Reflection Letter: A Behind the Scenes Look at My Website
My first-year writing class at Emory University was unlike any English class I have ever taken before. I signed up for “The Secret Language of Comics: Visual Thinking and Writing” with only one desire in mind: less alphabetic reading and writing. Though I enjoy reading and writing, I missed drawing. I gravitated toward the creative nature of this first-year writing course at Emory University. I read six graphic novels and zero alphabetic books and I completed six total projects, all of which–if not visual itself–required some aspect of visual thinking. By the end of the course, I expanded my digital identity from just social media to an entire website filled with my assignments, reflections, and weekly sketches. Completing the requirements for this course kept my creative mind engaged while also satisfying predetermined learning outcomes.
Early on, I was told I would need to create a website. Though I grew up with the internet and spend much of my time online, I have never tried to understand how it works. Websites were something I used, not operated. It wasn’t easy learning to create a cohesive website for this class, but after struggling through a few awkward posts that were meant to be pages, I finally got the hang of it. The weekly Sunday Sketch assignments played a major role in my ability to operate my website. Sunday Sketches were small creative assignments due every Sunday. The weekly posts add up and now they make up a large portion of my digital identity. Through these sketches, I was able to experiment with new mediums, online editing, the formality of my voice, and my digital citizenship. The informality of these posts allowed my personality to shine through more than it did in the larger assignments which allows strangers passing through my website to better understand me as a person. Experimenting with different mediums and the formality of my tone in my Sunday Sketches prepared me for the diverse range of rhetorical compositions I completed.
My major assignments also allowed me to explore diverse ranges of compositions. The alphabetic essays such as the first and last Literacy Narrative and the Tracing Pages assignment were familiar mediums to me, however, the inductive style of the Tracing Pages assignment was new to me. This style of writing forced me to focus more on the purpose of comparative analysis as a whole by starting with the detailed comparisons and ending with broader implications. The second Literacy Narrative required me to draw the first narrative and in the form of a comic. I created a comic for a ninth-grade English class, but it had been four years–the process felt completely new to me. Working under time constraints, I had to refrain from spending hours drawing each panel in beautiful detail and instead, drew in stick figures. The audience–my professor and strangers online–would not know the specifics about my writing process journey, so I tried to make my comic understandable to someone who doesn’t know me. The composition I was least familiar with and least satisfied with was my Halfa Kucha.
The Halfa Kucha is a three-minute and 20-second presentation, with 20 seconds for each of the 10 slides. I struggled to create a meaningful analysis of trauma that women experience and live with after encounters with sexual assault in only three minutes. I used Spinning and the graphic form of Octavia Butler’s Kindred to discuss the disparities between the text and the visualizations of the main characters’ trauma it belonged to. I am an extrovert and feel comfortable presenting, but the strict time constraint for each slide made me nervous. I performed a close reading of specific images but failed to draw larger conclusions about the greater meaning of my topic. My ability to analyze images closely without concluding on the broader impacts of my analyzations is a pattern apparent in my original Tracing Pages essay as well.
The Tracing Pages assignment comparing a page of Spinning with a page of Stitches worked with the “critical thinking and reading resulting in writing” learning outcome. I was able to think critically about how Tillie and David, the authors of Spinning and Stitches, represented their relationships with their mothers’ behavior visually. However, I grew hesitant in my writing to make bold statements about the cycle of abuse because I did not feel like I had the right to. I vaguely wrote, “Tillie and David both have difficult relationships with their mothers, and even though they are difficult in different ways, they both deal with them the same way,” (Golden, Marlie. “Tracing Pages Draft: Right Back At Ya, Mom”). I described their relationships as difficult, different, and similar all at once without going into any further explanation. My professor sensed my hesitance to make claims about abuse and urged me to lean into the difficult topic. In my revisions, I emboldened my language, stating “the common narrative for those raised in toxic parental environments is that they will later adapt and practice that same behavior with their children,” (Golden, Marlie. “Rejecting the Cycle of Abuse”). Rather than shying away from the main point, I spoke in clear terms about the pattern of abuse. Without the revision process, I would still have a weak conclusion, helping me to realize the importance of the learning outcome: “writing as a process”. Writing is a process, and to produce my best work, I must trust the process.
The main focus of my literacy narratives was my writing process. Ironically, I learned something completely new about my writing process while completing all three narratives. The first and last are in alphabetic text and the second is a four page comic. The focus of my first narrative was unintentionally about my need for outside appraisal to feel like an adequate writer. After meeting with my professor, I decided I wanted it to be about how I have benefitted from asking for help when in need. I attempted to fix the alphabetic narrative before I would have to draw the comic. This backfired quickly because I couldn’t figure out how to refocus the specifics of the essay. I decided to go back to the alphabetic version after revising the story in comic form. I mapped out the images for my comic that best represented my journey with learning to ask for help. This simple step changed my writing process forever. Thinking visually made it easy to refocus my final alphabetic literacy narrative. I never thought of myself as a visual thinker, but because of this literacy narrative writing process, I now know that whenever I get stuck, I can use visual thinking to refocus. After completing all three literacy narratives I had a better understanding of how the “visual thinking” learning outcome specifically related to my writing process. My revelation that I benefit from visual thinking was the most valuable information I learned in this course. Writing takes time and energy which is why it is comforting to know that I have a new tool to help me in my process–the tool of visual thinking.