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Home » Module 3 - Okay but what's writing? » Okay but what’s writing?

Okay but what’s writing?

Now we’ve established that there’s bias in science and research because nothing exists in a vacuum; our positionality will always impact the outcomes of our work.

Hi everyone! Thank you for your patience with me getting this week’s module up on our site. I’m going to start a conversation about writing that we will continue with into next week. 

So how does our positionality impact our writing? Our composition style? Our rhetoric? Our faith in our own writing abilities?

I’ve heard from many of you that a goal for this semester is to become a better writer, and my first thought is, who told you you’re not a good writer? Here’s a little secret: engineers are shitty writers! Most academics are shitty writers! Hell, I’m a shitty writer and it’s okay because I write as a way to think through and process what I’m learning. 95% of my writing is never seen, and that’s fine!

I will apologize on behalf of all the people who have told you you can’t write, or made you uncomfortable about your writing. And I’m here to tell you that you’re doing a great job even if your sentence structure is different from the normative expectations (normative is boring af anyway).

And to give full transparency into the academic writing process: all published writing has been through so many editors and drafts that oftentimes the final product bears little resemblance to what was first submitted. And an author who submits a piece *knows* they are submitting a “draft” — final product is not the same as final draft.

As I’ve read through responses to the first module I see people who are thinking through complex concepts and distilling them into something that can be digested in a comment section. This act is composition and rhetoric.

Writing is so much more than the blank document and blinking cursor of doom. What if instead of fixating on final drafts (I know that’s difficult when it’s what’s demanded of you from other classes), we think about writing as a whole kit of tools that support your ability to understand something about the world. Looking something up on wikipedia, reading, researching, jotting down a note. This is all part of the umbrella term writing

Let’s toss out the goal of perfection and play with the messiness that is thinking through something. I’ve written about 15 drafts of this lecture, it’s still late to be published, and it’s still not “perfect”. I’ve been writing it on the train, writing bits down in the kitchen at work, just trying to put a message together that is clear and specific for you all to understand.

For this week, let’s write through/think through some of our writing discomfort and see where we end up. I want you to comment on:

1) where your writing beliefs about your capabilities came from

2) all the ways you write during a day that are not “proper essays” (think text messages, coding, instagram, tiktok)

3) the work/time you put into a submittable assignment (this has taken me probably 10 hours)

Please post this by Monday night 11:59pm. See you again on Tuesday! Thanks everyone!


23 Comments

  1. There was a time when I used to love my writing skills. My friends admired and complimented what I had written. As I grew older, however, this love disappeared. The way I wrote remained the same while the way my friends and peers wrote advanced, becoming more and more eloquent. During peer editing and group projects, I just couldn’t help but notice the differences between my writing and the writing of those around me. I couldn’t use high level vocabulary words like them. I couldn’t write my words concisely. I couldn’t avoid writing long, jumbled, repetitive, sloppy sentences. Perhaps it is from this comparison of my writing style with the writing style of others that I developed a negative stance on the capabilities of my writing. I currently greatly dislike my writing style and my greatest goal for this class is to stop comparing my style with others, and instead, develop a style that I will be proud of.

    Throughout the day, the ways I write include texting with my friends, writing captions for my posts on Instagram, emailing others, and doing creative writing.

    The amount of time I put into a submittable assignment greatly varies depending on the length of the assignment. If the assignment is short (150-200 words), then I spend about 20-30 minutes. However, If the assignment is a major project or an essay, then I spend several hours writing and rewriting it. I tend to spend the most time on writing projects that include art because as an artistic and creative person, I tend to give it my all in projects that allow me to show my creativity.

  2. It took a long time to build my writing capabilities through continuous practice. My writing beliefs came from my mother. She taught me how to read and write. I use my writing skills to express my ideas and thoughts in words. But there is a lot difference between writing a formal essay and texting someone. Because while texting I use short forms like ‘before’ becomes ‘b4.’ In chat, I use as much as short forms I can but I also take care of the person receiving my text, so that he/ she can understand me. For major essay-like assignments, it is not possible for me to finish it in one sitting. Because my writing depends on my thinking. But for regular assignments, I can spare maximum 2-3 hours but if it is not finished by then, then I have to take a break or study another subject and come back later to finish the rest.

  3. I think of myself as an average writer. English is my third language, considering that I think I am more comfortable in writing it, than speaking. My first major writing course was my English class in High School, where our teacher was preparing us for writing an essay in SAT exam. In my first college level writing class, my professor made us to write 1 page on ANY topic (experience, feelings etc.) at end of every class. That helped me a lot as a freestyle writer. Also, in my other writing intensive courses, I have wrote down quite a number of essays regarding Films and History. I still misspell many words and use Grammarly to double-check my work.
    I write emails, comments on Instagram, text messages, web searches, college assignments etc. on daily basis. The time, I spend on my assignment varies for each of courses. I spent like 6 hours on my coding homework and lab assignments.

  4. Coming to America at the age of 8 has impacted my view on writing and my ability to write. English being my third language is the reason I feel writing isn’t for me. Struggling with reading from a very young age made me hate English class and made me feel like I could never do it. I remember in the fifth grade I had to write a page paper on one of the world’s greatest inventions and who created it. This assignment started my dislike towards writing because I felt like I wasn’t good enough and couldn’t form proper sentences in English. It took my weeks of anxiety and misery to complete this short assignment. Now, I use informal writings in all aspects of my life such as texting, Instagram and twitter. This is obviously very easy to do because there isn’t much thought behind short messages and comments you make daily. However, during formal writing I always procrastinate on doing the assignment and it ends up taking the whole last 3 days before the assignment is due. I dread writing so much that I waited until my senior year to take writing for engineers class. I feel certain people are good at certain things and for me writing is my thing that I stay away from.

  5. Coming to America at the age of 8 has impacted my view on writing and my ability to write. English being my third language is the reason I feel writing isn’t for me. Struggling with reading from a very young age made me hate English class and made me feel like I could never do it. I remember in the fifth grade I had to write a page paper on one of the world’s greatest inventions and who created it. This assignment started my dislike towards writing because I felt like I wasn’t good enough and couldn’t form proper sentences in english. It took my weeks of anxiety and misery to complete this short assignment. Now, I use informal writings in all aspects of my life such as texting, instagram and twitter. This is obviously very easy to do because there isn’t much thought behind short messages and comments you make daily. However, during formal writing I always procrastinate on doing the assignment and it ends up taking the whole last 3 days before the assignment is due. I dread writing so much that I waited until my senior year to take writing for engineers class. I feel certain people are good at certain things and for me writing is my thing that I stay away from.

  6. When I was in elementary school, my teacher made students write a diary every day. That’s when I started writing. I had a habit of using only one or two of 5W1H. I always omitted the detailed explanation and wrote down only facts. For example, “I went to the zoo today.” so the teacher always asked me who I went with, what I saw, and how I felt. Since middle school, there has been no homework to write a diary, and in Korea, most of the test questions were multiple-choice, so there were few opportunities to write. I was in trouble in the U.S. because many classes made me write essays. Even if I followed the guide hard, I couldn’t fill the number of pages. I felt that I was far behind others in writing, but I believe that my writing skills are improving because I write with a more comfortable mind than before. I use Instagram and text messages every day, but I still write facts briefly because I don’t have to be formal like an essay. When I do assignments, the time I spend depends on the subject. Math takes 1-2hours, but if it’s a project or an essay, I spend days.

  7. I think I’m an average writer. I don’t particularly like writing, but with given enough time I can produce something that is decent. Last semester my professor told my writing was pretty good, so I’m currently feeling a little more confident about my writing capabilities.
    I do a lot of writing throughout the day. A huge portion is messaging on social media apps/discord. These of course are small pieces of informal text and often in shorthand and with a lot of mistakes. During the school year lots of emails are sent which require a formal layout and revisions (since it impacts my grades).
    A lot of time actually goes into the writing I submit for grading. I often find myself at a loss for words and lost on how to elaborate without repeating myself. Most of my writing is spent looking up things to add on. I spend about 1-2 hrs per single spaced page of writing, with minimal review. Most submissions were broken up into drafts so I don’t really have to worry about reviewing since it will be done in future drafts or in the case of the final draft it was already done.

  8. I think I’m an average writer. I don’t particularly like writing, but with given enough time I can produce something that is decent. Last semester my professor told my writing was pretty good, so I’m currently feeling a little more confident about my writing capabilities.
    I do a lot of writing throughout the day. A huge portion is messaging on social media apps/discord. These of course are small pieces of informal text and often in shorthand and with a lot of mistakes. During the school year lots of emails are sent which require a formal layout and revisions (since it impacts my grades).
    A lot of time actually goes into the writing I submit for grading. I often find myself at a loss for words and lost on how to elaborate without repeating myself. Most of my writing is spent looking up things to add on. I spend about 1-2 hrs per single spaced page of writing, with minimal review. Most submissions were broken up into drafts so I don’t really have to worry about reviewing since it will be done in future drafts or in the case of the final draft it was already done.

  9. I got my writing skills mainly from my English classes in high school and freshman college year. My teachers always wanted me to write a solid and well made essay. But I never enjoyed doing that, every time I had to write an essay I always try to finish it fast and good enough to get a decent grade. It was something I always wanted to avoid doing. Same goes to lab reports. But something I always was happy to learn was to write more formally and professionally. Everything changed when I started to do a writing different from essays and lab reports. I started to enjoy writing fiction. At first my writing was bad but since it was something I really liked, I always try to write better every time. When I text to my friends or family, I try to avoid using contractions since I think it is lazy writing. But it is understandable when you try to say something as quick as possible.

    When it comes to assignments, a 1200 words essay with no citation needed takes me around 4 hours to do in one sitting. It varies depending on the type of assignment. But it is something I usually try to finish fast since it is not something I like.

  10. I got my writing skills mainly from my English classes in high school and freshman college year. My teachers always wanted me to write a solid and well made essay. But I never enjoyed doing that, every time I had to write an essay I always try to finish it fast and good enough to get a decent grade. It was something I always wanted to avoid doing. Same goes to lab reports. But something I always was happy to learn was to write more formally and professionally. Everything changed when I started to do a writing different from essays and lab reports. I started to enjoy writing fiction. At first my writing was bad but since it was something I really liked, I always try to write better every time. When I text to my friends or family, I try to avoid using contractions since I think it is lazy writing. But it is understandable when you try to say something as quick as possible.

    When it comes to assignments, a 1200 words essay with no citation needed takes me around 4 hours to do in one sitting. It varies depending on the type of assignment. But it is something I usually try to finish fast since it is not something I like.

  11. English is not my primary language. my writing beliefs about my capability came from my teachers in high school. They pushed me everyday to do better and better because they knew, I had the potential to develop my writing skills very fast. Well, lately I do not use social media for messaging that much. Instead, I watch videos of how to or stuff that people post. However, when I write I always try to make it simple and very straight forward since I am not very very fluent in English. Every time I have to send a message, email or write something, I try to write it as good as I can because my English level is not that high.Also, because the way you write tells a lot about your personality and capability to express yourself. I’ve work consecutively for a couple of hours writing essays, probably between 4-6 hours. I take that time because I have to do a lot of research, make a plan about what I am going to write or do. I take me a little bit to process things, specially when they get too complicated and I do not know what to do.

  12. Coming to America at the age of 8 has impacted my view on writing and my ability to write. English being my third language is the reason I feel writing isn’t for me. Struggling with reading from a very young age made me hate English class and made me feel like I could never do it. I remember in the fifth grade I had to write a page paper on one of the world’s greatest inventions and who created it. This assignment started my dislike towards writing because I felt like I wasn’t good enough and couldn’t form proper sentences in english. It took my weeks of anxiety and misery to complete this short assignment. Now, I use informal writings in all aspects of my life such as texting, instagram and twitter. This is obviously very easy to do because there isn’t much thought behind short messages and comments you make daily. However, during formal writing I always procrastinate on doing the assignment and it ends up taking the whole last 3 days before the assignment is due. I dread writing so much that I waited until my senior year to take writing for engineers class. I feel certain people are good at certain things and for me writing is my thing that I stay away from.

  13. Throughout all of elementary school up till my junior year of high school I was always told to write essays using certain outlines and formats because they were “right”. This all changed for me during senior year of high school, I was taking an AP English class that relied heavily on something I was unfamiliar with. In this class we focused more on the abstract “messages” that the author was trying to convey towards the reader and how each reader conveyed this message differently. To me, it was a huge 180, I was used to finding evidence to support my points and not deeper critical thinking like this. I knew I was not the best with critical thinking in writing, but the nail hit the coffin when my teacher pulled me aside to try and give me more pointers to better develop my critical thinking. I know she was just trying to help me but the fact that she needed to help me showed that I was falling behind in the first place. Why do we even need to look for hidden messages in books and writings? Most of us type like we barely know English when we text people either way. Still, even though I said all that I try and improve my critical thinking by reading Marcus Aurelius’ book Meditations since it’s a book really known for its deeper meanings.

  14. Writing was never a subject I considered myself to be particularly strong in. Throughout my years of school, namely high school, my English teachers would rate my writing relatively well, but always pointed out similar flaws with my abilities, leading me to believe I was at my peak. Regardless of these beliefs, I never go into an assignment thinking it will be subpar work. Rather, I dedicate the time I don’t spend procrastinating constructing work that I consider quality and worth reading. This mindset has assisted me in college, as many of the classes I have taken incorporate a writing component. I have and never will be a perfect writer, but I utilize every resource at my disposal and time I have available to make strides in continuously improving my work.

  15. 1) where your writing beliefs about your capabilities came from
    English was never my strong suit, but in high school I wanted to challenge myself and take honors English my freshmen year. I definitely struggled–my grade was mediocre, my teacher would seize control over my paper with her edits on my work, and I had zero motivation to continue with the class. However, despite all odds, my writing improved immensely– thanks to office hours lol.
    I believed that the less edits and the higher the grade I got on a paper meant that I was a good writer. I followed the formula of writing my teachers gave me and performed well. It wasn’t until my AP Language and Composition class that I realized I was good at following an outline of writing I was expected to follow and not writing itself. I did well with analytical questions– What is the significance of excessive use of commas? Analyze the character and how their actions drove the plot?
    As soon as I was asked to write creatively, write a story, write a poem and so on, I had no idea what to say or how to write it. And this was clear by the low grades I got on creative pieces.
    I define my writing capabilities by the grades I receive. It is not something I am not proud of but it’s the truth. I hope to break this habit in the meantime, grades aren’t everything.
    2) all the ways you write during a day that are not “proper essays” (think text messages, coding, instagram, tiktok)
    I write when I text, while I’m doing homework, writing emails, ect. . .
    3) the work/time you put into a submittable assignment (this has taken me probably 10 hours)
    I usually work over the course of a couple of days on a writing assignment. Collectively I would say I spend about 5 or 6 hours working.

  16. 1) Where your writing beliefs about your capabilities come from
    I have always struggled to write, let alone complete assignments for English classes when I was younger. I always used to view anything that involved writing a long paper as a burden. As I grew older and became more “mature” I looked at writing in a whole other light. In my junior year of high school, I started my first semester in IB Literature HL (higher level), and struggled to the point where I could see grey hairs 🙁 As time went on I began to trust in my capabilities as a writer and learn to demonstrate patience instead of quitting, the fruits of my labor would start to show, slowly but surely. Hence I have lived by that rule to this date, which is why I graduated with my IB diploma with full course credit in my IB Literature HL, allowing me to immediately enter English comp II, bringing me here 🙂

    2) All the ways you write during a day that are not “proper essays” (think text messages, coding, instagram, tiktok)
    I am constantly writing throughout the day, even when I am supposed to be a couch potato and watching anime whether its using tiktok to comment on funny videos, texting my friends through Instagram, or writing emails to my professors and begging for extensions out of desperation.
    3) The work/time you put into a submittable assignment (this has taken me probably 10 hours)
    I normally write as I go and try to get all of my thoughts on to the paper/document and spend a few hours editing my flawed words. It depends on the assignment and if I am procrastinating or not.

  17. Growing up, writing was never my strong suit, in fact, I despised writing about anything not because I was poor or anything like that, I just saw no interest in doing so. As I grew older, I began to see improvement after improvement in my writing capabilities class after class. Once I entered my junior year, it marked the start of my two year journey in the IB Diploma program where I was taking IB Literature HL. I grew frustrated my times throughout my adventure until I began to demonstrate patience instead of quitting on the spot. This mainly stemmed from me learning from my two older sisters who both have graduated college. I am always writing whether its physical or digital throughout my day. Even when I am supposed to be a lazy couch potato enjoying my time off, I find myself writing whether its texting my friends on Instagram, commenting on funny tiktoks, or searching up movies or video. The amount of time and work I put into a writing assignment usually depends on the assignment itself and how much I procrastinate. I normally spend from 45 minutes to 2 hours on a regular assignment or several hours if its a paper.

  18. Growing up, writing was never my strong suit, in fact, I despised writing about anything not because I was poor or anything like that, I just saw no interest in doing so. As I grew older, I began to see improvement after improvement in my writing capabilities class after class. Once I entered my junior year, it marked the start of my two year journey in the IB Diploma program where I was taking IB Literature HL. I grew frustrated my times throughout my adventure until I began to demonstrate patience instead of quitting on the spot. This mainly stemmed from me learning from my two older sisters who both have graduated college. I am always writing whether its physical or digital throughout my day. Even when I am supposed to be a lazy couch potato enjoying my time off, I find myself writing whether its texting my friends on Instagram, commenting on funny tiktoks, or searching up movies or video. The amount of time and work I put into a writing assignment usually depends on the assignment itself and how much I procrastinate. I normally spend from forty-five minutes to 2 hours on a regular assignment or several hours if its a paper.

  19. 1) Where your writing beliefs about your capabilities came from

    My writing skills came from a lot of trial and error in my papers during middle school and high school. English wasn’t my strong suit and I found it difficult to conform to the “rubrics” that the teachers made us follow. I saw improvement in my writing when I was doing a lot of revision. I was able to structure a essay or paper exactly the way they wanted and still have a bit of personal touch to it. I found this strategy useful for me personally, because I like to have everything laid out before working on it.

    2) All the ways you write during a day that are not “proper essays” (think text messages, coding, instagram, tiktok)

    During the day most of my writing happens on my phone. When I message my friends or write a email to a professor. Depending on the person, I tend to use a lot of abbreviations, but for professional work its proper english.

    3) The work/time you put into a submittable assignment (this has taken me probably 10 hours)

    My revision takes up a good portion of my time. I don’t spend as much time on the initial essay but a lot on revising, and end up adding more details as I read on.

  20. Writing was always a subject that I was very passionate in. Although I may have some conventional grammar issues, the art of writing has driven me to understand vocabulary and different elements of writing. Throughout high school, writing has helped me achieve high grades in all of my humanitarian subjects and being able to find evidence to help support my claim. Writing an essay and texting someone are completely two different things. I was told growing up never to use “broken English,” but as long as you do not use it for school purposes, then I should be good.

  21. I grew up in Hungary and have been taught English since elementary school (again this can be considered a privilege). I learned business English in a Hungarian university thinking: yes I know English. But coming to the United States at 20 years old I realized that how little I knew! I didn’t know which words were culturally / socially acceptable to use, speaking English was very difficult. However, just as with most things in life, the more I practiced it the better I became. I consider taking English101 at BMCC another milestone: realizing how little I knew again. I enjoyed the creative writing and writing for social impact we practiced in class. We used the “They Say / I Say” book by Gerald Graff which I thought was super helpful giving pointers how to express myself more concisely and how to write with more clarity. In my opinion writing is just like any other matters in life: the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know — the less you know, the more you think you know. Reflecting on Andréa’s article on our writing capabilities, I agree with her. It is very important not to have an impostor syndrome, doubting our abilities and our achievements. This unfortunately affects disproportionately high-achieving people.

    II most commonly write text messages, work emails (surprisingly not everyone in a professional setting writes professionally which bothered me initially, but I got used to it by now.) Less often I must do lab reports which they specify a format that is “free of any commitment to any person(s), that is, refraining from the use of pronouns such as I, We, Our, Us, etc.” We touched on this actually in the previous module. I have Instagram, but I don’t invest too much energy into writing creative captions. Pictures worth a thousand words they say haha (I know its not true).

    Writing this comment has taken me approximately 1 hour, with proof reading. Submittable assignments such English essays are extremely (!!!) time consuming. There must be a research beforehand, then organizing my thoughts and just plunging some draft. Taking a break in between refining my drafts is very useful, because the topic is fresh on my mind so my brain can always add a little bit here and there, it is a constant refinement. A good English essay can take many-many hours and possibly a week to finish it after a lot of revisions.

  22. I believe myself to be a poor writer. My writing abilities arising mainly from my English coursework in high school and freshman year of college. My english teachers always encouraged me to create a well-structured and well-written essay.I usually tried to keep my writing simple and easy to understand. Also, before I begin writing about a topic, I try to build a bullet point or map of it. It’s make me easier to engage with my topic.I am unable to complete significant essay-like work in a single sitting. Because my writing is based on my thoughts. For texting with friend or social media is different writing style I used.

  23. My positive writing beliefs about my capabilities came from school assignments. When it came to writing I enjoyed any project where I’d get to truly express myself. This helped me engage in my work and the final piece would contain something which I would learn through the completion of the assignment. My negative writing beliefs about my capabilities came from the fear of lacking high speed reading skills. Growing up I didn’t read too many books and one of my favorite teachers would encourage me to read or else, as she would say, I would “fall behind.” I guess I got caught up in that concept and as I grew up I subconsciously supported it any time I didn’t like my writing. My logic was “I am not as good as the other students at writing because I’m not a good reader and that also means I’m not a good writer.” I believe this pattern of thinking leads me to put limits on myself and prevents my writing skills from growing.

    I keep a log, something like a journal, where I record what went on during the day, how these things or moments would make me feel, and jot down the things that go around my head. I would say that it’s my log that most of my writing revolves around. I enjoy it and though it varies, I put about 30 minutes daily into writing down what goes on that day. My phone contains multiple apps where I have to type. In the Notes app, I write down any ideas that pop up to my head during the day.
    Depending on the assignment, it ranges from 30 minutes to 10 hours.

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