Assignment #1 for portfolio

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you,” are the words Maya Angelou inspired me with. Her words made me realize that in writing, there is no right or wrong answer, but rather an unheard voice. Her words articulate that no matter what, whether it is wrong in grammar, structure, punctuation, etc., there is a story to be told and that is something that I wasn’t able to show until I had a writing experience that significantly impacted my voice as a writer. That impact occurred during my finals week as a high school senior, when my AP Literature final was to write a timed essay. Given that my skills for writing timed essays were as bad as the economy during the Great Depression, I knew that my only option was to take a different approach of structure; a structure in which facts are given with no explanation or analysis. For that reason, rather than starting with an outline of facts, I began with an outline of my opinions and thereafter I searched for supporting facts. This different strategy not only earned me the highest grade out of the rest of the class, but it also helped me tell my story. This previous writing experience helped me develop my voice as a writer and gave me the same ecstatic feeling of accomplishing something.

Throughout most of my years as a high school student I considered myself an excellent writer. I always believed I submitted excellent quality work for my AP English courses because I made sure everything was structured correctly, which was accordingly with the structure thatI believed my teacher wanted. I came to a realization of my ineffectiveness when I failed my AP Language test with a one. Though my whole world came tumbling down when I received the devastating news that I had failed, I was able to realize that I couldn’t let my opinions be unheard because of what my others were expecting. For that reason, I took a challenge and enrolled in an AP Literature course the following year and it was not until then that I actually let my writing become my own voice.

The start of my new writing persona began when I was given an analytical, in-class, essay for the book “Their Eyes were Watching God” By Zora Neale Hurston which is about a young woman who is blinded by others, like her grandmother, to marry the wrong men. Given that every detail of the book has so much meaning, I thought I did poorly on the essay because it was timed and it was the only draft being graded. Those limitations made me feel like my ideas were trapped and unheard. Despite the negative thoughts about my own writing, I became ecstatic because, out of the entire class, I actually received the highest grade on that paper. It also changed my perspective on the way the structure and technicality of writing should be and it strengthened my voice, my screaming voice.

After taking a look at the same exact paper that strengthened my voice, I could clearly grasp on my strengths and weaknesses, but most importantly, I could listen to and visualize my own voice and thoughts. A strength that I am able to identify is my organization, where my thoughts flow smoothly and reflect on a previous thought. Thus, it is clear when one of my thoughts is being connected back to the thesis. For example, I connected this idea: “Hurston is able to compare the burning light in Janie’s hand to Janie’s life by illustrating Janie’s past experiences as burning down and at the same time giving her brightness, which also illustrates when “her shadow behind fell back and headlong down the stairs, ” to the thesis statement: “In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston utilizes similes and personification in order to demonstrate that Janie believes that her life is now what she desired it to be, which is full of happiness.” In addition, one of my strengths lies within incorporation. Because in my writing piece I incorporate quotes in a well-done manner, I am able to help my audience understand why I have a certain perspectives, rather than just brutally writing out my opinion. For example, after giving the example of Janie puling her horizon over her shoulder I am able to explain and connect it back to the thesis which is shown when I state “[b] y Hurston illustrating Janie pulling her horizon over her shoulder, she is able to demonstrate that Janie found her happiness, captured it, and took advantage of the opportunity like she was destined to.” Being able to effectively incorporate quotes and connect my ideas back to the thesis has made my paper stronger because it helps keep my audience focused on the point I am trying to get across while at the same time, still leaving room for me, the writer, to express myself.

However, like many other writers, I have weaknesses that I am able to identify as well. Though I know length is not always necessary in a good writing piece, expanding my introduction is something that I believe could’ve made my paper stronger because it is where the reader first becomes interested. For instance, instead of just merely stating the thesis, I could have expanded the introduction by presenting a short summary or description of the book in order to help the audience comprehend my ideas better. Furthermore, I can identify my conclusion as a weakness because I simply restated my thesis as “[b] y utilizing similes and personification, Hurston is able to reveal that Janie believes her life has achieved the desire of happiness.” This is a structure that is technical and does not reveal my thoughts as a writer. If I explained the significance of happiness rather than restating my thesis, or giving a summary, I could have given my audience the opportunity to understand my thoughts as a writer.

Though at the time, my paper received the highest grade in the class, every writing piece can have a remotely minor change to it and if I could make changes to my writing piece I would give more background to certain things. For instance, in my second body paragraph I discuss “inward questioning” and “outward conformity” but don’t necessarily explain what they are and this could affect the way it is interpreted. One might define “inward questioning” as a question directed to oneself and define “outward conformity” as obeying the outside weather; who can interestingly relate to that? Because I am writing from my voice not many can relate or understand my writing and giving some background to my thoughts and ideas can help the audience, not only better understand my writing, but find something that they can relate to as well.

Through my past writing experiences I have learned the mere fact that I am a writer with voice to share. I had to experience failure in order to realize that writing is a way to express ones perception of things, not just a way to express technicality. For that reason, my goal for this quarter as a writer is being able to be a “judge-man,” where I can judge my own writing pieces. Because there are no right or wrong answers it is difficult for me to differentiate what is appropriate and when. In addition, I would like to be able to lengthen my writing, when necessary, without being repetitive. By the end of this quarter, I will have accomplished my goal through, practice, acknowledgment, and dedication.


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