Tag Archives: English

The discourse shapes the definition of ‘truth’

News-Internet and English writing: The two sound compatible, as if they might grab a beer and split a plate of cheese fries at the local pub on a Friday night. In reality, though, I imagine they’d confront one another in that, “Greeeeeat. You’re here,” way. The bartender might even have to break up a potential literary brawl.

Though my majors appear compatible, I find them clashing more as I enter the final stage of my undergraduate career. A combination that initially felt natural has created an incessant sense of internal ethical conflict — but hey, that’s what college is designed to do, right?

While they differ on the Oxford comma (my news-Internet degree being the wiser of the two in that regard), a much larger issue (I know, it’s hard to believe there’s something more divisive than the Oxford comma debate) separates the two: truth. In particular, the expected degree of truth and the writer’s responsibility and accountability in providing it.

As a journalism student, reporter and copy editor, I dedicate my time and energy to ensuring the highest degree of truth and accuracy. That means fact-checking everything, calling sources to confirm quotes — and then double-checking it all over again.

As an English student with an emphasis in life writing, however, I examine how the inconsistency of memory warps truth, preventing the fair, objective writing for which I strive every day in my journalistic work. By asking questions like, “Does it matter if I wrote that I wore a blue dress when it was, in fact, a red dress?” I engage both the literary and journalistic tenets of truth and accuracy in a new, complicated way.

For me, “truth” is no longer as simple as confirming every name, number and quote in an article. “Truth” is more elusive. It transforms with the discourse — and I like it that way.

As much as I’d love to join English writing and news-Internet for a beer and an order of cheese fries on Friday night, I admit I savor their incompatibility. Because somewhere amid the moments of raw befuddlement and internal conflict, I move a little closer to understanding how “truth” manifests in my life, academically, professionally and ethically.

Writing daily becomes a welcome habit rather than a chore

Every year in every English class, my teachers repeated the same principle of writing: “The best way to become a better writer is to write.”

“Well, duh,” I thought to my already refined, all-knowing teenage self. Yet I wrote exclusively for the purpose of checking a class assignment off my to-do list or writing another paragraph in the ever-painful cover-letter battle.

As a longtime writer and future English major, I didn’t really need the extra practice, and I would work on my craft plenty in college, right? Ha.

This summer, though, I’ve set a goal to write every day, whether that means composing a series of related and/or funny tweets, updating my website bio or blogging. And inevitably, I’ve realized my teachers were right all along (and I’m extremely stubborn).

Though it took me a while to admit, I’m now able to write more efficiently, thanks to that teacher-ly advice. Before, I would expend up to an hour (or even two) crafting the perfect sentence. Yeah, I’m talking about a single sentence.

But after challenging myself to write every day, I’ve discovered I enjoy the act of spilling my thoughts onto the page (with a purpose, of course). For a lifelong perfectionist, that’s a big step.

Now that I don’t immediately have to find the ideal but ever-elusive synonym for “madness” (throwing it back to the year I studied revenge tragedies of the English Renaissance), I’m free to let the content of my writing reveal itself in an organic manner. Even if that organic writing inevitably leads to a few more, “What in the name of corn on the cob?” moments later in the revision/editing process.

Writing daily became a welcome habit more quickly than I expected — something that’s ingrained in my daily routine, much like tossing a random assortment of fruit into my beloved blender and calling it lunch.

I’ve skipped writing some days this summer, I admit, but every time, I feel a nagging emptiness, as though something is missing. My thoughts are more disorganized and unmoored.

Besides, when I abandon my writing challenge for a day or two, I miss valuable opportunities to say, “What in the name of corn on the cob?”

Return to beloved hobby proves the power of leisure

I recently reacquainted myself with a longtime love: reading for fun.

While I appreciate literature whether reading for homework or leisure, there’s a certain thrill in picking up a memoir with the confidence that no essay prompt or pop quiz awaits. In the fall, I’ll complete my English writing degree with a course dedicated to life writing; I deemed David Sedaris’ memoir Naked the ideal choice for renewing my (complicated) bond with the genre.

Already, unapologetic honesty defines the memoir, and though I have little in common with the author, I find myself clinging to the universality of his bizarre tales — all moored on the page with that trademark Sedaris wit.

Even rambling a quick analysis of Naked reveals leisure’s sneaky power. Though I’m reading for relaxation, I automatically engage the more academic, formulaic part of my mind.

And the whole involuntary rambling thing felt productive. Wait, what?

Too often throughout my college career, I’ve felt guilty after taking an hour or two off to watch a movie or delay my homework for an impromptu ping-pong match. After all, that kind of ‘relaxation’ detracted from my ‘career path’ or whatever other jargon I created for an all-purpose guilt trip.

Since taking up leisure reading again, though, I’ve realized hobbies and interests are neither conniving nor determined to invade my life and steal precious time from work.

Rather, they’re opportunities to engage a different, too often dormant part of me. And maybe, in the uncanny haven of an author’s tale about ‘that one time way back when,’ the career-minded, ‘productive’ part of me might discover something valuable — something far beyond the cubicle.

Embracing my inner teacher

Growing up, I heard it again and again: “Are you going to be a teacher like your mom?”

“Ha! No way!” I’d exclaim.

I would be a writer, perched behind the gigantic mahogany desk of my imagination, a pile of books framing me on either side as dust particles danced in the glow of an antique lamp. A realistic goal, clearly.

In my time at Drake University, to my surprise, I’ve adopted the teacher role — and for a long time, I didn’t want to admit it. There are five generations of female teachers on my mother’s side of the family, but I clung to the notion of, “I’m an individual, damn it! An editor. A rebel.”

In 2013, I trained to be a writing tutor at the Adult Literacy Center at Drake.

“I’m a mentor, not a teacher,” I’d clarify, channeling my inner ‘rebel.’ As my student — a native Spanish speaker — and I worked through foreign sounds and dedicated over 20 minutes to the pronunciation of a single word, at times, I discovered my inner teacher and the role I had been loath to acknowledge and engage before.

Teaching, I realized, manifests in unexpected ways, no matter my self-proclaimed ‘editor’ title. That unpredictability felt particularly real when my Teaching Writing class was assigned a real-world project.

No more hypothetical “Student 1” and “Student 2.” We would provide feedback on essays about The Great Gatsby for high school seniors in Guadalajara, Mexico, via the Internet. Talk about intimidating.

In my initial feedback to Rocio, my student, I provided vague suggestions and tiptoed around big-picture possibilities for development. To my anxiety, it was no longer my responsibility to add commas and correct pronoun/antecedent agreement; I had to become a teacher and abandon my beloved editor role.

The dramatic shift from an editorial role to a teacher role forced me to examine writing in a big-picture way.

Rather than stay in my comfort zone of editing for grammar and mechanics, I had to step back and ask myself what I hoped to achieve in the long-term. Though that shift in the way I examine writing — and think, in general — was uncomfortable, I have a better understanding of the discourse in which I work and a newfound ability to approach writing in big-picture way. Plus, I saw growth in the clarity, development and communication of Rocio’s analysis of The Great Gatsby.

I entered the project hopeful I’d see her grow as a writer. I didn’t realize how much I would grow as a respondent and teacher in a few short weeks.

As I continue to tutor my Adult Literacy Center student for a second year, I’ve adopted another unexpected teacher role. I’m teaching the new Times-Delphic editor-in-chief how to survive — and thrive — in one of the toughest jobs on campus. How to learn from the inevitable error on the page. How to balance fun and productivity in the workplace. And a whole lot more I can’t even begin to predict.

Along the way, I hope I’ll teach her how to be a better editor, writer and maybe, teacher.

Video experience inspires editor to step outside comfort zone

Bilingual: That’s what my academic advisor calls me.

I didn’t magically pick up Turkish during my two-week January term, and I barely remember, “Me llamo Taylor,” from my high school Spanish days.

Yet, as a news-Internet and English writing dual degree, I’m bilingual. When I write for The Times-Delphic, the semiweekly newspaper I run, I streamline my language. When I write a 25-page personal essay, I stretch my language.

This spring, I’ve added a third “language” to that jarring mix: video.

When I learned I’d be taking a video field photography course, I panicked and probably reacted like this: “I, uh, um, no, what? Ah! Why me?” (With that Taylor-trademark eloquence, I clearly belonged on camera from the beginning).

Since immersing myself in the acronym-happy dialect of video production, I’ve realized the power in discomfort. (Even when videographers throw a backslash in the middle of an acronym a la “VO/SOT”).

I don’t mean the, “I have to wear that itchy sweater Aunt Edna gave me,” kind of discomfort. Rather, I mean the kind that says, “Hey, you’re getting a little too cozy in your area of expertise. Here’s a hypothetical nudge from me, your Future.”

When I yield control to my Future — though it’s typically a bit more daring than I’d prefer — I realize a nagging need to explore the entire media realm, well beyond my beloved print.

Well, here I go: I’m working a shift at the annual Drake Relays televised broadcast in April, and I’m might even try play-calling a Bulldog basketball game in the fall.

Yo hablo radio?