Work in Progress

My high school life has been pretty unforgettable until this year. My junior year has been a world of learning and life experiences. I got my first official job in late 2016 and held a secondary personal 1 on 1 tutoring job. Those experiences were not just limited to after school, but during school as well with AP Chemistry which yielded some great and not-so great experiences. And of course, there was AP English Language and Composition which was a kicker for me.

To be honest, I entered AP English and Language with a lack of expectations. I always have a lack of expectations with every class because I really do not care what teacher I get or how hard it is. Like many other students I take a class for a grade or for college credit. However, AP English Language was different, it showed me the satisfaction in the progression of my writing.

I never was good at writing and I will be honest, my writing will probably always be a work in progress. However, I have always asked myself, “Is being perfect at anything going to yield anything in return. You can be the best, but how long are you going to hold the throne if you stop improving?” The same question can be applied to writing. Having flaws and mistakes in one’s writing is very beneficial. I believe the progression, whether slow or fast, anyone’s writing from one point to another is more satisfying than getting 100% on all the essays.

One of the first writing assignments in this class was an essay topic for a Legischools competition. The topic was a question on whether schools should start later or not. The assignment was easy since all I need to do was to write a draft and get it peer-reviewed. Little did I know, my writing was mediocre. My group had peer reviewed my initial draft and gave their criticisms about it. One of the flaws my group point out was the very formulaic style and had a distorted stance on the topic.  I did try to address those issues by adding anecdotes and trying to make everything flow better, but the final draft did not impress much as it still had issues with flow and a defined stance that would prevent it from being a good essay.

Photo by Me

Another essay assignment given was the narrative essay in October. I had decided on a skeptical subject to write about. The subject for the narrative was a computer virus which had a plain outlook because it was hard to create a narrative because it involved a computer screen rather than physical action. However, I managed to address that issue by creating an extended metaphor with the computer virus by comparing it to a war battle. I got nice feedback from my group about the extended metaphor saying that it was unique and made something plain into something interesting. However, strongest criticism by my group and the teacher was the passive voice.

Passive voice is something that has always plagued my writing. I never knew how to fix it. Every time I am writing something, it just so happens that I am writing in a passive voice rather than an active voice.

Another flaw in this essay was fading of the extended metaphor towards the final paragraphs. This is another big weakness in writing because my writing is either good in the beginning and bad at the end or vice versa. In this case, the World War Computer metaphor just seemed to drop off since the essay was shifting to bland reality of a keyboard and monitor rather than maintain the engaging extended metaphor of a war.

Photo by Me

The class went through a lot of articles and books throughout the year, but in my opinion, the book that really helped with my writing was the Grapes of Wrath. John Steinbeck blew my mind away with the diction, the description, and the range of extended metaphors. While the class spent most of the time on the rhetorical analysis of Steinbeck’s work, I believe that Grapes of Wrath had the greatest influence in the my most recent writing piece.

The recent most assignment was a college essay. I had picked the UC college essay questions and wrote 2 out of the 4 required essay responses. It was quite tough given that you have so much to say in just 350 words paired with the fact that you must make your college admissions officer impressed. Although, I did not think about Grapes of Wrath‘s extended metaphors and descriptions during the writing process, I can definitely see the influence after rereading my essays.

One essay topic I wrote about what a unique characteristic about me. Instead of just describing a characteristic that I had, I took a story and foiled the events of that story to my unique characteristic of having a strong mentality. The story was about my first time riding a skateboard. In the beginning, I kept falling on the skateboard, but I still got up and tried to skate despite the pain. “My skateboarding progression was the result of my strong mentality” as I described. I also inputted in some “what if’s” such as giving up on skateboarding or returning my skateboard to bolster the fact that I had a strong mentality.

Photo by Me

This skateboard-mentality metaphor was similar to metaphors in Grapes in Wrath such as the bank-bulldozer/monster metaphor. It also came to me as a surprise that the extended metaphor with my skateboard was maintained throughout the essay unlike my narrative essay at the beginning of the year.

Although I do see a distinct improvement from earlier in year with my narrative essay to this college essay, I still think I can improve with my writing. It does feel satisfying to know that my writing has improved through AP English Language and Composition, but it feels way better to know that I can improve my writing even more.

I also can see the change Holden’s interactions with his word choice and thoughts. At the beginning of novel Holden was always having criticisms about other people by calling them “phonies.” However, towards the end of the novel with his interaction with Phoebe, Holden was able to hold a normal conversation with her. Holden had inability to discuss normal matters like with Sally where he called “a pain in the ass” and Luce where Holden kept talking about the “sex-life.” On the other hand, in his conversation with Phoebe, Holden talked about school which was one of the first appropriate things he discussed about the entire book.  He also did not circle and shift the topic in his conversation with Phoebe compared to Holden’s talks with Sally and Luce. It really shows how different Holden’s interactions were when compared to different people he talked to.

Image by CBS Napa (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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