To put it simply, my definition of being a writer is being someone who writes, regardless of the genre. By definition, that makes pretty much everyone a writer from the moment they pick up a writing utensil.
At the start of class, I most definitely did not self-identify as a writer. I felt that because writing has been a struggle for me, and because I got very little enjoyment from it, there was no way I could dare consider myself a writer. “Writers are people who LIKE writing!” I remember saying to myself. “I…pretty much hate writing…” was what popped into my head next.
I learned, though, that the likely cause of my distaste for writing came from the fact that I’ve typically only written to complete an assignment, and only ever in a limited scope of genres. Literary analysis. Research paper. Structured essay. It turns out that I don’t actually like any of those genres. Yet once I’m asked (or even decide on my own) to write in genres that let me express my personality and voice, I find myself generating ideas and writing with ease. I have also always dreaded any sort of feedback on my work, because it is discouraging being told that everything you’ve done is wrong and needs to change in one way or another.
The first major writing assignment for the class was to create a piece of writing that profiled a noun of our choice. I was very intimidated by this piece because I was still in the mindset of “I’m not a writer and I’m DEFINITELY not a creative writer.” It turns out, though, that I am a writer and I can definitely write creatively. Being able to choose the topic of my writing meant that I was able to write about something that actually interested me, and because it was interesting to me I was more motivated to write and more invested in the final product. Although my first draft required heavy revision, I didn’t feel like a failure. That was because the feedback I received was question-based and open-ended. Instead of being accusatory and full of red marks, it was thought-provoking and left me agency over my piece. I am very happy with the final product and am proud to show it off here.
The Unfamiliar Genre Project was another writing piece that gave us total writer agency. Not only did we get to pick the subject (like the profile piece), we also got to pick the genre. It was pretty awesome being able to write what I wanted and how I wanted it. I ended up choosing the genre of poetry, as it was something I was very familiar with reading but had never actually tried to write myself. Again, the feedback I received on my draft shaped some of the decisions I made for my final, but not everything. The beauty of feedback that asks questions is that it is open-ended. It made me think deeper about my choices and decide whether or not I needed or even wanted to change something. In many cases that reflection led me to make changes, but not always. I kept the title of my poem, and some of the vocabulary that I felt worked the best. I changed some of the overall structure, though, and swapped out a few words to make more sense to my readers who weren’t as familiar with the subject as I was. I don’t think it is as elegant of a piece as my profile above, but I am still proud to share it here.
As can be seen in the above examples, my writing process has become much less stressful and much more agentic and metacognitive than it was before this class. Even this portfolio has been easier to write than I ever thought possible because I feel like I get to inject my own voice and talk about my own experiences. Although by my definition I’ve been a writer for a very long time, I had never felt like one. The type of writing instruction and the feedback process that I learned in this class made me FEEL like an actual writer, even though I’m not anywhere close to a professional. When I teach English in the future and give agency and thoughtful feedback to my students, I am hopeful that they will start to see themselves as writers in the same way that I have.