Writing is NOT Set in Stone

As a result of ENGL 340 (as well as a course I have taken previously, ENGL 425: Recovering Marginalized Texts), I have realized that writing is a work in progress. As a writer myself, I am overly critical of myself. I write poems just to leave them in the notes app on my phone or in a notebook that sits on the shelf, gathering dust. I write my poetry all in one shot and I never really come back to it, but I have learned through this course that that is not how I should be writing. Even with my papers, (I shouldn’t, but) I write them all in one go, never making any additions or seeking out new information afterwards that will help my arguments. This is my biggest mistake as a writer and is probably why I am never fully satisfied with my writing.

In our work with fluid texts like Walden, I have realized how important it is review and edit what I have already written even if it is considered “complete.” This course has taught me that, technically, no body of writing should be called “complete” because it can always be better and it can always be altered. There are seven versions of Thoreau’s Walden that came before the final version that is so highly regarded by many, proving that greatness takes time. Though this course, I have also realized that this was the overall point of a course I took during Fall 2019 called Recovering Marginalized Texts. In that course, we learned about the expectations, strifes, and processes of an editor when recovering “lost” texts. The course highlighted the changes that these editors would make to these outdated texts to make them palatable for modern readers. More importantly, we explored why editors would make the decisions that they did while leaving other parts of the text as is. We even learned how to edit texts on our own, learning skills like being able to determine what background information was important to include. In a way, I feel that ENGL 340 and ENGL 425 oddly work hand in hand to highlight the importance of a fluid text as the many changes that occur emphasize writing as a process.

The difference between ENGL 340 and ENGL 425 is definitely the use of technology in ENGL 340 to make this process easier. Prior to taking this course, I had some experience with HTML and have always been interesting in coding as you can take some words with <> to make something amazing. I really enjoyed seeing the original manuscript for Walden as well as transcribing some of the text using metalanguage. In ENGL 425, we did some transcription, but had to write down the transcriptions by hand. I feel that using a TEI file is a more effective way to track the changes in a text that ends up being clear and descriptive. Although computing takes away a bit of the uncertainty and lack of guidelines that I crave, I think that it is a great way to visualize what makes a piece of writing as well as how it can be customized. For sure, I will use VS Code beyond this course to write notes and maybe even my poetry because I like the way I can easily format, edit, and publish my work that can be accessed from anywhere once published.

I feel that the sudden educational changes that we had to make campus-wide due to COVID-19 proves how technology = accessibility. Whereas my other professors had to scramble to convert their courses to an online-friendly version, the transition with ENGL 340 was the smoothest given that many of the tools and resources we use were already online. I feel like I am just rambling now, but I really want to emphasize that although I fell behind in this course, it was my absolute favorite from the beginning. It became apparent that combining English with technology made more sense than ever before. While other professors denied the legitimacy of online texts and computers in general, this course welcomes nontraditional methods. And for that I am grateful because, again, it taught me that writing is not set in stone (even if it is in print): a piece of writing can be revisited, revised, and rewritten again and again and again and there is nothing wrong with that.

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