Blue Portfolio Preface

The writing portfolio that I have submitted includes three papers, differing dramatically in their content and style. I feel that the papers which I have included are representative and reflective of my talents, interests, strengths, and weaknesses as a writer. The papers reveal the struggles that I have faced while creating the written texts, but they are also indicative of my growth and improvement.

The first and longest paper in the portfolio is a personal essay entitled "The Village Theater." This paper was the first Writing Project in my Freshmen Seminar syllabus, and was outlined as such: "Write a series of memories concerning your experiences with films and movie theaters." By our third draft, the syllabus dictated that we "focus on beginning to construct a real essay, a paper which focuses on your richest experiences and insights concerning your involvement with movies and theaters."

This Writing Project appeared to be too utterly simple! I had a thousand memories concerning the theater that I could easily relate. I actually looked forward to constructing this paper, and was therefore disheartened when I encountered numerous difficulties after the completion of the first draft. To begin the first draft, I had sat down and generated five hand-written sheets. Dr. A. had reassured us that the first draft needn't be too organized, or even completely coherent. The important thing was that we managed to put our thoughts and memories on paper.

When I reread my pen scratches I was shocked by the direction and tone that my paper had taken. To begin with, I had detailed my personal preferences concerning movie-theater refreshments, which resulted in a rather dull reading. My paper took a sudden and unsettling turn, though, as I refocused on describing first-date-at-the-movie-theater scenario. My transition between thoughts was rough, yet I was pleased with the appearance of the date scene in my piece. Certainly everybody has a memory of a date in a theater; I felt that I had discovered a fitting topic for the piece.

I found consent in my peers after distributing copies of my draft and receiving commentaries. Eric H. commented, "Your perception of movies and their role in dating is very accurate." Elizabeth R. wrote, "Your paper is great! It had great description and humorous sarcasm, which makes it very cute." Most of the other reactions were quite similar, and though I appreciated their praise, I felt that they were far too generous, and I was also somewhat disappointed that I could find no constructive criticism or suggestions in their reviews.

My previous writing assignments had rarely required that I relate personal memories through essays. As a regretful consequence of my particular course loads and teachers, I had found myself in classes requiring only the generation of analytical or argumentative papers. Granted, these particular styles of writing are valuable and important, yet I was fully aware of the perhaps equal importance of the personal essay to a writer, and was painfully conscious of my shortcomings in this area. Therefore, with this particular assignment, I found myself experimenting with an entirely new format of expression, and also discovered a new voice, one in which I had never previously written.

This new voice was, as Elizabeth described it, "humorous sarcasm". I didn't consider myself to be a comedian, or even sarcastic by nature, and yet there were traces of both humor and sarcasm throughout the piece. I concluded that those elements must have been reflective of the strange mood that I was in that day when I began the assignment. I certainly didn't find myself in that same mood once again as I sat to write my second draft, and yet I desperately wanted to continue with this newly discovered tone. But how?

I struggled through two drafts, trying to cling to this new style. Yet with each revision I realized that the paper needed expansion, length, and detail. To do this I knew that I would have to narrow my focus, become more personal through my reflections. I also realized, regretfully, that I couldn't keep with the same style if I were to add a more personal feel to the piece. My first two drafts had a detached air, peppered with vague generalizations concerning the female/male dating relationship. My peers had related that these generalizations were what granted the paper its humorous air, which I wanted to carry over to the final draft, yet I felt that I couldn't expand the paper without foregoing these generalizations. As I attempted to sharpen the piece with personal reflections, I found myself questioning the accuracy of these generalizations. Needless to say, I was frustrated.

I went to Dr. A. for some scholarly advice on how to remedy my situation. After hearing my frustrations and anxieties concerning the piece, he suggested that I turn my focus solely on the first-date-at-the-theater experience. He recommended that I generate as much text as possible relating to my memories of this initial Village Theater date. He told me not to worry about tone or style while focusing on this particular task, and suggested that I address those particular issues after completing this "generation of thoughts". He also hinted that I might be surprised after reading through the pages.

How right he was! At the completion of this suggestion, I found myself with over ten pages of printed material. Perusing the text, I was astonished to find much of the same humorous tone in this new version. With a little revision, I was quite satisfied with the finished piece. I felt that I had remained true to my memories, while at the same time successfully exposed and examined some of the intricacies of the infamous first date.

The second paper which I have chosen to include is one with a more academic focus. The piece is entitled "The Film Medium in History." This paper addresses the question: How may the film medium accurately function as a history-teller or history-maker? This piece required a great deal of reading, discussion, and research, as the answer to this question is both complex and controversial in the academic world. This piece forced me to think, to organize, and to revise, revise, revise. Perhaps the most difficult paper of the semester, it is the one with which I am least pleased.

The final paper in the portfolio is from my Introduction to Biology Lab, with Professor B. The lab report is entitled "Correlation of Leaf Length and Vein Number in Northern Pin Oak, Quercus Palustris." I was quite familiar and comfortable with the scientific form required in formal lab reports; in high school I had focused in the sciences, taking several Biology course which called for such lab reports. Nevertheless, with this first lab report in college, I encountered a few difficulties, perhaps the most obvious concerning the computer Network. Never before had I come in contact with such software programs as Minitab, a statistical software program. I found myself frustrated when attempting to transport graphs and statistical data from Minitab to WordPerfect. Perhaps my satisfaction with this lab report is a direct result of my having conquered and mastered those "difficult" computer skills!

In closing, I reflect that these past four months at Coe have forced me to become familiarized with a broad, encompassing array of writing styles and techniques. I realize that further work is necessary with each individual component, yet I remain optimistic that improvement will inevitably result and am pleased with my personal growth as a writer.

Back to FYS Portfolio Page

This web site created and maintained by the Coe Writing Center. Copyright 2001.
E-mail Dr. Bob Marrs with any questions, comments or suggestions.