Obtaining Authority In Writing
I am a writer. I write to be free from everyday life, to grow in knowledge, and to share my experiences and dreams with others. I consider myself a writer because I am able to tell stories and communicate with the use of words. In recent days, I have discovered how to write with confidence. With this confidence, I plan to obtain authority.
Before I became confident in my writing, you would find me hunched over a keyboard, believing that everything I wrote was meaningless and meant for my eyes only. I wrote for myself, only dreaming that I could one day communicate my thoughts well enough for others to understand and appreciate. I loved my writing, but at the same time, loathed it with a passion.
It was a dark and frosty morning when I was first introduced to my confidence. A college writing class was the device, and little did I know that the effects of listening and reading would change my views and theories about writing forever.
Read these chapters, my professor had said, and I did. It wasn’t long after when I reevaluated my ideas and theories about writing. From there I have grown in understanding and have made knowledge. Writing has never been the same.
While reading the chapters my professor asked me to study, I came across some interesting and exciting information. “Writing is a process, all writers have more to learn, and writing is not perfectible.” (Wardle, Downs, 15) This was eye-opening information. I was moved. Writing is not perfectible? All writers have more to learn? I was relieved. I wasn’t a bad writer. I was a writer. Published authors were not perfect writers. They were and are still learning to write, just like me. “There is no such thing as perfect writing; writing is not in the category of things that are perfectible. Rather, it can grow, change, be different, and work for better or for worse for the purposes you are trying to use it.” (Wardle, Downs, 16)
My professor’s lectures and the chapters he told me to read were about threshold concepts. Both he and the chapters explained that threshold concepts are facts about specific subjects that are so important that learning individuals can’t move forward without understanding them. I had just been introduced to a threshold writing concept, and that concept is what enabled me to move forward. Without it, I would never be able to write with the confidence I have now.
Writing and Learning
All over the world, writing is required in almost every profession and in every community. Certain tasks require writing and each task needs a writer to complete them. In my mind, the act of gaining authority has often appeared to me as the building of a metaphorical house. For instance; beginning writers start out as a shack, but over time, that shack gets remodeled and grows taller and grander. Every time a writer learns something and gains authority over a writing situation, their writing house gets larger and larger until it becomes a mansion.
Gaining authority is best understood in relational terms, “as the effect of a posited, perceived, or institutionally ascribe asymmetry, between speaker and audience that permits certain speakers to command not just attention, but the confidence, respect, and trust of their audience, or…to make audiences act as if this were so.” (Lincoln 4) In other words, gaining authority in writing is like giving the intended audience a reason to trust and respect you in your writing skills. When you write according to an audience’s expectations and you do it well, you gain authority over that writing situation.
Throughout my studies of writing, I have come to see that writing is not just something people do to write down ideas, but that it is a way to learn and make knowledge. “You do different things when you think writing is just putting down ideas you already had, versus when you think writing is building knowledge that didn’t yet exist when you began writing” (Wardle and Downs 452) Every time I write, I learn something. I continue to build on my shack. Little by little, it is becoming a mansion.
Writing to me iscommunicating with an audience with the use of transcribed words, and in every situation, writing is used to get something done.
In discourse communities such as my workplace, fitness/self-defense activities, and music groups, I can use my writing skills to gain a certain level of authority in them. I describe my activities and groups as discourse communities because a discourse community is a community “with a broadly agreed set of common public goals, has intercommunication among its members, uses participatory mechanisms to primarily provide information and feedback, in addition to owning genres it has acquired some specific lexis, and there is a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal experience.” (Swales, 1990, pp.24-27, Johns) All of the communities I am involved in are considered discourse communities according to Swales.
I believe that I can use my knowledge and practical skills to gain authority in my discourse communities in several ways. One way would be to examine the situation and ask myself questions like; is this assignment formal? Would APA formatting be appropriate? What genre would best fit this situation? Is a narrative or an academic voice required? What are the audience’s expectations for this genre? When is the deadline?
Questions like these can help me evaluate the situation and hopefully, gain authority after completing the assignment. Here is one example of what a writing situation might look like in my workplace: Let’s say my employer gave me the task of typing up some signs for the company. He told me that these signs were to be instructional, telling other employees what to do. After hearing his instructions, I have options. I could do a slapdash job just to get the signs done, or, with my writing knowledge, I have the opportunity to gain authority over the situation. One way to gain authority could be to ask myself these types of questions; Is this assignment formal? Would APA formatting be appropriate?
I would most likely conclude that the task my employer has asked of me has a sense of formality, but I would not gain authority over it if I used APA formatting. That means, I would have to address the question, what genre would best fit this situation? After examining a situation like this, you can see how I might come to an appropriate conclusion about this assignment. In the end, I would most likely gain authority over the writing situation. Selecting an appropriate genre and determining an audience’s expectations for the particular writing situation will help tremendously in obtaining authority.
In closing, the steps I plan to take in obtaining authority are: examine the writing situation, ask questions, and come to a sure conclusion. I feel confident that with all the things I have learned and all the things I have yet to learn, I will be able to obtain authority in writing virtually stress free. Alas, other writers like me can do the same thing. I encourage you to study writing so that you can continue your path to obtaining authority. I have confidence that with patience, diligence, and perseverance, you too can obtain authority in your writing.
Wardle, Elizabeth. Downs, Doug. Writing About Writing. Third edition, 2017 Print.
Lincoln, Bruce. Authority: Construction and Corrosion. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1994 Print.
Swales, J. M. (1990)- Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. World Englishes. 7, 211-220
Johns, Ann. M. (1997). Discourse communites and communites of practice: Membership, conflict, and Diversity.” Text, Role, and Context: Developing Academic Literacies. Cambridge, UP, pp. 51-70