1000 Words Worth a Picture

There's a lot to unpack with this one, most of it I probably won't even get into with this post, so I'm just going to start this one from the top and see where it goes.

Funny. That's how I wrote this notebook page too.

ENGL 108 (Writing Ready: Preparing for College Writing) is a bit of a trip. It starts out with a lie: It's not for preparing you for college writing. Not so much because it doesn't do that, but because you don't need it. Nobody sets foot at the University of Washington not being a good writer, let alone being anything short of "writing ready." And then they pull out the big word, what the class is really about: metacognition. It's about being able to think critically and practically about how academic methods affect the way we think and perform.

One of the methods we tried was free-writing. We did it constantly, and to my surprise, considering it had had limited success just 2 years prior, it worked rather well in terms of getting things down onto the paper that could then be synthesized into a working draft for an essay. But what intrigued me more is what made it onto the page that had very little to do with the academic concern.

Here, in just a single page, we see a journey. I start out speaking in abstracts, clearly tiptoeing around something far more concrete at the forefront of my attention. Maybe one day it'll make its way into this portfolio, but it's something embarrassing, excruciatingly painful, and of a significance and sensitivity that I'm not quite sure I'm ready to address. At any rate, at the bottom of the page, in a manner that can only be seen in hindsight, an angle crystallizes. Without making any sort of manipulations, without even doing anything but following the stream of consciousness, a theme, the contrast between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, emerges.

What's more, is that the emergence of that theme was impactful. Not just in the sense that it would go on to become the theme of my essay, but that it invited me to move from the abstract back down to the concrete, and approach a challenge I was facing from a new perspective, a fresh concept to use in my reflections on the troubling incident that incited this bit of writing.

And here I am again, talking in abstracts, as if this incident still weighs on me. This is something I think I'll have to return to, for better or worse.

There's one other thing that's being represented here that I'd like to mention: When's the last time you scanned a notebook page? Even as a student, I can't say I do it very often, but as I was scanning this page to put into a final portfolio for the class, I realized that this work was going to be different than my previous. All throughout the rest of my education, there was sort of an implicit fate for all of my work: it'd eventually end up either filed away as some artifact of my work to be put into a scrapbook, or it'd end up in one of numerous piles to in some eventuality be thrown out. This one however, would be immortalized forever into a form so lightweight and easy to store that getting rid of it would be almost criminal. It would become my first permanently recorded work ever.

And stranger still: I knew it was not perfect. I knew it would not be my best work. I knew that, by nature of it being a work of pre-writing, it wouldn't be the best side of my work, even at the time. I knew that in this work I reference events that could do nothing but harm my reputation, and these references could not be expunged without sacrificing the authenticity of the work, to the extent that one might consider not keeping it at all.

But I did keep it.

And I was okay with it.