“You’re not a writer are you, Katherine?” With that statement from my high school composition teacher, I labeled myself a poor writer. This label hindered me academically and professionally for the next ten years; however, I have found through dedication, hard work, and support from graduate professors and peers that I am good writer. I have rebuilt an identity as a scholarly and creative writer.
Thus, my scholarly pursuits stem from this metamorphosis. In researching areas such as the writing workshop, writer’s block, and the Ball State Writing Center tutors, I constantly returned to and focused on writers’ identities. As a first-year composition (FYC) teaching assistant, I have noticed that, like myself, too often first-year composition students align their writing abilities and values based on grades or negative feedback. This suggests to me that students bring a distorted writing identity to the FYC experience. Their first academic papers are further evidence of this problem. For example, students seek shelter in the overuse of the second-person pronouns, otherwise known as the “universal you,” diminishing their own first-person voice for the safety of a distant, collective voice. Or, they aren’t sure what the professor “wants to hear” and they cast a wide, vague net over their topics, crossing their fingers that somewhere in that net was the right answer. Unfortunately, in doing both of these, students don’t manage to say anything of substance. These observations have inspired my final Master’s project, which focuses on the transition first-year composition students go through during their first few semesters as college writers and the effect this transition has on how they view themselves as writers in an academic setting.
I also bring my identity interest and research into the FYC classroom when I teach. Students feel comfortable speaking about identity in terms of the music they listen to without realizing that these songs are rhetorical documents. I leverage that knowledge and comfort through an assignment that asks them to reflect on the music they listen as a way to introduce discussion of the rhetorical situation, tools, and appeals. Furthermore, I also engage students by asking them to appropriate structure and genre from traditional and digital technology, which is discussed further in my writing sample.
Finally, through the redevelopment of my writing identity, I uncovered an interest in creative writing, in addition to rhetoric and composition. Participating in both genres at the same time has shown me connections to creative writing pedagogy, which could be strengthened or bridged by rhetoric and composition pedagogy and theory. For example, the audience (or the reader) is discussed in creative writing seminars, but could be strengthened by a deeper understanding of the rhetorical situation. If accepted into a doctoral program, I would use the opportunity to further my identity research and continue my own creative writing, as well as researching the overlap between creative writing and rhetoric and composition.