Deep in the Zone of Discomfort

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It sounds nicer than it feels. Still waiting for a capstone project topic to suddenly appear in my mind, I began my relationship with the UM Library Research Guides apprehensively. I’m eager to figure out what to do with this project, but my discomfort with not knowing unfortunately led to procrastination. When I finally pulled up the link to the UM Library page (which I, somewhat embarrassingly, have only used maybe three times in four years here), I attempted to branch out from my course of study (business) and comfort zone and clicked on International Studies, then Social Sciences. I searched through both, clicking deeper into the web of resources, but came up uninspired.

Back where I started, I sheepishly clicked on business only to find that the link to resources was notably empty compared to the pages I just came from. I took that as a sign to get out of there, and went back to Arts instead. Scrolling down the page, I found a link for ‘Detroit.’ As a Michigander and someone who grew up in the metro Detroit area, I was fascinated to find an astonishing amount of blogs, media sources, and general resources about various parts of the city. Of all of the pages that I visited during this rabbit hole search, the Detroit page was the most populated with vibrant information. I am surrounded by peers from various classes (native Detroiters and otherwise) who display an unwavering passion for the city and current revitalization efforts. Visiting this page reminded me of them, and made me curious about this evolving city. An idea to potentially keep in mind.

This rabbit hole search provided a glimpse into the sheer volume of resources at my disposal as I embark on my capstone project, but also overwhelmed me all over again with the seemingly enormous task of picking a topic. Now, I only hope I can narrow it down, find my idea, and climb out of this zone of discomfort.

Painfully Regimented

Now that Fall semester has drawn to a close, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on the classes I took and the work I did. I once again was unable to fit a writing class into my schedule, but it turned out that one of my core classes for Ross was a business communication class (LHC 350).

However, everything that I wrote for this business communication class was painfully regimented. There was a strict format for the reflections that we had to write about the persuasive presentations we gave in class. It was called a PAL: Porch, Action, Layout. It was regimented. It was uncreative. Sure, it forced me to let the reader know exactly what I was going to talk about, but it was boring! So, once again, I’m thrown into making a comparison to the classes I take for this writing minor, where I can experiment and discover new ways to write. Of course, there is a time and place for everything and the precise, concise writing templates that I had to use in the business communication class were certainly merited. However, this class simply got me wondering: what role can more creative communication play in the business setting? Certainly advertisements and marketing campaigns make use of creative writing, but these sorts of classes don’t seem to be taught in business schools. And maybe they should be.

The “in-between” stage

Right now, I’m in the “in-between” stage. Last semester was my first in the Minor in Writing program and I finished the Gateway course (Writing 220) in December. I won’t be taking the Capstone course until over a year from now, so I’m left to continue fulfilling the other minor requirements! I am currently taking English 325 to fulfill one of the ULWR requirements. So far it has been an interesting journey…

Taking English 325 is proving to be very different than any of the business classes I am in at Ross. It is expressive and thought provoking in ways that are so different than Accounting and Business Stats. It is a hard adjustment when I head from my Business Communication class (where we learn to write concise, informative memos, cover letters, and emails) to English 325, where everything is the opposite. Suddenly I have to write 10+ pages of expressive, detailed writing, which is exactly what I’m told NOT to do at Ross! Besides from that adjustment, it was also interesting moving from the Gateway course to English 325. The class size is bigger and, at least in my current class, there is less time for a continual revision process on essays. I must say, after experiencing both, I really appreciate how the Gateway course is set up, and hope the Capstone course is similar!

This “in-between” stage will be interesting, as I discover and learn new ways of writing and take a variety of courses!

I present to you: Andrea’s ePort

Finally, my ePort is finished! Well…”finished”. I could spend forever and ever tweaking it, re-reading it, adding things…but I have decided that I am happy with it how it is right now and am calling it good.

In my ePort you will find all of the projects that I worked on in Writing 220 (including drafting processes), as well as two samples of additional writing. The purpose of the site is to be an informal showcase of my writing, with the theme of “thoughts in writing”. I want it to reveal some of my thoughts expressed through the writing that I’ve done and my reflections on those pieces.

I really enjoyed creating the ePort and look forward to returning to it in the Capstone course!

Check out my ePort here.

Frustrations with my ePort

The process of revising and refining my ePort is proving very frustrating. When starting to write or designing something, I like the ability to create with pen and paper. The tactile sensation of writing on paper makes the process more natural for me. Moving to a process that is completely digitized is not easy. Sometimes I want to just reach through my computer screen and move things around with my hands!!! If I had all the time in the world, I think I could figure it out. But I’m strapped for time (ughhhh finals week..), so the reality is I’m just a little more frustrated that I would like to be for this time on a Saturday evening. Anyone feelin the same?

Instantaneous Thoughts & Flashes of Inspiration

(FYI this is a draft of my Essay 4)

BEFORE: A light bulb. DING DING DING. A flash of inspiration…Many minutes spent pondering. Formulating words in my mind before I write them down. Thinking through my argument – where it is and where it could go.

AFTER: A light bulb. DING DING DING. A flash of inspiration…And immediately it’s down on paper, or blinking in front of me on my computer screen.

Writing in new media has changed the way that I approach writing and how I write. I used to be much more of a planner. I would think out how I would write an essay and come up with a detailed outline before trying to put the words on paper. It had to be a pen and paper process before I put it into any other form. When planning my re-purposing project (see the full process outlined here), I first created a storyboard by hand, then drafted a more detailed outline, then wrote out a first draft, and a second draft, and a third. Finally, I end up with a completed draft that I call a “final”, although I could probably look at it again in a week and find things to tweak.

My experience writing in new media has been much different. Writing 220 has allowed me to explore new media writing – something that I had very little exposure to before this point! Although I do not think that my writing style has changed in a noticeable way in this new medium, the process by which I write is different. The main new media writing that has influenced by writing is blogging. Writing 220 requires weekly contribution to a class blog. Having never been an avid blogger – or really ever used one – the move to this immediate, instantaneous form of writing was interesting to say the least. After talking about the point of blogging and ways to approach this new media form in class, I now attempt to write my ideas as fast as I can type them. Whatever is on my mind is immediately transferred through my fingertips to the blogging world. I used to write and revise simultaneously. With blogging, I write now and revise later.

The biggest takeaway I have taken from blogging is how it is so instantaneous. Each blog post I publish captures my thoughts in a moment, as opposed to my thoughts over several weeks (or months), as with traditional writing. Being able to express my ideas and thoughts right away is a skill that I continue to develop as I keep blogging. However, it has already changed the way I write in traditional writing forms.  I have become more reflective and thoughtful in my writing, and I am more in tune with the changes that take place between when a thought is formed in my head and when it makes its way onto paper or onto my screen. Blogging has encouraged me that some of my best ideas may come from one light bulb going off, one flash of inspiration, that I am able to capture immediately through writing. Instead of pondering that idea and editing it as I write about it, I simply write about it as it comes into my head and go back to revise later.

How I Write…in French

While thinking about the question for essay 4, “How I (learn to?) Write”, my mind wandered to not only how I write in new media forms (I’m still thinking about my response to that) but also how I write in French. My French 274 class has required 4 essays over the course of the semester on various questions related to French colonization of America, the native people of the inhabited lands, and even more specifically, the cannibalism that is a part of some of these cultures. It has been a very interesting class – who knew there was so much written on these topics?! Seriously…cannibalism is discussed at length by many French authors. Anyways, our final assignment for the class is to compile these four essays into one long essay of at least 2,500 words. As I’ve spent the semester both in Writing 220 and French, I can’t help but reflect on how my writing process in the French language is similar to how I approach English writing.

I’m a big fan of outlines, or at least brief bullet points that lay out the ideas that I’m going to incorporate into my writing. When I’m writing in French, I continue this method although sometimes it is a little comical. I’ll start writing an idea in French, get to a word or concept that I don’t know how to express, and then switch to English for the rest of the phrase. When I actually compile my notes, I obviously go back and translate what I am trying to say, but it doesn’t always start out pretty in French. But I guess it doesn’t always start out pretty in English either…

My whole reflection on this idea just made me realize how the language in which I write doesn’t affect how I write all that much. I guess I’m the type to stick with used and proven writing habits that work for me, regardless of the language.

The famous Tony Kushner

I just listened to an NPR interview with Tony Kushner talking about how he wrote the screenplay for Lincoln. Finally I have a little more insight into Shelley’s favorite screenwriter/playwright!

To start, I don’t often think about how screenwriters have to keep in mind someone who will play the parts that they’re writing. Tony talks about this and how he played a role in selecting the man who played the main character. With screenplays, suddenly words on paper become spoken and there is the real possibility that how your writing sounds in your head may not be how it literally plays out on stage/on film. Tony’s role in selecting the actor was probably crucial to the success of the film.

Because Lincoln is a historical film on the President Lincoln’s final moments in office, Tony had to consult a lot of sources to gain historical background. Tony also talks about how he had to check every single word he used to make sure that they weren’t too modern. This type of writing seems so tedious – it would take so much time and precision to make sure every word is from the right time period!

Another interesting point from the interview is when Tony actually discusses “how he writes”. He admits that he is probably one of the last to use pens and notebooks to begin writing. He specifies that he only uses fountain pens because he likes the expressiveness of them (i.e. “if you’re angry, the pen’s lines will be dark and thick; if you’re tentative, the pen’s lines will be light and thin”) and the ability to leave a paper trail in case he wants to go back and use something that he’s written during the drafting process. I can totally relate to this. I love to draft my writing with pen and paper and keep all of my notes. Even if I do type the beginning of my writing process, I save multiple documents with all of my notes so that nothing gets deleted!

Having not had much exposure to the writing process of screenwriters, this interview was very interesting. I’d recommend listening!

Writing and Social Media

I was at the Michigan Sport Business Conference (MSBC) today (sponsored by the School of Kinesiology and the Ross School of Business) and was intrigued by all of the social media they had involved in the conference. The speakers encouraged attendees to tweet questions and thoughts about the topics discussed throughout the day. As I sat listening to the speakers, I would occasionally scan through the list of tweets (compiled on a smartphone app called Bizzabo that was used at the MSBC). It was interesting to have an instant feed of other people’s thoughts, right as they were thinking them, as I sat in the same room listening to the same speakers. However, I still don’t really get Twitter. And, to be honest, I find it more annoying than informative. Reading through the tweets from the day, I felt like I couldn’t understand a lot of what was being said. People would quote different phrases the speakers would say…which just ended up being three or four words. So much meaning was left out of the tweets, including the context in which the quotes came from.

The speakers present (including Stephen M. Ross, Dhani Jones, the former CMO of VitamenWater, a guy from the B1G network…the list goes on) were high profile business leaders and had a lot of interesting thoughts on the evolving nature of sport in this country, both on a collegiate and national level. I know that I got a lot out of the conference and I would think that pretty much everyone there did as well. Therefore, it makes me question what people were really tweeting for. I doubt they were tweeting for their own benefit, so they could go back and look at what they wrote. So, that would lead me to believe that they were tweeting for the benefit of others who were not at the conference….but how would anyone not at the conference really get anything meaningful out of 140 characters? The topics discussed were so much richer than that minuscule amount could allow. And furthermore, taking a quote out of context makes things confusing and potentially disastrous.

As I scrolled though the twitter feed, I felt like I was reading disjointed writing – like people were trying to cram a lot of important thoughts into too small of a space. While I admit that tweeting a question at a speaker could be a valuable use of this social media outlet, I still don’t quite understand the draw of releasing your thoughts in 140 character bursts to the cyber world on a nearly continuous basis. I feel like Twitter is diluting the powerfulness of words and writing.

Am I just out of the loop? Am I missing something? Is Twitter really all its cracked up to be?