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David Farmer ENGL 1102 Ingram Portfolio Essay When I first walked into this class, I had a natural

fear of writing. When given a writing assignment, I never had any idea how to start and the first draft of a paper was a massive brick wall. I would try to write something and immediately stop, fearing even the slightest imperfection. This may be due to several experiences I had in high school where every draft of a major paper would be graded just as harshly as the final draft and one terrible draft would bring you down. This caused me to overthink and overstress about how to get started, and nothing ever got accomplished until the last minute. Throughout the course of this class, that anxiety over the first draft began to change. I came to the realization that I have been making the writing process much more difficult than it needs to be. The first couple of weeks were very strange yet eye-opening to me. The thing that sticks out to me is an exercise where we had to overanalyze random objects in the room. My group was tasked with creating inquiry questions about a yoga mat. All of a sudden, I was at the edge of my seat going into every aspect of the yoga mat. Why was it pink? Why was it the size it was? What can the mat be used for other than yoga? I was simultaneously expressing my curiosity and contemplating every decision in my life up to this point. Why am I here? Where did I go wrong (or possibly right) in my life to be doing this? My ability to question everything made me powerful. After our initial inquiry exercises, I was ready to begin working on my Whats It Like To Be You (WILTBY) essay. To relate to the theme of David Seidels Peace, Butter, and Jelly, I had to handwrite this paper without the use of any technology. The idea of isolating myself from technology just to write a paper baffled me. How could this possibly help me? Regardless of my initial confusion, I pulled out a sheet of paper late on a Tuesday night to write some sleep-deprived nonsense. I was still in the mindset that my first draft had to be perfect, but this time I was too worn out from 12 hours of nearly nonstop

classes and studying to care. I went into some strange monologue about how my brain was constantly at war with itself, and I considered starting over when I realized how ridiculous I sounded. However, the entire rational portion of my brain shut down and I kept going. By my first paragraph, I had written Sometimes both sides of my brain will engage in a civil war, but most of the time they will manage to coexist peacefully. Neither side is truly dominant in this constant struggle for power, but one side at a time will always appear to be. Where could I possibly go with this? To my own surprise, I was about to find out. My essay was already starting to sound like the rantings of an insane person. In a typed draft, I could delete every word I had written in less than a second. Since this was a handwritten draft, I did not want to waste time and physical energy to start over. I had to somehow continue my imperfection, going against everything I knew about the significance of the first draft. Now I had to explain myself. How does one explain insanity? I wrote about the conflict between the logical and creative sides of my brain. As I wrote about how the logical side of my brain was responsible for my commitment to engineering and solving all of the worlds problems at once, something interesting came out that not only affected my writing for this class, but also my mindset in general. If Im not doing everything, Im doing nothing. This statement has been the theme of my life ever since I wrote it. This simple statement from a rough draft of an essay that I wrote in an incomprehensible state of sleep deprivation defined me. Perhaps a terrible first draft did have some value after all. I ended up finishing a three-page foundation for my essay before calling it a night. Revising the essay was an interesting process. When sharing my essay with my group, they said things in the realm of my essay blowing their mind. They envisioned me expanding for an entire page on what I wrote about doing everything, but I had to approach this in a different way. Instead of writing a whole page on that one quote, why not be the quote instead? So I did everything. I have taken the equivalent of 17 credit hours of mostly engineering-related classes this semester. One of my classes

(French horn ensemble) was one I didnt even register for due to finding out about it at the last minute, but I continued with it regardless. I have been heavily involved in the professional engineering fraternity Theta Tau this semester (my first semester as a brother), going to as many events as humanly possible. Before my workload got to the point of insanity, I went to laser tag games once or twice a week. I signed up for and played Niners Vs. Zombies despite not owning a Nerf gun, surviving until the last day with nothing but marshmallows and stealth. I have gone to a couple of PILOT leadership workshops and I have been interviewed for Leadership Fellows for next fall. At the time of writing this, I am burned out and completely drained of energy. However, I can definitely say that I have lived up to my essay. I have done everything. The next major assignment for the class was the midterm paper, where I had to write to a friend about my experiences of this course. Due to my indecisiveness over which friend to write to, I pulled out a random number generator and it told me I would be writing to Aaron, one of my friends from back home who is currently a senior in high school. I asked myself what I should tell him about my experiences in this class up until this point. Of course, the first thing I had to tell him about was the initial inquiry exercise. He would definitely want to hear about how I switched my brain to super inquiry mode and went into multiple layers of overthinking all to talk about a simple yoga mat. I went on to explain how I have never thought about my own health before this class and what I could be doing to improve it. I described how I eat too much food in the dining halls, only exercise once or twice a week (coincidentally my frequency of playing laser tag games), and disregard sleep to do everything. I switched my brain to the previously mentioned super inquiry mode and openly asked a bunch of questions to him about my own health and well-being. I then attempted to answer those questions by saying that I should probably avoid making a greasy hamburger-pizza-taco-cakesandwich (no idea what I was thinking here) every time I get hungry. I then went on to talk about the WILTBY essay.

As if getting my WILTBY essay to make sense to myself was bad enough, I had to make it comprehensible to someone else. I told Aaron about how I shut off all forms of technology and essentially wrote a pile of crap that made me sound insane (which made me sound insane once again), but I kept writing about writing my essay anyway. After summarizing my essay in nearly as many words as the essay itself, I realized that there was a reason for doing everything. I get to be an engineer, a mathematician, a singer, and a French horn hero all in one day. I get to be an unstoppable force. The inquiry exercises up to this point led me to this conclusion, so I wrote a final paragraph about inquiry itself. By questioning everything, I have learned about myself and the world around me. Inquiry is where learning begins. Learning was in progress. Now that my thoughts were running wild, it was time to begin my inquiry project. I had to figure out something related to health that I wanted to write about, and this was actually a lot tougher than I thought it would be. The one thing my mind kept coming back to was music and how it was affecting my health. Clearly music is something important to me if I will drive myself to the point of sleep deprivation to continue with it. Where could I possibly go with this general topic of music? The annotated bibliography was my first step in figuring out the direction of my research. I began by looking through the internet to give myself a better idea of where I was going with this. I found a bunch of articles linking classical music to all kinds of health benefits, but trying to center an argument on classical music would either be too easy or it would be like running into a brick wall headfirst. If I argued that classical music has a positive effect on health, I would essentially be preaching common knowledge with the studies I found. If I argued that classical music had a negative effect on health, I would be contradicting those studies and I would have nothing to back my claims up. Either way, I would be subjecting myself to binary thinking. There had to be a different approach to my topic, and I was about to realize what that approach was.

It became time to workshop my annotated bibliography and I knew my research was all over the place. There was no direction to what I was doing and I only had four sources to work with. After a lengthy discussion about where my research could lead, something suddenly clicked for me. A couple of my sources talked about more than just the health effects of classical music. In fact, they both referenced a study done on mice listening to various types of music and completing a maze. This study was clearly important, and I looked back over it to give myself ideas. According to study, mice that listened to voodoo drumming (or rock music) could not complete the maze. Instead, they became confused and eventually cannibalistic. Another study on plants dying after being exposed to rock music was referenced as well. I now wanted to look specifically at rock music. I added a couple more sources to my annotated bibliography and moved on from there to begin writing my argumentative research paper. As I began my research paper, I was presented with yet another challenge. Now that I knew where I was going with my topic, what was my purpose? Who am I trying to convince and what am I trying to convince them of? I looked back through my sources once again, thinking about the negative social stigma sometimes associated with rock music. I then noticed a history text written by Oswald Spengler entitled Decline of the West which linked music to the rise and fall of civilizations. The height of a civilizations musical form and beauty correlated with the height of its stability. As music became less stylistic and complex, the civilization began to decline. I then thought to myself, could our civilization be declining right now because of rock music? If that is true, how could we possibly sit back and let this happen? There has to be some reason for rock music existing. I continued my research with the idea that I had to find out why rock music is enjoyable to such a large amount of people. What I realized through further research was the purpose of my paper. I had to convince rock music skeptics that rock music is not necessarily unhealthy. Its not corrupting our youth or creating violence. There are actually perfectly healthy reasons to listen to rock music, and I was

going to find out what they were. What I ended up discovering was scientific evidence showing that loud music of any genre (especially loud rock concerts) stimulates a primitive part of the ear which has slowly gone away through evolution and provides happiness to the listener. Rock music also helps provide social identity to its listeners, which is a very important part of social development in adolescents. I even found evidence supporting the idea that the style of music is not even what has the largest effect on health and well-being. The more important characteristics of music are tempo, volume, and rhythmic patterns. Fast classical music can actually be bad for relaxation, and slow rock music can be good for relaxation. However, fast music regardless of genre elevates the heart rate and enhances athletic performance. The conclusion I drew from the entire research process was that rock music is no unhealthier to its listeners than other genres of music with similar qualities. In fact, the large variation within rock music itself may cause certain rock songs to have completely different health effects from other rock songs. This would be an interesting thing to research in the future, and I may look into it in my spare time after this course is over. Now that I am at the end of this course, it is time to look back on the assignments throughout the course and reflect on them. I will go ahead and begin with the things I have not mentioned so far in this essay: blogs and readings. Why have I waited until now to mention them? The main reason is that despite my best efforts to engage myself with the blog posts and readings, they did not do very much for me in the long run. I felt that the majority of my blogs were full of halfway-developed thoughts, so I kept most of them unpublished throughout the semester with the intent to fix them. The other major assignments (especially the WILTBY essay) had a significant impact on how I view the world now, but the blogs in a way reinforced my lack of knowledge. The required readings for the course also did very little for me. It was not until David Seidels visit that I truly understood the purpose behind Peace, Butter, and Jelly and how it connected to my writing. I still tried my best to make that connection and came out of it with two terribly-written poems.

To be honest, the textbook From Inquiry to Writing may have done even less for me. Perhaps my engagement with the ideas behind my WILTBY essay overshadowed my engagement with the book, because I could not remember most of what was in it. However, one of the non-required readings was what actually connected with me. I read Shitty First Drafts by Anne Lamott one day about three weeks away from the end of the semester and I realized where I was going wrong with my writing. I was putting too much emphasis on that first draft. I was afraid to publish that terrible blog and make something great come out of it. I had to push myself to the point of extreme sleep deprivation and time constraints to mindlessly write the first draft of what would become my most meaningful essay of the semester. The problem was that I found out about it far too late to change my writing process significantly. This should be required reading at the very beginning of the semester. As a whole, I feel that my portfolio only demonstrates part of the story. While it may display the results of my work, it doesnt demonstrate the amount of effort it took for me to change my entire mentality of writing papers and essays. The first draft does not define your paper and it does not define you as a person. The first draft is the beginning of the road to inquiry and insight, and it should be treated as such. In the future, I should embrace my imperfections and just write the draft no matter how badly I think it will turn out. My class participation has improved vastly as the semester has progressed. In the beginning of the semester, everything got off to a bad start. I was frequently late to class and I got sick at the worst possible times. I only partially engaged with the class and underestimated the difficulty of what I was getting myself into. Once I realized around midterms how bad my class participation actually was, I made sure I was never late or absent again. I came as prepared as I possibly could to each class and did my best to engage with my group. Overall, I am proud of how far I have come with participation. After all is said and done, what grade do I truly deserve in this course? That is a difficult question to answer considering everything that has happened. According to the syllabus, the three major

components of my grade are this portfolio, my class participation, and my presentation. I will begin with my portfolio, since it is the most significant part of my grade. I think my portfolio is worth either a B or a low A. My largest weakness has shifted from actually getting the first draft out to revising the first draft. I have now seen the difference a terrible first draft can eventually have on a writing assignment, and I will always keep that in mind in the future. Improving my revision of the draft is what I need to work on next. My class participation is worth either a B or a high C. My attendance near the beginning was abysmal and my engagement with the textbooks was subpar, but I pulled it together in the end and realized the importance of active participation in class. My final presentation itself deserves nothing less than an A. I structured the presentation perfectly around the time constraints and overcame my social anxiety to knock it out of the park. Assuming my portfolio gets a 90%, my class participation gets an 80%, and my presentation gets a 100%, my grade in this class calculates to exactly 88% with a margin of error of about 5%. Trust me, Im an engineering student.

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