Writer’s Block

I am struggling to motivate myself to complete my project. Is my project even important right now? It feels ignorant and naive to continue with the project as if it were 13 days ago. I am facing a block. So, I guess I will do what all writers do, and write about it.

I thought I cried until I felt numb to my surroundings, but now, I am at home, in my childhood bed, crying again. Thirteen days ago, I was planning a 700 person conference, my birthday, a bucket list of everything I wanted to do in Ann Arbor and drafting ideas for an essay proposal. Thirteen days ago I was victorious. Twelve days ago, I was defeated. A virus that felt distant deteriorated the 700 person conference that, after a full year of sleepless nights, perseverance and every ounce of dedication that I had, was just 10 days away. I wept. I could not find the words to tell the 54 person team I co-led that it was not happening. I could not tell them that a virus so distant, so far away, was stopping us from gathering; that we were going to let it win. I stared at the floor unable to make eye contact. I could not let them see me cry. I thought that was going to be the worst day.

10 days ago I went numb. I do not remember the days but classes got moved online (we had so much free time for activities!), we were told to stay at school (it was going to the best semester ever!) … then suddenly two bullet points on an email: graduation is canceled, go home. The virus no longer felt distant. It was here. That day was my worst day. A week later I am now in my childhood bed, crying. I am not returning to school – this is it. I am not returning to school, but people are not returning to work; small businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs, people are getting sick. There are people who are having worse days. But that’s okay. We are all going to have our “worst days”, no one is immune to this. We all need to grieve. I need to grieve and that’s okay. That is how we keep going.

How to write a “Photo Essay”

A picture is worth a thousand words – and quite frankly I am getting a little tired of words. For this experiment cycle I have decided to get in touch with my creative side, that has not been tapped into in a while, with a photo essay. My plan is to use pictures of Harlem before gentrification and drawings on top of it of how those spaces look now. As a former art student, I have a lot of experience with photo essays. Photo essays usually consist of a series of photos tailored on a theme or story. I’ve done a photo essay series on milk, as well as life on 27th street NYC. This photo essay is different in that the images photographed will not be mine, since I don’t have the resources to travel to Harlem for the duration of this project and they will also be edited. I am used to developing film in a dark room so editing digital images will be a new experience for me. I hope this project gives viewers concrete examples and a deeper understanding of the changes due to gentrification. TIME Magazine’s 10 Best photo essays of January 2015 are all images that exemplify some accept of life, whether it be people, homes or personal items. Most of the images are powerful, for example exposing the epidemic in West Africa. I found a website on “How to Make” a photo essay, so I checked if what I thought I had to do aligned with its thoughts. Here’s what they have to say and a little bit about what I have to say.

  1. Find your photographer
    1. I usually use myself as a photographer, but like I said that’s not happening. So I got this stage down. I’ll be using some photos I found while doing research for my last project.
  2. Decide on Message
    1. My message is gentrification is changing Harlem. Bingo
  3. Make a game plan
    1. Game plan is to find pictures comparing new and old Harlem and digitally draw over old Harlem with outlines of New Harlem
  4. Choose your photos
    1. That’s easy
  5. Include a variety of shots
    1. I’m going to work with what I have
  6. Format your photos
    1. Yeah I’m doing that with the drawing
  7. Briefly set the scene
    1. I never really wrote an intro for a photo essay so this will be interesting
  8. Conclude with a call to action
    1. Stop screwing Harlem?

How to Write an Open Letter

My origin piece was originally an academic research argument that examined racial bias effects the way people differentiate between graffiti and street art. Although the paper briefly touched upon gentrification and it’s impact on the development of street art, it did not dive deeply into the concept of gentrification (that could be a whole separate research paper and I tried to stay on topic and not exceed the 20 page limit). For this experiment cycle I aim to study gentrification, what it means, how it is effecting our cities and different view points on gentrification. Currently I do not have a strong opinion on the topic (because I feel I do not know enough to form one), but hopefully my research will enable me to form an educated opinion. For this cycle I am going to write an open letter from a teen growing up in Harlem.

According to my good friend Merriam-Webster, an open letter is a published letter of protest or appeal usually addressed to an individual but intended for the general public.

How to write an Open Letter: 

Dear People Reading My Blog,

If you are not a member of the Sweetland Writing Program, thanks for checking this out and being interested in what a bunch of college students minoring in writing have to say. If you are a member, Hi! Anyway here’s my letter on how to write an open letter. Here are a few things I learned from “An Open Letter To Anyone Thinking About Writing An Open Letter”. First I’m sorry you’re pissed off, upset, mad, or emotionally charged, but take that energy and turn it into passionate energy – get it all down on the paper because you can. This isn’t addressed to anyone specifically, but oh it is. All though my “Dear _________” is a general population, I know exactly who I am talking to and although I may or may not know you personality I want you to hear what I say loud and clear. My introduction of you may be harsh and objective but I am passionate and I do not mean to beat around the bush and be careful to offend anyone. I am going to say exactly what I want how I want (with all the emotions that come with it). When writing an open letter, be careful because you have just become subject to possible open letters. If you are going to ignite the flame be ready to fight the fire. Here’s some more things I learned from reading open letters. 

Open letters use a lot of “I” and “you” because although I may or may not know you. I am not going to explicitly say your name, or else the letter isn’t very open. Open letters can be numbered to organize thoughts like this or they can be a series of paragraphs, or one long one. Open letters often use bold or underlined words to emphasize their strongest points. Although not all have a valediction at the closing, or are signed by the name of the author, I believe the strongest most powerful open letters have an ambiguous targeted valediction (like the one used to sign this letter). Good luck writing an open letter in the future and I hope this helped.


A girl attempting to write and open letter


Hi my name is Delaney Walker. Yes, I know I have the same name as an NFL tight end and no you are not the first person to tell me that. If you don’t know who he is well honestly that makes me happy. Anyway his first name isn’t actually Delanie, its Hubert but he goes by Delanie (his middle name) because I guess he doesn’t want to be called Hubert. I get that. Except I used to dread the first day of school or a substitute teacher because no one could ever pronounce my name. In preschool I hated how long it was. I always wanted a short simple name, but not a name a lot of people had. I liked the name Zoe. So I guess I don’t really understand why he would want to be called Delanie, but I guess it’s better than Hubert (sorry if your name is Hubert and you’re reading this). Anyway a lot of people ask me if I’m named after this football player. Since his career started when I was in middle school I am going to have to answer that question with a hard no. I’m not really sure how I got my name. I know I am named after my great grandmother Diane, but I am not sure where my parents came up with the name Delaney. I’ve heard many stories, Delaney was someone my parents once knew or the actress Dana Delaney. Anyway I’m not sure, but there is a Jimmy Buffet song called, “Delaney talks to Statues” and it pretty accurately describes me as a child. The funny thing is he wrote that song about his daughter, who’s full name is Sarah Delaney Buffet, but she also goes by Delaney. I don’t understand all these people using their middle name as their main name which happens to be my first name. It’s ironic because I am a middle child. So I guess it all makes sense. I also like football and singing. I also like ben & jerry’s cookie dough ice cream, but I’m lactose intolerant so it’s a dilemma. That has nothing to do with my name.