Challenge Journal: Reflection

Pursuing a corporate career, I often ask myself: “Why Writing?” The business world is moving away from writing as a valuable skill. Even in professions that do value writing, appreciation comes few and far between. Why in the world did I dedicate countless hours to a Minor in Writing? To the Michigan Daily?

As my journey isn’t finished, I can’t say I have an answer for it. But I am getting closer, and excuse the cliches when I share my possible answers.

I furthered my understanding of what constitutes a community. through writing I felt something strangely tribal at the MiW showcase as I listened to fellow classmates share their projects after students from others. I felt proud of what we accomplished even when there was no overlap between what any of us did.

Similarly, the minor showed me that writing can build relationships. I think people better understood who I was after my workshop in the class. I certainly felt the passion that others had when I saw pieces of their work. Finding a voice and looking to be unique is what drove me on the Daily and in the class, and I am grateful the opportunity to further figure out what that means for my writing.

Finally, my time spent writing showed me my potential when I work on something that I am passionate about. When will I get the freedom on an assignment like I did with the gateway and capstone? When I am working, will I have to put passion projects to the wayside? I’ve certainly gained an appreciation for the variety of projects I saw and the fun I had making mine.

So why writing? There isn’t one good way I can put it. I may always wonder if the good I gained from it really would make a difference later on. But maybe it doesn’t have to. I can appreciate that there was something good to be had at all.

Into the Sunset

When I was younger, I was really into old Western movies for no particular reason. From classics like A Fistful of Dollars to more recent entires like No Country for Old Men, I was always drawn to the genre. Maybe it’s the tumbleweeds, or the desolate landscape, or the eerie soundtracks, but I found Westerns simply incredibly compelling.

One of the hallmarks of many of these classic Westerns is the ending. Typically, in many of these films, the final shot features the protagonist riding off into the sunset, having successfully overcame their adversaries or or otherwise resolved their conflicts. Seeing that shot at the end of each of these movies was reassuring in a way. It felt like everything was right with the world when a gunslinger acknowledged their success, while simultaneously deciding it was time to move on to a new challenge.

That same feeling has dominated much of my thinking lately. Between finishing the Minor in Writing and graduating from Michigan, it feels as if I, too, have overcame my own obstacles. Like many of those fictional characters, I feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and pride in my success. Yet, I also feel a strong sense of sadness and unhappiness. Being the one actually riding into the sunset, I now realize the pain that accompanies leaving or finishing something of real value. Deep down, I ache for the story to go on, for another capstone project to come along, for another opportunity to develop more as a writer at Michigan.

It’s why these past few weeks have been so difficult. I want to keep going–to keep pushing, to take another course, to create another piece, to do anything to prevent that solitary sun from finally setting and from the screen fading to black.

At the risk of assuming another person’s emotional state, I think some of those characters felt the same way. Or, at least, I like to think they do. Really, I struggle to believe that these tough-guy gunslingers can all move on without feeling a twinge of sadness at leaving an entire place behind, regardless of how tantalizingly exciting the future may be. It’s this specific act–the moving-on–that I think reveals much about a person’s character.

For me, my difficulty in moving-on shows how much I’ve enjoyed my time at Michigan and, more broadly, how resistant to change I am. I’ve always struggled to adapt to change, and finishing the Minor and graduating represent massive changes to my life–to all of our lives. Yet, I’m still hopeful that this will ultimately be a positive change. I may be being shoved into the sunset, rather than going voluntarily, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t enjoy it.

Into the sunset we go.

Challenge Journal – Writing After College?

I’m not sure about anyone else, but I’m a just a little nervous for life post-grad. While I’m grateful that I have a job that I’m incredibly excited for, there’s a lot of things about college that I’m going to miss: waking up a little too late, staying up with my roommates just to talk, football games, walking in the diag, and, well, writing.

My college experience has been shaped by the writing that I’ve gotten to do – through classes (specifically the minor), my journal, and extracurricular activities. I’ve written for online magazines, for a startup, and for myself. I’ve found a place for writing because of my passion, but also because I’ve carved out the time for these activities. I’ve been passionate about writing from such a young age, and I know that’s not going to go away the minute I graduate from this University. But, what if I don’t have the time post-grad; no, what if I don’t make the time? In college, that time has been carved out for me, but not anymore.

I don’t think that my love for writing will necessarily go away, but I am scared that it will start to diminish until it’s really just me writing in my journal once every couple of days. How do you all plan to make time for writing post-grad when you’re balancing work, health, and a social life? How can we make sure that we don’t lose all of the progress we’ve made throughout our time at Michigan?

Learning to be okay with not having a plan

All of my life I have always worried about what is going to happen next. The minute that I solve one thing, I find something else to worry about. I think it was less about just be attracted to negativity in general, but more about wondering what gives my life a purpose. What I mean by this is that sometimes I feel like if I’m not worrying about anything, that something is wrong. That I am not trying hard enough or that there is nothing else for me to prepare for or look to. That without the stress of what is going to happen next, that I have nothing to push or motivate me to do more.

Lately I have been trying to move away from this mindset. As I get ready to graduate, I realize that I can’t control everything and that no matter how little companies email me about a job offer or return my emails, no matter how uncertain I am about what I am going to be doing even in the next month, graduation is coming. No matter if I have a plan or not, I am getting my degree, something I have worked hard for for years. So instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I am focusing on what I do have that is going to prepare me for the unknown. I am more prepared than I know.

I have been taking this mindset and applying it to my writing as well. For my project, I added a few poems or things I consider “art” that might describe someone’s daily life. Something that makes them feel like they are not alone, or something that makes them chuckle about something that maybe is actually a little serious, but it’s always good to laugh. I have been trying to let my fingers move on the keyboard or my pen moving on my notepad even if the words coming out make no sense because I know that in some way I can make them have meaning. I think that when you trust yourself and your ideas, it shines through your writing .

Challenge Journal: AHHHHH!!!

The world may as well be ending at this point. Life beyond college? Forget about it. I might as well be 80 years old. What’s my purpose in life?

Alright now that that’s over, it’s time to be rational again. The semester is pretty much done, with the capstone project being the last, huge, important assignment left for me to do. I have been thinking about the capstone a lot, and not just because of the upcoming project submission, but for what it represents as a transition into the next chapter of life post-graduation.

I want to go out proud as I enter the unknown “real” world. I want to prove that I can still create things for others to enjoy, even if I don’t get that creative opportunity at a desk job or in graduate school. In other words, I can’t say for certain that my project is good, but it means a lot for me that I am finding comfort in the work I produce.

After seeing everyone’s trailers and pieces from the workshops, I hope that you guys feel the same way too. I observed some truly incredible work, and I was jealous of the creativity and passion I saw in class.

So yea, I am freaking out about graduation. But we are going to graduate in style. Life isn’t over after 21 years, somehow. I will continue to work hard and find my passion. And I know that I am in good company. Good luck in this final week!

Lack of Visual Creativity?

I’m not sure if anyone else is finding this to be a challenge, but my inability to navigate any website online is starting to cause a few issues. To provide a bit of context, I’m creating a blog on Wix, which doesn’t sound like it would be that hard (I mean, I blog in my free time on a Weebly site, so I decided to give Wix a try- how hard could it be). Right now, I’m wishing I decided to stick with Weebly. First off, I’m having a bit of trouble with the site. My blog posts keep saving, but not in the right place. Has anyone else had this happen before? If so, how did you fix it? While this has kept me up a few nights, it’s not even the worst of it.

The biggest problem I’m running into is how to make my posts visually appealing. I had the exact same problem in my Gateway portfolio. I never knew how to align the text, insert photos, or provide the reader with a certain “vibe.” I was constantly told to center my texts, or provide more white space, or insert a photo that I took instead of a stock picture. It was the hardest thing for me. And sadly, I’m running into that problem again with my Capstone project. While I have a better idea of the “vibe” that I’m going for (bright colors with lots of white space and photos of myself and my friends), I’m still figuring out how to align text on my page so that it’s appealing to read. I’m thinking about going through my Gateway portfolio to figure out what I finally did to be successful, as well as other portfolios on the Minor in Writing site to get some ideas. If anyone else has tips, I would love to hear them!

I hope everyone is chugging along in these last couple of weeks. I cannot wait to see all of your finished portfolios. Best of luck writing!

The One and Only “Rabbithole”

It’s almost legendary. They say it can be perilous. Until now, I thought it was some trite saying, rather than a real problem.

I’m talking—of course—about the fabled “rabbithole” and the cliché “down the rabbithole” phrase. While I began my capstone project “The Narrows” with minor concerns about the scope of my short-story choose-your-own-adventure, I am now significantly struggling to determine when and how to conclude my dystopian story. With the sheer amount of ideas and possible twists and turns I’ve sketched out, I’ve found myself deep in the rabbithole.

In grappling with the scale of my fictional universe, I repeatedly have trouble with trying to limit the amount of possible pathways in “The Narrows.” Since I want my final product to have multiple endings, I’ve encountered issues with choosing how to structure the pathways so that decisions are impactful within the context of a short-story—I’m not writing a novel here. It’s a delicate balance, I think, and one that I’m trying to achieve by reviewing some of the dystopian short stories I read during the initial research phase of my project, including Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” and Kurt Vonnegut’s “2 B R 0 2 B.” So far, I’m still trapped in the rabbithole, but I’m hoping these professional examples can stimulate me to make some concrete decisions about the scope of “The Narrows.”

As I continue updating the story’s pathways and dramatic possibilities, I’m eager to hear any advice or thoughts any of you might have on my situation. If there’s some hidden formula you’ve found to solving this rabbithole dilemma, I’d love to hear it.

Challenge Journal 4: Being frustrated at the little things (and why that is good)

As the clock is ticking down, I have made significant strides in the creation of my entire project (content, web page, emotional well-being about the state of my project and my entire future). I imagine many of you inherently feel the same way. But like Zeno’s Paradox, this kind of progress has been a Russian nesting doll for other problems.

I write a piece for the website. Great! Where does it fit? Do I have to reorganize how the links are being displayed? Now I have placed it and I continue to look at my website. Should I have made another tab? Do I even like the color scheme that I used? If you work like I do, you can make these annoying changes whenever a free time opportunity comes up. A few changes here and there and then off to class, rinse and repeat.

Some times these small changes pose unnecessary introspective questions like if I should have picked another topic to start with or a different medium or if I should have simplified or gotten even more complex.

But I argue that these thoughts are good. Thoughts about where to add a new piece on my website is good. It forces you to notice and perfect everything. There may never be a true conclusion to the project since it will be submitted no matter what whether you are completely satisfied or not. In this instance, where you may never feel at ease, you can practice coping with that realization. And beyond all that, these nuanced questions can make you appreciate all of the progress you have made. I had an idea, and I wrote words and made a website. And I am worried about color and a button size? That’s awesome!

The near completion of my website, in reality, doesn’t totally alter how stressed I can be to actually finish it. But I am more comfortable that I have something to show. I can smile at the thousands of words in my google drive. I can smile at my Wix page that somewhat resembles a nice website.

Good luck and work hard in these next few weeks!

Getting back to my rituals

So as an update from my last post, I am finally getting back on track. I am writing this post sitting in Literati, one of my favorite places to go when I need to focus on writing. It took me about a month to get myself back here doing work, but better late than never. I tried to make it simpler for myself and sit at home to write, but I finally gave that up because there are just way too many distractions. Now that it isn’t freezing cold outside it is easier for me to travel to my favorite writing spots. The sun being out is a great motivator for me and always puts me in great creative moods.

Yesterday in class when we had free time to work the the pieces of our projects that we felt needed to most work, I struggled to figure out what to work on because… well I need to work on a whole lot. I decided to start the construction and layout of my site before continuing to work on the content because I think that when I have a better idea of where things are going to be and how I want them to look, it helps me figure out how to structure my writing and what to include.

There are so many ways to organize content when creating an advice blog that it is almost overwhelming. I think a big thing I need to decide is how much writing is just the right amount to be informative, but not so detailed that it is boring. I am also finding it difficult to tell my story and about experiences I have had without oversharing, or in a way that is relatable to a broader audience. I hope that as I continue to experiment with my layout and content that it gets easier to me to envision the experience of my project as a whole.

Let the Darkness Fear // Challenge Blog #4

Hello All!
I’ve been struggling with motivation this semester. With graduation and my wedding coming up, getting the things that I need to get done has been pretty hard. 

But this project, this project I’m doing has been on my heart for a while. And I was reminded this past weekend of why I am doing this specific project.

You see, this past weekend was Jr High Tool Time. Tool Time is a weekend retreat for youth. We coordinate speakers, worship teams,  small discussion groups, a community service event, games, and so much more. Many people I know have been extremely impacted by this weekend. I have been too. I’ve worked it for the past four years and I love it. Our theme for this year was “Be Still” based on Psalm 46’s, “Be still and know that I am God.”

During one of the songs for the weekend, we linked arms and jumped up and down for the last couple of choruses. We sang to “let the darkness fear.” This song is so upbeat and joyful that I almost started crying every time we sang it. “Let the darkness fear.”

In my faith, we believe that the devil wants to destroy us. Mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, but most of all… spiritually. This line, as we jump up and down and sing at the top of our lungs is us praising God because our Savior has defeated sin, death, and the devil. The darkness fears. 

This project that I’m doing. It’s taking the things that have aimed to destroy us and bringing it to the light. Not only is it bringing the dark to light, it’s showing the power of God. You can hear it in how my participants talk about Jesus. Their sorrow, their shame, their darkness… it turns to JOY, it turns to praise. Let the darkness fear.

It’s powerful to know that this project is coming into existence. Everything I do is an act of worship, and I hope this brings praise to Christ. I hope that this joy that I am feeling towards working on this project continues. 
How do you keep up motivation when exciting things are happening and things are coming to an end? I need to know! With job applications, wedding invites in the mail, and a summer of fun coming up, I’m nervous my motivation will slip again. 

Do you have any songs to listen to? Any articles to read? Any tips?

-Adele Gendron (though it’s 129 days before I change this name!)