Challenge Journal 4

//Greatest prior missed opportunity//

My greatest prior missed opportunity comes from Writing 225 (Academic Argumentation).  In this class, I wrote a paper on Jon Stewart’s use of ad hominem attacks during an argument with Tucker Carlson on the (now cancelled) show Crossfire.  I can’t find the exact assignment, but we’d learned about rhetorical fallacies in class and the assignment was to find an argument (could be written, video, audio, etc.) in which one of the sides used a rhetorical fallacy.  Then, analyze their use of the rhetorical fallacy and assess its effectiveness.

The topic itself was an interesting case, in my opinion, because Jon Stewart was able to craft an argument so compelling that it resulted in the cancellation of Crossfire.  He frequently implemented the ad hominem rhetorical fallacy during this argument.  I remember speed writing the essay and think I could’ve crafted something much more in depth that integrated different forms of visual media and different examples.

I’m interested in methods of argumentation in media because of my interest in the marketing and advertising industry.  Had I had more time (and less specific writing guidelines) I could have written a more comprehensive analysis on the use of fallacies in publicized arguments and how different elements of production and delivery impact the believability of the argument.

I particularly think that there was a great opportunity to integrate different forms of media.  If this topic were applied to a capstone project, it could be much more creative and comprehensive, and likely would create a more solid argument.  I feel like this is similar to my actual capstone project, because the integration of images plays a huge role in the effectiveness of my project.  The combination of writing and visuals creates a much more fully formed argument and is far more engaging.

Challenge Journal 3

//Balancing content and design//

 

As a very visual person, I’ve been struggling to find a balance between design and content.  Naturally, I’m more inclined to focus on design and aesthetic, and as a result I’ve over invested in my design compared to my content.  Though this has put me in a good position with my site design/illustrations, I worry my content has suffered from neglect.  I think that part of the reason why I tend to gravitate towards design is because it comes relatively easily to me and is more of a “fun” challenge.  It is the type of work that doesn’t actually feel like work at all, so I turn to it whenever other elements of my project (such as the writing itself!) become challenging.  Though I also love writing, it’s much more thought intensive endeavor and I tend to encounter more frustrations during the process.  I find it particularly difficult to get past writer’s block moments when I know there are other elements of my project that I can work on instead.

In order to better balance my investments in content and design, I am going to try to implement content mile markers that I have to reach before working on my next design element.  This way, I won’t be able to use design as a procrastination tool when I get stuck on my writing.  I’m hoping that imposing this structure will make me more contentious of how I’m delegating my time and will hopefully have positive impacts on my content generation.

I’ve encountered this issue in the past through my internship.  In my internship, I occasionally write blog posts and create corresponding graphics.  I always have fun making graphics, so I tended to focus on them before the post itself.  I found this counter productive because once I started writing, I’d end up changing the graphics to better represent the post.  As a result, my graphics were either poorly aligned with the post or I had to completely revamp them to be a better fit.  An example of a post is linked below (ignore the blurry image, we just got a new site and the graphics haven’t all been reformatted yet):

 

https://prohabits.com/blog/why-focus-on-performance/

Perspective Check

Perspective Check: Most extreme logical consequence or implication of your issue

Beauty as feminist empowerment

Most extreme, logical, negative consequence/implication: Rigid beauty standards encroach on the feminist agenda and poison body positive/supportive ideals.  Rigid beauty standards used by anti feminists to confine women and prevent their acquisition of power, confidence, etc.

Most extreme, logical, positive consequence/implication: Rigid beauty standards are shattered and physical expression is taken as a tool for self empowerment and confidence.  Beauty no longer used as a metric to quantify female worth, rather used by females as a way to express themselves.

Challenge Journal 2

// Resistance to overwriting //

I keep getting stuck overanalyzing whether or not I’ll actually use what I’m writing in my finished project.  I found myself pausing several times during the writing process to ask myself – is this too much detail?  do I really need to explain this part of the story?  is this too obvious or restating what I’ve already said?

Although I think these are important questions to ask, I feel like they’re preventing me from getting all my ideas fully flushed out and on paper.  I know that it’s much easier to cut down on excess content, but I feel like I keep preventing myself from creating it.  I think that if I can just allow myself to freely write, I’ll be able to go back and determine whether or not the content is useful more decisively.  The problem is, I keep interrupting myself to second guess the value of the train of thought I’m on.

I’ve noticed this issue in the past as well, because I usually try to edit as I write (even though I always end up going back and re editing most of my previous edits).  The feeling that I have to perfect a sentence before I move past it has proven to slow me down and hold back my ideas without actually improving the quality of my writing.  I noticed this same situation in English 325 when I first began writing more personal essays.  When I’d be describing a scene or telling a personal story, I’d repeatedly stop in the midst of writing to try to decide whether a specific detail was necessary.  When I looked back over the entire story after it was written, it was much easier to determine what was important and what was not.  I’m hoping to focus on letting myself write in excess so I can pull out the quality bits and pieces afterwards when the entire picture is much clearer.

For example, in an essay on imagination I described childhood fantasies and make believe games.  I wanted to paint a vivid picture for the reader so they really felt a part of the world I imagined.  However, I didn’t want it to be too wordy or excessive in detail.  I settled with the writing below:

 

In one moment I’m a mermaid, swimming back and forth across the expanse of my living-room-turned-underwater-paradise.  Climbing dramatically up onto a couch cushion, I perch myself on the “rock” as invisible waves crash around me and the imaginary wind whips my hair.  I am no longer a little girl with tangled short brown pigtails wearing a hand me down tutu, atop a popsicle drip stained couch cushion. Instead I am a glistening mermaid, with a shimmery green tail and luscious red locks, surveying my underwater kingdom.  

Then, in an instance, the waves dissipate and the cool salty air thickens to a hot, heavy humidity.  Deep in the mystical forest I fly from tree to tree, weaving through vines and soaring across waterfalls.  A creature of my own making, I spread my golden wings and whip my lionlike tail. As I leap from couch cushion to couch cushion, I am worlds away from my little town in a universe completely my own.  Swirling through my brain and emanating from within, I have magic.

 

Working through these two paragraphs took me significantly longer than I expected because I kept fretting over adjectives, additional sentences, additional examples, etc.  I didn’t want to let myself leave a single sentence until it was perfect.  I think I would’ve been able to craft something more efficiently that served the purposed I wanted if I had allowed myself to overwrite, then went back to pick out the valuable parts.

Challenge Journal 1

// Personal Essays Feeling Too Personal //

 

In my capstone project and in previous assignments, I’ve used personal essays to illustrate an idea/point/claim about the world.  I really enjoy writing personal essays and I feel that it is the form through which I’ve produced my best work.  However, a common issue I’ve run into is feeling self conscious about the idea of people I know (particularly those eluded to in my writing or who know those eluded to in my writing) reading and judging my interpretations and descriptions.  This is an interesting issue because I do not feel any sort of anxieties about strangers reading my personal stories, or even about people I know who are removed from the specific scenario reading them.

For example, in English 325 I wrote an essay about the irrationality of fear.  In this essay, I described my childhood memories of 911 and how I felt when I realized my dad was supposed to be in the building that morning and (by some wild stroke of luck) took a later train into the city and came home safe.  When crafting the essay, I was extremely anxious to write about that event purely out of concern over the idea of my parents ever reading it.  I suppose this in of itself supports the idea of irrational fears, but it is a concern I worry will hold me back in writing personally in my capstone project.  I do not want these specific worries to prevent me from “digging deep” and writing truthfully and openly.  For instance, in this paragraph of the essay I referenced my memories from 911:

 

This Tuesday morning, we did not go to work with my dad.  We also did not go to school. My mom got a call from our Montessori school a few minutes before we were supposed to be buckling up in our car seats to head to school.  Typically a call from school meant a snow day or a power outage, both of which freed us to stay home and play all day. “There was an accident,” she told us, “so school is cancelled today.”  The three of us rejoiced and set off to play. But in the same living room where we fiddled with our dolls and wore plastic tiaras, my mom stood in horror with her eyes glued to the TV. It was September 11, 2001 and as my dad rode the NJ Transit to his destination in the upper floors of the World Trade Center, a plane struck the first tower.  

 

Since I was little when it happened, I don’t remember much and I don’t remember well.  I know my parents both remember the day so vividly, so I was anxious to write about what I remembered when I didn’t trust my own memories to be accurate in comparison.  I had to let this anxiety go and just accept that my 5 year-old memories are what they are, and that the factual accuracy of them is of lesser importance than the role they play in the overarching narrative.

Why I Write: Voice

The voice I wrote my “Why I Write” piece in is a voice I recognize, but not my natural voice.  By natural, I mean my normal speaking voice or the voice I use when writing to friends or family members that I feel completely comfortable with.  However, this is written in a very typical writing voice of mine.  I recognize this voice as my go to academic voice.  It’s the voice I use when writing papers for class.  This is not surprising to me because I very rarely write in my normal speaking voice.  I always take on a more refined tone in my writing unless the occasion explicitly calls for something else.  Whenever I write, I think that I default to this voice as I am so used to using it.  It is not excessively professional, however it is fairly straight to the point and doesn’t show many levels of my personality.

Reading

I think that a way for me to see reading as an indulgence rather than a chore would be associating it with things I enjoy.  Two things that come to mind are coffee and aesthetics.  I love coffee and drink it quite obsessively.  Typically I drink it black or with a little bit of milk in it, however, I will occasionally indulge in a latte or cappuccino.  I think that linking reading with a ‘fancy’ coffee would make me feel like it is a more relaxing and indulgent activity.  I also love aesthetics and enjoy spending time in beautiful and aesthetically pleasing environments.  I think that reading in a coffee shop, museum, outside or with a candle lit would make me enjoy it more.

Repurposing: 10 Questions

  1. Why do people enjoy dancing?
  2. Is there a difference between the enjoyment from dancing for fun in a social setting and dancing as a trained performer?
  3. How does dance differ from other art forms?
  4. How does dance differ from other sports?
  5. How does atmosphere effect mindset?
  6. What motivates people to invest themselves in an activity?
  7. Do different dance style preferences indicated differences in drive/motivation to dance?
  8. What is the role of performance in dance?
  9. Can dance be purely for intrinsic purposes?
  10. What about dance makes it important to society that nearly every culture does it in some way?

 

What do you need to give a reader in order to help them engage with these questions?

 

In order for the reader to be able to engage with these questions, they must be given an idea of what it is like to dance as a trained dancer.  The typical reader has not necessarily experienced dance training and practice and would not be able to address many of these questions without some idea of what that is like and why it’s appealing.  Further, they would need to know some general dance terminology, specifically referring to styles of dance, exercises, and movements.  

 

What do you think, as the writer, you can do to help the reader engage in those ways?

 

As a writer, I think I can engage the reader in these questions by helping them to visualize the dance experience.  By using vivid descriptions, I hope to give the reader a sense of how it feels to dance as a trained dancer in a class/performance setting (compared to a social, casual setting).  I don’t think the dance terminology will be much of an issue since the reader must only know that they are dance terms, rather than what specific moves they reference, to understand the point of the argument.   

 

What do you think a general reader already has that they’ll be able to use to engage in these questions?
I think a general reader already has an understanding of why people enjoy dancing in social settings.  Many people engage in such behavior themselves, or at least observe others doing so.  I think that even people who do not personally enjoy dancing have a general idea of various reasons for why others do it and what they gain from it.

Digital News Sources

Though I recognize the importance of keeping up to date with current events, I regret to say I tend to be woefully under informed.  I rely quite heavily on my friends to keep me posted on essential news stories.  However, upon recognizing this information gap, I subscribed to The Skimm to receive daily news blurbs highlighting key stories.  The Skimm, though useful, is written below my level.  Boiling down a day of world news to just a few sentences, The Skimm hugely oversimplifies its content.  It also takes on a very causal, conversational tone with simple language and humor.  This to-the-point style makes sense for The Skimm’s purpose, as it is written to be ‘skimmed’ by readers.  Though it’s not the most intellectual source, it provides a quick and easy way to keep up to date on current events.

On the (rare) occasion that I do seek out more substantial news stories, I find sources like PBS News Hour are at an appropriate level.  These articles are lengthier than The Skimm’s snippets of information and contain much more detailed information.  The language, though not oversimplified, is comprehensible and takes on a more professional tone.  I find PBS articles to be informative and are understandable without being dumbed down.

 

Despite my parents’ longterm subscription to the New Yorker and frequent sharing of online articles with my sisters and me, I often find the writing to be dense and a bit over my head.  Though I can get through an article, it takes a great deal more effort, focus, and thesaurus use than I like.  I find the typical New Yorker article uses a level of vocabulary I am not typically exposed to.  It also has a greater level of complexity, in content and syntax,  compared to other sources.

Voice

When I read my writing aloud, it tends to sound like a more refined version of how I would typically speak.  In writing, my word choice and syntax are more deliberate complex.  I tend to write with a more formal tone than I speak in, however that can likely be attributed to the nature of the writing I have done in the past.  I have almost exclusively written academically and often take an almost formulaic approach to these assignments.  In English 125 and 225, I was able to move away from that type of writing and noticed a slight shift in my voice.  I find that in more loosely structured and personal assignments, my writing sounds more like how I speak and they are much more enjoyable to work on.

I gravitate towards content I can relate to directly through my personal experiences or my passions.  I really enjoy writing about my hobbies, such as dance, art, fitness, and design.   I find these topics easier to capture in writing and, since I care about them, more fun to explore.  Writing from personal experience is always fun for me because I enjoy descriptive writing and like taking on the challenge of vividly and accurately depicting my experiences.

In terms of personality, I’d say my writing captures some aspects of my personality while leaving out others.  When the assignment allows for it, my sense of humor definitely comes out in my writing while the sarcastic side of my personality is left out.  I think that as I explore more genres and move away from strictly academic writing I will see more of my personality expressed through my work.

Partly due to the academic nature of my writing endeavors, I tend to write very directly and clearly.  I structure my writing in a very logical order and work through ideas and events chronologically.  I often start my work with an opening scene in which I can provide vivid imagery or a gripping first sentence, both intended to hook the readers attention.  I use similar transitions between paragraphs by linking the closing thoughts of the prior paragraph to the opening thoughts of the next in a pretty standard way.

I think I developed my voice partly from my mom and partly from my own experiences.  My mom was an English major and loves writing.  Since I was young she’s helped me develop my writing skills and I think a lot of the formal aspects of my style have come from my mom’s influence.  My personality and content preferences, however, have developed largely from the influence of my friends.  I think my type of humor has been shaped by being with and talking to my friends.  My hobbies, though some are more personal, often lead to shared experiences with friends.  I think these experiences contribute greatly to how I view the world and the way I interpret it into my writing.