The Final Post

Well, we survived.  There was a lot going on in this class and all of the assignments seemed to pile up right around the time of exams- but hey, we did it.  I am actually quite amazed by everything I did in this class.  There were weeks that seemed like I put in no effort at all and others that I felt like I was writing non-stop.  I remember after the first draft of each paper I thought: Crap, I have to put this into a portfolio at the end of the semester and other people are going to have to read this.  With this in mind, I felt like the worst part of the portfolio was going to be getting all of the writing for it done.  Sure, it took a lot of effort and persistence to finally get all of my papers to the point in which I was decently happy with them, but nothing compared to the amount of work that went into my e-port.  As made apparent by my attempt at giving a presentation about video editing software in class, I am not good with technology.  I actually had to re-do most of my portfolio after realizing some important features I could include in my portfolio to make it more organized and easier to navigate.  So, not only did I improve a lot on my writing, I also learned how to make a website and how to figure out some technology that I haven’t been exposed to before.  All in all, I think that is a HUGE accomplishment in and of itself.

Overall, I am quite proud of my portfolio.  I know that there are some areas that could be improved greatly, but for being my first website, I think it is fine.  My ideal audience was more or less people interested in learning about my journey through writing.  I kept it simple and added my resume so, with some minor changes, it could also be professional and used to show future employers my accomplishments as a writer.  The one critique I have of my own portfolio is that some of the areas are very wordy.  I have a VERY long about me section (as this is where I put my essay 4) and I feel like people will not necessarily want to read that much about me.  If this had been my only class and if I had had all of the time in the world to play around with features, I would have liked to have made more bullet-point lists and link them to the various pages of my portfolio, that way people weren’t reading long paragraphs just to go on and read my essays.  (Being someone who isn’t the biggest fan of reading, it just seems like way too much for me).  Going along with this, I would have liked to have more pictures and possibly ways of contacting me.  I had thought about adding a twitter feed, but I decided against this, as I use twitter more personally and I didn’t necessarily want everyone to have access to it.  With that being said, it would have been nice if I had created an account just for writing, so I could have linked it to my portfolio.

Well, without further adieu, here is my portfolio.  I hope you enjoy it and I hope you actually take time to read it 🙂

My evolution as a writer

I have never written in a traditional way.  I follow whatever format is required of me for an assignment, but I would always interject my own style.  As much as I would like to think my writing style was unique and different, it was also very formulaic when it came to academic writing.  In most writing classes, the expected essay style is a five paragraph essay with an argument and examples to back the argument up.  I got to the point where I had an exact style to my five paragraph essay: thought captivating, serious intro; funny punch line/ humorous take on the argument; serious follow up to previous paragraphs; then finally a conclusion with a casual tone.  I mastered this formula, as it always gave me good results.

This class has challenged me to step away from this formula.  I was able to do whatever I wanted.  I could have easily just kept with my formula- that would have been easy enough.  Instead, I decided to explore different kinds of writing I hadn’t done before.  This led me to write a real-time play by play of my thoughts when I am writing and attempt to write a children’s book.  Even the blog posts we wrote expanded my writing realm.

Since experimenting in these new forms of writing, I have to ask myself, what has changed?  The easy answer is my creativity.  I never would have thought to write a children’s book before this class.  Just coming up with the idea to write a children’s book was a burst of creativity for me.  This was something else I gained from all of the writing we did in this class- willingness to try something new.  I remember getting the first prompt—I knew I could just go the traditional route and write one of my formulaic essays.  But when we were told to try something new and not be afraid of failing, I felt like the way I could get the most out of this class was to do something way out of my comfort zone.  That was how I wrote about what goes on in my head before I write.  I had to use dialogue and I had to describe the situation, both things that I never had to do in my five paragraph essays.

One of the most difficult journeys I have had with these papers was with my confidence.  I would love to say that everything was better after challenging myself and coming up with coherent pieces.  Instead, it has actually made my confidence level rise and fall multiple times.  Of course my confidence level rose when people told me they really enjoyed what I wrote when I felt so vulnerable with my attempt at writing something new.  But, I never felt like I got any of them to be perfect.  When it comes to my writing, I never seem to be happy with it unless it is perfect.  I’m actually not a perfectionist in anything else but my writing.  Since the class was so fast-paced and we got many of the assignments back to back, I felt like I had to settle with good enough and I never had the time to make my writing perfect.  Although this made my confidence level drop, it was probably a good thing, too.  I have learned to see the good in what I’ve done and I’ve stopped focusing on what isn’t perfect about my writing.  I shouldn’t be embarrassed by my writing, even if it isn’t perfect.  After all, the best writers out there didn’t start out with a perfect draft—that’s what editing is for!

Procrastination: not always possible

I am a procrastinator, as I’m sure many people in the class are, too.  In fact, I feel like my writing is better when I procrastinate.  This is probably because I write better under pressure.  This doesn’t make much sense to me, though.  When we have quick-fires in class, I can never think of anything to write.  I always seem to have writer’s block.  In fact, I think that 95% of the time I have writer’s block.  Therefore, I procrastinate until the 5% of the time that I can actually come up with something good to say.  And when I am forced to write in the time where I can’t come up with something to say, I write a bunch of crap.  I have yet to decided whether or not this is one of those times.

I have had a really hard time with this procrastination/writer’s block dilemma recently.  I not only have the writing in this class, but I was just assigned a paper for my PoliSci class and I am working on a paper for my UROP class.  As much as I love writing, it is very overwhelming to have this much at once, especially since I am only happy with my writing 5% of the time.  Another issue is that ALL of my writing is due the last week of the semester.  This is forcing me to think about all of my writing WEEKS before it is all due.  This is very intimidating to me.

I want all of my writing to be perfect.  When I force myself to sit down and write, I am rarely very happy with the way it turns out.  But I know I must force myself to sit and write so I won’t die during the last week of classes.  As much as I call myself a good writer, I know that I am not magical.  There is no way that in one weekend I would be able to complete my entire eportfolio, the final drafts of all of our papers, my polisci paper, and my research paper.

I find the process of editing very helpful, but very intimidating, too.  I know it is acceptable to have a “shitty first draft,” however, that doesn’t make me feel any better about writing so shitty to begin with.  I question my ability as a writer if I can’t write something that is very good from the get-go.  Is someone still a good writer if they need their piece to be edited a million times?  I guess that everything gets edited a lot more than I think it does.  Either way, it is still a big insecurity of mine.

This blog post flowed in the way my thoughts have been flowing this past week: all over the place and scattered.  For this, I must apologize, but all of this writing has been overwhelming.  Of course I love to write– if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in this class.  However, nothing else makes me more stressed out/scared.  I just need to stop putting my expectations so high for my first drafts, and see where my writing takes me.

E-portfolio: A fear full of fun

I have mixed feelings about this project.  I am extremely excited for the task of making this webpage, but at the same time I am terrified.  I know there is so much potential for this portfolio, which is probably why I am so afraid of it.  When I get into a project, I either go all-in and work nonstop until I reach the perfect product, or I simply work on it until I’ve decided its “good enough.”  Since I am taking 18 credits, working a job, and participating in multiple clubs this semester, I am afraid I will have to spend less time than I would like on this project.  It seems very daunting and difficult, yet so fun and exciting.  The possibilities are endless and it has the potential to be so much, I’m just afraid that my busy schedule will leave much to be desired.

I want to present myself as a free and whimsical writer.  I want my whole portfolio to mimic the outdoors and to bring a sense of relaxation to those who visit it.  I want to be perceived as confident and put together, as these are two adjectives that have never been used to describe me as a person.  Because these words are pretty much never used to describe me, I want them to describe my writing.  I want my writing  and my portfolio to emulate the person I strive to be.

I have not thought much about my ideal audience, but I would have to say I would enjoy it if my audience was my peers, or at least people my age.  I want to challenge those who read my papers.  I want them to think.  I want to strike a conversation, or even a controversy.  I want my portfolio to be very approachable but very thought provoking.  I want to make an impact on my readers.  This could be through the topics of my writing, but it could also be through the style of my writings.  I just want anyone who reads my material to life differently after being exposed to the layout/feeling of my site, along with some of the topics and arguments of my writing.

I hope to make my eportfolio distinctive by using pictures (preferably ones I have taken) and having them be part of the site, too.  They could be placed sporadically around the site, even paired with some of my writings.  I hope to find a picture that captures the feeling I hope the readers get while reading my writing, or that captures how I felt when I was actually writing the material.  To assist in creating this feeling, I would like to add some music to my site.  I would like to put in a lot of effort regarding the layout and the theme.  This is where I am very fearful.  I am afraid I might put in a lot of effort either into the writing that will be presented on the site, and therefore fail to put in a lot of effort to the formatting and layout of the site.  I am also afraid of the opposite happening: spending so much time on the layout of the site and not trying hard enough on the writing.  I am a perfectionist when it comes to things like this, so I am nervous about the amount of work I have ahead of me.



I had two papers in mind when we were given this assignment– both from my English 140 class that I took this time last year.  I had a lot of fun writing both of these papers in the first place, as they were about very interesting topics.  However, I found myself really stuck with the idea of re-purposing them.  The way the papers were assigned, we were basically given an argument and had to come up with stories to fit the argument.  This means that the arguments are very broad, making it difficult to come up with a way to completely change the audience and the form of the essays.

One of the essays I was considering was one about female heroes in our society.  My argument in this essay was that male and female heroes are defined differently because, until recently, women have not had the same resources as men.  I thought it would be interesting to take this argument and use it in a fictional story about a female superhero.  It could be a creative piece and could follow the story of a woman superhero and how she is treated compared to the male superheroes.  Specifically, it could be that women were just recently allowed to be superheroes, and the main character is being belittled by being praised for small things simply because of her gender.  This would be very fun to try, but it would also take a lot of work and creativity to make sure that the argument is clear and concise.

The other essay I was considering was one from the same class.  It was probably one of my favorite pieces that I have written.  The argument of this essay was that terministic screens (defined on Wikipedia as:  the acknowledgement of a language system that determines an individual’s perception and symbolic action in the world) can be found in our everyday life.  The reason I loved this paper was because I wrote it about something that was very relevant to me and to the pop culture at the time.  I wrote about some kids from my high school that were suspended for making an inappropriate  harlem shake video in a classroom.  It was very easy to write about, seeing as I had first hand access to the kids involved, kids who weren’t involved, teachers, and parents.  I really wanted to use this essay for this re-purposing assignment, however, I didn’t know how to keep what I loved about it.  I was passionate about the specific example I used, however, the argument was simply that there are examples of terministic screens in our everyday life.  It was easy to come up with a way to re-mediate this piece, but not to re-purpose it.  I went into office hours, and Shelley suggested flipping the argument, saying the story itself was an example of a terministic screen.  That was when I came up with the idea to re-purpose the story into a lesson or lecture given to Journalism students or other media-related students, informing them of people’s ability to alter their stories depending on who they are talking to.

Up until today, I was going to use the terministic screens paper to write this re-purposing paper.  However, after much contemplation, I realized I will find it much more rewarding to work with my hero story to improve it rather than to take a piece I’m already happy with and possibly mutilate it.  My intended audience will be young children, and it will be written in the form of a super-hero story with short chapters, which would hopefully encourage girls to pick up the book and look into the idea of a real, independent, female superhero.

Maybe I’m not such a bad reader after all…

I have never classified myself as a reader and, quite frankly, I probably never will.  In high school, I only read what was required of me.  But I must mention that I recently finished the last book of The Hunger Games triliogy!  This was quite an accomplishment, seeing as I started reading it on Spring Break during my Senior year of high school.  My whole family loves to read, so they think it’s strange that I don’t.  In high school, I would actually do really poorly on the quizzes that just tested my ability to read and regurgitate information, yet some of the papers that involved more analyzing and argumentation often resulted in me getting good grades.  Interestingly enough, I would have to write a few drafts for me to do well on these simple papers.  I was never one to stick to a certain format. To this day, I am awful at writing thesis statements.  However, my amazing ability to bullshit my way through high school essays allowed me to do well in my classes.

I used to think that this was a bad thing.  I was never exactly considered a “good” reader because I wasn’t disciplined enough to go through and pick facts out of a book to memorize for a quiz- I was (and still am) a very distracted reader.  I have always been slow at reading, which was discouraging, but part of the reason for this was because while I was reading I would try to determine what arguments the author was trying to make and compare my opinions to theirs.  I would get lost in trying to find meaning behind the author’s arguments and whether or not I felt the same way.  According to my English teachers, I wasn’t really reading if I didn’t know specific facts.  The ACT seemed to agree with those teachers, as it was, by far, my lowest score on the test.

However, I would love to bring Penrose and Geisler’s piece into one of my old English teacher’s classrooms.  I would love to let them know that, even though I wasn’t good at picking out facts, I was damn good at writing and reading with authority.  I always needed to turn in multiple copies of my essays because I would write like Roger and they just wanted me to write like Janet.  After putting in a lot of effort, I could write like Janet, but it was not how I naturally read or wrote.  I am a very opinionated person, and often times that was evident in my writing and my comprehension of an assignment.  I usually don’t have the same opinion as everyone else, but why should that be discouraged?  Isn’t it good to think for yourself and not be influenced by others?  Isn’t it good to think outside of the box?

Penrose and Geisler’s piece made me feel a lot better about myself as a writer and a reader.  There really isn’t a way to define “good writing,” especially when our school systems only emphasize memorizing and recalling information.  Just because someone isn’t good at such a technique isn’t a bad thing and just because someone isn’t good at reading and forming their own opinions isn’t a bad thing either (in fact, it makes high school a LOT easier!)  It is interesting that I just put all of this thought into whether or not I’m a “good reader.”  I don’t really think it matters all that much, because in the end, I enjoy writing a lot more than reading.  And hey, I got accepted into the Minor in Writing, so that must mean I am at least slightly talented, right?

Maria Cotera- Reflection

After a long day in class, and a slippery walk down Washington Street, I was able to make it just in time for the How I Write event.  As I sat in the basement of the Literati bookstore, listening to Maria’s intriguing story, I had many thoughts going through my head.  First of all, I was wondering how long it would take me to thaw out after walking in the bitter cold (it took a while for this to get off of my mind), but I also couldn’t help but compare my first writing exposure to Maria’s.  I was very fascinated by her story, but that left me to feel like my story couldn’t measure.  That’s when I realized- that’s all it is.  A story.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the whole interview.  I was very interested in what Maria had to say and found myself sitting there, hoping I could be in her position at one point in my life.  As cliche as it sounds, I felt like I was at home.  I was sitting in a bookstore listening to an interview about writing– something that has been a part of my life since I was little.  While listening to Maria answering questions about her writing career, I began to feel like she had a much better reason to be writing than I did.  Although her comment about not being on path as an undergrad made me feel a lot better about my current situation, it made me realize that I don’t have the personal connection to writing that she does.  Her mom wrote and self-published books, they were both passionate about giving the voice to the voiceless, and they both went out and wrote.

While I listened to the interview, I couldn’t help but flash back to my English 140 class.  The class was called “Our Heroes, What’s their Story?” and it focused on reading different books about a real-life hero (like Jackie Robinson) and comparing the differences between the stories told.  Thinking back on this class made me realize: as she was sitting in front of us all in the basement of the bookstore, all Maria was really doing was telling a story.

What made me start thinking critically was when I started to compare my story to hers.  She began by talking about how her first exposure to writing was when she was young and would play in the play place and McDonalds as her mother wrote stories, longhand in a booth.  This made me think back to when I was first exposed to writing.  My mom has always written, too, but I didn’t even know that she wrote constantly until I was about twelve and I found a story she was writing on her nightstand.  She has since told me that she wrote while I was at my dance lessons and soccer practices, but I never noticed until I was older.  So, I began to wonder, if I were asked when I was first exposed to writing, what would I say?  The first memory I have about writing is that I wrote an awful play in first grade about a sunflower and a bunch of other plants taking adventures in my backyard.  Its a real conflicting situation.  The first time I remember being exposed to writing versus the first time I really was exposed to writing.  Well, obviously my mom writing while I was at soccer practice wasn’t notable enough for me to remember it, but it definitely makes for the better story.  I probably would choose to answer the question alluding to my mother, as well.  So how do we know that Maria wasn’t faced with the same decision?

I don’t mean to sound so cynical, I just hope to stir up some critical thinking.  It isn’t a bad thing to tell a story about your past.  Anyone who is told to discuss their past falls into telling a story because there is no way to tell the exact truth (and a little story enhancement never hurt anyone!)  Also, Maria is a writer!  Writers tell stories!  After thinking about the situation, I decided I probably would say that my first exposure to writing came from my mom, as well.  In the end, the past story doesn’t matter.  What matters is what you do with your future, how you write the rest of your story.  So even if my past story doesn’t compare to Maria’s, I hope the rest of my story includes a time where I, too, can be a writer worthy of being interviewed.


From Private to Public- A Step Forward

As with everyone else in this course, I love to write.  It has been there for me my whole life as a way to express my opinion, be myself, and make sense of this crazy world around me.  Of course in each of our readings, I had an “aha!” moment, where I could totally relate to what was being discussed.  But the one article that resonated the most with me was “Why I Blog” by Andrew Sullivan.

In his article, Sullivan argues that blogging is a way to log events as they happened, without time to alter the story.  I have never blogged before, and this article gave me mixed feelings about the whole concept of blogging.  I love the idea that the truth comes out; I think we are more ourselves in our writing before all of the edits.  However, in something as open as a blog, anyone can comment on it.  Sullivan uses the word “brutal” to describe the readers who respond to some of his posts, but I don’t think I am ready for any “brutal” responses.

This fear of criticism and failure has already struck in our first few days of class.  Although the majority of writing I have done has been in a journal, I did a few different kinds of writing in high school.  I wrote in the school newspaper, participated in writing contests, even took a creative writing class.  At the high school level, I considered myself a great writer.  Flash forward to last Thursday in class when we were introducing ourselves to each other.  I hadn’t taken a class that involved writing in over a year and I was so excited to get back in to an old past time.  But as each person spoke, I realized that my year off meant that I was no longer the writer I used to be (or at least the one I thought I was).  Our class is filled with people who write in the Michigan Daily, people who write screenplays, people who are actually doing something more interesting with their writing than keeping it in an old journal sitting next to their bed.

This is the main reason “Why I Blog” stood out to me.  My favorite writing I have done is in a journal.  I keep the raw truth in there, recapping instances to the best of my ability.  I am not a writer for a newspaper.  I don’t have much experience thinking through my writing and editing it.  I write what I think when I think of it.  Maybe that’s why my weakness is organization.  Maybe that’s why I love reading blogs.  Maybe that’s why I’m so frightened about writing MY first blog post.

Although I agree that criticism is something that comes with the territory of blogging, I have to argue with Sullivan’s claim that a blogger’s fear of being “exposed, undone, [and] humiliated” doesn’t exist.  Maybe it doesn’t exist before the published work, but I am sure tonight after posting this, I will have the fear of humiliation.  See, unlike him, I’m not an experienced blogger and I am terrified of the criticism my writing may receive.  I am finally writing my thoughts somewhere other than the book next to my bed.  I am finally trying to make sense of the thoughts and sentences that come to mind.  I am finally taking a step toward being a writer.

A picture to depict my step forward as a writer.  I don't know the photographer, as it is a picture from pinterest, I found it in Terisa Clark's article:
Courtesy of Terisa Clark’s article.

So here goes nothing.

My first blog post.