Monday, April 29, 2013

What kind of writer am I?

flickr typewriter typo?! 
                                         photo credit: bitzi ☂ ion-bogdan dumitrescu via photopin cc

This is an assignment for a course I am taking at Coursera called Writing II: Rhetorical Composing. The first task was to introduce myself answering the question on what kind of writer I was. Here is what I wrote:

First I should say that I was delighted with this task. I always tend to write too much in these “getting to know” you posts. They are always part of online courses and generally very informal, for this reason people tend to write the least they can to avoid overwhelming participants with too much to read. This one, it seems it is required to write a bit more. So, I am not going to feel guilty for writing more than I should. So, here I go.
I guess my introduction partially answers the question about what kind of writer I am. I am a struggling writer who just loves doing it. This love for writing is a newfound love though. I call it new because I love the craft, but I still feel like a beginner since the very act of writing itself is a struggle for me. I also see it as a recent passion due to the fact that it has not always been this intense. In the following paragraphs I will tell you the story of how it all began.
As an undergraduate student in psychology in Brazil and a graduate student in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in Oklahoma City University City in The U.S.A., I just went through the motions in writing. Although, looking back, I think I already liked it, I saw it as just an assignment. The papers I wrote at the time were for grade and only a requirement to be filed and a form to be filled out. This formal education also gave me a chance to learn something about writing. I remember that when I was getting my master’s I always had a coach (a native speaker) to proofread my work and have always received good tips on how to write a better essay or research paper. One of my professors on some occasions complimented me on how I had progressed as a writer throughout the course. I was glad and flattered by his remarks, but I saw that as a task that had been done and writing as something I would be done with by the end of the course.
 In 2006 I participated in a workshop and was introduced to a new world: web 2.0 and the world of blogging. This new world was what forced to start writing for a different purpose and for a new audience, and as a consequence, forced me to see that I was not done with writing just yet. Now I was not being graded anymore and I was not writing for my professors, but for everyone on web that happened to come across one of my blog posts. It is funny to see now how my idea of what an audience was has changed over the years. At the beginning of my blogging journey, my immediate audience was my students. I wrote posts for them and expected them to react to what I wrote.
After some time, maybe due to my lack of training in the art of writing and also for practical and pedagogical reasons, I started finding that (writing posts myself and asking students to comment) a real drag to my students. I then handled the duty of writing to them. It was a blossoming garden of composing: all my students started blogging. I was delighted to discover how creative they were. They illustrated their posts with their own drawings and I commented on them and also asked them to comment on their peers’ posts. At that time the audience was my students and the purpose was to get them to react to what their peers had written. Therefore, I did not realize I was a bad writer and did not feel the need to start doing it myself.
Fast forward about four years and due to my involvement in professional development and my presence in the blogosphere, I started feeling compelled to take writing a bit more seriously. I had now started writing reflection posts about the things I was doing and how much I was learning. I had a need to start sharing my experiences. That was when I saw that my audience was no longer just my students but educators who were a bit more demanding concerning the quality of what they read. That was when the struggling writer emerged.
When I started writing as an educator, I realized I had a lot to learn about it. From that moment on, I noticed it was hard work to come up with something that went beyond a simple paragraph. I really have some basic doubts on where to place a comma. English, not being my first language, was also another problem because it was always so difficult for me to find the right word. I gave up posting to my blogs many times. Other times it just took me weeks to finish a post and finally add it to my blog. I tried to set a posting schedule and deadlines for writing, but it proved ineffective as a means of making me a more prolific and competent writer. It seemed that writing was not for me.
When I was about to give up, I had an idea and thought to myself that a book about writing would be a good idea. I said to myself “There should be a book with a recipe on how to write a good essay, a good blog post.”  It was with that in mind that I bought the book On Writing Well by William Zinsser. To my disappointment, I discovered that there is not a recipe for writing this or that kind of thing. My problems were far from being over. Nonetheless, this same author showed me that there was light at the end of the tunnel. I discovered through reading (and I already knew it from my own experience) that writing is difficult for everyone and that is something that, like so many other things, is learned by doing. It was about the time I was reading this book that I decided to enroll in this course and here I am. So, my name is José Antonio da Silva (my online friends call me JA), a Brazilian EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher in Brasilia, and I am a struggling writer. It is really nice to meet you all and be able to battle the monster of writing together.

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