A Lesson On Writing: Who Do You Think You Are

Who do you think you are? What, in this world, best describes you?

Most essays have a certain fear attached to them since they call upon you to do something unspeakable: Research. In the beginning, writing is self exploratory (i.e. personal narratives). Writers in Beginning English 101 classes are called to express themselves in an intimate way. This is a serious exercise in which some make fun of themselves, some deeply self disclose, and some do it at the last-minute. Whatever writing style you choose, I ask, what inanimate/physical object, material objects you see or use every day, best describes you. From previous experiences with this assignment, I broadened the question to incorporate physical objects, since students were writing about the sun and the stars (which are not inanimate objects). Objects have functionality—they can be seen and/or touched. Objects carry out and are designed for a specific purpose. Though fire sounds like a good pick for your essay, it is not an inanimate/physical object; yet, a physical process or phenomena (i.e., like freezing which is energy and not matter). Think of your five senses (tasting, touching, smelling, hearing, and seeing) when picking your physical object (which can be solid, liquid, gas, and/or plasma). It is quite a fun exercise when you start distinguishing the differences between all types and forms of matter in the world (a Pandora buffet). It may be safer to look up inanimate objects! This is a great exercise since it is relevant to how you perceive yourself.

From this assignment, you learn more about yourself. According to the Johari Window (a communication studies model) there are four selves which are the building blocks of self: Open, Blind, Hidden, and Unknown). Our Open Self consists of information others know about us like our name or where we live or our age. Our Blind Self is information about ourselves in which we are blind to. We may not know we have a drinking problem though everyone around us can see it. Our Hidden Self is our masks, our secrets, and lies (hidden information we withhold intentionally). And finally, our Unknown Self is information we are unaware of (i.e., unlocked potential that hasn’t surfaced yet). Our “selves” are evolutionary—human experiences good or bad change us. We are constantly learning new things about ourselves. And writing is a tool to get us there!

Now, I wanted the students to tap into a creative or eccentric role on how they see themselves; and, the reasons why they compare themselves to the objects they chose. There is a reason why one sees themselves as “A message on the wing of a bird,” “A drug addicting to others,” “A rusty key in search of the right lock.” But, what are you? Are you a quarter with two sides, a pencil with no eraser, a smoldering coal ready to cook things up, or a wad of pink, sticky chewing gum? Whatever you are, you play a significant role and were designed for a significant purpose. John Donne, famous 16th century poet, once wrote, “No man (or woman) is an island […] any man’s death diminishes me.” Today, it’s your turn to explore and write about an inanimate/physical object in which best describes who you think you are.

Below is an example essay:

“A Window with Panes”

I am a six pane glass window of a house that faces a road of many travelers. My wooden slats protect me since I am very fragile. They are the strongest part of me. My wooden framework keeps intruders from coming inside my home. They discover, to their dismay, they must be light as air and modest in matter to enter. The glass is the main and beautiful part of me. The panes allow the light to penetrate through me and out of me. I draw shadows and reflections from the travelers who walk by. I can hold a travelers image in my glass pane. When the light of my house shines out, I become a beacon to a weary traveler. I flash many images and dashing silhouettes. I am easily seen on the inside when the entire world outside is dark. I embrace the warmth of the sun, and console the clouds above by catching their tears on my panes. When it snows, I become frosty all over, inviting the hands of artistry to draw and to create new life. The children love to draw and write on me. They inspire me and make me feel important. Without my panes I would have no soul to hold. Without my panes I would be a hollowed-out, abandoned, unsecured home. You can see right through me. You can see right into me. I am black as night and clear as day. But, if you put a hand to me it will not go through—you will touch me. I am a window with panes.


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