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Running Head: AUTOETHNOGRAPHY 1

Autoethnography
Lorenzo Ramirez
University of Texas El Paso




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Autoethnography
I never really took time to examine my writing style and break it down like I have done
these last couple of weeks in my English class. To begin I really do not like to write, especially if
its an assignment for school. Just like Fred, he was the example used in an article I read titled
Teaching Standard English: Whose Standard? By Linda Christensen. I her article she
mentions Fred a student of hers who has trouble writing, and when asked to write he writes just
to writes. He wouldnt take any risks in his writing. When I write I try not take any risks in my
writing. I try not make things complicated just so that I can get it over with. While working on
Portrait of a Writer I had to describe what my writing process was, if I had one. We also
recorded ourselves while writing the paper so that we can later go back and analyze the
recordings and see if we could discover any patterns, habits, weaknesses in our writing process.
What I discovered about my writing process or technique was interesting to me. I discovered
while listening to my recordings that I like to start writing without any pre-writing strategies
such as brainstorming or doing outlines like we were taught in grade school. I also noticed that I
have this habit of editing while I am writing my paper, I dont wait until I finish the entire thing
to go back and start the editing process.
While listening to the recording I made while writing Portrait of a Writer I did
notice some patterns and weakness in my writing process. First thing I did notice was that I had
some trouble, a little bit of writers block in trying to start forming the first few paragraphs of my
paper I noticed in my recordings that I would just talk to myself about how to start writing not
really typing just sit there and contemplate ideas. I dont do any prewriting activities,
brainstorming, outlines, those types of things. I feel that they are a waste of time and for me kind
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of distract from my ideas and thoughts I am going to write about. I was always taught that the
first few sentences or first paragraphs are the most important part of the entire paper, if I didnt
capture the readers attention with that the rest of the paper wouldnt matter. So I tend to spend
several minutes, maybe 10-15 minutes just trying to come up with a good opening for the paper I
was writing. I agree with Rose when he comments about this writers block that some students
feel, according to Rose,
In most cases, the rules our blockers use are not "wrong" or "incorrect" it is good
practice, for example, to "grab your audience with a catchy opening" or "craft a solid first
paragraph before going on." The problem is that these rules seem to be followed as
though they were algorithms, absolute dicta, rather than the loose heuristics that they
were intended to be. Either through instruction, or the power of the textbook, or the
predilections of some of our blockers for absolutes, or all three, these useful rules of
thumb have been transformed into near-algorithmic urgencies. The result, to paraphrase
Karl Dunker, is that these rules do not allow a flexible penetration into the nature of the
problem. It is this transformation of heuristic into algorithm that contributes to the
writer's block of Ruth and Laurel. (Rose, 1980, p. 398)
I know I have some skill in writing, so when rose comments that when we follow these rules as if
they were the 10 commandments they dont allow for some flexibility or room to crate ideas. I
can relate to that. During my recordings I noticed that as soon as I got through the bit of writers
block I had, I just began to write and my ideas started to just materialize on the screen.
As far as I could tell in my recordings I was doing well with the actual composing part of
my writing process. Now as I was listening to my recordings one habit I did pick up on was me
having to repeat the sentences I had just finished typing. I did this for several sentences
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throughout the paper. I found this kind of funny listening to myself stop typing then go back and
start reading the previous sentences. I would find myself editing my work, when I had just
started and only had like one or two paragraphs. I would be so concerned about seeing those red
squiggly lines when using Word, that I would lose my train of thought, I noticed in my
recordings I would say to myself what was I thinking of or what was I typing and I would
also concentrate on grammar, correct usage of a certain word, sentence structure, editing
practices that were usually left for a 2
nd
or 3
rd
draft revision. Just like Perl (1979) in her article,
The Composing Processes of Unskilled College Writers by Sondra Perl (1979) she noticed this
back and forth process by the students she interviewed. One in particular student named Tony
had the same habit about editing early on in his writing process.
Editing occurred consistently in all sessions. From the moment Tony began
Writing, he indicated a concern for correct form that actually inhibited the development
of ideas. In none of the writing sessions did he ever write more than two sentences before
he began to edit. While editing fit into his overall recursive pattern, it simultaneously
interrupted the composing rhythm he had just initiated. (Perl, 1979, p. 324)
Even though this back and forth method I was repeating throughout my writing process
did hinder me a bit as far as losing my train of thought, I think in a way it also helped in that
when I went back to reread the sentences I had just finished typing I also made sure that what I
was typing was also making sense and was connecting to the sentence that was coming after it.
The time it took me to write the actual paper was maybe 1-2 hours. If I dont have any
distractions and like I mentioned earlier once I clear that hurdle of starting to write that opening
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paragraph I can get in the zone writing my paper and I can finish within a reasonable amount
of time.
While listening to the recordings of the revision part of my paper I noticed that the
revision part, which was done when I completed my paper, went a lot smoother than the actual
writing process. My editing process reminds me of Tomlinsons article, Tomlinson (1988)
Tuning, Tying, and Training Texts: Metaphors for Revision where various literary authors
used metaphors to describe their editing processes. The one I related to the most and the one I
kind of noticed in my recordings was what the author Didion described as tying things off.
One must keep finding loose ends, tying off knots, returning when knots have slipped
(when ones revising is not enough, or when revising in other areas necessitates returning
to sections one previously thought finished). (Tomlinson, 1988, p. 67)
I totally agree with Didions view on editing, I tend to go back and either re-write or move
paragraphs around, then I will look at the entire paper and make sure that because of the changes
I made the whole paper still presents the thoughts and ideas I intended in the first place. So
because I was tying off a small part of my paper I tend to keep going further and further in my
editing that eventually it seems that I have re-written the entire paper. The peer review really
helped me out in making some needed changes in my paper. Peer reviews I think are good
because your peers see corrections or weakness that can be corrected to help the paper flow
better. When I write I tend to forget that I should be writing for the person going to read my
paper and not just write for myself. Perl (1979) in her article described this as Egocentricity. She
state that as students or writers in general when we are writing we tend to forget who our
audience is going to be. So when the reader reads our work they sometimes dont understand
what we wrote or our ideas and thoughts tend not to translate well on paper.
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While they occasionally indicated a concern for their readers, they more often took the
reader's understanding for granted. They did not see the necessity of making their
referents explicit, of making the connections among their ideas apparent, of carefully and
explicitly relating one phenomenon to another, or of placing narratives or generalizations
within an orienting, conceptual framework. (Perl 1979, p. 332).
The peer reviews have really helped me out, because I tend to forget about my audience and how
they will interpret my paper, the peer review help point out some things ,such as clarifying my
ideas, the flow of the paper, being clear about certain parts of my paper, and made the revision
process a bit more simpler. In my recordings I can tell that I keep repeating certain paragraphs or
sentences to make sure that my ideas and thoughts flow well together, I dont think I really made
grammar a priority. My main focus was making sure that my ideas flow well together in my
paper. The grammar, punctuation, sentence structure I felt I really didnt have problem with
In conclusion by writing Portrait of a Writer and reading all the articles about how
different scholars see the writing process, I myself have a better understanding of the writing
process. I know that what we were taught through our elementary and high school years as far as
rules that we must follow them, but according to rose sometimes those rules can hinder us
instead of help us. Christensen help me see that when writing a paper it is more important to
focus more on what is written instead of how its written. Even though the rules of grammar and
sentence structure are there to guide us, we shouldnt make them priorities, by focusing more on
the rules we lose the voice of the writer and what they are trying to convey to us. The way we
are corrected in our writing also can have a huge impact on the student as a writer. Teachers need
to correct students in a way that will encourage them to do better and not put the fear of writing
in them. Also an important point that I realized was that sometimes the way we write or edit our
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papers my not always be understood by our instructors. As Perl points out in her article as one of
the implications of her study
Perls (1979) study suggests: They need not "punish" students for making mistakes, and
they need not assume that their students have already been taught how to write. Yet this
view ignores the highly elaborated, deeply embedded processes the students bring with
them. These unskilled college writers are not beginners in a tabula rasa sense, and
teachers err in assuming they are. (p. 334)
Over the course of the last weeks reading the different articles and working Portrait of a
Writer and going through peer reviews, the whole process has helped me somewhat overcome
that nervous, anxiety feeling for writing papers. I still dont like it but I have learned to approach
the writing process with a bit more confidence, knowing I am not the only student who can relate
to these phobias and experiences that we have read in the many articles about the writing
process.
With all the articles and writing project in this English class I have learned to take writing
with a little more faith and not so much fear. The results of my observation through my
recordings should be viewed as a work in progress, meaning that even though I still am not that
confident in my writing, listening to myself and observing my own writing process, I know I
have the writing tools to become a pretty good writer, just need some more confidence to
continue to get better. I know now that all those writing rules that have been engraved in since
grade school dont always need to be used as if my life depended on it. There is room for
flexibility and what we write is just as important as how we write our thoughts and ideas. Just as
Christensen mentioned in her article It took me years to undo what Mrs. Delaney did to me.
Years to discover that what I said was more important than how I said it. Years to understand
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that my words, my family's words weren't wrong, weren't bad-they were just the words of the
working class. (Christensen 1990, p. 40)


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References
Christensen, M. L. (1990). Teaching Standard English: Whose Standard?
The English Journal, 79 (2), 40
Perl, S. (1979). The Composing Process of Unskilled College Writers.
Research in the Teaching of English, 13 (4), 324-334
Rose, M. (1980). Rigid Rules, Inflexible Plans, and Stifling Language:
A Cognitivist Analysis of Writers Block. College Composition and
Communication, 31 (4), 398
Tomlinson, B. (1988). Tuning, Tying, and Training Texts: Metaphors for Revision
Written Communication 5 (58), 67
DOI: 10.1177/0741088388005001003

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Appendix A
Portrait of a Writer
I would describe my writing abilities as average, average in the sense that I dont feel like
I write anything good or anything worth reading. No best sellers or exciting novels, I am just an
average writer. The only times that I write is for school papers, and even that in itself is an
activity that can cause me some anxiety, worrying about possibly receiving a failing grade.
From past experiences writing for me is just something I really dont enjoy doing, this is mainly
due to the bad experiences I have had in the past, some failing grades, and comments made by
past instructors that have made me feel inadequate for writing.
My freshman English teacher in high school, Mrs. Turnello, was especially notorious for
giving you back your essays with nothing but red marks on it, we use to call her The Red Barron.
Seeing all the red ink from all the corrections she had made on my papers was crushing to me,
especially when I thought I had turned in a pretty decent paper. When we would get our papers
back it was hard trying to understand what she meant by what she wrote on our papers. This was
the same for all the other English teachers I had in high school. They were too vague, Can you
be more specific, wrong usage, and of course the dreaded ?. To me it was just a bunch of
mumbo jumbo! I tried my best to decipher their cryptic writings, but in the end I turned in what I
thought was a mediocre paper because I was so frustrated that I wasnt really going for a good
grade anymore but just wanting turn in my paper and get it over with.
I remember in high school our sophomore English teacher at the beginning of every
class would have us write in our journal. This was an exercise that he said would help us
express our thoughts and ideas without having to think too much or spend too much time
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brainstorming on one idea. I really enjoyed it only because I didnt have to mess with having to
brainstorm or have to do an outline. In my opinion all that pre-writing activity, (brainstorming,
outlines) is just a waste of time, if you already have the idea in your head then just start writing.
Writing in our journals I felt I could just write what I felt without worrying if I was following the
correct procedure, correct grammar usage, sentence structure etc... I have always had a fear of
writing papers and that comes from the many traumatizing experiences I have had in high school.
I dont consider myself a good writer, maybe an average writer, when I have to
follow rules and formats, I feel restricted and I start to get nervous. Its like high school all over
again. My instructors were good teachers, but I feel that they lacked that personal touch in the
sense that when I was corrected they failed to tell me why they corrected my papers that way.
What did they mean by You need to be more specific about this, or That word or phrase does
not belong there. From those experiences I have created an automatic defense that when I hear
research paper or essay paper, I try to keep away that vile monster that is writing essays or
research papers. Now dont get me wrong I know I am no Anne Rice or Stephen King, and I
know I do need help when it comes to my writing, but when you correct me at least tell me why
and show me or help to do it better.
After high school I stopped writing completely. I was relieved knowing I wasnt going to
see the infamous writings or markings of the Red Barron. I really dont have a writing style to
call my own but if I were to compare it to something I would liken it to conversations with my
grandfather, like my conversations with him, my writing style is pretty random. I dont like
spending hours contemplating how I am going to begin writing a paper, I just start to write until I
feel satisfied with how my ideas and thoughts look on paper. My grandfather, when I was
younger, would sometimes just pull me aside or tell me to come sit down next to him and he
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would just start talking. Like my writing my grandfather would just throw these random
conversations at me and I would be totally lost from the very beginning. He would be like and
thats why you dont try to skip out on the bill! Or so did you get all of that? Just like my
writing, which was the same way, not too much brainstorming and I would just jump right into
the writing process and see how it would develop. My Grandfather would just say whatever was
on his mind and I loved that about him.
I think the hardest part about writing is just getting started, those first few lines of first
paragraph I think is the hardest for me. I dont know why but if I think too much about what I
want to write I just draw a blank. Coming up with something to grab the reader and then hold on
to them for the ride I think is difficult for me thats how I was taught in high school. Now once I
get past that overwhelming obstacle for me, I feel it gets easier for me because then its just like
my free writing in my high school English class where I am writing in my journal. I believe the
saying is youre in the zone. Once I am in the zone I tend to block everything out and its
just me and the paper I am working on. I really dont have any kind of preparation method I use,
if I have to write a paper on a certain subject I research it then just write about it. When its time
to revise my work I usually have someone read it and give me some feedback. Even that is nerve
racking for me because once again I get that fear of being corrected in a way that doesnt help
me but only leaves me more confused and devastated. So other than my instructor who has to
read my work I only let people I am comfortable with read whatever it is I have written. Thanks
to the Red Barron I tend to panic when it comes to writing papers.
What also helps me with my writing is reading. Reading helps by expanding my
vocabulary and allows me to use words that may help in projecting my thoughts and ideas more
clearly. I see how different authors write, how they use words, how they grab the readers
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attention. The last book I read was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. What stood out to me
about his writing style was that he used a lot of his own personal experiences to create this world
that was built on the 80s nostalgia, which is the era I grew up in. So the story brought back a lot
of memories for me. Now of course he must have followed some rules and a writing process but
he wrote the story like if he was just free writing it, writing memories from his life, like if he was
just writing in a journal. At least thats the way I saw it.
I am hoping that the more English courses I take the better I become at this writing thing.
I know that during my college life I will be writing a lot of papers so I figure start now and get
better at it than procrastinate and struggle later. So to conclude just like the articles when have
read in class (Christensen, Sommers, Rose) I agree with a lot of what they say. There has to be a
better way to help students become better writers and they have to help them overcome their fear
of writing. The way we are corrected the way we are taught has to be done in a way that gives us
inspiration not fear write.

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Appendix B
Notes on Recordings
Lorenzo Ramirez

SESSION 1: Beginning to write Portrait of a Writer, about 8pm very quiet TV in the background. My son is
was not with me during that time day so I wasnt distracted as much and was able to concentrate more.
Facebook open and email open, blackboard as well.
1-5: Already from the start I was having some difficulty on starting my Portrait of a Writer. It wasnt too
bad as soon as I had an idea I went with it and began typing. I noticed in my recordings that I would type
a few sentences then go back and read to make sure everything I was typing was making sense, if not I
would retype the sentence. It seemed I did this a couple of times.
5-10: Continue to keep working on my paper, all you really hear is me typing I seem to keep repeating
some sentences to myself to make sure everything I am typing is making sense to me.
10-20: I am in the zone writing my paper. All I can hear is the typing away and me still repeating those
sentences I have just finished typing to make sure I am on point with my ideas. I know I did do some
editing for grammar and structure even though these is only my 1
st
draft. Some habits are hard to break
20-30: Still typing away at my paper, Seems I am almost done with it, if I can type without any
distractions I can do a lot of typing. I think I finished the first draft in one sitting. TV still in the
background.
30-40: I decide to turn on some music, helps me relax. Still typing, still repeating sentences
END SESSION

2-17-14
SESSION 2: Starting at about 8 pm when things are a little bit calmer in my house, revising my draft. Son
in the background taking a shower. I also have music playing, have the TV on watching Seinfeld. I have
all the usual applications open on my computer, Utep Blackboard, Facebook, personal email.
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1-5: opened up drafts with comments on them from peers, looking to see how I can incorporate them
into my draft to make the changes. Comments are pretty good I think they will help me write a better
paper. I start with the typing.
5-10: Scorpions blasting in the background, music helps me relax, son being a bit of a distraction with his
singing. Trying to figure out how to rewrite some sentences to make the paper flow better. Trying to
keep the Red Barron descriptions together to make paragraphs flow better. Keep typing trying not to
think too much because I think that just makes the revision process harder. Son keeps getting louder in
the shower singing. Continue to type away
10-15: Metallica now in the background, I am still working away on my revisions and son still singing or
mumbling something in the background. Reading the notes from my peers, I think the peer review did
help me out a lot and did make the revision process a bit easier. Some silence just the sound of me
typing and making little comments to myself. Continue typing
15-20: music continues to play, I love this song!! Ok back to work. I am still typing making revisions. I
think during this interval I was having a hard time trying to switch some paragraphs to make the paper
flow easier. I think I was a bit distracted at some points from the watching workaholics. Some more
silence. Once I start getting into the zone I really dont say much, I just work. Just music in the
background. The last two minutes I think I stepped away from my computer to attend to my son.
20-25: Music still playing, helps me relax. A lot of silence except for my son in the background, received
phone call. Continue to work. Making comments to myself, looking at more peer comments. For some
reason after the phone call the audio of my recordings seem to have gone down a bit.
25-30: More silence as I continue to work, audio seems really low. Being distracted by my son.
END SESSION