What A Writing Course Taught Me

Creatively writing has been a side hobby of mine for the past two years — it is one of the outlets I use when stressed. From this, I have come to love personal and creative writing and its capability of expressing what the heart feels. However, it didn't do much to help me learn how to academically write. Sure, I could conjure up big words and intelligent-sounding phrases, but I still needed work conveying my thoughts to an academic audience, which meant suppressing my voice to a significant extent and increasing the formality of my writing.

Cue WRT 102 offered by Stony Brook. It is a course that every student must take in order to graduate (unless credit was previously transferred from another college). This course basically acts as an intermediate writing workshop, where students with some background knowledge on academic writing hone their skills and work on three major essays for an end-of-term portfolio.

The portfolio is composed of a visual or textual analysis essay, an original MLA research paper, and a business letter trying to address some flaw in the educational system. It is read by two professors other than your own, and if needed, a third professor can read it to cast the deciding vote as to whether you pass the course. If you fail the portfolio, a grade of U is given and you have to retake the class. Therefore, we spent as much time as we could work on these essays, especially focusing on a citation to avoid accusations of plagiarism.

I originally thought it was pointless to take a writing class if I was already trained in academic writing from high school and have already written creatively, but I was very wrong when I stepped into my first class.

I quickly learned that despite what I have learned, my knowledge in the subject was rusty at best and required a concerted effort in order to make my essays shine. I was already confident that I could pass the portfolio, but I knew that passing the portfolio means your work is at least at C level. Therefore, I wanted to work on my essays and spend enough time on them to make them absolutely perfect.

I quickly regained my skills in writing and managed to improve on them drastically; while my first drafts of my essays were poorly written garbage in my eyes, I felt that there was still some substance that could be fleshed out to make them shine, and that was the hardest part. Making an essay perfect means that you need to allow yourself to suck at first. You have to be able to accept criticism from peers and not take it personally, instead of using it to further your own abilities and improve on them. You have to be able to put in the effort to commit yourself to write at a higher level than you used to. Writing, in a way, is about surmounting who you were before and becoming anew.

Therefore, I'm extremely grateful to WRT 102 for helping me better learn academic writing and hone my skills so I can become a far more capable and professional writer. With this in mind, I want to take more writing courses so I can not just keep my skills sharp but grow more as a writer and as a person.

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