I would begin with something along the lines of “writing and I have always had a troubled relationship” or “I’ve never been much of a writer,” but, unless this is the first portfolio letter you’re reading, you’ve probably seen that opening more times than you can count. In any case, describing my relationship with writing as troubled would be oversimplifying the issue.
Let’s start by going back to assignment 1, where I reflected on the variability of my writing proficiency depending on the type of writing. In the context of open-ended creative writing, I can honestly say that I love writing. I love being able to tell a story and entertain people. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find that beauty in less open-ended writings. That’s not to say I hate non-creative writing, just that I don’t love it. For example, last summer I wrote a paper about a small research study I’d performed with little trouble. The result wasn’t a piece of art, but it was accurate, honest, and easy to follow. In reflecting on that paper at the beginning of the quarter, I couldn’t figure out why I’d done so well on it.
Over the course of the quarter, however, I’ve come to realize the connection between that structured academic paper and freeform creative writing assignments: organization. Neither type of paper required much planning. Most of the creative writing papers I’ve written are narratives, which typically progress chronologically. Thus, as long as each of my ideas connected to the next, I was able to write a well-organized story. Similarly, the academic paper I wrote had a very well defined structure. Our professor gave us an outline of all the sections our papers should contain, so I followed his guidelines and the result was a well-organized paper. After making that connection, I realized that my main problem with most papers is developing a structure, and have focused on that throughout the quarter.
I chose to include assignment 2 because I feel that it demonstrates my organizational progress, particularly when juxtaposed with assignment 4. The second assignment had a relatively open ended prompt, but because I chose a handbook for my genre I was able to develop a clear structure using headings and subheadings. This approach allowed me to organize my thoughts and communicate them to my reader. My second reason for including assignment 2 was its difficult topic. I decided to write about the issue of bad teaching, targeting high school teachers as my audience. While I have many ideas regarding what makes a teacher good or bad, addressing teachers directly posed the challenge of giving advice without causing offense. For example, upon first considering bad teaching I thought of a particularly bad high school experience and planned to include it in my paper. However, after the first draft I realized that it would be better to keep my paper positive (no one wants to read about all the things they’re doing wrong), so I changed it to a short anecdote from one of my favorite classes. I also added many sentence-level revisions to maintain a positive and relatable tone.
Even if assignment 4 hadn’t been required for the portfolio, I would have included it. The topic is one I find interesting and had already thought about beforehand, so I was able to focus on organizing my analysis. I think this paper shows my progress in that regard. I organized assignment 2 with headings and subheadings, but by assignment 4 I could produce a similarly well-organized paper without an obvious outline. In addition to showing what I learned this quarter in terms of organization, it also integrates other concepts from the course, such as genres and writing for an audience. Most of my revision was at the sentence level, as my tone and word choice were at times too informal.
While I will definitely need to keep thinking about my papers’ structures in future writing, UWP 1 has significantly improved my ability to organize a paper, which will certainly help me in future writing. Furthermore, it has given me a better understanding of writing for a specific audience and genre, which will help me ensure that the style and tone of my writing is appropriate.
Thank you for your time, and I hope you enjoy reading my papers.