Sincerely, Me: Constructing a Writer’s Letter

Your instructor may ask you to include a writer's letter (also called a writer's memo, writer's note, or cover letter) with your writing assignment. A writer's letter reflects on your process of completing the assignment and the assignment itself. Reflection is a form of response to experiences, situations, events, or writing—a "processing," or metacognitive, phase where thinking, learning, and critical application take place. Consider the following things when crafting a reflective writer's letter:

  • Audience: The Primary audience is the Reader (typically the Instructor but could be written to a peer when accompanying a peer review draft). The Secondary audience is You.
  • Specificity: Specificity shows growth, critical thought, and the ability to self-evaluate
  • Forethought: Don’t just wing it (late at night after hours of writing). Try to put time between writing the essay and reflecting upon it.

What to Write About?

Your instructor may provide prompts, but if not or if you want to include additional information, here are some suggestions:

  • Your writing process
  • Instructor or peer feedback, what you included or not, and why
  • Your revisions and why you made them, what effect they had on the writing
  • Challenges, successes, and ambiguities in the writing
  • Your favorite parts and how they came about
  • What you learned about writing, your process, and yourself
  • Suggestions for your instructor, critical thought about the assignment and how it worked or didn't’t for you and how it might improve

What Not to Write About

  • Non-critically constructive complaints (no whining)
  • Excuses in regard to lack of work, effort, or a bad essay and why it happened
  • Last second sucking up to the instructor
  • Confusion about the prompt. (You will have had time to consult your instructor and such information comes too late now.)

Questions for Getting Started (Do not re-read or revisit your essay first)

  • What do I remember from my process?
  • What stuck with me about this essay or the research?
  • What were the memorable successes and obstacles?
  • What will I take away from this in the future?
  • How can I apply the skills I learned from this in future courses?
  • Did my process change?
  • Did my outlook on writing or the topic change?
  • How will I feel going into future writing projects?
  • Do I understand the importance of this genre? Of this assignment in particular?
  • Could I explain to a peer what I wrote, why I wrote it, the importance of the topic, the argument, and the need to write it?
  • If No to everything, why did I choose this topic?

Questions for Getting Started (After re-reading or revisiting your essay first)

  • What does this point mean?
  • Why did I write that?
  • Was that necessary?
  • Where’s the proof?
  • What did I hope the reader gained from this?
  • What was my intention for writing
  • Could this have been written better?
  • Where is this subject coming from?
  • Why did I choose this organizational structure?
  • Why did I choose this argument? Point of view?
  • Why did I choose this tone?
  • (If revised) What changes did I make?
  • (If revised) Why? Is it better now?
  • If revised) Can it still be better?
  • If I had the time to change it, what would I say?
  • Am I pleased with this result?
  • Is there additional commentary I’d like to add but can’t?
  • Were there limitations to this topic or argument?
  • What were the obstacles?
  • What were the successes?

Example

This reflection explores how the writer's analytical and writing skills have developed as an English major, and it looks forward to how the writer may use these skills in the future.

As an English major I have learned to appreciate the peaceful, yet exhilarating moment when my mind engages with an author's thoughts on a page. As Toni Morrison says in The Dancing Mind , "[reading is] to experience one's own mind dancing with another's." In my early days as a college student, I wanted to know the "true" meaning of a work or what the author intended, however, I have now realized this would void literature of its most noteworthy complexities. Individual interpretations bring varied insights to a work and it is also interesting to point out messages the author may not have realized s/he included in the piece.

I have always been a thinker, but throughout my coursework, I have greatly sharpened my critical analysis skills. Instead of focusing on proposed meanings or biographical background, I have learned to continuously ask "why" on many different levels. I challenge myself to dig into a text as deeply as possible and unpack every detail to develop a satisfying close read. Also, by reading multiple novels by the same author I have learned to identify different writing styles and make connections that weave texts together; this helped me develop a deeper understanding of the novels. When I look at one of my freshman level novels and see clean pages, I realize that I did not actively read the book. I guess you could say that I have learned to read with a pen, which has drastically taken my writing to a new level because I am able to connect back with my initial insights marked on the page.

Writing had always been one of my strengths, but it was challenging to take that initial step past the high school, five-paragraph essay form that constricted my ideas for so long. Moving past this form, however, has greatly opened my mind. My thoughts are now able to be more complex because I have learned how to sustain a logical argument in an organized manner. My writing has become increasingly more concise and I no longer have room for added "fluff" or "padding." Another improvement is my ability to point out multiple complexities within a text, instead of sticking to one-sided arguments in my papers. Furthermore, learning how to find peer reviewed journal articles and order books through interlibrary loan has significantly widened the scope of my research, which has lead to more scholarly papers with credible references. My writing is so much more interesting than it used to be.

It is difficult to identify gaps in my knowledge as an English major, only because I feel like I have learned so much. I feel that I have largely expanded my literary analysis and writing skills, but I need to be prepared to teach high school students their required literature. I think it would be useful to identify commonly taught novels in our local high schools and study them myself. By studying the required literature and thinking about how to teach it, I will have a sturdy foundation to work from once I am in the classroom.