Ahn•Nyeong

I’m happy to finally say ahnnyeong to this project! To be honest, I don’t love it. It feels incomplete, rambley, and navel-gazey. It was so hard choosing what to include and what to leave out, because everything is so connected. I’m still unsure of what it can do for others.

But it did help me. With five days of college left, thinking through the different communities of my life made me appreciate the experiences I’ve had and the people that have been around me. I went into the project with the question of what I was looking for in a community and whether I’m finding it in my current ones. I didn’t fully answer that question, but writing about my friends and circles made me appreciate them more for their roles in my life and just for who they are.

I don’t know if my experience is too niche to serve others, but I hope that the broader messages will resonate with people. And I hope to continue my journey of self-discovery and spending time with quality people.

Cheers to being done!

Freaking out

I HAVE NO TIME! I didn’t realize how ambitious my project was until I started writing. Maybe I should’ve known that thinking through 21 years of relationships in tandem with my identities would not be an easy task…

As I’m trying to finish up my project, I’m finding myself getting stuck on the details of the past. I think this is why it’s taking so long–because there’s so much of my life to go through, I can’t figure out what moments to focus on, where to end the stories, how to connect them. After talking to Shelley, I decided to completely edit my structure and make parallels between current moments and moments from my past, but even still.

Now that I’m thinking about it, there might be a deeper reason for my getting stuck on the past details: for some reason, I find myself avoiding writing about my current relationships. That’s the whole point of my project, but with graduation literally right in front of me, it’s sort of scary to actually confront them…

Basically, I’m mildly freaking out because I have, like, three days to write and all these barriers. Any advice or words of comfort would be appreciated!

Finding confidence

I have a bad habit of second-guessing my topic in the middle of writing. I’ll spend an hour working on the introduction and framing, and then as I write the body I start feeling like my argument is completely wrong, that I’m missing a crucial aspect, or that my topic is irrelevant and what I actually want to talk about is something else. The outcomes of this tendency have varied throughout my writing career. I experienced this while writing a paper about the movie Get Out last week, and I ended up adding an additional point onto my main argument and message of the paper. Sometimes, I figure it’s way too late to change and I go through with my original plan–sometimes that leads to me writing a sub-par piece, sometimes I find new strength in my original point.

A few times, I’ve completely scrapped what I had up to that point and started over. I did that in this class a couple months ago after I had already turned in an extensive proposal and started my research for a different project idea. Somehow, I’ve come back here: I’m supposed to be turning in this project in the next two days, even presenting it at the showcase tomorrow, but I’m feeling so much doubt about whether it means anything and if I’m staying on topic. I feel like my project is turning more into about my identities, which was supposed to be one part of my piece but not the main one, and less about the communities themselves and what they mean. But I obviously don’t have time to change my project–how should I balance staying true to my original plan while also staying true to my natural flow of writing?

Challenge Journal: Uncovering the Hidden (in a New Structure)

As I shakily alluded to in class, I went through a last minute project change. I started with a super broad idea of asking activists what freedom means to them, and after meeting with Shelley narrowed it down to the IGR program and asking whether we can use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house through ethnography. After two weeks of intensely procrastinating starting my research and hearing what fun projects others in our class are doing, I realized that I didn’t want to do this. So after some inner searching and talking with Shelley, I have now decided to write a memoir about an internal conflict I’m going through in my real life right now: wanting to leave a community that I’ve spent most of my life with as a person who has changed and possibly grown out of it.

Although I’m much more excited by this project than my previously planned one, I also have several qualms about it. Firstly, I’m terrified to dive into something so personal and intimate in a pretty public space. One of the best (and arguably necessary) parts of writing is its power to illuminate and complicate reality, both as a writer during the process and as a reader after its completion. Even while believing this, it scares me to think that people from our class and potentially future Capstone students will have access to my deeply personal narrative. For this qualm, I would honestly just love a few words of encouragement to help me be brave.

A more technical challenge I’m having is trying to figure out the structure of my memoir. The easiest thing would be to write chronologically about the communities I’ve been a part of throughout my life and who I was at those times, leading into my current situation. However, I’m feeling ambitious to explore non-chronological narrative structures if it’ll help me work through my conflict and truthfully share my story. Last year in English 325, I wrote a narrative piece about gaining my US citizenship: I used the court ceremony as the main event and incorporated thoughts about the entire immigration system and experiences of being a person of color in America throughout the small instances of the day. This is one of the pieces I’m most proud of having written in college so I want to do something similar, but I don’t have any specific event to tie my thoughts back to. It would help if anyone can think of narrative structures that could be useful for my subject, or if anyone even just has examples of memoirs or narratives that they particularly enjoyed that utilize a non-chronological structure.

I Guess These Are Rituals

I’ve never really thought about rituals before, and I’m still not sure if I fully buy it, but after thinking about it for a while, I realized there are some little things I do often that hold more significance than I thought in the moment. As I shared in class, in everyday life doing my eyebrows is a ritual signifying that I’m going to take my day seriously. But writing practices? I’m not a consistent or disciplined writer. Would I have rituals?

After much thought, my conclusion is that I don’t have one good, helpful ritual, but rather several little ones that I seem to do on accident. The first is a highly problematic one–procrastination. Once I get to writing, I swear I enjoy it–but for some reason, I have the hardest time getting myself to sit down and start writing. Almost without fail, I procrastinate my writing until pressure to finish by a deadline motivates me. Perhaps I do this because I know how big of a commitment it is to start writing. I’m the type of worker that requires a lot of time before falling into the space where I’m deeply engrossed in the work. It takes a lot of mental energy to get into that space, so I think I tend to push it off.

However, once I do finally sit down to start writing, I make sure to have water and take a big gulp. I didn’t think about this as a ritual because I just drink a lot of water, but I drink water before doing anything of importance, so I suppose it counts for writing as well. The cold water clears my mouth, head, and heart, calming my anxiety down. And if I fill my water bottle, that’s even more indication that I will be spending some time doing this thing that might cause stress.

Another tendency I have is preparing document aesthetics. Microsoft Word is buggy on my computer, so I start all my writing on Apple Pages, which has very distinct pre-set formats. I go through fonts, spacing, and more, half to continue procrastinating the hard part of writing content and half because I’m always concerned with aesthetics. I now consider this a ritual because doing this helps me write more–a visually appealing document motivates me to add words to the page.

The final tendency I can think of occurs when I’m having trouble focusing. While the location doesn’t usually affect me too much, I don’t like too quiet or too loud. With either, I like to put in some earphones and search for a keyboard typing video on Youtube. This probably seems oddly specific, but the earphones block out distracting sounds of my surroundings, while the keyboard typing adds the perfect amount of white noise. But in this example, the ritual is the choice of keyboard sounds–I could choose anything else, but the keyboard signifies that I am working on something serious.

My Voice[s]

I wrote my first “draft” of Why I Write in a quasi-bullet point-paragraph-outline format–I basically just let my fingers spit out the words in my head with very little mediation in between. I suppose that could mean that it truly was my voice, since I made very little effort in trying to make my sentences sound any certain way. However, I wonder if perhaps my writing that is mediated with extra effort and purposeful tone and voice is also another real voice of mine. I don’t believe in many absolutes in general, so along those lines I don’t think I believe in having one voice–that sounds awfully boring, really. I sometimes like to play around with different voices in my personal writing. I don’t mean that people have multiple greatly differing voices, because evidenced by a good majority of writing out in the world that doesn’t seem to be the case, but I think there are variations within one’s voice that can come out in different works of writing. In my opinion, even writing that seems voiceless, such as research or scientific writing or lists, can have a variation of one’s voice, because they involve choices related to words, syntax, and other aspects of language. So yes, I do believe that I wrote my Why I Write in my voice, or at least in one of them, but it will probably–hopefully–develop and transform as my essay goes on.

Questions for Repurposing

  1. Is social equality a right or a privilege?
  2. Gender and race are hot social issues these days–how does class fit (and not fit) in this conversation?
  3. How are certain female identities privileged over others?
  4. How does media representation of different female identities actually effect viewers’ ideas of femininity?
  5. Can a work of media be totally free of biases and stigmas?
  6. Can anything?
  7. Movies, shows, any storytelling use (and require) stereotypes as shortcuts to get to the meat of the story. Is this bad?
  8. And if it is, how so? How can we combat it?
  9. How do media portray and perpetuate misconceptions, stereotypes, and social hierarchies of/amongst women?
  10. How does gender identity and sexuality fit into the conversation of femininity and feminism?

There are so many questions I could ask and so many topics I want to touch on, but a lot of these are already being asked by various academic classes on campus. These days, I’ve been thinking critically about why I’m a feminist and the nature of the whole movement, so questions 1, 2, 5, 6, 7-8 are the most interesting to me.

The reader would probably have to be a feminist themselves, or at least knowledgeable of the basic ideas of feminism. The questions I chose above ask the reader (and of course myself, the writer) to go beyond analyzing media portrayals of women and those effects, and consider the fact that we analyze these things. Perhaps I should introduce the paper with an example of a media-portrayal analysis to give the reader that background and foundation, and then go into my actual questions. I want to trust my reader to follow along because it’s 99% likely that they are bombarded with media throughout their everyday lives, so as long as I can write in a clear way, I would hope they can follow; however, I do realize this is a tricky business since I’m sort of relying on the reader to agree with the fact that media produce and perpetuate harmful effects…

Whose News?

Frankly speaking, I don’t follow the news very well. This made it quite difficult for me to find news sources that match the three options. I tried to search the stereotypical/obvious: I looked up pop culture news for an example of a news source that is beneath me, and went on sites like Politico and the Guardian for the liberal-Millennial-targeted news story. Just with this search, I utilized a marker of news source category: news type. We all do this when we come across digital news; if the title and news site seem fitting for us at our age/social group, we click on it. (Could this be part of why people look towards the same biased news sources–the expectation of reading something a certain way?)

While there are many various markers of news “level,” the main one seems to be the theme/topic and tone. So, in looking through articles on the different news sites, I decided to stick with one subject: our POTUS, Barack Obama.

  1. A news source that is pitched towards me: “An angry Obama puts himself on the ballot”, Politico.
    This article is about a Trump-related portion of the speech that Obama gave at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner. This is already fitting towards my cliched but true demographic of being a liberal, semi-educated Millennial that loves to hate Trump. I’ll admit–my knowledge of politics and the elections is very surface-level and media-driven, so this article, in a tone that suggests an assumed united support for Obama and distaste for Trump, is easy to read and swallow. The message is also about race, another hot topic amongst people like me. It’s the perfect mix: a political topic that makes us feel informed, but simple and entertaining enough for us to be engaged and understand.
  2. A news source that is beneath me: “Barack Obama Lets Michelle Have the Spotlight at the Congressional Black Caucus Dinner”, PopSugar.
    The name of the site and article title already give an impression that this news source will be “beneath me”. The other article had a political message, while this one is half about Obama’s love for the First Lady and half about her dress. The message is unsophisticated, but fun to read because of the playful and lighthearted tone. I’d be lying if I said I would never have read this article if it wasn’t for this assignment, but I definitely look down on pop culture articles and don’t consider it “real news”.
  3. A news source that goes over my head: “What’s Behind Barack Obama’s Ongoing Accommodation of Vladimir Putin?” The Intercept.
    At the top of the ladder is this article about Obama’s foreign affairs and relations, a subject I’ll admit I know very little about. The article actually seems quite interesting and easy to read for someone who is more politically knowledgeable and interested, because the language and tone are light and matter-of-fact; however, as someone who is probably less informed than she should be, much of this is read without retention or comprehension, and that tone seems to make exclusive the group that does understand.

I write with a playful self-deprecating tone here, and to be fair, the level gaps of these articles aren’t huge. However, there are also other formal markers of level or category at work. The lengths of the articles and paragraphs themselves are usually telling of how difficult it’ll be to read. The vocabulary, syntax, and the use/presence of jargon for the topic is another indicator: the Popsugar article uses much more casual, “hip” language (“sweet shout-out”) that anyone who speaks English could understand, while the Intercept article uses political jargon and references other political events and issues in it that only those informed could follow. All of these aspects add to the feel and theme of the articles that ultimately decide whether a person reads that article or not. Can’t blame anyone for that.

Voice?

I’ve always preferred to do my communication through writing rather than speaking (my thoughts are fast and plenty and my mouth too slow). My writing isn’t quite like how I speak–like most, I’m definitely more formal and fancy in writing–but I realized that I read what I write as I write it. This makes it so that I almost exclusively use contractions in my writing, even though I know it’s more proper to separate the “it” and “is”.

It seems I’ve been committing this grammatical crime for quite a long time now. As I skim through my old pieces of writing, I feel my voice, but it’s difficult to identify–in other words, I’m not sure how to define my voice other than to define the structures that make up my voice. So here they are:

  1. I’m never totally formal. (And I like contractions).
  2. I find it hard to make my sentences flow without using transition words and phrases like “so,” “and,” or “but” even though I know I shouldn’t.
  3. Sentence fragments.
  4. But I also like longer sentences, sentences that sound dynamic and musical; the semi-colon–and the dash–are my friends.
  5. I like to use the rule of three.
  6. I like metaphors and other rhetorical devices.
  7. I like to add subtle bits of humor here and there if the prompt allows.
  8. And sometimes I’m really dark and sad and sappy (cliche?).
  9. My favorite topic to write about by far is intersectional social identity, especially the microaggressions surround it and its representation in the media.
  10. And my other favorite topic is anything about myself.

For some of these I can identify exactly when they became a part of my voice: I learned many rhetorical devices and started reading more sophisticated essays in my AP Language and Composition class my junior year of high school; as a slightly embarrassing confession, I started writing dark prose after reading a lot of it on Tumblr; I learned to identify and articulate social injustice in college. My personality has always been mildly sarcastic and playful, and my speech and writing never formal. However, I seem to have developed many of my formal aspects more gradually, most likely from copying the authors I read and applying the rules I learned in school. It’s interesting how we can pick up things without us even noticing until we take a step back and actively reflect on it, and still it’s hard to label your voice with specific and appropriate adjectives…