Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Process Writing - Metacognition

I have two typical approaches to writing.  I either word barf and then go back and highlight the useful bits, or I create an intensive harvard outline of what I want to say and then fill in from there.  I know my strength as a writer is intensive details, and my weakness is organization, so these are the formats that help me organize my thoughts.  In this class, I did neither, which may have been part of my struggle.  I often worked in bullet points instead, whether it was for my memoir or my restaurant review, and then relied on workshop to reshape the structure and order of my thoughts.  I used the same bullet point approach to my reading responses, knowing what facts and opinions I wanted to hit, but using a stream of consciousness and connection to string them together.  That was how I wrote commonplace entries for examining text in English in high school, so it was the format I understood for reflective writing.  I'm honestly not sure why I continued this tactic into my formal writing.  After workshops I'd always use the harvard list style on word to create a new outline of what I wanted to say, moving large and small bits of text around until I found a better flow by hacking away excess.  I could never quite figure out how to fix my restaurant review, no matter the effort.
My breakthrough was definitely with my memoir.  I revamped it from it's original hecticness and found a way to create a flow of story that painted a picture that did a lot more showing and telling.  I could have milked it more, but just reading where the saga of chicken breasts started and ended swells my own breast (pun intended) with pride.  Going from the scatter brained approach of "here's everything I might want to possibly tell you about my father and chicken...and belgium pancakes" to the concise "here is a narrative about my father and I shown through chicken" really taught me about using a symbol instead of letting it use you.
My reading responses were the most cathartic for me.  My brain makes so many connections because it's detail happy, so being able to barf it all out into a somewhat tied together theme allowed me to organize my thoughts more before class.  When I got readers responses there were many times they would consider an angle I hadn't seen, or their interest in my passions got me more passionate to share more of my opinions.  Responses lit a fire under me to actually keep mentally digging, which made class discussions all the more diverse.  There was so much to absorb in our texts that I often felt overwhelmed, so having reading responses gave me some personal respite to dig deeper instead of spread further.
My biggest issue before college was not writing about personal experiences.  Since I took Gail Griffin's Telling Secrets, I've tried to be honest with myself in all my classes.  As much as I didn't want to assail the class with my personal struggles and life, the complaints tumbled out anyways.  Having a warm accepting environment where instead of people judging the whining instead offer ways to utilize it is incredibly helpful.  I always have trouble managing emotion in my work, whether it's showing and not telling, or just acknowledging I have emotions in the first place. Food and Travel Writing made me stretch my boundaries and explore subjects from angles I wouldn't normally approach them from, which in the long run is a positive, in my opinion.
This course specifically came at a strange and useful time for me.  I've been fighting with body issues for quite a few years now, and this class coincided with me hitting the mental space of doing the right things for my body and mind instead of the easy things.  Learning about food and social impact also got me to think about what right means, and how to obtain it.  I now have such a visceral reaction to food.  I'm more aware of the choices I'm making, and who and what they impact.  It brings me joy to be more aware, and I plan to continue to learn about my and other's food impact.  Just don't expect any more food reviews from me any time soon.

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