As I analyzed what I find to be one of the most significant parts of Thoreau’s writing, that is the first dozen or so lines of Walden in the section of Economy. This is the first taste of Thoreau that many readers experience, and is monumental in the manner in which they begin to develop how they feel about him as a writer. After putting the first fourteen lines into Voyant Tools, a handful of words stuck out to me: ‘experience,’ ‘labor,’ and ‘called.’ Given the nature of the online software, I can assume that these words occur in the text in substantial number, and thus those words must’ve frequented Thoreau’s mind in the midst of writing. Also acknowledging the nature of the section from which I pulled the text, it may seem inconsequential that ‘labor’ shows up often in a passage entitled ‘Economy.’ Still, I believe that the frequency of ‘labor,’ along with ‘experience,’ exemplify Thoreau’s deep inclination to plan and schedule, segmenting his day, or experience, with what he might think to be industrious work, or labor. It is undeniable that Thoreau is something of a preacher- he commands his prose with authority, starting countless sentences with ‘I,’ and regularly writing ‘called,’ which I can only insinuate is related to some sort of dialogue, most likely’s one of Thoreau’s reflective monologues on the state of humanity and a more idyllic lifestyle. However, I don’t wish to fault Thoreau for writing in such a manner, since much of the point of his book entirely was to provide meditative commentary.
First question: Is it good? Second question: Do I care? I have always been a champion of the path of least resistance, call me lazy but I prefer to not do any frivolous work (we’ve all had enough busy work in high school to last lifetimes). Like most everything else, I always consider the opportunity costs of the time and effort required for revision, although this doesn’t mean that I will never revise my work. If I am submitting an important document, like a cover letter or writing sample, I will make certain that I run spell check multiple times and read over the piece at least three runs through to make sure the words come together smoothly. Strangely enough, for hyper-important documents like my personal statement for the Common Application I find that printing out the document increases the accuracy of my revision. For some reason, my eyes miss more errors when the writing is on a screen, maybe because of the eye strain that pixelated, colored displays tend to cause. Maybe that is also the reason for why I can almost never bring myself to re-read texts before I send them.
Nevertheless, the infrequent yet intensive revision that I engage in is not nearly enough, since for most pieces I write I only run a rudimentary spell-check and cursory skim of the text for glaring errors. The rationale I often create for myself is that, probability-wise, I most likely didn’t make enough errors to truly impede understanding or lose more than a few points. Given my status as a freshman at an institution of higher learning being forced to take certain general education classes, I don’t think that it’s very surprising that I am so aloof, but once I clear the lower level requirements for my core classes I believe that I will be able to better motivate myself.
In truth, I rarely annotate pieces of literature, mainly because I focus my attention towards comprehension of stylistic elements and perceived author’s intent. However, I do annotate other pieces of writing occasionally, particularly when I am reading to keep myself informed. Sometimes, when I find a sentence or phrase that resonates with me in a newspaper, I underline or highlight that part of the passage, sometimes topping it off with a few words in the margin to help jog my memory as to why this sentence/phrase was so significant. I do admit that this practice helps me retain the information, probably because it converts my initial reactions in reading into written words, making them invulnerable from the oblivion that is a busy teenager’s short term memory. Additionally, I appreciate pieces that already have writing in the margins, primarily because it provides a commentary on the writing that emulates the type of interaction and analysis that two friends reading a book together would have (if the annotation is done well, that is).
Nothing is quite like some hastily scrawled, broken sentences in blue ink. And while such writing is more common for my notes in classes, those two worlds sometimes connect, such as in my Creative Writing class, which requires me to make notes on my observations and thoughts as they relate to the current device or method that was being studied. In doing this, I annotate pieces of writing like poetry. Granted, it sounds lazy to claim that I only annotate when I am forced to in school, but when I read for pleasure I honestly don’t feel an urge to annotate. Maybe it was because of my ignorance of the uses of annotation for much of my childhood, but for one reason or another I would rather focus on digesting the content as I experience it directly, rather than sequestering a part of my analysis onto paper for another time. Furthermore, I find that annotations can easily become an interruption, especially when the piece can be interpreted widely and a certain thought written down may inhibit a scholar who might be trying to read a piece in a different perspective. Taking in the material as my eyes convert what the text means is pure and effective, and that is simply how I feel.