I started my college experience as an 18-year-old, bright-eyed, ambitious teenager ready to take on the world. Upon high school graduation, I made the move from my small hometown in Florida to New York City, excited for all my new life had to offer me. Then, the reality of my freshman year hit me, with all the essays, texts, and notes that came along with it. I began as a Business major, but the more I wrote, the more I realized the major I wanted to pursue was English, no matter how hard I had to work. After my freshman year, I decided I needed to take my newfound passion seriously, and that decision led me to Georgia State. What I liked about Georgia State was their English program with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition. See, I loved to write, but I loved to argue even more. I longed to explore what that all meant, how I could develop my skills, and how I could apply those skills to my future career.
Late night writing, early morning editing and printing, and plenty of hard work describe my experience as a student at Georgia State. Most importantly, however, the experience has taught me a great deal. Although my passions are reading and writing, I’ve had a lot of learning to do, and I still have much more. Through the years my writing has improved, but this is only the beginning, and the more I’ve learned at Georgia State the more I’ve realized how much learning I have yet to do.
When I began my time at Georgia State, I approached essays in the exact way the professor told me to. My writing process started when I got the prompt. I would read the assignment requirements repeatedly and get as much detail on what the professor wanted me to write about. Then, I would write the context that I thought my professor wanted to hear, in the way they wanted to hear it. However, rhetoric and composition simply does not work that way. My professors at Georgia State encouraged me to write with my own style while considering all sides of an issue. They didn’t want me to write for them, they wanted me to write for myself and for my own improvement as a writer. They compelled me to write about topics I was passionate about and left room for my own individual style and thought.
Through this instruction, my writing process significantly changed. My professors pushed me to use my own process and thoughts and equipped me with the right rhetorical strategies and tools to use. Because most of my writing has been argumentative, I approach my work with a huge focus on my argument or thesis statement. First, it is imperative I make sure I have a strong foundation. If my argument is one that lacks research behind it, or does not have enough support, it will not hold and my paper will disintegrate. So my first step is to make sure that plenty of research and support backs up my topic. Then, it’s my job to provide that support to the reader. This support can come from academic research or studies and other credible sources, and further enhances the ethos or credibility of my paper. The point is to back up my argument with as much as possible. I also usually address a counter argument and refute that argument to show that my argument is stronger (an approach I learned in ENG 3050 with Dr. Burmester).
Once I’ve overwhelmed my reader with compelling evidence in support of my argument, I need to conclude my paper. I summarize my argument and end with a call to action if necessary. Another tool I am able to use in the conclusion is an appeal to pathos, which connects the audience emotionally to the argument. This pathos can be coupled with my conclusion to compel the audience to take action on an issue.
In addition to the change in my writing process, my rhetoric and composition classes have molded me into a more effective researcher. Through my composition classes like Practical Grammar, Electronic Writing and Publishing and Introduction to Rhetoric and Composition, I acquired knowledge on how to implement appropriate research into my writing. My professors distinguished the credible sources from the unreliable, and taught me to know the difference.
Along with the transformation of my writing process, my view on good writing changed considerably. I used to consider good writing as any text I could easily read with enjoyment, and honestly any work most scholars agreed upon as effective. However, over the years I’ve learned that good writing is relative. Different things have different meanings to everyone, and something that I may consider good writing, someone else may hate. Good writing is something that speaks to me. It should be easy to understand, but not easy enough that the content requires no thought or contemplation. Good writing means more than just words on a page, and is something that you come back to over time. Of course one must take grammatical rules and stylistic preferences into consideration while writing, but to me, successful writing is more than that; it provides meaning to readers and offers something valuable. That being said, although my writing will change a million times more than it already has in the past four years, I hope to produce good writing. I have a long way to go, but I feel I’ve gotten a good start.
The many hours I spent in classes at Georgia State, along with the late nights and early mornings that accompanied them produced this start. Of course practice makes perfect, and I’m sure this practice alone has improved my writing, but I see my writing as more than just the papers I’ve produced. The lessons that I’ve learned in my rhetoric and composition classes don’t just help me with writing argumentative papers, they change the way I think outside of the classroom, whether it be about local issues, personal life choices or my own opinions. My education has forced me to explore sides of issues that I would never have thought twice about. My courses have taught me to think objectively, but most of all, critically about my life and the people and situations I encounter. These lessons were not easy to learn, but I sure feel well equipped as I enter the work force and the “real world.”
After I graduate from Georgia State University, I hope to become a middle or high school teacher. The skills I’ve acquired through my rhetoric and composition concentration have prepared me to effectively communicate with my students through the written and spoken word. Though I anticipate obtaining the additional skills and knowledge necessary, I am ready to take the next step into my career. So, although I still see myself as that bright-eyed ambitious 18-year-old, the way I think about the world, the way I think about writing, and the way I approach my writing has changed significantly.