A couple weeks ago, I started feeling a little lost about my project. I was struggling to find ownership– to feel like I could write about it in my voice and actually sound like myself. It was turning into more of a straightforward research project than I had planned, and I realized it was because of the way I was structuring it. I needed to frame it in a way that connected to me– to my life, my experiences and my personal feelings. My topic is something I’m really passionate about, and so to completely leave out a reflective element felt unnatural and forced. So I reorganized and rewrote the introduction, recalling my memories of 9/11 and the fear and anxiety my parents felt but hid from me as a child.
Writing about the past is something I remember struggling with freshman year in English 125. All we had to do was talk about a place that was special to us. I decided to write about the cottage in Canada that I visit with my family every summer. I learned to not be afraid of seaweed there, how to make a blueberry pie, how to start a fire safely in the woods and how to connect with the outdoors. It was a very personal subject. But as I wrote I had a feeling similar to the one I had a couple weeks ago during my Capstone process. I wanted to feel connected to the topic as I wrote, to show my voice and paint a picture for the reader the same exact way I saw it in my eyes. However, it felt stiff at first. When I wrote about the history of the cottage and what the cottage looks like, I felt like I was using the same words that someone who had only visited the cottage once would use. They didn’t feel like mine and I knew I needed to change that.
The change that helped me was not worrying about giving the reader enough detail during my first draft. It was easier to write from the heart and paint the picture of the cottage experience, and then go back and insert extra information that someone unfamiliar with the place would need to fully understand. That’s what I did for my Capstone introduction as well– I wrote without worrying. I finally felt like I was using my words and not someone else’s. Below is an example of the way I described the cottage without giving unnecessary background information (the reason for the unique appearance of the cottage, rather than my direct experience with it):
As we dock the boat, the cottage looks down at us from the rocky hill. The peeling paint flakes off of the wooden slats, the roof droops in the middle, and the stairs barely touch the ground on one side.