Carol A. Hand
Deciding to take Writing 101 was an important decision. Unlike many of the friends I’ve made while blogging, and many of the others who are enrolled in the class, I honestly never thought of myself as a writer. It’s not something I ever aspired to become. I have always been a voracious reader, but I only wrote because it was required in school and in some of my jobs. True, I usually received good grades on the papers I wrote in school, sometimes with glowing praise, but I was more interested in learning concrete skills. Writing was merely one of the tools I needed to be effective as a change agent.
But then I retired from teaching, program development, and policy advocacy. I realized that the programs I had created or the reflections I wrote privately to survive my years in academia might be helpful to others. A few years ago, when an old friend suggested that we start a blog together, I had time on my hands to try. Of course, I didn’t even know what a blog was then. I had heard the term in the technology workshops I took when I was responding to real issues for commuting students. How could I use technology to cut down their travel time and make learning more accessible? But learning the technology and designing online assignments took up my time. I didn’t have time to visit blogs, partly because mention of their content suggested that they, like Wikipedia, were academically suspect.
Photo: Crossroads – Wikimedia Commons
This morning, I felt I needed to take time to sort out my thoughts about writing in different voices. Writing 101 has made me wonder if my observations thus far are accurate for me, and maybe for others as well. The contrasts I see between writing from an academic voice and writing from a creative voice appear to be significant.
When I write an academic paper, grant, or report, I need to begin with a title that helps me keep focused on purpose and structure before I begin. It’s like pushing the “computer sort” button.” Titles like “Rescuing children or homogenizing America?”, or “Tools of the trade for men who care”, remind me to keep focused on what I’m trying to say.
But responding to the word prompt assignment for Writing 101 was actually very hard. I was trying to write something creative so I struggled. I muddled through because I was determined to move forward despite writer’s block. But it was hard and what I wrote felt disorganized. My language didn’t flow easily. When I wrote to an image, something I often do when I blog, the words were unlocked. Poetic titles to structure academic works? Images to inspire works that allow more creative expression? I’m still not sure. But it seems to be a pattern.
I’m still experimenting with the dilemma of which voice to use for stories. I remember how hard I struggled with voice when I shifted from quantitative to qualitative research. Creswell’s (1994) tables helped me sort out what my assumptions and beliefs were about key questions and when to use third person (objective) or first person (personal) language.
Photos: Power Point Slides from Lecture on Research
I’m not sure if these tables will help anyone else but I decided to include them just in case they might. Revisiting them though, doesn’t help me with the decision of which voice will work best in a novel. My blogging friends who are expert writers differ on this question. It means I need to keep experimenting to see what works best for me as I continue the exciting challenges Writing 101 presents.
John W. Creswell (1994). Research design: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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