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Journal Prompt 3

September 13, 2011

Native American Essay:

When I wrote this essay I was in the 6th grade. I really did not have a writing style at this point, I did not even use proper grammar. However, the reason this essay is so memorable, and dreadful is not because of the actual essay, its because I was caught plagiarizing. It sounds like I was a bad kid, I was not, I just had no idea what plagiarizing was.

Ever since I started grade school and the internet became a possible source the teachers would say we were not allowed to copy and paste, cause that is plagiarizing. The way to keep yourself from plagiarizing is by rearranging the words, and rewriting the sentence using your own words. Over the years, the idea of rewriting the sentence in my own words somehow changed in my mind to just change a couple words in the sentence and its not plagiarizing.

I started writing my paper at 9 o’clock at night at my friends house. We were both sitting on the floor in his living room, he had his mom typing his report, while I used my Mother’s old laptop. As I began my paper on Native Americans I was using multiple sites that I, of course, cited in my bibliography. I eventually stumbled upon a great website with all of the information the teacher could possibly want and I started reading. I would sit there, reading a sentence or two, turning away from the site and writing those sentences in my own words, all the way down the page. After I was done reading all the information the site had to offer, I was on my concluding paragraph. I finished the paper, cited the website, and closed the laptop, never reading the site again.

I turn in my paper, expecting a great grade because I had all the information the teacher possibly wanted. A couple weeks later everyone gets their papers back except for me, all I got was a note saying see me after school. I went in after school and talked to the teacher and I was told that I had plagiarized, I was shocked! She pulled up the great website I used and started highlighting paragraphs from my paper that were the exact same, however I told her “look, there are one or two words in every sentence that are different,” but apparently it did not matter. I received a 0% on that essay, and after that, I learned what plagiarizing really is, and I will never do it again.


Lowering the Driving Age Essay:

In middle school I wrote an essay on lowering the driving age to 16. As I recall, I sat up the night before the essay was due in a frenzy trying to write the essay, and steal as many ideas from my brother as possible. The reason I was able to steal ideas from my brother was because the essay was mandatory school-wide, and everyone had the same choice of topics. Me and my brother just so happened to pick the same one. My brother, Justin, is 3 years older than me, and at that point, a much better writer. I was sitting at the kitchen table listening to Justin’s conversation with my mother, trying to write down what they were talking about and take all of his ideas for my own essay. Unfortunately, I could not translate all of his ideas into words to put in my essay, so I just stuck to what I wrote on the outline I produced during class. My brothers essay was worth a lot more than mine, so I was not too worried about anything. I finished writing my essay around midnight, which was very late back in the middle school days, and went to sleep.

My essay was not great, and I definitely did not put enough time or effort into it, however, the essay was only worth 20% of the assignment, the other 80% was a speech. We were given a week to transform our essays into 5 minute speeches, and like always, I waited till the last minute to start writing my speech. I wrote as much as I could think of down on notecards, and gave up. The next day, in class, I was chosen to give my speech first, just my luck. I walked up to the front of the room, knees buckling out from underneath me and gave a speech on lowering the driving age to 16 that had nothing to do with the notecards I had written. I do not think I even looked down at my notecards once, which definitely helped with the “eye contact” portion of my grade. I just stood there and recited all the arguments and concepts my Mother had spoken to my brother about. The speech turned out great, and at the end of the class period I was chosen to move on to the finals. The speech finals were held in a small classroom, and there were only 10 other people in my grade chosen to be there. Unfortunately, I was yet again chosen to be first, but this time I went up without notecards, hoping to gain points from the judges for memorizing my speech. I was so nervous, but I still managed to give the same speech I had given in the classroom to the judges, using everything my brother had said in his essay/speech. I ended up getting 3rd place in the competition, which is not bad, and I got an “A” on the assignment.


College Essay:

I brainstormed many ideas of things that could define who I am, where I have come from, and who I want to be. Maybe a photo album of old pictures, family videos, or possibly reading old essays. Unfortunately, my mother informed me that I really do not have any old pictures or videos because I hated being in front of a camera. However, we both decided to take a trip to the garage just to see if we could possibly find some old pictures and videos.

While standing in our hot florida garage it is not hard to tell that my mother is a hoarder, she has literally thrown nothing away, ever. As I looked around and saw all of my old toys and hobbies it occurred to me that the story of my life is literally sitting in front of me, my garage, as a whole, tells my story. I quickly ran upstairs to grab my laptop and came back down and told my mother that I no longer needed her help.

I brushed the dust off an old couch and sat down. I opened up my laptop and looked up, taking in everything. The garage was still and quiet, the hot humid air causing my forehead to sweat and I looked at the progression of my life. It all started with the Pokemon cards, strewn across the floor, to the dust covered remote control cars with no battery or remote control remaining. I got up and moved around to the other side of the garage and sat down on the floor, noticing a bunch of random nails from the various ramps I used to build. I was never a great skater, but I could build a mean ramp. I tried to get up but I slipped on a tiny puddle of oil from the 1987 Mazda Rx7 I bought for $1200 to fix up. I opened up the door, smelling the nasty scent that 24 years of sweat and driving can give a car. I sat down in the seat with the laptop on my lap reminiscing about all the fun times I had in this car. The car was the last hobby I had, in fact, I sold that old car 10 days before I left for summer b at UCF. I went back inside and emailed the essay to my college advisor. She was a friend of my mother’s. Her name was Nancy, a cold, serious, up tight, and cocky Harvard Graduate. We did not get along very well, and she did close to nothing to help me get into college. Nevertheless, I submitted this essay to a bunch of Universities, and was accepted to every single one. The essay told the story of my past and present, and helped me get accepted to UCF, which is my future.


I wrote the narrative of my Native American essay outside in the Lake Claire courtyard during the afternoon. It was a bit noisy and distracting, not to mention I felt as though the whole world was watching me write this narrative. I feel like writing outside in public is maybe not the best option for me, but I guess I can see how some people could like it. I wrote my personal narrative on the essay on lowering the driving age at night in my dorm. This was a terrible time and place for writing. I had writer’s block, and absolutely no motivation to write anything at all. Writing my actual College essay while sitting in my garage really helped me remember details of my childhood, and helped me bring the reader on a tour of my garage and into my past. I wrote my personal narrative half in class with a pen, and half in the morning on the computer in my dorm. Writing half of the narrative in pen and jotting down notes made writing this narrative very easy. I think I will start writing in pen and taking notes, and then finishing writing on a computer from now on. From this Journal prompt I have learned that I cannot write very well in public places, or at night in my dorm. The best way for me to write is in pen on any piece of paper at any time in the day that I feel some inspiration. I can write a part of the essay, or just jot down some notes. Once I have to actually write the essay I need to get up after a good night of sleep and refer to my notes. I will start reading my notes and begin typing and before I know it I am typing at full speed and all of my ideas are being spilled onto the page in the correct order. This is the method that works best for me.



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One Comment
  1. nholic permalink

    I think you’ve got a lot of great personal information here, Ryan, that could really contribute to a great essay about how you found your voice. You’ve had missteps along the way (plagiarism, for example), but each helped you to discover what it meant to write in an authentic and honest voice that is natural to you…


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