking about what they happen to know from their own experiences.  For example, a person from a city or large, inner suburb is somewhat more likely to think and talk about issues having to do with racial and ethnic differences, poverty vs. wealth, and differences among schools.  However, a person from a country, small town, or outer suburb is somewhat more likely to think and talk about issues such as sports, outdoor recreation, cars and trucks, and the different social classes or types of people (like jocks vs. nerds) in one school.  As a result, these two people from two different places are more likely to have different interests and even somewhat different ways of thinking and feeling.  They are part of what makes us each unique.  And they are part of what makes each of us slightly (and sometimes very) different writers.

Again, though, you are at the center of your own web of writing, talking, and thinking communities.  Though you can't always control the elements of each community itself, you can control how you choose to use what they've given you when you write and, as a result, just how good a writer (and what type) you will become.  Here are some basic writing-community questions to consider:

Writer Community Questions

  1. "Am I taking full advantage of the first three obvious writing communities: friends, classmates, and teachers?" 

  2. "Could I spend more time talking with my friends, family, workplace colleagues about my own writing and sharing it with them?"

  3. "Could I participate more fully in class and small group activities?  Could I talk more with teachers, tutors, and librarians?"   

  4. "Have I just taken for granted my writing textbooks, grammar handbooks, and research guides?  If so, why are the authors of these books writing them, and why are they writing them in the ways they have?  Who are they (biographies of many can be found by a quick, easy Web search), and how do they see themselves fitting into their own writing communities?"

  5. "How do professional authors whom I admire (or whose essays, articles, or stories are examples or are of help in research) see themselves?  Who are they, and how do they perceive their own writing communities?  Why do I like (or sometimes dislike) them?  How do they help and/or hurt my own developing writing community?"

  6. "How has my past writing community affected me as a writer?  Who has helped and/or hurt me in my development of my writer self and my writer strategies?  Why or how did these people in my past writing community act or believe as they did?  How did they perceive their own writing communities from the center of their writing webs?  How do their actions and beliefs affect other writing communities in general?"  

  7. "What is my overall discourse community (i.e., my larger community in which I have learned to speak, think, and act)?  To how many such communities do I belong?  How do these communities overlap, and how do they not?  How has each molded me as a person, speaker, and thinker?  How has each affected my writing content?  How has each affected my writing methods, styles, and interests?"

            

Conclusion

In conclusion, writing is for each of us a combination of these three elements.  You are--and usually feel like--a separate, individual writing self.  In short, as a writer, you are at the center of your own universe.  Secondly, there are an amazing number of tools, methods, styles, systems, and patterns that you can use.  These are your writer strategies, of which you have very many by the time you are in college (but with many more to learn).  Third, you are not alone: you share your writing with others in many ways, influence each other deeply in how you write and what you will choose, and reach out to ever wider and more complex members of the writing community around you, at which we are your own center.  If you can keep these three equations in mind--writer self, writer strategies, and writing community--and explore them in your own writing life, then you can adapt to almost any future writing situation more easily and quickly. 

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A. START

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Chapters:

1. How I Learned

2. Focus

3. First Drafts

4. Self & Others

5. Modes

6. Thinking

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Additional:

Activities Page

Six Student Responses

UNO Universal Organizer

                    

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 Related Links in
OnlineGrammar.org:

  2. Process & Focus 

  3. Thinking & Reading

13. ESL/NNS/TESOL

14. Free Readings

 

                

 

Updated 1 Aug. 2013

  

   

 

WritingforCollege.org also is at CollegeWriting.info and WforC.org

Natural URL: www.tc.umn.edu/~jewel001/CollegeWriting/home.htm
Previous editions: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998; CollegeWriting.info, 1998-2012
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted
Permission is hereby granted for nonprofit educational copying and use without a written request.
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