Green Portfolio Preface

My writing is
An extension of
Myself,
A tangible piece of
Personality.

My joys and fears,
Humor and sadness,
Ideas and stories,
Realized and not.

My writing has
Taught me the
Lessons of
Time management, the
Realization of memories, the
Struggles of independence, the
Relief in the form of
Help, and the
Torment of
Asking for that help...

 

When I started looking through my accumulated work for this portfolio, I started thinking about how my writing has changed. In high school, I could get away with almost anything. The teachers always talked, and when my name was mentioned, it was always complimentary. If I slacked off a bit, it was okay, because the teachers knew I understood the point of the lesson. If the class had to revise their papers, the teacher said, "Have somebody like K. read it over." I was held up as the standard of writing that no one else could quite achieve. The result of this is that I tested my limits, tried to get away with as much as I could. I don't remember ever rereading a paper I had written, let alone revising one. My first draft was the best. After all, I got a good enough grade on it, so why should I try any harder?

Then I got to college, and everything changed. I couldn't get away with just knocking off a few paragraphs and still get the grades I wanted. My professors make me look over my work, find the really good stuff, and fix the rest. I have to search through my own writing to discover what those high school teachers already knew: I am a good writer. I have good ideas, and the ability to make those ideas come alive for others. I have learned that revision is not punishment, but rather a gift. If I made this wonderful first draft of a paper, just imagine what I can do with a revision. I get to buff it, polish it, make it shine in the darkness as well as the light. I am allowed to take a good thing and make it even better. I get to do this. I don't have to settle for a second rate paper that relies on teachers' pre-conceived notions of my abilities; I can prove my abilities to anyone, even those who don't know me, by improving my words, my phrases, my ideas and creating a truly first rate paper.

In just three brief months, I have become a better writer. I have a hard time believing how much better my writing is now that I know I will always have another crack at it. At any time, I can just put down what I really think, and not be afraid of that being wrong, because I can always change it. The oddities of my papers can be forgiven, and I can usually find a great idea hiding somewhere in those blatantly honest thoughts.

I think nothing of it,
Just a job to be done;
And I sit and I work,
And, without warning, a
Masterpiece springs onto the
Paper, makes me

Blink, and sit back, and
Realize what a power
I have, in my
Hands, in my
Thoughts, in my
Words...

The works I have included in this portfolio need a bit of an explanation. "The Audience" was an assignment for my First Year Seminar, and it describes what I found within the audience during Dr. Norman Ramsey's presentation at Coe. "Reflection on the Lewis and Clark Documentary" was also an assignment. Our class was studying the journals of Lewis and Clark, as edited by Bernard DeVoto, and in addition to the journals themselves, we read Dayton Duncan's Out West, in which Duncan followed the Lewis and Clark Trail from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean in the early 1980's. We finished this unit by watching the Ken Burns documentary about Lewis and Clark, which was also written by Duncan. Our assignment for this paper was to discuss the film's advantages and disadvantages, as well as to compare and contrast all three works. I selected these two papers because I feel that they truly represent the way I write: I attempt to put my thoughts down in a somewhat logical way, and every once in a while, I look up from the screen to find a really great sentence or paragraph that makes me feel really proud, and truly blessed to have the ability to do this, to write.

I took a walk and
It taught me so much
More than any walk
Before or since.

I was forced into a new place
And pushed into its grasp;
I was afraid of its temper,
But instead saw its beauty.

One foot in front of another
An endless stream of
Motion and
Thought and
Ideas...

The final essay in this portfolio is an essay I wrote in response to a walk I had taken off campus. When I wrote the first draft of it, I basically just tried to get down as many facts as I could in a short amount of time. I just wanted the assignment done. Then, I learned something: this paper would be a major project for the entire term, and I would be expected to revise it several times. I was almost insulted at first, here was an essay of mine, already finished in my eyes, that I would have to change? More than once? Surely it would only take one revision to make this paper absolutely perfect.

The draft included in this portfolio is the fifth version of this essay. I talked to a person in the Writing Center, my instructor, the person who took the walk with me, my instructor again, my roommate, a girl who lives down the hall, my instructor again. I have learned my lesson: writing, you can do alone. Good writing, that takes a team of honest, caring individuals who are sensitive to the writer, but not so sensitive as to not be helpful. My writing is better because of these people. They showed me how to integrate conversation with thoughts, new ideas with old observations, good stuff in the first draft with good ideas I had left out.

This paper went from an assignment to a project to an annoyance to one of the most important things I have done here. It almost hurt to turn it in the last time, to say good-bye to this part of me. At the same time, however, it felt good to look back at all the other "final drafts" and recognize the improvements I had made over time. This part of me is the best it can be; that is, until I make a new discovery, and the whole process starts over again.

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E-mail Dr. Bob Marrs with any questions, comments or suggestions.