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Writing is Not Style, and Three Tips for Writing

This was written for ENG-101, Washington State University for the following prompts, “introduce yourself”, “discuss your writing history and composition process style”, and include 2-3 ideas for visual analysis.

INTRODUCTION

My name is Roy Hodges and I am a student in WSU Global pursuing a major in psychology and perhaps an additional in sociology, if time permits. As an “adult learner”, prior to attending university, I’ve worked about a decade in software startups and digital marketing, then a prior decade living in a martial arts dojo (aikido), and before that, I served in the United States Army and worked in intelligence (yes that one) around the D.C. beltway. I enjoy writing very much, it is cathartic, meaningful, and offers a cosmological sandbox within which perceptions are explored, organized, and navigated. I’ve written poetry since a young boy, and enjoy fine arts, and engage in the production of such too. There is some concern about this course, to be frank. Yet with prior semesters, and summer sessions, this may be alleviated with some occasionally triggering introspections and frankly vulnerable dialogue.

WRITING IS NOT STYLE

Regarding writing style, I feel quite firm in this, I don’t have one in particular, and I find neither pride nor shame in the knowledge of this. In archery one can release an arrow with the assistance of any matter of devices in puncturing holes in targets; even the arrow shaft is a device. There is a style called ‘natural’ where one merely picks the bow up, notches, and fires the arrow by feel, without aim, without sights. I had been promised that this was my ability by a Mohawk elder responsible for teaching their tribe archery in Cornwall, Ontario; yes I hit the bullseye repeatedly. It’s sort of like that, and while one could say, “natural is a style”, I’d urge one to look around, what style does nature have? Really, truly? And there’s the landing, the rock is now skipping across the pond, each time the rock falls, little ripples emanate. It’s like that continuously. I can’t tell you how to write like this, but I can say, just stop and write epiphanies. Regarding planning, I’m more partial to memos, sorting memos, and emergence in the Grounded Theory paradigm (Glaser, 2012). This is neither heavy planning (it’s just right planning), heavy revising (it’s just-in-time revising), and sequential composing (it’s emergent composing). What the audience has not seen is the tremendous curiosity drvien research and living that has gone on prior to writing these very words. Writing is truly beyond style.

 A PRIMER IN VISUAL ANALYSIS

WOLF FENCING

I think the first tip would be “wolf fencing”. This is a computer science process heuristic helpful in troubleshooting bugs, yet is also guided by other heuristics in which to aim the process. Wolf fencing is based on the principle of finding a wolf in an area of land (i.e., park, mountain, forest etc.). Geographically speaking, the wolf could be in one half or the other, so one divides that area in half and searches one side. If it’s not in one side, it has to be in the other, because the “fence” implies it cannot move to the other side. Now one could divide that half and do the same process, and so on. It’s a lesson in iteration too. Wolf fencing is more efficient if one know the probabilities of which “side” the wolf is more probably in, so as to start in that side first. Evidence! Enter the trackers. Yet here is a challenge, how does one acquire the knowledge of said probability?

MEMO SORTING

Enter “sorting”, or rather, the second tip: the ability to decide which is first. Meta-wolf fencing! Sorting ability is profound for visual analysis, and there are various methods to sort. Each method has plusses and minuses (cough, just go for the quick sort as the first try, hint hint). For writing, as mentioned before, I seem to gravitate toward the most efficient style related to the topic being analyzed; it changes often. The gravity of the topologies of the topic offer clues to the sort rather than using preconceived notions of a generalized style of sorting. This is important to me, since each visual representation is assembled by different processes. To analyze the visual representation (be it art, print, satellite imagery, computer code, someone sitting in a chair talking, or a battlefield situation), one “becomes” so to speak, “one with the process” (sounds very zen, doesn’t it?) that generated the visual presentation in the first place. The work of sorting crosses data at various angles and inclinations, leading to inductions and deductions, of which become part of the area studied and considered. “Sorting requires skill, theoretical sensitivity and creativity. Sorting brings out these ability properties of the researcher and sharpens them”, Barney Glaser attests (Glaser, 2014, p. 78). Now one may sit and go, “that’s all great and good, but how does one learn to sort?”

WRITER RELATIVITY

Last tip, is this, and it is most important and comes from antiquity, yet gained much weight since relativity arrived on the scene. Do not forget that the observer influences the outcome. You, yes, you, the reader, is as much part of this topology as that wolf. Congratulations, you are a wolf (and you are a fence), and I will find you, and quickly. This kind of mentality raises challenge, and the tips, of skill thus engendering flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014, pp. 146-147). The professor is a Marine, and as we say, “once a Marine, always a Marine.” Marines protect our embassies world wide; writers are the ambassadors of communication, and communication solves problems. The observer can and does effect the outcome, it’s known, it’s true, and it’s supported by empirical evidence. While writing, I include cognition, emotion, and physiology in the writing process; take that, preconceptions! Did you know that Steven King scared himself out of his wits before writing on a typewriter? Why would he do that? What is this curious emotion? It’s joy for the benefit of others, and it is one with esprit de corps. I prefer not to divide audience and speaker. I served in the U.S. Army. We’re in this together. Disarms the arrow, remove the tip, and stop shooting holes which create divisions of “us vs. them”; what was once perceived as the enemy is thy friend. This is part of how this was written, besides, I’ve donated to wolf sanctuaries and have visited them, they are quite lovely creatures and fully deserving of the lands we so share.

CONCLUSION

Maybe the course isn’t so bad, please don’t eat the sheep, for the wool is quite warm and breathable for the humans that protect you (it’s so scratchy!). It’s nice to see you, because it’d be a falsehood to write, “meet you”, for we haven’t really truly met yet; that’s face to face. This is just an introduction. What’s to conclude? We’re just getting started.

Sincerely and with great affection,
Roy Æ Hodges

REFERENCES

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Flow and the foundations of positive psychology. 2014th ed. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

Glaser, B. G. (2014). Memoing: A vital grounded theory procedure. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.

Glaser, B. G. (2012). Stop, write: Writing grounded theory. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.