thanks for a great semester!!

Hey everyone! I’m attaching the link to my finished final project below! To anyone reading this, feel free to look it over and read through a couple of the pieces. There’s something for everyone (political pieces, personal pieces, interviews, artwork…)!

I may be editing and adding to it in time, but I’m gonna let it be for a little while. Good luck to everyone finishing their projects- I’m so excited to see them all! 🙂

Hopefully I will see you all in another class in the future, and thanks for an awesome semester!! BREAK TIME BABY!!

What not to do during interview prep

I’ve had the opportunity to interview some different people this semester, and let me just say that going into this class I never pictured myself conducting interviews, and I had no idea how much work goes into an interview. I experimented with this mode for my third experiment, and I soon after decided it was an essential part of my final project. I did some preliminary research and prep, and I went into my first interview. It went nothing like I expected. But, somehow, it turned out even better than I had hoped. I had gone into the first interview with expectations of how the whole thing would go, and literally right after I asked the first question, I forgot the entire structural plans and just had a conversation. Sure, this convo was led by my previous research, but it felt like an almost impossible environment to ask mechanical, premade questions. I found myself listening, truly listening, to what my subject had to say, which led the entire discussion. After the interview, I looked back over my initial structure of the interview and kind of freaked out since I hadn’t followed it that closely. When I wrote the article however, it felt much more natural and real than expected, and I was so thankful I didn’t direct the conversation too much. Letting go of this control as an interviewer was difficult to justify at first, but I truly think it made a huge, positive difference for my article. I was able to incorporate more freely moving interviews with my two other subjects at a later point, and having these authentic conversations not only helped me as a writer but as a community member in general. We should join a conversation not only to speak, but to listen. This is where we learn most- from those around us.

In the words of Harry Styles, “I’m not ever going back…” (a mini rant)

This class has spoiled me. I’ve had complete freedom to choose a topic I care about and really dive deep into it. I have explored my own positions and opinions through multi-modal work and have even been able to include my love for making art. Basically, I’ve been able to write about what I love while pushing myself as a writer for an entire semester. This has been really hard work, no doubt, but I would rather do it all over again than write this ten page paper for my other science class right now. The student in me goes, Okay, ten pages aren’t so bad. That’s double spaced including any graphs. But when I sit down to actually start the paper, I find myself bored and useless. I know how to write a paper about stuff I don’t care about, and I certainly know how to fill it with fluff to hit a page limit, but I’ve found my devotion to writing growing this semester, and it has become infinitely more clear why I’ve loved this class so much: I’ve been able to do what I’m passionate about. It’s crazy to me that we spend so much money at this school to take classes we hate, and while they will most likely serve purposeful one day, it kind of feels like I’ve seen the light and can’t go back now. This is just an exaggeration, of course, since I will have to keep struggling through boring papers, but it has made me gain a greater appreciation for this course and the work it permits us to do. We are all learning important, applicable skills and developing as writers, yet we all chose to do it differently and in our own way. This is a really cool environment for learning, and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to experience it.

Makin’ progress

I’ve been working on some mini personal essays this semester, and this is a type of writing I’m pretty new to. I’ve never really written personal narratives seriously, so now that I’m writing some short versions for this class, I’ve struggled with making myself more vulnerable. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I sometimes struggle with audience and want to know who exactly would be reading my piece. Especially in this case, I want to guard my personal stories from the open internet, but I’ve been working on being more honest in my pieces, and it’s been very liberating. I don’t know- this is just a little update that I feel a lot better about my work when I’m being open and true to myself. It feels almost therapeutic to write so freely, and I’m going to try to incorporate this feeling into my future works. I also plan to do more personal writing just for myself, since I hope to become more comfortable in this format. I sometimes feel like I’m behind in where I’m at with my personal writing since I haven’t done much of it for just myself to explore, but I’m working at my own pace and have some newfound inspiration for after this class!

Throwback to that time I wrote a children’s book

Thinking about audience from a writer’s perspective is something I never really did before college. That sounds bad, I know. But almost everything I wrote was either only for my teacher or only for myself, so I never really had to confront those fears of writing for other people. That is, until my freshman year of college. I was lucky enough to take an amazing class about children’s literature where all the students wrote their own children’s book by the end of the semester! We spent the first half of the semester learning about famous books and authors, and it seemed easy peasy lemon squeezy- until it was time to write my own. I found myself hung up on one specific point: the audience. Okay, I know it seems obvious- the audience is children. But there is so much more than that. What age group? Because, depending on the age group, there are different techniques you will need to incorporate into your writing to accommodate your audience. When I sat down to storyboard, I found myself wondering how this vague audience of kids would handle my mature topic of choice. The most difficult moment, however, was actually writing the text. This was a picture book, so I knew I had some art to lean on, but I was literally terrified to start writing the story since it would require me to face my fears: not only who my audience was, but how to connect with them. I found myself stumped at how to adjust my tone, writing style, and details to fit this complex concept into a short story book for kids. Looking back, if I had just let loose and written something from a kid’s perspective, rather than trying to examine my audience as a completely separate and confusing entity, it would’ve been an easier process. I ended up writing something that I loved once I tried to see things through a kid’s perspective, and I was able to find a way to transform my original idea of the story into a realistic, fun, and still authentic version for the final piece. This requirement of having to find a way to connect to your audience was quite demanding, as I was trying to find common ground with a group quite different from me, but I let it help and guide me in my work rather than isolate me further. Moving forward, I try to incorporate this freedom and exploration into all of my work while understanding what I have to bring to the table as a writer and where I can improve in connecting with others.

Let your work change you

This semester, I’ve been working on a project all about body positivity. Going into this subject, I thought I had fully-formed my opinions and that my beliefs were unwavering. However, as I’ve examined the movement through different lenses, and specifically through the perspectives of others in the community, I’ve found my ideas being challenged and even altered. This was a bit of an uncomfortable process, since I had no expectation of shifting beliefs, but listening to other people and their experiences has shown me so much more than objective outward and inward thinking have alone. I think it has to do with understanding people as a whole and how they are influenced by personal experiences and larger systems, and researching both of these aspects separately really only showed me how important they are together. I’ve enjoyed interviewing other people and not limiting our conversation to political or personal, rather letting the conversation cover whatever feels natural. In meeting with other people and hearing their beliefs and critiques of lager systems, my beliefs have been changing too. I think when writing, and in life in general, we need to let our preconceived notions go and open ourselves up to changing opinions and work that reflects such shifts. So much of this class has been grounded in exploration, and it would be a shame to limit this exploration to simply medium or mode when it can (and should) include explorations of our own perspectives and beliefs supporting our work. This has been a surprising and slightly uncomfortable experience for me, but I feel better because of it. Hopefully, I can implement this sense of exploration and growth into all of my future writing. 

I work best when…

As a writer and student in general, I think I work most productively when I plan out my process/timeline. In this class, Ray had us make a production timeline for the final project, and I found that those weekly goals kept me grounded. As the semester gets closer to the end, every week seems to get more stressful and busy, so having plans for this class project set out a month in advance gave me some structure to fall back. Granted, there were continuous changes and edits to the timeline, but I accounted for this and made sure to give myself some leeway to catch up on potentially time-consuming tasks. This combination of freedom for exploration/growth and my own personal work structure made this one of the most positive class experiences I’ve had. I’ve been able to explore a topic I’m passionate about and have let it lead me wherever feels right. That being said, I was able to craft some clear guidelines for myself and my work, and I learned how to be more grounded when presented with such an open topic. It’s not like every project I do has to be outlined in a clear timeline, but having it there to personally lean on makes doing the work in a sufficient amount of time much easier. I’ve always been one to plan out my steps before completely jumping into a project, but in college, it becomes a little more difficult as you are balancing so much of your schoolwork with every other element of your life. And I know everyone says this, but, in college, I work better when I have a somewhat tighter timeline since I have no choice but to maximize efficiency and find the core focus of a project. While it would obviously be nice to have unlimited time to complete a school project, I worry that I wouldn’t be motivated enough to ever finish it or do it in a concise, effective way if there wasn’t something grounding me to a specific deadline or objective. I find that this fear only persists in schoolwork, as I have no problem making time for the things that I love, like art, outside of class. When I’m working on something more formal that is being graded, that is when I need to enforce some type or objective or plan for myself.

Seriously, someone take me to Dollywood

When Ray mentioned art that is far away from us but still personally important and appreciated, the first thing that came to mind was Dolly Parton (not joking). I could’ve interpreted this topic a variety of ways, but the basic concept of valuing one’s art form that is unlike your own or what you typically consume makes sense to me. My mom always played Dolly when I was a kid, and I grew up on a lot of her songs. Nearly all of my experiences listening to her music involve singing it with my mom, and while these memories are so important to me, I don’t typically listen to country music, so I’ve found myself wondering if I would even like Dolly if it weren’t for the specific associations I have with her music. In another life, I may never have stumbled upon Dolly’s music and actually given it a chance. This has nothing to do with her or even her specific songs, rather to do with my own general preferences and lack of interest in exploring some of the genre’s older hits. The way that I can feel so personally attached to her songs yet know I don’t relate to it in the sense that many of her fans do raises an interesting question about relatability and art. Maybe we don’t focus on the literal art piece/format and, instead, focus on the way it makes us feel and how it affects our experiences, or what we do with the art. I don’t know how to define one’s proximity to a piece of art or its relatability, but I do know that I value Dolly’s art for all that it is and that it isn’t. It has turned into something I use to connect with others, which some would argue is one of the essential purposes of art itself. Dolly’s songs and conveyed stories can have a weird way of drawing you in and making it feel personal while simultaneously being too specific to ever truly relate to. I know this feeling because I feel it with some of my own favorite songs from other artists. Maybe we can’t identify with all of the content, but if it really reaches us, we value it nonetheless. Despite my inability to fully relate to the music or her experiences, especially compared to others, this music means something to me, despite my distance from the genre or content itself.

the risk of body politics

Having completed experiment 1 and 2, I know what type of project I hope to do next, but I’m not exactly sure about the content. After meeting with Ray before experiment 2, we discussed the ways in which I’ve “looked outward,” critiquing a capitalist system’s influence on body positivity. That was a more formal, objective piece, so I decided to write a personal essay for experiment 2 to, instead, “look inward.” I was able to examine my own connections to the body positivity movement. So, after experiment 2, I feel ready to look outward again, but not as far away as I did the first time. I want to explore other people’s personal and political ties to the movement. I hope to combine some elements of each previous experience, like wide societal critiques and the role of personal identities, in experiment 3. This seems like the most natural path to take after my earlier projects, and I think it will be beneficial in connecting with members of the body positivity community and the larger community. However, thinking about interviewing others highlights the unpredictable results of asking the “risky” questions about my topic.

I’m genuinely curious in hearing others’ thoughts on the movement as a whole, and I think interviewing a variety of people would help me to better understand body positivity in the modern context. The risky questions, however, may not be questions subjects can easily answer or ones they even want to answer. Since so much of body positivity is centered around identity, I hope to interview people with different, intersecting identities. Anything involving others’ identities needs to be conducted carefully and thoughtfully, so as to avoid causing harm and create a safe environment. While I don’t foresee a problem in my own ability to ensure an inclusive environment and listen to the subjects’ needs, some of my questions are personal and tricky, so I want to make sure I phrase them the best way possible. Some of the initial questions I wrote down in class were “‘Who is body positivity for? How should people with conventional bodies (white, thin, able-bodied, gender conforming) participate in body positivity? Do they need it?’, ‘How effective is Body Positivity, realistically? Is there any hope to make actual change with this movement? Or is it time to move on?’, and ‘How do we all contribute to the harmful aspects of Body Positivity?’” These topics are tricky because they are loaded with personal and political answering potential, and everyone may have completely different thoughts. These are also questions that are most pressing within the body positivity community now, and although I have my own opinions, I feel the need to hear others since it is relevant to more people than just me, and my own experiences cannot account for everyone. In addition, I feel like my research thus far has lacked an interpersonal component that connects me to other individuals and pants a representative image of the movement, so I’m looking forward to incorporating interviews into experiment 3.

keep it real

With my topic of body positivity, I find a lot of the difficulty in having authentic conversations comes from a mixture of complexity and emotional burden. Most people understand body positivity to by a slogan synonymous to “love yourself.” However, many people do not know of the movements historically political origins and ties to anti-capitalism, critiques of medical institutions, and body politics. Rather than delving into the deep history of body positivity, which was created for unconventional, marginalized groups (like people of color, fat people, disabled people, and trans and queer people), it is often easier to take it for its surface level connotations. Since the movement is so intertwined with other social movements, as well as institutional reform, it can be overwhelming to understand it in its entirety. This level of complexity makes it easier to just accept a watered down version of the movement, often in the form of hashtags and posts from Instagram influencers. In addition to complexity, I think emotional burden accounts for a lot of the difficulty when it comes to real discussions about body positivity. With such a deeply personal topic that many people have ties to, many have latched onto the movement because of its empowering message. While this is truly amazing, it is necessary to take accountability and acknowledge our positions within the movement, focusing on intersectionality as a key component. People sometimes feel attacked when they have to acknowledge certain forms of privilege, so truly examining the movement of body positivity can often become a highly sensitive discussion. It raises certain uncomfortable questions of who the movement is for and how it has changed so much from its radical origins, which can be a vulnerable conversation to have when many people are benefiting and profiting off of the new direction of the movement. I think that once we learn about the complex history, in depth, we will be able to have more informed, personal discussions about our own ties to the movement, but it will take some collective work from everyone.