Throughout my time in English 111 this semester, I have completed several unconventional assignments that differ from those of my high school English classes. Some of these assignments include activities such as writing longhand on paper, composing letters, and completing unique extra-credit assignments. As with the nature of all things new, I was initially unsure as to whether I would like these assignments or not after reviewing the syllabus on the first day of class. After a semester’s worth of time writing with pen and paper, taking the time to carefully craft snail mail, and frantically coming up with words that rhyme for the extra credit assignment, I have grown to become rather fond of these activities. Moreover, upon reflection, I have come to find that these assignments are not only enjoyable, but have also aided in my growth as a writer and critical thinker.
As a student in the digital age, writing longhand with pen and paper is a thing of the distant past in the perspective of a sixteen-year-old. Once I discovered all of our drafts for this semester would be written longhand on paper, with a pen, and without the assistance of the “grammar-checker” on the computer, my heart practically skipped a beat. However, after actually writing a few drafts, I found that the process was not as dreadful as I anticipated. In fact, it was almost enjoyable as I found the flow of the pen on paper to be tangibly pleasing. Taking the time to write out each sentence on paper has forced me to become a more detailed writer. This is because of the simple fact that a writer’s hand naturally moves slower than the experienced typer’s hand on the keyboard. Writing slower requires the writer to think solely about the sentence that their hand is on for if their thoughts stray too far ahead, their hand will soon follow and the result will be one disheveled sentence. Moreover, writing my drafts with a pen has also greatly contributed to a more detailed draft. Writing in pen creates a certain permanence on the paper where corrections of one’s mistakes are hard to come by. This requires writers to think about their sentences before they write so as not to create a mess on the paper marking out ink with more ink to make room for a corrected sentence.
In addition to writing our drafts by hand this semester, we also wrote letters each month commonly referred to as snail-mail. Surprisingly, I had never written a letter to anyone so naturally, the archaic process was very painstaking and strenuous for me. I regretfully admit that I did, in fact, waste an envelope in writing the incorrect post office address on my first try. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to send three letters thus far all to my friend Maia, who is, unfortunately, leaving our school after this year. In my letters to her, I wrote about past and present recollections of good times in hopes of them serving as captured memories that she can refer back to in the future to remember some of her high school friends. Writing letters to Maia has been a very rewarding and reflective process that has benefitted both me as a writer and in the sincerity of friendship. Moreover, after Maia receives a letter, she always thanks me and comments on how she enjoyed it. As Susan Shain says in “We Could All Use a Little Snail Mail Right Now”, “Because of snail mail’s novelty, what you say — and what it looks like — often matters less than the act itself” (par. 20). This brings to mind how simply sending a letter can go a long way. Even if one is required to send a letter as an assignment, the fact that one is even selected to be the recipient of a letter is gratifying in the least.
Furthermore, I also participated in an extra credit assignment this semester. Ordinarily, I do not complete extra credit assignments due to some cheeky excuse that I somehow always seem to come up with. But when I heard we simply had to submit our work, regardless of what the content was, to a teen publication program called “The Alexander Muse” for extra credit points, I jumped on the opportunity. As a student who takes two English classes, I figured there would most definitely be some form of writing that was ideal to submit. After some thought, I finally figured I would submit a poem that I drafted for my high school English II class this semester. It was rather depressing with a theme about the Holocaust, but I figured some of the best writings are those of strong emotion. Initially, I was not expecting my poem to be accepted, but I suppose that is how most people feel when participating in a competition. Much to my amazement and elation, my poem was actually accepted in “The Alexander Muse” for publication. I realized afterward that had I not received this extra credit opportunity, I would have never been awarded the honor of being published into something and for that, I am grateful. This accomplishment has provided me with much-needed confidence as a writer that I would have deprived myself of had I not seized this opportunity.
As I reflect upon my time in English 111 and note the qualities that have aided my development as a writer, I am reminded of my textual analysis, “The Pompous Priorities of Lenoir Rhyne”, that I wrote during the semester. I consider this piece to be my greatest work as I feel that I connected my ideas very well and used more diverse, complex vocabulary. Moreover, I am also reminded of the key features in the course that have allowed me to write successful works such as my textual analysis and published poem. Out of those, I sincerely recognize the details derived from writing longhand, the candor in writing snail mail, and the confidence and resolve to write derived from the extra credit assignment. I genuinely feel these features and other qualities of my time in English 111 have truly made me a better writer and critical thinker.