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Nathan Wackett
English 101.18
Writing Matters
Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Tales From the Brick Box

Chapter 2. Roots: a Literacy History

Chapter 3. The Litera-sea

So What?

Nathan Wackett
English 101.18
“Dear Reader,

If you find this, know I’ve been sailing on the vast papery waves of the Litera-sea

on a sturdy hard cover vessel for nigh 10 years now. The paper cuts are unbearable at

times, lost me eyesight a bit from all the faint letters around me, but I’ve grown… but

I’ve grown nonetheless. Started learning the ways of the world with all these words. How

certain governments cram their young’ns into giant brick boxes they named ‘schools’ and

make ‘em learn all these things… sometimes it goes fairly well, more often than not

though it seems to back fire, and make ‘em hate being intelligent and such. Also learned

how this one fellow got his bearings on the world from some weird sounding li’l book

called ‘Green Eggs and Ham.’ Haven’t come across that one yet, maybe I will soon.

Quirky guy says he plays music and all this junk now because his Pop read that book to

‘im. (Kind of sweet if you ask me.) Then some other document I sailed up on, sounding

kind of like the same fellow really, talking about this very body of processed tree pulp

I’ve found meself stuck in, and how all this junk means a lot to him and his music. Queer

li’l fellow, always talking about music, I think. But the lucky bastard found a way out,

killed some whale he said. Wish I could do that and get out of here. But at least now

when I get out, if I get out, I’ll be a more enriched man. I hope.

Until then,

The Sailor”

Chapter 1:

Tales from the Brick Box

Nathan Wackett
English 101.18
Writing, words and literacy, in its more straightforward form, has always been a

great aspect of my life since the onset of my schooling, great more in size than quality. I

type, I text, I can read and chisel out some chicken scratch here and there, but actually

composing a paper hasn’t always had positive connotations for me. Even now I slip in

and out of flashbacks to… to… to…

“Hey, Ben, remember that paper you read of mine about that poem we had to read

in English last week?” I remember it was ‘Evening Hawk’ by Robert Penn Warren.

“Yeah, man. Why?” “You said you were on the verge of tears right?” “Yeah… that thing

was damned good.” “Got a 60 on it.” “What?!” “Yep… you know why? I wrote

something about golden stalks, and added the detail of it

being in one of the last few lines of the first stanza.

Turns out my memory failed me and it was in the first

line of the second stanza, and that all of a sudden

debunks my entire paper.”

Now, it’s a given that my friend Bens humble opinion may be irrelevant. He is

quite sappy, as a side note, ‘crying’ over my paper isn’t as high a sign as you may think.

But it was a good paper and did not deserve a 60 for a single misplaced minor

detail that had no relevance other than to act as filler to the rest of my paper…

especially in the beginning of the year, with my first dive into the great briny

litera-sea of the AP world. Whether or not said teacher was having a bad time, and took it

out on me, or it was somehow a horrible paper, this experience caused me to drop out of

the AP rat race in high school, and pretty much just stop caring about school in general. If

I put so much hard work into something I feel is a grand masterpiece, and have it thrown

back at me and my nose rubbed in it like it’s a form of double spaced, times new roman,

font size twelve excrement, I’m not going to feel very much like doing that again.
Nathan Wackett
English 101.18
That was probably the single most scarring event to happen to me academically.

Ever. And it has only been 2 years since the destruction of my drive. With growth and

maturity, I’ve learned that 1) I need to push past this event for my own good and 2) I

can’t not go to college and not have drive, if you get my drift. But what is it about high

school that seems to push everyone over the edge of hating writing? Or at least

stereotypically making all of ‘us’ hate it. Is it the sudden onset of hormones pushing us to

hate the structured style of MLA? Is it the sudden pressure of testing added on to

everything with all of us trying to impress our respective, prospective universities with

scores from the SAT, TAKS, ACT, WTF, IHATEWRITING. All

these testing pressures, and practices, and only one style to do it

in, burns us out. This is an obvious problem. Though, my story is

only one of the many casualties of the struggle between human

(namely, teen) and system. Here, I’ll present to you a rare story

of writing gone right.

“Today, class, we’re going to start working on a new project. I’ll be giving you

these blank hardcover books; they each have 24 pages in them. Now you can be your

own author and artist!” What happens when you place complete freedom in the hands of

a 4th grader? Power drunkenness ensues. I was God over these 24

pages. The blank cardboard and paper encased space became my

universe, to begin, create, and end time, all as I saw fit. It was my

own reality. Mine, all mine, no one could stop this. The monster was

unleashed. The world of Xion was created; the twisted tale of the Minaga family was

born. (An idea I still tinker with and fantasize about making into film form to this day.) I

had created my own fantastical bubble, and boy did I love to draw then as well. I had my

own graphic novel within a week, and top marks to boot. This kind of outlet made me
Nathan Wackett
English 101.18
love writing. How-to paper? Hated them, but after the blank book project, I didn’t care,

I’d write anything to hone my skills for the next installment, just waiting to get another

book project under my grasp. I’d do anything to continue my universe on in time. Maybe

this kind of fun, rewarding stimulus is needed in the system for secondary schools? Yes,

informational papers are fun, but given an open-ended project, even the majority of kids

who hate school can find something in such an open assignment to latch on to and find

enjoyment in.

Perhaps this kind of reward would boost literacy as well, promote kids to read and

write more other than just thumbing in “hey, wht u doin? M so bord!!1@!1” on their

cellular pollution maker. Even this assignment under my fingertips has given me an outlet

to vent my frustration toward a past event and praise the positive emotion I gained from

another event, all surrounding writing in school. I’d mark that as a success.

Chapter 2:

Roots: A Literacy History

Some people seem to think that

literacy is only how well you can, or can’t,


Especially since it is defined as “the quality

or state of being literate, esp. the ability to

read and write.” (dictionary.com). I don’t

exactly think this is correct. I’m not one for

Nathan Wackett
English 101.18
limiting things, and after listening through class and hearing all the acceptable uses and

kinds of things people find to be ‘literate’ in. I’ve come to find for myself that to be

literate is to be able to pick up on any form of expression. Any emotion someone may

give through any form of art, whether it is the want of someone learning something from

a How-To paper, to a blues man putting all his heart, soul, and body into a single

amplified note. Even the HTML codes computer programmers use to embed videos are

born from the need to share some hilarious video of a monkey picking a giraffes nose. All

these can be picked up due to a person’s literacy level.

Of course every journey starts with a single step. My earliest memory of my

training into interpreting given emotions starts off with the standard of early reading-- the

grand master of made-up words, Dr. Seuss. Sam I am really disliked green eggs and ham

(at least until the end), and I understood that very well, in tone and later in learning word

meanings, and even later getting into the psychology of why Sam really disliked green

eggs. He had a fear of things different and unknown to him, poor egg literacy if you will.

Seeing this kind of person and how they acted, if only fictionally, instilled the push in me

to understand things other than what’s normally acceptable and understood. My father

reading Green Eggs and Ham to me opened my eyes to a broader worldview and tuned in

my internal radio to pick up the wavelengths of the world around me.

Later in school, around the 5th grade, we were given projects, blank hard cover

books of about 20-30 pages, and given full creative license to compose our own story. I

fell in love with creating things, had always liked it, but realized how much power I could

have with it, if only by myself. As I aged and found my own interests, I discovered music

and music writing. After years of struggling with trying express myself (I’m a good

receiver, horrible transmitter I think). I eventually discovered the guitar; I started

tinkering with note groupings. Listening to lots and lots of music, of all genres, I started
Nathan Wackett
English 101.18
feeling the emotion each artist put into their songs, picking up on note groupings,

voicings, tones, absorbing anything I could use to emulate emotions on my own guitar.

Frustration; the crushing impact of a heavily distorted guitar ripping away any note in its

path. Depression; slowly strummed and picked minor chords suspended in the air keeping

my company when no others would. Joy; upbeat and peppy, happy sounding reggae beats

and shapes to take me to sunny islands. All this excitement, this pure energy running

through my hands, training myself to turn my emotion into

sound so that I could get my point across while keeping my

mouth shut; the quiet kid who liked to get loud, a live wire of

expression. My fate was sealed in the music industry.

Now in this stage of my life, I’m accustomed to

picking up on literal literacy; words, art, music, HTML. I

know generally how people mean things, the emotions they

push through anything and everything. It is understanding my

own self that becomes hard sometimes, picking up on what I mean, and how I want

people to take what I mean. Perfecting my own outward expression, to try and help

others’ literacy, maybe even through my own music to help some little angsty 8th grader

find his calling. My words could echo enough to change the world, based upon how

someone interprets them because of the way their upbringing taught them to understand

words. Literacy can change the world. Peace offerings could be turned into threats of war

due to humankind’s interpretations and general literacy level. Properly understanding the

world and its ways helps it go around; literacy is the grease for the gears of internal

interactions between humans, their emotions, and their knowledge.

Nathan Wackett
English 101.18

Chapter 3:

A Sea of Literacy

As I sit here, staring at a blinking blank document, with just my header and a

catchy title that I thought sounded pretty cool, listening to my music, thinking of this very

sentence I am typing right now in my head, letting every grammatical rule, and spelling

law, and the knowledge that there are

miles of code being read every time I

make a key stroke, or click “next” on my

media player, and the notes being sounded

that I know are being played in the music

all cut through the waves of my mind in

the sea of literacy that floods me every time I end up in this situation. I know it’s paper

time. Just this glimpse into the current moment is affirmation that literacy of some sort is

always around me, everyday.

Nathan Wackett
English 101.18
Waking up, reading the alarm clock. Reading. Numbers. Literacy in the morning.

Going to take a shower, reading the hot or cold knobs. Reading. Hot. Cold. Literacy in

the wash. Going to class, reading books, knowing what the jumble of semi-Greek

symbols and markings means and what those groupings mean within themselves. From

playing in band and ensembles and writing music to reading and playing notes and

having to know where these notes go and why they go there. For me these are the main

branches of my everyday literacy experience. But there are so many more aspects that

can come in to play. Interpreting art, conversations, numbers on meters, even personal

thought can play into a literary timeline of a day.

For most people my age, the phenomena of text messages seem to play a part, as

seen by the fact that our English professors

have had us incorporate it into our daily

literary timelines. But enough of generalities,

it’s time to get personal.

I am a somewhat studied musician, for

me, the bulk of my literacy expedition into life is playing, reading and studying music. It

is the sole reason why I am in college. Most of my days are spent in theory class,

breaking down pieces of music and how and why they work, like an architect studying

the principles of design; I study the structure and principles of music. (Others are spent in

performance classes, such as piano, marching or jazz band and my guitar lessons, where I

have to read and think of chords, rhythms and melodies and their placement on my

instrument, or even in the rare event that my band becomes active enough to play show, I

have to think of all that I’ve written and any extra

exciting bits we have thrown in to spice up our

performance.) Even when I am just relaxing in my

Nathan Wackett
English 101.18
room, writing music I have to think, “This won’t fit, or it’ll sound bad, or not sound how

I need or want it to.” Or to actively think of what actual effect I need to use on my guitar

and all the other billions of things that run through my head when I touch something

musical. For me this is my literacy and how I experience it everyday.

For the less bulk of my days there all the times I sit at my computer either

editing/recording music or social networking, or even in this case, writing a paper, this is

where I use a more literal take on literacy in

reading and writing real words that the

common person could pick up on, rather than

the warped take on music I tend to have. Even

watching T.V. listening to people, dialects,

inflections, even on the Spanish speaking channels I can pick up a fair percentage of what

the actors and newscasters are meaning. I tend to think of myself as a fairly intelligent

young man, I understand languages enough to know what words mean, and being in a

society and species that has language and communication, these things are always around

me. Otherwise we’d be grunting and throwing sticks and stones… although these in

themselves seem to be some kind of literacy, and even can be part of today’s human

literacy based on the person. All this literacy stuff seems to pretty much be human


There is one thing that I haven’t quite touched on, that I would like to, that I think

maybe a fair percentage of people may end up ignoring in hopes of trying to find some

super awesome meaning of literacy above the generally accepted (even I am guilty of that

by throwing music in front of me to guard myself from this fact) but, books still do exist,

and they are not the financial burden that college students like myself should fear. I know

a ton of people who still read these days, the lot of my friends mostly read themselves.
Nathan Wackett
English 101.18
But I find myself in the group of kids who in a way have shunned the written word. Only

having to read if tortured by the fear of a failing mark in a class. I had read at one point in

my life where it was enjoyable and I could learn what I wanted, and escape to some

fantastical land. But with the advent of Nintendo

and the television, a lot of my generation missed

out on this vocabulary expanding, energy

efficient form of entertainment. I fear a lot of

people don’t partake in this activity any more,

even I am guilty, I occasionally read, trying to chisel through the Harry Potter series, but

I sadly find myself without the time mostly, even though I’m gaining my Reading

Rainbow inspired love for reading again. Perhaps some Public Service Announcements

are in order?

After all this divulging and insight into my daily partaking of litera-seafaring, the

once white whale of my paper is now covered in the inky markings of completion and I

can get back once again to playing my guitar. The waves of my mind calming as the beast

sinks to the briny deep of the sea of words covering it, the cascading calm comes through

and the ship is back to tranquil turf…or surf in this case. Maybe one day Nahab will

conquer extra curricular book reading too, and have this activity join the school of other

litera-sea fishes he has swimming in the vast expanses of his mind. The tide of the litera-

sea has ebbed away to come back again for another paper, another day. Until then, I’ll be

only waist deep in literary goodness, just (t)reading water with common spoken words,

the occasional bulletin or sign and my music.

Nathan Wackett
English 101.18

If you didn’t get anything out of any of that, it doesn’t matter to me; I’m still

getting the grade. All it matters to you is you may have wasted some of your time, and if

so, I’m sorry. But what I’d like for you to get out of all this is that this is my story, what

literacy is for me, and what I’ve decided to make it for myself. What is it for you? It

could be whatever you’re versed at, or interested in, or what speaks to you. For our friend

the sailor, it was literacy itself, this imaginary sea made of letters and others’ stories,

pages upon pages for him to push along, the current of continuously written and

published works guiding him along to even further scholarly unknowns, and more paper


I don’t think literacy is something so simple to just compartmentalize it into

reading and writing words. Yes, it’s the most common form, but this is a complex and

beautiful creature we’re dealing with, it’s going to look different every time we encounter

it. Just as every person has their own story, they have their own literacy, and literacy

levels. Maybe this will help the world move along to a better worldview as well, since

that seems to be such a great concern as of late. A little open mindedness wouldn’t hurt

anyone at all, it’s not like they can’t stretch.

With regards,