The Rhetorical Circle

Wow.

It feels really weird being done with this semester-long journey of a project.

Like, I’m not sure how to comprehend and process this information.

It doesn’t help either that I’m about to graduate in a week and am still denying the reality of having to be an actual adult.

In all actuality, writing this post is really bittersweet; I remember way back in the fall of my sophomore year when I took the gateway class. We were pushed to write in mediums that were alien to us, and we would eventually publish our work onto a website. Which is the exact same thing that I did for this capstone class (with which said website can be found here). It’s really amazing to compare the work I did in the gateway class with this capstone project; it still retains the humor I like to include in any writing, but it feels so much more mature. It really highlights the fact that I learned a lot in that small window of time. Got to love that Greek rhetorical circle of starting and ending at the same point, am I right?

I guess since this is going to be my last blog post, here’s some advice to anyone about to do the capstone class and is looking for guidance:

Do what you love. It’s going to make the project a hell of a lot easier if you do something you are actually passionate about. The trick here, though, is that you have to know you’re passionate about it. Don’t go into it thinking, “Oh, this might be a cool thing to do,” cause I can almost guarantee you that it is not going to turn out in your favor when the work piles on top of you (although you may be one of the lucky few: if you want to take those odds, then go for it). Find something that you would be willing to spend many sleepless nights on, something that you wouldn’t mind researching for hours on end, something you wouldn’t mind working on for more than three entire months. If you can find that, then it will make the class, the project, and the semester an incredibly vivid and amazing experience. I was lucky enough to find a project that I had such a passion for, and it was even better in that I could include my friends in it. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I would have changed my project in any other way. It’s something that I’m happy with–both in the end product and the road getting there–even with the inhuman amount of coffee I ingested this semester.

There’s more advice I could give, but I give a fair amount of it on the website, so I’ll incentivize you to check it out that way.

For being a Minor in Writing, I’m surprised at how difficult it is for me to come up with more things to say about this project and the journey it took to get here.

So I don’t think I’ll say much else: just sit back, enjoy, and, as always,

Challenge Journal #4: So much noise

You know the best thing about creating a podcast series, other than having deep and heartfelt conversations with your friends?

The hours upon hours spent editing the transcripts for them.

 

 

So. much. fun (as an aside, THANK GOD for canvas having a transcription feature).

I’m slowly chipping away at these, and should have them done by the end of the week (hopefully before the March Madness game on Saturday!). I’m excited because that’s all of the mindless work done; no longer will I have to sit at a computer for hours and listen to a file, pause it, and edit the transcript accordingly.

Now I get to sit at a computer for hours and listen to a file, pause it, and edit the audio file accordingly.

Such a big improvement.

Here’s the thing though: I actually get to be creative with the audio files. I can add my own zany and wacky effects to them to really individualize and distinguish my podcast above all of the others. I can now begin to explore incorporating my voice in a way that is not necessarily written, and it is a prospect that I am happy to start diving in.

At the same time, it is the part of the project that I am most fearful towards.

While I enjoy the abundance of creative liberty that is granted to me with this project, there are two concerns I have. The first involves deciding how exactly I want my voice to be understood with the podcast; not my literal voice, but the one as a podcast creator. How loud do I want my presence as an editor to be known to the listener, and what tone should it take? I’m leaning towards having it be comedic, but I don’t want to inundate the listener to the point where the valuable lessons to be ascertained from the podcast will be lost with the laughter. My other, equally worrisome concern is that I will go down a metaphorical rabbit hole of editing, and that I will not be satisfied with my project until it is what I consider to be the epitome of a podcast, which will involve me spending literal days hunched over a computer instead of enjoying my last few weeks here as an undergraduate (unbeknownst to some readers, I’m a wee bit of a perfectionist: I spent roughly five weeks editing a paper for an English class I’m taking now until I thought it was acceptable).

It’s a similar problem I had with my gateway class and the initial major project we had to do (I think it was the repurposing project?). I knew I wanted to do some form of satire, but I was not exactly sure how to strike a balance being comedic and being informative. So I looked up multiple examples, cycling through various multimodal and written pieces of satire, eventually falling in love with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

I loved how he was able to include humorous quips into his piece that did not obfuscate the main point of his message, which almost always turned out to be very informative. To that end, I decided to mimic my project to be of a similar nature, and this decision proved to be essential in helping me come up with the editing decisions and script I made for the final project.

Even though there were a couple of podcasts I listed as being potentially useful for my project, I haven’t really been enamored with them. They are fabulous podcasts in their own right, don’t get me wrong; it’s just not something that I am really resonating with. To that end, I think that’s what I got to do for this project. I’ll keep cycling through different podcasts until I find one that I really latch onto. From there, I’ll analyze it thoroughly, try to understand why I find it so captivating, and subsequently attempt to incorporate their editing techniques into my own project.

At least it will give me something else to listen to other than my own voice.

Challenge Post #3: When to do the time

So, now it begins. Now is the time where I put my money where my mouth is, and start actually creating a podcast series.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the project that I have planned. I am actually looking forward to sitting down with the people I plan to interview, my friends and peers, and hearing their thoughts on competition here at the University of Michigan and how it affected them. Despite the serious topic, I think it will be an overall fun experience, one where I learn more about the culture here at the University of Michigan and where I place myself in it, as an individual and as part of a collective whole.

I’ve also never created a podcast before, so I am really interested in fiddling around with the medium and playing with its capabilities. I think the end product is going to turn out to be something that I am proud of, and will be a phenomenal way to conclude everything that I have learned as a student in the minor in writing program. It will be rewarding and fruitful, I have no doubt about that.

But the research…

Yeah. Not exactly that thrilled about it (Also been re-binging Breaking Bad, so this felt apt).

The thing is, I decided upon this particular project for two reasons: it is a topic that I am very much interested in but have not done much research on, and it is going to be created through a medium that I have never done before. It was the novelty of these two aspects that drew me to decide upon this project, so it makes sense that I should do some research on the subjects. Yet, I don’t want to be bored of podcasts by the time I have to record them; otherwise, then the project loses the flare that drew me in and the ultimate product will be less than stellar in nature.

But we all have to do the time. At the end of the day, there has to be at least a modicum of academic merit with the piece in order to make it substantive, to make it be more meaningful than my own random thoughts and ramblings. The question is how to go learning about podcasts without having my interest in them wane.

To that end, I am going to take a page out of a project I did in the gateway course (I believe it was the repurposing project?), where I decided upon creating a satirical video for a topic that was dear to my heart. With that project, there was certainly an element of research involved with it as well. But rather than bog myself down in the dry literature of television shows and satire, I decided to watch some examples. The next few days I was roaring with laughter from The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight, and jotted down notes of what I found to be captivating with the shows for the script. I did basic research into how to record a video and eventually filmed the piece at the recording station on North Campus. It was only during the editing process of the video that I started to dive into the technical and dry literature of video production and satire. With this method, the passion was still very much a part of the project, and could be seen with the video I recorded. As for the editing, it was done over the course of a few days, so I could have time to distance myself from the dull parts of research and return to it reinvigorated with the initial passion I had.

So I’ll just do that with this project. I’ll listen to a couple of podcasts while walking to class or cleaning the apartment, and scribble down what I find to be fascinating with them. I’ll use the notes I have to craft questions for the interviews and, before I start the more mundane research, interview and record the people for the podcasts. If I do this early enough, then I’ll have plenty of time to go through the less than lively literature on podcasts and still retain the passion I have while editing the project.

Am I pushing off the necessary work and hardship for future me that should probably be done earlier so I can enjoy the rest of my senior year? Probably. But I’d much rather push off the research and have fun starting the project than do the research now and dread my final project for the minor in writing. It’s all about having fun at the end of the day, so let’s have fun throughout the project’s entirety.

Challenge Journal #2: Fun with modes

SO HOW ABOUT THAT PRE-POSAL, AM I RIGHT?

It’s a fun time, we’re all having a fun time, there’s no need to worry or panic hahahahaha.

 

But really though, it’s a little more difficult than I anticipated.

Here’s the thing: the fact that we are supposed to come up with four different topic ideas/proposals for this one project is not that big of a deal. I am genuinely having fun with some of the proposal ideas, despite what the introduction to this post may otherwise indicate. Particularly, I am really enthusiastic about this one pre-posal that involves creating a podcast series based on academic interests towards creative non-fiction and story telling. The problem is trying to choose topics that I feel would be engaging in nature; I don’t want to write one or two pre-proposals that I am absolutely enthralled in, only to have the other half/possibly more be projects I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. For instance, if this podcast falls through, I would like to have another project that I feel just as-if not more-enthusiastic about.

The other concern I have is having said pre-posals be substantial and backed up with the work I did for the other minor in writing classes. It would not be too difficult to choose one class in the minor that I adored and to focus my topics based on said class; but that does not do justice to the other classes I took, resulting in possibly shoddy research. So to prevent this dilemma, I decided to try to find common threads between the classes that constitute my minor and make those areas topics for this assignment.

And honestly? It’s a good idea in theory, a wee bit more difficult in practice.

There are some wild cards in the mix that is making the finding of said connections a little more challenging than I would have liked (for instance, a psych research class, a peer consultant training class, and the multimodal gateway class). In terms of class-content, it’s turning out to be a particularly difficult task to find common threads between them. So that resorts to me looking at the objective criteria that these classes wanted me to practice: considering multimodality, purpose, etcetera. But that ties back into the first problem, the one with being engaged in creating it: all of us have substantial knowledge and awareness of these facets of writing and have considered them many times over. Therefore, I’m not sure if such topics would be interesting enough for me to work on for a solid couple of months.

While it feels similar to another project type in an earlier minor in writing class (creating a substantial research topic regarding writing pedagogy in Writing 300), this one is particularly more challenging in that I should try to connect as many of my minor in writing classes as I possibly could. For the Writing 300 class, I only had to worry about it relating to writing pedagogy: still a vast category, but much more liberating in terms of available research and evidence. 

Maybe I could play around with what shape this capstone project should take. Despite the fact that the writing pedagogy topic I chose in the writing 300 class was something I enjoyed, I equally enjoyed the medium with which said project took shape in. I also did have fun in some of my minor classes tinkering around with multimodality, so that’s something I’ll probably consider now: compensating for the limited amounts of substantial topics I have by playing around more with the mode in which such topics would take shape in.

Hopefully I’m not overthinking this/am not the only one overthinking this possibly minor (MINOR in writing pun/dad joke!) project at all? Please let me know if that is the case, would appreciate any and all feedback. 🙂

Challenge Journal 1: Getting Jazzed Up

So this is it. The beginning of a semester long extravaganza involved around creating a capstone project, something substantial to epitomize my experience as a minor in writing.

Do I know what I want to do for this project, where I could (almost) literally do whatever I want?

Oh god no. I think I would have a better time picking a topic at random from a hat and doing whatever I draw as my project.

So before I haphazardly fling myself into this coffee filled and keyboard-breaking task, it’s probably a good idea to figure out how to jazz myself up.

I like to get jazzed up. Helps gets me motivated.

But here’s the kicker: I got to think of a way to constantly jazz myself up, figure out a practice to continue to give myself some pep well into the future. That, or I try to do the entirety of the project all in one day and REALLY jazz myself up beforehand, something which I can say from firsthand experience is not fun (I try to have fun with these things: fun and jazz are a pretty good combo). In other words, I need a jazzing ritual.

This is not my first time with a troublesome prompt like this though. English 325, sophomore year, essay 3: Write an essay on a topic of your choosing (!). Although this “essay” didn’t have to be a stereotypical essay, I still had no idea what I wanted to write about for that, let alone what form I wanted it to take.

So I played some Frisbee. I put all my concerns behind me, and ran outside tossing a plastic disc for about an hour and a half. Afterwards, while rinsing myself off from a hard-fought battle of disc chasing, I decided upon writing a poem. It was a start. I got really jazzed up over that—don’t think I wrote a poem for a college class before, so that put some pep in my step/fingers.

So the bigger question is if I am willing to go outside and play some Frisbee to figure out an idea for my capstone project, to follow through with my previous ritual.

It’ll probably be a good way to give my keyboard a break.

Shameless plug

So yeah, turns out that my previous blog post was not the last one.

Oops.

The last blog post for my introduction to the minor in writing class involves me talking about my electronic portfolio, an online database of sorts that holds all of my writing from this class and more.

So, basically a shameless plug of sorts.

Honestly though I’ve really liked the eportfolio I have created, especially the design. My main goal for this portfolio was to make it aesthetically pleasing to the viewer as possible, a feat I think I successfully accomplished. However, I didn’t want to make the art too distracting, to detract from the written material explaining my projects and whatnot. So, I decided to utilize a minimalist style of artwork, where the images are not too colorful or zany yet still hold a powerful presence on the page. I would say that this is what I am most happy about regarding my eportfolio.

As for what I still want to work on, there is not much I want to or have a desire to revise per say. While what I wrote in the eportfolio could always be edited, there is not much else I would want to work on regarding my creation. The process of creating this eportfolio was one full of highs and lows. The biggest challenge I would say was finding the images I wanted to use for each section of the eportfolio. Ideally, the image would be white so I don’t have to edit the text much (editing the text background made the design pretty unappealing) but at the same time appealing for the viewer. This specific requirement made it hard to find images that I would personally want to utilize in my eportfolio, especially since I have a distinct and unique taste.

I believe I successfully achieved my purpose in presenting myself as a writer with this eportfolio. As a writer, I wanted to have the viewer truly understand what I, the writer, am like. This includes my serious and somber moments, my sense of humor, and what I enjoy. I believe that this eportfolio was able to successfully encapsulate all of this and more. I don’t have anything else to say other than I hope you enjoy looking through this final project of my writing 220 class!

 

My swan song for writing 220

So, I’m supposed to give advice to future minor in writing students.

Advice on what? I’m not sure exactly.

Am I supposed to give you advice on how to be successful in this class? That’s easy. Make a blog post once a week, comment on your blog group’s blog posts, and do the projects assigned to you. Pretty self explanatory, nothing overly complicated.

Am I supposed to give you advice on how to deal with overwhelming amounts of writing you may have assigned? Time management is honestly the only thing I can think of, and is something I am still struggling to perfect.

To me, these are all superficial pieces of advice, something you can probably find on ratemyprofessor or any buzzfeed article regarding how to be successful in classes and not be overwhelmed.

I’m going to focus on advising how to gain as much as you can from the class. To me, I believe that this is the most pivotal and crucial information you can obtain from me. It’s hard to take something away from a history, chemistry, math, or Spanish class. While you do learn from them, there’s nothing you can gain from the class other than knowledge about the subject. This is what makes this program in writing so amazing: you learn about yourself. You learn about your darkest fears, your highest hopes, search the inner recesses of your mind and soul to find out about yourself as a writer, and ultimately a human being.

So, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and try new things. Make a movie, a comic, a podcast, song, website, whatever you want. This is honestly the time in your life to try these things because it is not as high of stakes as you think. Everyone in the class works with you, admires the leaps and bounds you make, and try their best to make sure that you succeed in the end. Let your creative juices flow, explore the wide variety of mediums available to write in, because honestly, how many times are you going to write in a medium that is not a traditional academic essay? Plus, you can learn new skills that will surely help you in the future and can brag about how amazing you are with said tools.

Interact with your classmates. They’re all gifted in the art of writing, and will undoubtedly contribute to your success as a writer. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice and give it to them, realize that they are in the same position as you are. It’s such a small and tightly knit class where you all share the same passion; revel in this opportunity of being with like-minded individuals.

Finally, have fun with the class. Write about what you want to write, not what you think will get you an A. In the end, that’s what will make or break this program for you; deciding whether you have fun. This isn’t a program to help you become better at writing analytical essays or to teach you a new vocabulary of sophisticated words. It’s a program that will help you understand why you write, and will ultimately change you as a person and as a writer. Go along with the ride, and enjoy this opportunity to truly express yourself. Just make sure that it is an enjoyable trip.

This may seem like abstract advice, but this is what I’ve gathered while reflecting on my last blog post for writing 220. It has been one hell of a journey with a truly amazing group of talented people who will undoubtedly change the world with their writing. This is the beginning of my minor in writing, the first of many more classes I will take to complete this program. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.

Anyway, I digress. If any curious minors have any specific questions about the program, feel free to reach out to me. My email’s rjmolnar@umich.edu, and I will happily answer any questions.

Stay true to yourself

 

Pouring concrete on air

Who knew something as simple as finding out why and how you write could be such an intricate process?

When I had this project assigned to me, I thought it would be fairly straightforward; an internal reflection on why and how you write, and nothing more. I made the foolish mistake of thinking that it was something I could crank out in a few hours tops.

Here’s the thing though: that assignment has been clawing at the recesses of my brain for the past few days.

Why am I having such grievances over a seemingly easy assignment?

It’s not because I don’t have an answer, I most certainly do: the problem lies with me constructing my answer as a concrete and evidence based answer. My reason for why and how I write is not something simple, such as so I can complete my assignments, get a job, so on and so forth. While those are certainly positive results that emerge from my writing, those are not the reasons why I write.

I write because I find the craft to be enjoyable. I like being able to articulate the complex ideas, appreciate the meaning behind certain words, instilling beautiful imagery into the minds of my readers out of nothing. I find the art of writing to be beautiful, simple as that.

Therein lies the problem though: how can I base my evidence upon beauty? Such a subjective quality, and it varies from person to person. All I can rely upon is hoping that my reader shares similar emotions with me when it comes to writing, which is a poor way to construct an argument. It’s like trying to pour concrete on air; nothing’s going to emerge except a giant puddle of wet cement. Hopefully someone will appreciate the oozing pile that I will leave behind.

Other than that, I’ve enjoyed the introspective analysis of my own being. The meta-physical search proved to not only allow me to better understand myself as a writer, but as a student and as a human as well.

Self reflection versus evaluation

It’s interesting to really think about how valuable writing is in the world today, especially with entertainment. All the movies, television shows, and music that we immerse ourselves into generally have some form of a written background, whether it be lyrics or a script. Yet, people are often hesitant to have a major or minor on this important ability, out of fear of not obtaining a job. So, it should stand that those who choose to specialize in this skill should try to have their writing improved in the way they see fit, right? They need to make sure to get their metaphorical bang for their buck, so it would serve best to improve their writing in areas that are lacking with individual attention from their instructors.

Except that’s not true in the slightest.

When I started the minor in writing, I wanted to purify my writing of inorganic constitution, a pretty vague and abstract concept in of itself. I was expecting this goal to be accomplished through crafting various essays and obtaining others’ opinions on how to deal with this issue. I was worried that bias towards my own writing would inhibit me from seeing this issue fully.

Again, another misconception I had.

With my remediation project, I had to do countless revisions of my script. Wanting to mimic the style present in The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight, I had to make sure that my writing was precise and to the point in order to keep the audience’s attention. As a result, I had to eliminate many convoluted sentences and minimize the “fluffy” language I often utilized. Indirectly, I accomplished the goal I set for myself initially through my own revision and editing, not through another’s. While other people certainly read my script and left comments, none of them were on the writing itself but more so the content. In the end, only you can help yourself improve your writing. Through careful self reflection of what one has written, an individual ultimately becomes the only individual who can truly help in the improvement of his or her own writing.

With writing, it is much more complex than just fixing what is “wrong,” because there really is no true wrong with writing. Yes, there is grammar, formats, and various other rules and regulations in place, but at the end of the day, this is all done to make the reader better understand what the writer is trying to say. This was something I did not fully comprehend when I first started the gateway class, but is something I find incredibly fascinating. I feel like the saying “you are your own worst enemy” is coined, but I feel that this is quite applicable when it comes to improving your own writing.

Writing about my thoughts on why I write in response to why I write

Bit of a convoluted title, isn’t it?

When I read George Orwell’s Why I write, I was incredibly surprised at how much the article resonated with me. Despite its cynical nature, the four motives of writing he describes are all feelings that I have felt when composing various pieces. It was eerie how much I agreed with his understanding and perception of writing; it felt like he wrote the indescribable feelings I had toward writing (although I would never compare myself to someone as talented as he).

When compared to the piece we read earlier this semester, Why I blog, I feel like George Orwell’s interpretation takes a far more pessimistic and darker stance than the one present in the Why I blog piece. Ergo, it makes it difficult for me to find connections between the two other than the following: writing is an expression of one’s self, regardless of its form. In the end, isn’t that the ultimate truth that is present in writing?

Anyway, I digress. As for my development as a writer, I was initially unsure as how to answer this question because I didn’t do the type of writing I expected. I would have never imagined writing a script and creating a comic as being the two major pieces of writing I am doing for this class; I expected analysis of academic argumentative essays and other stereotypical bland english writing. Thankfully, this was not the case. Writing outside the stereotypical academic essay has undoubtedly helped me develop as a writer, as it forced me to think about the various aspects of writing that I generally ignored. When writing the script and the comic, I had to consider audience, tone, syntax, ethos, logos, and much more. Ultimately, as a writer, I’d consider myself to have begun the process of breaking the narrow minded shell I was trapped in. Cracks are starting to form, and when I am done, I will become a far greater writer than I have ever been before (hopefully that doesn’t come off as too boastful!)