The Important Link Between Writing and Identity

The threshold concept “Writing Enacts and Creates Ideologies and Identities” we read for class this week thoroughly intrigued and surprised me. Based on the title, I went into the reading feeling pretty confident I would be familiar with all the different concepts that would be discussed throughout the chapter due to many conversations in previous classes regarding identity and ideology and how it pertains to writing. However, there were a few concepts that really stuck out to me and it made me consider a lot; Namely, the concept regarding writing being linked to identity or who we are. This section, written by Kevin Roozen, can be summarized by looking at a line in the first paragraph,”The act of writing, then, is not so much about using a particular set of skills as it is about becoming a particular kind of person, about developing a sense of who we are”(51). I love this quote and it makes a lot of sense to me, but when I read it I realized that I am sure this concept may not make sense to a vast number of people, and these people may not see writing as anything more than menial task that needs to be completed for a grade. They don’t consider the larger purpose of writing and that writing has the possibility to help a person discover who they truly are. After all, I do not expect many students to consider this concept, because it can be very daunting to consider our own identity and it is a very complicated subject. Here a brief Ted Talk which goes over the complicated nature of identity and personality.

Psychologist Brian Little discusses personality and identity in this brief Ted Talk

While it may be hard for students to grasp, looking at writing as a means to discover for about ourselves and the world around us, rather than having students view writing as simply a grade, offers an amazing perspective for students to consider. Kevin Roozen describes this concept in the section “Writing is Linked to Identity”, he writes, “For teachers and learners, it foregrounds the need to approach writing not simply as a means of learning and using a set of skills, but rather as a means of engaging with the possibilities for selfhood available in a given community”(51). Personally, this is something I hope to implement myself in my future classroom. I really want students to leave my class at the end of the semester with having learned something new about themselves, and hopefully with a newfound love or appreciation for writing.

This concept makes me wonder how many potential writers we have lost because they had a bad teacher or had a teacher who did not highlight the true importance of writing. For some writers, perhaps writing came very naturally and they did not need anybody to tell them why writing is important. However, for others, without having key moments in life from teachers, friends, or family that opened their eyes to what writing can do, they may not have ever considered becoming a writer in the first place. I think it is imperative that teachers, throughout any level of school, place more emphasis on the cathartic and healing nature of writing, rather than making students view writing as nothing more than an assignment to be completed and just another class to pass.

Works Cited

Roozen, Kevin. “Writing is Linked to Identity.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, edited by Linda Adler-Kasner and Elizabeth A. Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, pp. 51

“Who are you, really? The Puzzle of Personality-Brian Little.” Youtube, uploaded by TED, 19 Jul 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYvXk_bqlBk.

5 thoughts on “The Important Link Between Writing and Identity”

  1. Hi Danny. What a profound reading this week; one to really make you think more about our weekly “task” of analyzing and understanding such theoretical concepts. I, too, wonder how many students have walked away from writing, thinking it is merely a dreaded experience that leads to an essay grade and passing a course. Reading your blog post, I found myself thinking about how I also want to find a way to incorporate introspective thought in the classroom. Writing really does lead to discovering more of your sense of self. There are many things that I feel people do that ultimately are forms of personal expression. Writing is most definitely one of those items. I have read books that “jumped out” to me as being forms of healing for the author. And, reading those books transformed me as well. I may not have first-hand identified with the writer’s specific pain, but I felt compassion and unity in the sharing of such “humanness.” I also believe that you don’t just learn more about yourself through the process of writing, but I think you also learn more about humanity. Everyone has a different walk in life, but we share core experiences that unite us all. Thanks for sharing!

  2. “I really want students to leave my class at the end of the semester with having learned something new about themselves, and hopefully with a newfound love or appreciation for writing.”

    Danny, this is a great mindset for your classroom! I think if you make this a goal for your students, then they will be more likely to look beyond the grade. Do you have any ideas for projects, assignments, or discussions that would lead to this type of discovery or appreciation?

  3. Hey Danny,
    I really resonated with what you said about wanting students to have learned something about themselves. I want this to be the case in my class as well, but I don’t have any concrete steps or plans to make this a reality. How do you think that you will achieve this in your own classroom? Specific assignments? Pedagogy?

  4. Danny,

    That last bit about losing potential writers because of bad teachers really hit me hard. I know that I have lost interest in subjects before because of bad instructors, and that feeling was terrible. Unfortunately, I think that a lot of this happens in high schools, where (as far as I know, at least) teachers do not always have as much time/freedom to create assignments or environments where self-discovery is encouraged. Hopefully this will change in the coming years.

  5. Danny,

    I love that quote too: “The act of writing, then, is not so much about using a particular set of skills as it is about becoming a particular kind of person, about developing a sense of who we are”. And you’re right it makes a lot of sense. And yet when I thought about it I guess I didn’t or don’t even think about it a lot. It reminded me a lot of when I’m writing a story and I have questions about what I’m writing or the characters or anything really and I often write down questions or ??? and I figure it out on the page. I develop a sense of who my characters are and then by default I develop a sense of who I am. It’s super interesting stuff, and I look forward to watching that Ted talk!

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