Final Capstone Project <3

Wow, the moment has come. Here I am, submitting my final capstone project. It’s been a long journey, but I am pleased with the result.

This project began as a small idea to document my violin journey through different stages of my musical development. Eventually it morphed into an interactive website called The Independent Musician which features stories from my experiences. Why independent? Well, in college, I wrestled to maintain confidence in my violin playing. I thought there was something seriously wrong with me because I had never struggled like this. It got so terrible that I could barely play a 3-minute piece from memory in front of one person (as opposed to performing a 23-minute sonata for 50 people).

More importantly, I felt like I had lost my musical independence. I was insecure in my unique abilities while surrounded by creative beings.

Over time, and through a lot of soul-searching, I got most of my confidence back. I’m not going to say all of my problems are fixed, but I am feeling truly confident for the first time in a while, and I give a lot of the credit to this project.

My intent is for this site to be a resource for fellow music students (of all ages, but primarily collegiate-level) to read each other’s stories, to discuss issues in the music field, and to be inspired as fearlessly independent musicians.

Many many thanks to my writing teachers and my capstone friends for their feedback and support.

~Rebekah Ruetz

 

Here is my final project. 🙂

I don’t have a title for this post, or my website…yet!

As I’ve been working on my website this week, I’ve been struggling with the challenge of finding a catchy title.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my project, my website’s purpose is share my stories about the highs and lows of pursuing music at college, and also to generate honest conversations with others about their experiences.

Originally I was thinking about something along the lines of “The Independent Artist”, since I want to focus on what it looks like to maintain confidence while being closely watched and shaped by teachers. However, now I’m looking for something more wholistic, if that makes sense.

After speaking with my mentor, my capstone teacher, and my entire capstone class, the general consensus was that “musician” needed to be in the title to avoid confusion. Otherwise, “artist” is just too broad and might suggest that I am a painter. Additionally, since my stories are specific to the musician life, it just makes sense to narrow in on that audience. So, I guess I’m heading in the direction of “The ______ musician”.

To be honest, I’m a bit frustrated with myself, because I didn’t have an issue finding a title for my 220 project last year, which was called Refuel My Day (see here). I  started calling it “ReFuel”, and then changed it because I wanted it to be a place for people to visit daily. The title came pretty naturally because it literally described what the site was meant to do. I am encouraged for my current project though, since I spoke with my capstone teacher today about mind-mapping (apparently this is a Joan Didion exercise). I haven’t done this since high school, but I’m going to give it a go again tonight and see what happens. Hopefully I’ll have a new and improved site title by our last class on Tuesday! Wish me luck!

Challenge Journal #3: The (sometimes maddening) research process

I know this sounds incredibly nerdy, but I’m actually looking forward to the research portion of my capstone project. The thing is, I’m not sure how I’ll include my findings (especially the genre-specific ones) into my story naturally since my project will be written in a creative non-fiction form. However, I hope the approach to incorporate this information will make itself clear as time progresses, and as I start to begin reading the books on my research list, but I still find myself worrying about it now. Trusting the process is difficult, isn’t it?

I suppose my fears about this originate from my memories writing middle and high school research papers…gosh, it was like pulling teeth—so painful! I didn’t necessarily mind the researching (when I enjoyed the topic), but there was something so mundane about inserting evidence here and there and recording the sources on the bibliography pages. There was one instance where I was writing about Stradivarius, and as much as I loved reading about violin history, I became bored so quickly. There were so many opinions from different authors and experts about why his violins sound amazing (some think it’s because of the varnish, fyi), and trying to sort through them to uncover the truth was grueling. I am happy to say that I don’t think it’ll be this way for the annotated bibliographies we will create for our projects, because our kind and encouraging teachers designed it to be more open-ended on purpose. 🙂

I have to say, I am so excited to see how all of our projects end up! This is such a fabulous opportunity to express ourselves in whatever writing format we choose with whatever we are passionate about—what a gift this is!

So, here’s a toast to the research process! May it never become mind-numbing 😉

^me researching for middle and high school papers…

 

Challenge Journal #2: Does this make sense?

Okay, so I have a question for you all: do you ever write a scene from your past, and then wonder if it makes any sense to the reader (i.e. if they get the full picture)? I was running into this problem even as I wrote my project proposals and explained the stories that inspired my potential topics. In terms of my past works, I’m thinking about a portrait I wrote for English 325 last year about a unique town my family visits every summer up in the thumb of Wisconsin, and in particular, an outing where we went on a prayer walk and explored a replica of an ancient Scandinavian church. I wasn’t sure if the action and dialog were making sense, along with the sprinkling of scenery description I wrote in. It was especially difficult for me to describe this place because there was something in the atmosphere that caused one to stop and reflect. In general, it’s amazing how easy it is to assume the reader knows all of the details of the scenario, when actually I need to communicate much more than I originally anticipated.

A plaque placed along the prayer pathway.
The Stavkirke

Another question I dwell on is how do you, my fellow writers, know when you’re over-explaining? I’m currently taking English 425, and the other day we were discussing how sometimes the best writers decide to leave out commentary or explanation and let the reader “fill-in” the blanks. I think it’s absolutely brilliant, but I’m a little stumped on how to implement this in my own writing.

 

The way I’ve tried to overcome this obstacle has been by writing, and then coming back to the piece several times again day after day and seeing if things still make sense and then tweaking them. However, I’d love to hear from my MiW cohorts about strategies they utilize regarding this writing concern.

Challenge Journal: My writing rituals

Writing doesn’t come naturally for me until I have settled on a topic/argument. What do I do when I’m not yet inspired? I run. I run as fast as I can and picture the problems and worries of the day filtering out of my brain.

I suppose what running allows me to do is analyze and accept things that are clouding my creativity, and let them go. Sometimes these conflicts and problems fuel my imagination and become part of my argument (or story, depending on the genre) in my writing. Some might say that my problems shouldn’t mix themselves into my writing, but I disagree; why not write about the things that are at the forefront of my mind? The trials and tribulations that keep me up at night and make me wonder “why, why, why?” can drive me to create my very best (not to mention meaningful) work.

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I often find myself writing at night between the hours of 7pm and 1am (yes, I happen to be a night person). There is something comforting knowing that everyone around me is in a state of rest at that hour, so I can calm my mind and allow my brain to wonder and wander. I love looking outside at the street lamps and the moon, or at the peach-scented candle I sometimes light beside me. I love to wrap myself in heavy blankets on my bed and let my fingers work speedily on the keyboard. These warm and cozy feelings both inside and out (referred to as “hygge” by Scandanivians) allow me to concentrate and prepare my ideas to flow.

An attempt at giving advice…

Hello friends and future Minors in Writing!

I can’t believe the semester is coming to a close and the gateway course will soon be over. Honestly this has been one of my top three favorite courses I have taken here, and I will forever cherish the skills I have acquired and the friends I have made. (I know this sounds sappy, but you’ll see what I mean after a semester in the gateway…)

I feel odd giving advice since I am still a student, and I feel like the more I learn, the more I realize that there is STILL SO MUCH to learn, however, here are a few thoughts to help guide you so that you can have the best experience possible.

  1. Don’t forget about that e-Portfolio! A few of my cohorts may have mentioned this already, but I will repeat it anyway because it is so important! Figure out early on whether you feel most comfortable with either Weebly, WordPress, or Wix. (I learned this the hard way and had to switch over to a different site at the last minute…) Once you find your happy place, keep personalizing it in your spare time. This is actually super fun once you find a site that works best for you and allows you to be creative.
  2. Get started on projects as early as possible, or at least begin brainstorming and planning. This applies to pretty much every course project ever in the history of college assignments, but again, it is so important, so here I am stating it again.
  3. Volunteer for workshop! Be bold and share your work! Don’t be afraid to receive feedback–your cohorts are super friendly and are there to support you.
  4. Take this opportunity to experiment with your writing, and even tackle projects that you have been considering for a while. This is what I did, and I am excited to continue my Project 3 into the future. (check out the link to it on my ePortfolio!!)
  5. Have fun journaling. I have to admit that I never enjoyed journaling until I took this class and our fabulous teacher T. Hetzel 🙂 encouraged us to write for 5 minutes here and there–even while riding the bus! She provided some of the most thought-provoking topics imaginable for us to ponder–I will never forget the Tea Cup Pigs!
  6. Listen up during journal readings! I can’t express how much I learned just from listening to my cohorts read their journals out loud. It seriously was so extraordinary and inspirational, which also brings me to my next point…
  7. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the brilliant and creative minds surrounding you. You, too, have something important to say. Believe me, because it’s true.

Love,

Bekah

 

I wanted to buy this bear, but then I saw the price tag…

~DMC Tour Reflection~

It’s truly amazing what is available for our use at the Duderstadt Media Center. I was first introduced to the recording studio and video room last year while creating projects with some friends, and was totally impressed by what I saw. I agree with Adele that the top-of-the-line equipment is quite overwhelming, especially for someone like me (since I feel accomplished after putting together a 30-second video in iMovie). However, I know from experience that the center does provide friendly and helpful assistants who will guide you through the recording and taping process, and make it everything you want it to be.

I was thankful that we were able to have the “full tour” and be introduced to the personal studios, particularly the one that reminded me of a newscasting set with the bright lights. I could definitely see myself using that space in the future for formal interviews or fancy presentations (perhaps for a Capstone project). Of course, this can only happen after I become more comfortable with technology and refine my pitiful iMovie skills. 😉

Many thanks again to T. for arranging the tour! 🙂

Dreams and Nightmares

When I was thirteen, I loved the Jonas Brothers. In particular, I loved Nick since he and I shared the same curse of having Type 1 Diabetes.

I remember dreaming that he and his brothers were visiting my family, and on their way out of the house, I stepped out of my comfort zone and boldly asked Nick if we could keep in touch and email each other, since I was terrified of telephones.

“Yeah, maybe”, his nonchalant voice threw back at me.

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Growing up, I was regularly visited by distinctive dreams. I don’t remember all of them, though I do recall several ending with me jumping off of a downtown high-rise. However, there is one dream, or nightmare rather, that I will never forget.

It was around twilight in my small suburban neighborhood in Wisconsin, and T-Rexes were invading our town and causing mass destruction. I looked outside through our family room window and saw dozens of towering dinosaurs prancing around the houses. Next thing I know, I was cornered by velociraptors in our same family room. They were led by a similar yet unidentifiable creature. I don’t recall whether he was a person or animal, or some hybrid, but he led the pack as they slowly moved in closer, closer, closer…

Then I woke.