Introducing…My Capstone Portfolio!

It could be due to the fact that I’m graduating soon, but introducing my Capstone Portfolio is making me feel a bit weepy. It’s the first of my last few assignments at the University of Michigan, and it has come to represent a lot of the writing pieces I’ve done over the last four years.

Overall, I’m thrilled with how my Portfolio and my Capstone Project have come out. When I first had the idea to create a business plan for my Capstone Project, I knew that it wouldn’t be easy. I only had one semester to do it, and I had high expectations for my end product. Through hours spent adjusting the beta version of the site to emailing back and forth with my mentors, I can honestly say it was all worth it. My Capstone Project, ModeCollab, is one of my greatest achievements over the last four years and I could not be more thrilled to share it with all of my fellow writers (please use the password: capstone2017 to view my website).

When it comes to my Capstone Portfolio, I view it as the “more mature” version of my Gateway Portfolio. I used a lot of the same language and headers, but I definitely see the difference in my voice and style of writing. I also chose to have my portfolio centered around a theme of “learning” because I think that sense of discovery encapsulate the work I’ve done not only for the Capstone, but for many of the courses I’ve taken through the Minor in Writing.

And here it is, the moment you all have been waiting for…my portfolio! I welcome any suggestions or feedback on it, so feel free to comment below!

True Life: I’m Addicted to Making Websites

So I’ve created three websites total this semester, and consider myself a pro at using Squarespace now (seriously, if you’re thinking of using it for your portfolio feel free to reach out to me/comment on this post and I’ll help you out!)

However, this also means I’ve created three websites this semester. I’m a little burnt out creatively and find that I’m struggling to pick a theme for my portfolio.

Here are a few of the things I know for sure:

  1. I am making sure that my Capstone Portfolio has the same overall theme as my Gateway Portfolio. Since I link my Gateway Portfolio in a lot of job applications, I want to be able to do the same for my Capstone. Plus, I am so proud of the way my Gateway Portfolio turned out, so I’m treating my Capstone Portfolio as the former’s more mature version.
  2. Along the same lines, I’m using the same “Headers”/Menu Items that I used in my Gateway. They’re a little less traditional than “About Me” and “Capstone Project,” which aligns more with my style of writing and creating.
  3. The opening page has a video that plays, as a way to catch my reader’s eye…so I’m pretty stoked about the way it looks right now. It’s a video created by one of my favorite brands, so it aligns really well with the aesthetic I’m focused on for my overall portfolio.

Even though I’m positive on the three above attributes, I’m struggling a lot with how I want to introduce each section of my portfolio. The approach I took in the Gateway was to briefly describe my process and the steps I took to get to the final piece.

However, with my “mature” Capstone, I want to combine the explicit with implicit. By this I mean I want to explain the revisions I made and the research I did with saying I made revisions and did research. It’ll be a tricky balance to get right, so I’ve reached out to a previous professor of mine to see if she’d be willing to navigate my portfolio this weekend, and make notes on confusing language, technical difficulties, etc. Basically anything that would make the portfolio hard to read.

If anyone has tips for how to integrate research and revision into their portfolio, I’d love to hear about it!

Creativity & Business

When I initially decided to create a business plan for a disruptive innovation in the fashion industry, I naively thought that crafting a creative business plan would be the same process and layout as the business plans I’ve created in my entrepreneurship classes. While the fundamentals are the same (executive summary, value proposition, etc.), the ~mood~ is starkly different.

Let me explain. When you think of “business” what are some of the images that come to mind? For me, it’s men in a sharp suit, carrying a briefcase in a big city. There’s a lack of color, imagination, and flair. It’s essentially communication of getting from point A to point B efficiently and economically.

Harvey Specter

Now when you think of “creative” what are some of the images that come to mind? For me, it’s passion, emotion, and vibrancy. It’s an eccentric person with bright purple hair painting something abstract in her attic.

Granted, I recognize that both of the personas I’ve described are on extreme sides of the spectrum. However, in my business plan, I want to take both extremes into account. Since my work is geared towards fashion industry professionals, that leaves a lot of room for diversity in opinions, aesthetics, and preference.

NYFW 2017 Front Row

As I’ve completed almost 50% of my draft of my business plan, I’m starting to think about how I want to present my business plan. Do I want it to be in a PDF format, including images and graphics throughout. Or perhaps, do I want it to be more interactive? For example, one of the capstone projects in my genre uses a website to navigate the business plan. I’m starting to wonder if either of those options, or perhaps a hybrid of the two, is best for my project. I really want my project to be aesthetically pleasing as well as a testament to my style as a fashion-obsessed writer.

I think it’s okay to not have all of the answers right now, but I’m going to have to decide soon how I can pair the outlandishly creative with the traditional professional. Stay tuned…

This is me, Caroline, asking for help!

As we chatted in class yesterday about our “Tips for Success” in terms of the Capstone project, I thought about my tip:

“It’s okay to ask for help or to admit you don’t know it all.”

For as long as I’ve been in school (shout out to my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Judy), I’ve always felt embarrassed to ask for help. I’m not sure if it has to do with the idea of feeling inferior to my fellow classmates or the mere act of speaking up in class, but not asking for help has been a habit I’ve been trying to break for at least 18 years of my life. It’s only been in the last two years that I’ve experienced firsthand the distinct difference in the quality of an assignment when I ask for help, compared to when I don’t.

Mean Girls GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

So this is me…Caroline…asking for help from all of you! Specifically, for my capstone project.

My project is essentially a business plan for an online platform that connects fashion brands, fashion bloggers/influencers, and fashion magazines. Right now, there’s immense competition between influencers and magazines, and the goal of my business plan is to provide a platform that allows these three major players to collaborate, not compete.

Here’s where you come in.

Although I know which brands, influencers, and magazines I engage with the most, I want to get a wider variety of examples for my platform. I have a few short questions that I would love feedback on as I create my platform:

 

  1. What is your favorite high fashion brand?

  2. Which fashion brand do you shop at the most?

  3. Do you read fashion blogs or follow fashion Instagram accounts. If so, which ones?

  4. Do you read print fashion magazines or visit fashion magazines’ online sites? If so, which ones?

Please feel free to provide as much or as little information as you want! Your responses are incredibly helpful as I “move towards the mountain” that is my Capstone project.

How Do You Overcome Writer’s Block?

Sex and the City

It could be that I’ve been watching a lot of Sex and the City recently or that I’m still not over having written a 15-page paper last semester, but I can’t get the idea of writer’s block out of my head. I’ll start by sharing my own personal definition of what I believe to be “writer’s block.”

(noun) The maddening inability to translate one’s thoughts into words, or to even form these thoughts in the first place.

While I can’t pinpoint an exact instance where I suffered from writer’s block, I know that many of my peers have–including my roommate currently sitting next to me staring blankly at her computer screen, waiting for “inspiration to strike.” She feels creatively blocked, as if her brain is resisting any urge to form coherent thoughts. To me, this sounds physically and emotionally painful. And as I watch her opt for procrastination instead of perseveration, I wonder…how do you, as writers, overcome writer’s block?

Perhaps this post is a preventative call for help from fellow Minors before I dig even deeper into my Capstone project, but I do wonder if anyone would be willing to share their go-to process or activity for overcoming this terrifying condition–one that infects all writers: fiction and nonfiction, professional and amateur. It could be anything from meditating for 20 minutes (as I suggested to my roommate), going to the IM building for a quick workout, or even staring at your computer endlessly waiting until the thoughts start to flow.

Meditation

Any and all tips are appreciated (and I’ll be sure to share them with my roommate).

Back 2 Bloggin’

Hey, Capstone People! My name is Caroline Rafferty, and I couldn’t be more excited about writing posts on the Sweetland Blog again. After looking back at my last post from the Gateway (in December of 2015…yikes) I felt inspired to dust off the cobwebs and get to writing! However, after sitting at my laptop for 20 minutes without writing a single word, I realized that getting back into the swing of things was easier said than done.

When I first heard about Mini Assignment 1, I had no idea what Julie meant by the term “writing communities” and feared that perhaps I had never been part of one. It wasn’t until I started reading Hunter & Ketter’s case study that I discovered that I have been part of different writing communities pretty much since I learned how to form coherent thoughts and put pen to paper.

Most obviously, I do a lot of academic writing and shared Erin Peterson’s sentiment of academic writing as “constraining and formulaic,” excluding the Minor in Writing’s classes, of course. I’ve always fought against the idea that essays must have an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. I felt that this strict structure left little room for creative license and showcasing a writer’s voice–two aspects I believe distinguish great writers from good writers. While I recognize that much of the purpose around academic writing, such as research papers and theses, are to communicate an idea and argue its importance to a field of study, it makes me wonder: why must there be such a distinct (perceived?) difference between academic writing and creative writing?

This question brings me to another writing community I belong to that I feel lets my creative juices flow a bit more freely–and even pays me! For close to two years, I’ve managed the blog of a startup company in Chicago. In addition to writing blog posts, I have the privilege of reading my coworker’s posts and offering some suggestions for how to take their writing to the next level. I remember one of my high school English teacher’s telling me how important the peer editing process is for making oneself a better writer, and this has definitely held true in my professional writing community. Though I still rely on my boss’s input for the pieces I write, he gives me a lot of creative license to write what I want in any form or style I choose. This freedom has made me view my professional writing community in a much more positive light than my academic writing community, which I will say is a bit upsetting. I wish that more academic institutions recognized the importance of creativity in a writer’s process. I’m sure if I had the ability to write what I want in any way I want that my view of academia would transform from one of disappointment to one of inspiration.

While I initially struggled to recognize the writing communities I am part of, I found that reading about Erin Peterson’s communities and the boundaries existing between the two of them helped me distinguish my writing communities. However, I still have lingering questions about why the case study only discusses being part of two communities. Personally, I think that every individual is involved in at least two, but I’m sure many people are involved with many more than that. I would be interested to see if any of you had the same question, and I look forward to reading about everyone else’s writing communities.

Final Blog Post…already????

I can’t believe this is the last blog post I’ll write for the Gateway Course. It feels like yesterday that I was looking through previous ePortfolios and taking notes on the things I wanted to include in my own. It’s actually pretty funny to look back at the notes, because the things I wanted to include like “add in humor” or “keep it simple” ended up making it into my ePortfolio.

Overall, I’m really happy with how my ePortfolio turned out. I was able to balance making it a personal space while keeping it professional and clean just in case I decide on showing it to future employers. While I was creating it, I wanted to make sure that all images and text were in black and white, and I’m thrilled with how this theme turned out. Though I was a little nervous about being the only student in my class using Squarespace, I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s a site that I’ve had previous exposure to, so I knew I could play around with it and make my ePortfolio something I was extremely proud of and that fit my personality.

I also discovered a lot about my interests when I was crafting my ePortfolio. For example, I have a real passion for design. I like experimenting with how things look on the web and what they communicate about their creator. It’s made me start to consider doing more with website design, not only for the current company I work for but also in future endeavors both in and out of school.

My favorite part about my ePortfolio right now is my welcome page. I was feeling particularly inspired the day I took the photo on the opening page (it’s of my desk here at school!) and I love the way it turned out. It’s representative of my personality and my interests, and I think it’s an aesthetically pleasing way of welcoming my audience!

my desk

Finally, the best part about my ePortfolio is that nothing is set in stone. I can constantly tweak, delete, and add in things that I write or photos that I take. The ability to change things is definitely an affordance of having an ePortfolio, and it’s something I know I will take advantage of as my opinions and thoughts change about the topics I’ve written about.

While I haven’t decided if I’m going to link to my ePortfolio in my resume or share it with future employers, I know it’s something I am going to share with my current boss, my parents, and my friends. Like I mentioned in my “why I write”, I often have difficulty articulating my emotions, interests, and thoughts. Now, I have my ePortfolio to do all of the talking and that’s a really comforting thing for me to be able to use.

Thank you to everyone for such a great semester, especially my past and present blog group members. You guys are writing geniuses and I can’t imagine what my projects would be without you all!

adele thumbs up

When I Was Your Age…

…I read this same advice on the first day of the Minor. At the time, I thought to myself, “Advice? Psh…I don’t need advice!” However, I would definitely suggest that you look through a bunch of these posts and take as much from them as possible. My list is definitely not exhaustive, and my classmates have some really important points!

legally blonde

  1. Don’t overthink it! I spent way, way, way too much time thinking about what I wanted to do for my repurposing project. I must have changed my mind ten different times before choosing the paper I thought of the first time. Go with your gut.
  2. Ask questions. Whether it’s to your teacher, your blog group, or in your blog posts, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the stuff you’re working on. It’s easy to get attached to your work, so much so that you have trouble seeing surface problems.
  3. Get to know your blog groups. I can’t stress this enough. I became super close with my blog groups and I can honestly say that they were the main reason that my pieces came out better than I could have ever imagined. There are a lot of smart people in this class. Use them.
  4. Read a lot. Read this blog, read the newspaper, read your favorite book for the 500th time. When you read a lot, you start to see how different writers write, which will no doubt help you with your Repurposing, Remediation, and Why I Write projects.
  5. Show up. The best way to take full advantage of this class is to show up. Even if you’re not in the mood to write or discuss, come to class and you’ll find that being around your classmates can totally turn your mood around! Plus, you might even be able to jot down some of your thoughts that could contribute to one of your projects.

You may be a little overwhelmed with all of the projects that lie ahead, but don’t let those distract you from all of the growth you’re going to experience as a writer. You’ll find the type of writing you like to do (for me, it’s blogging) and you’ll find the type of writing that challenges you. You’ll meet people you may never have met had it not been for the Minor, and they’ll push you to become a better writer than you thought you could be.

Overall, congratulations on being accepted to the Minor, and get ready to learn a lot about your writing and yourself!

“What’s On Your Mind?”

As annoyed as I get by that question when I see it on my Newsfeed, it’s been a reminder this week in terms of the work I’m doing for this class. In particular, I just can’t get remediation project out of my head. I think it’s because a lot of the people I’ve been photographing have such interesting opinions on higher education and why or why not people should go to college that it makes me wonder a lot about my own personal decisions to attend school. Granted, I don’t think it’s a mistake that I decided to attend U of M, but I do think it’s fascinating that so many of my friends are having such dissimilar experiences in comparison. For example, one of my friends went to college for a year before dropping out and pursuing a music career. She posts videos on YouTube and plays at various venues around Chicago. When I took her photograph, she kept talking about risk. She knows the path she’s chosen is a risk, but she is taking it anyways.

Despite these questions reeling in my head, I have really been enjoying photographing people. There’s definitely been an itch to photograph that I haven’t quite been able to scratch thus far in college, so I’m glad this class–and this project in particular–has given me the opportunity to do so. I’ve loved playing around with angles and lighting to get the perfect shot. I’ve always noticed that some of my friends have become more open to being photographed, which is pretty fun to see! It’s definitely going to be a rude awakening when I have to take classes without so much creative freedom. I think I’ve gotten so used to making my own decisions that I’m interested to see what it will be like not to have this creative outlet next semester.

photo shoot

As always, with so much creativity comes numerous challenges. I’m struggling to continue taking photos of people with different experiences. I’ve noticed that the majority of the people I’ve photographed are my friends, and they have relatively similar points of view on stress and success that I do. This week, I’ll be pushing myself to ask people I don’t know if I can speak with them and potentially photograph them, just in the hopes of getting more diverse answers and experiences. This process has made me start to appreciate even more the Humans of New York account as well as other blogs interviewing and engaging with people. It’s hard work! Not only does the other person have to be in the mood to talk with you, but you have to be in the mood to listen. That’s one skill that I’ve definitely gotten better at since beginning my remediation. I can listen to people for hours on end now, with no loss of enthusiasm. If I gain nothing else from this project, that will be the most meaningful skill, I’m sure.

There’s also this aspect of not wanting to say goodbye to my remediation. This is definitely going to be a piece of work I continuously revisit and tweak because, like people, their stories will be ever changing. I’m looking forward to looking at my remediation year after year at the minimum to see how my friends opinions have changed or stayed the same. It’s a little bit of history I’m creating, which is exciting for me and I think for them as well.

Mood.

I’m not sure if it’s this class or this semester or even this year, but I feel like I’ve been doing through a major transition with my writing. I’ve started to overanalyze every word I write and every story I tell. In actuality, I’m sure I have not gotten worse as a writer, like I sometimes imagine I have, but I do feel less confident in my writing ability. Whereas I used to be able to sit down and write a paper without doubting or second guessing my thesis or format, I now take hours just to formulate a thesis statement that I end up changing halfway through.

The Californians

It could be that as I get older and gain more experience with writing outside of school, the way I write adjusts to complete different tasks. For example, when I write a blog post for work, they are usually 1000 words and do not require a thesis per say–though they do have an argument–and instead, focus on telling the story in a clear way. No flowery language, no complex structures. Just regular ole words!

Conversely, the prompts I’ve had this semester have challenged me to develop a thesis statement and find evidence to support it. What I’ve noticed is that every GSI and professor I’ve had prefers their written assignments in different formats. Some want a clear thesis statement, and a classic 5-paragraph essay while others want us, as writers, to be more creative and tell a story. It’s been difficult to switch up my writing style every time I have a new paper due. But I guess that’s college…and life.

As it pertains to this class, the blog posts are what have kept me sane and confident in my writing. They allow me to voice how I’m feeling and what I’m looking forward to without worrying about the “grade” I’ll receive. As Andrew Sullivan pointed out in his post, “Why I Blog” it’s the urgency of writing a blog that is enticing for me. “We blog now,” he writes and I feel this urgency every time I read the Semester Schedule. I like being forced into writing, even when it’s a struggle to come up with something to say. I think this push and pull is what makes writing so beautiful and so challenging. If it was easy, everyone would be a writer (depending on your definition of writer, I suppose everyone actually is a writer…I digress).

Jennifer Lawrence

To tie my stream of consciousness that is this blog post together, I’ll close by saying that this semester has posed a new host of challenges in terms of writing but I do not wish them to go away. I think the overanalyzing and late night worry about writing is normal, and perhaps beneficial for my writing. I know, deep down, that I am improving as a writer. What I think is missing, however, is a way for me to truly understand how and in what ways because, other than the grades I receive or the praise I get from my boss, there’s no way of truly knowing that you are getting better at doing something that’s so subjective. If anyone has any tips for keeping track of progress, I would definitely be interested in hearing about it!