It is a simple question that contains a universe of complexity: how did you get here?
Professor of English Lisa Lebduska recounts tackling that question in her essay “Finding the Metaphor,” which was published in the journal College Composition and Communication.
She wrote the essay in response to a call by the journal for writings that reflected on the ways in which location influences writing and the teaching of writing. More than 250 articles were submitted for the issue.
The professor who also oversees the college’s writing program starts her essay by describing her struggle as an undergraduate to complete an essay addressing the open-ended prompt, “How did you get here.” The question invited such a wide range of interpretations that she struggled to find a focus.
Location, location, location: in real estate, a reassuring truism. In writing, though, destinations change. Sometimes the one who loses her way is the one who can’t decide where she’s going. But sometimes the one who gets lost is the one who refuses to let go of the plan.
In her own teaching, Lebduska says that she sometimes presents her own students with similarly open-ended assignments, but not for a grade.
“I love the open-ended assignment that remains ungraded,” she said. “I try to provide both opportunities for the writers in my classes because everyone needs both the responsibility and freedom of choosing what they will write about and how they will write about that subject. Writers breathe all kinds of air.”
You can hear Professor Lebduska read her essay in the most recent episode of the podcast Plugs, Play, Pedagogy, which follows the journal’s lead in exploring the theme of location and place in writing and teaching about writing.
After Lebduska reads her essay, the podcast’s host Kyle Stedman observes, “there’s something powerful about the brevity of these vignettes.”