graduate school · personal · Writing

Writing, Vision, and Re(vision)

One of these days, I’m going to write a literacy narrative. It’s the first assignment in the First-Year Writing program at my university. I like it a lot. I’ve written a couple, in the same style as my students, to provide a sample for them.

So I’ve written these short literacy narratives–three or four pages in length–but whenever I think of crafting a Literacy Narrative, the narrative that captures my development, it becomes a daunting task, because, ultimately, that would be my memoir. Writing my literacy narrative would be writing my life.

As I work on revising a qualifying paper (a paper I will defend for one of my areas of study; it stands in place of a qualifying exam), this idea of the literacy narrative comes back to me. I can look at the first draft and see what issues I was grappling with at the time, what my academic frustrations were. And now, as I try to revise this paper, I’m finding that quite a bit of it doesn’t belong. In a way, I could analyze each portion of the paper and use it to construct a literacy narrative of that semester. It would show me what texts I had just encountered, what texts I already felt I had a grasp upon, texts I was seeing in a new way, and texts that angered me. Five pages of the paper are already cut, because they consisted of a lengthy discussion of the necessity for expanding the canon. That point is no longer in dispute–we’ve all agreed that the canon needs revision. My real frustration there was that, despite this agreement, the canon hasn’t been revised yet. Progress has happened, certainly, but it’s not quite there.

I can look at the sections where I quoted other scholars at length (too much length) and realize that I was still processing their ideas.  I look at sections where my analysis was not deep enough, or where I shied away from the difficult analysis, because my ideas were still forming. It’s an interesting process, looking at my work and tracing my intellectual development. Enlightening.

Discouraging in some senses, too, because it means that quite a bit of my paper has to fall away, remaining in the drafts and for possible use when I write my intellectual autobiography. I’ve been reluctant to do this, to cut away pages and have to begin almost over again. I was also having trouble finding my voice in this project, so, I wrote an introduction for the piece with only paraphrase, no quotation, from my scholars. It was rewarding. I was able to articulate my argument and finally see what I was trying to accomplish, and the potential for my project.

Now, though, the rest of the paper doesn’t quite match. So, now that I have a clear vision of my paper, it’s time to actually write the paper. All of the drafts before this have been mind-clearing exercises to make room for what I’m actually going to write.

Daunting, to have to rework so much.

Freeing and exciting as well.

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