Capstone Introduction: A Maximalist Essay on Minimalism

I am very tired.

And so are you, probably. Tired of school, tired of the pandemic, tired of the chaos and stress of everything.

My capstone did not turn out as I expected. I went in thinking I was going to write a creative immersion journalism piece on the pitfalls of a modern fad, but the pandemic struck me in a very interesting way. This essay shows that very clearly.

When the pandemic struck, I thought I would never finish my capstone. So many things got upended, and I was too stressed to focus on anything. I wanted to quit. But thank you to Shelley for being the most amazing capstone instructor ever, accommodating me and guiding me through everything, and we touched on the idea of featuring the pandemic in my essay. I first brainstormed this capstone before COVID-19 was even known to the world, but now it is an integral part of my final capstone project. It just happened that way, and I think it is very reflective of this moment in life we are all enduring.

So! Welcome to my capstone! It has been quite a journey, and I am very tired but very proud. It is a piece of long-form creative non-fiction, and it touches on the fad of modern minimalism as a lifestyle and aesthetic. I question the ways in which it has grown from its countercultural art roots, explore the entanglements of class privilege, environmental impact, spirituality and most importantly (to me), reflect on how minimalism’s popularity is the reflection of something much deeper, much more raw, and common to the human experience. The pandemic showed me that.

It’s a long piece, and I hope you enjoy. I didn’t think I’d make it, but here I am. This is In Search of Shadows.

https://jamietohsl.wixsite.com/capstone

some advice

Chances are, the semester you take Writing 420 will go by quickly. You might be thinking that “every semester goes by quickly,” but trust me: things will feel especially accelerated. That’s probably because you’ll be taking this course as part of your final semesters.

I hope that, by the time you read this, you’ll be able to attend classes in-person. I’m sure you can recall the uncertainty about the future all of us faced in mid-April. My final semester (Winter 2020) was already a bit bumpy as I was preparing for life beyond college, and, not surprisingly, a pandemic made everything a bit more complicated. The transition to online learning was smooth, but I found that the events happening as we moved online made focusing on coursework extremely difficult.

If your class is taught online, here are some things NOT to do. This is advice I didn’t follow, at least at first… (they’re not easy when everything is online)

  • Develop routines. Having a synchronous writing class helps with this… but only for two days each week. Try to develop some healthy academic (and personal!) habits and do them at specific times of the day.
  • Try to have a consistent sleep schedule. I had a week where I would just randomly sleep at different times (sometimes during the day…). That was not fun. And it wasn’t productive.

And, here’s just some general advice. So this stuff applies whether the course is in-person OR online.

  • Ambition is great. You’ll inevitably incorporate that into your schedule. This will cause it to be overly optimistic. Recognize that relying on contingencies is necessary when working with your project.
  • On a similar note, make sure your project goals are reasonable. Be ready to rewrite them if when your project changes.
  • Motivate yourself by engaging deeply with your classmates’ projects! I found this to be really inspirational when writing up notes for workshop days. The added bonus here is that your classmate receives higher quality feedback.

Finally, for your project, make sure that you choose something that you’re truly passionate about. I am sure your instructor as well as others will echo this advice, but it’s because it’s critical. When you’re passionate about what you’re working on, it not only becomes easier to find motivation, but also encourages you to more quickly adapt to inevitable(?) changes.

Thanks for reading and best of luck!