What I Wish I Knew

1. Your capstone project will somehow, someway come together at the end of the semester.

I don’t know if you believe in miracles, but if you don’t… then check out my website because there is no way in hell that I thought I was capable of doing all that, even if I had an entire semester to bring it all together. I doubted myself more than I can remember, and you will most likely, too. Your project may change and morph and see itself transform iteration by iteration. You might think to yourself that you’ve gotten yourself in over your head— that there’s no way you’ll have enough time to slap your work onto a website without it looking like a hot mess. But you will figure it out. Maybe it’ll be because you have all this new free time to fill once you’re forced to move home mid-semester and your only source of entertainment is making subpar TikToks, but I digress! 

2. The only way to do a project of this scale is to break it up into bite-sized tasks.

I’m talking minuscule. Don’t plan to record three podcast episodes in three days. Don’t assume you can tackle your annotated bibliography in an afternoon. This project seemed more manageable each time I listed out small, reasonable goals for the day. Think: transcribe ten minutes of audio or add captions to pictures. My absolute favorite thing to do is make long lists of trivial tasks, and while this may not be effective for short-term deadlines, it helped split up what seemed impossible and kept me productive each day.

3. Your voice is not nearly as annoying to everyone else as it sounds in your own head.

It may sound ridiculous but my biggest reservation about creating a podcast was the idea that my voice would be circulating the world wide web for anyone to tune into. My too deep, too nasally voice plagued with the occasional stutter. But each time I shared audio clips I was praised with how professional it sounded (granted, there was a lot of editing done to get it to that point). And each time I shared it in class or let friends and family listen in, I became more comfortable with the fact that my voice would be a forever artifact on the internet.

4. Use your mentors. They’re a requirement for good reason.

I hated the idea that I’d have to share my project with more people than anticipated, especially during the draft phase. I hated the idea, even more, when I couldn’t do it in person. Even if you don’t plan to meet with them on a regular basis, these are the contacts you can reach out to when you have no idea how to export as an mp3. Your mentors can change as the circumstances change, too. Some of the best advice I got was from letting my parents give a second and third pair of eyes on my website.  

5. You’ll be so grateful to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

I could have easily made this project as simple as words on a website. Don’t get me wrong, that would have been difficult in and of itself. But I’ve done variations of the same in the past and the best way for me to lose interest would have been to stick to my comfort zone. Taking on a new medium kept me interested throughout the entire semester and offered a new challenge.

6. Shit happens.

And on that note, global pandemics happen. We live in uncertain times and if this whole thing hasn’t blown over by the time Fall 2020 rolls around and you’re forced to live your senior year with two unexpected roommates (i.e. mom and dad), I feel you. If the majority of your social interaction in and out of the classroom is through a camera on your computer, I feel you. But this course is not meant to add to the anxieties and unknown that comes with this curveball. You have the power to tailor your project to whatever it is you want to commit your headspace to. Change it as many times as you wish. Take the day off. Take a walk. Take a breath.

Call to Action: Introducing Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide

This semester has been anything other than a clear, linear path. It was manic and fragmented and interrupted. But that is what our world is now: interrupted. In times of incredible catastrophes or depressions or pandemics, one thing is certain amidst all the uncertainty— change is inevitable.

Our world is more connected than ever with every country just a flight away. But, that ease of travel was the catalyst for this pandemic, and it is bound to be rethought.

These days I’ve been trying to look for the silver linings in things. I’ve been able to spend more time with my family. I managed to escape a Michigan winter and found solace in the South Carolina heat. I’ve been thinking about the silver linings that exist outside of my personal life and the small bubble I live in, too.

This is the perfect opportunity to examine not only how to make travel safer but to also consider sustainability in our travel. How do we travel consciously? I’ve found comfort in the idea that all this destruction could allow us to reimagine the travel industry, to think about the intersection of cultural, economic, and environmental impacts.

It makes me think of my project in a new light. Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide is not just a podcast that explores my own traveler’s guilt. It is not just a series of conversations discussing the past. It’s a call to action. How can we address the negative impacts of travel? How can we learn from our mistakes and use our guilt as a force for change?

Explore. Reflect. This is the sign you’ve been looking for. This is Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide.

My advice to you!!

Welcome to Senior Year!! And welcome to your writing capstone. This is such a unique and special community where you learn from each other, harbor safety and support, and create unbelievable work. This semester has definitely been a rollercoaster. There are days when I love my project and days when I can’t stand it. Having switched online in the middle of the semester, it has taken a lot of will and motivation to complete this daunting project.  Here’s some advice I have for you as you embark on this exciting class. 

  1. Try to pick your project as early as possible and really find a niche idea/opinion/genre/medium. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my project since writing about privilege can be super uncomfortable. I recommend writing about something that is out of your comfort zone, a passion, a curiosity. It can really be anything which is the beauty in it but make sure it is something you want to write about. Purpose will come with passion. 
  2. Create a detailed production plan and stick to it. With classes going online halfway through the semester, creating a new production plan and sticking to it was very difficult. If classes are online, I recommend staying on track as much as possible because the work will creep up on you. 
  3. Lean on your peers. This capstone community is such a unique and strong group that is truly there to support you. Lean on your professor but also the peers around you. Get to know them. This made it much easier to share personal work with them and so much more rewarding getting feedback and advice. This community is truly awesome, take advantage!
  4. Know that your project will not look like how you envisioned it in the proposal, and that’s OK and normal. Your project will likely take many turns, edits, forms, etc. This is all part of the project process! Embrace it and don’t get too hooked on the details or the changing landscape of your project. In the end, you will create something you are proud of and that’s what matters most!
  5. Have fun! While this project is a lot of work, it is truly a time where you can reflect on your time at college, use new skills, and be creative! Take advantage of the opportunity!


Good luck!!!

On Screenwriting (Capstone project)

Hello

https://alexpan71.wixsite.com/onscreenwriting
Password (all lowercase): miw

This has been quite the journey, both within this community and throughout my four years (and one more remaining) in undergrad.

I think my piece, site, and content speak for itself (as the image above shows), and I am not one to spoil. So, I have nothing else to say except…

Thank you. To anyone and everyone else, but amongst them all the Minor-in-Writing community for reintroducing me to writing as a passion, a life-long process, a medium of expression, an art, a craft… everything, truly!

And thank you, T and everyone in our Winter 2020 Capstone cohort, for quite the wonderful semester even despite the remote odds!

so thank you — thank you very much! 🙂

Alex

and also made this last night. might as well self promote lol

Blank Pages Are the Worst (And Yet, Pretty Exciting!)

Sitting down to write this blog post felt a lot like sitting down to work on my project: overwhelming confusion and frustration about where to start or how to phrase something or what even to write about at all, followed by a stream of words flowing almost mindlessly from my veins to the keyboard.

Followed, once again, by an overwhelming sense of writer’s block. 🙂

But that’s ok. The good stuff comes from being patient. I definitely can’t call this blog post “the good stuff” (more like force-feeding the screen in front of me from what feels like an empty pantry), but I do believe that my project, at least, is getting some of that odd, trance-like magic.

When writing my last blog post, my project was still in the very early stages – having barely even been conceived of, much less fleshed-out. To use a metaphor, it was still that unformed ball of cells growing in the mother’s womb. But now it’s been a few weeks, and I actually think it’s got some limbs and a heartbeat! Exciting stuff!

So, like the technician doing the ultrasound, let me explain what you’re looking at:

I’m planning to write about five “memoir essays,” which can be thought of as a hybrid of memoirs and personal essays. In my five memoir essays, I will use creative nonfiction to tell stories from my own life (memoir), then give them a little spin toward the end so that the audience can walk away with something more than just a random story from some random person’s life (kind of personal-essay-ish).

While my goal is to write five stories, my workshop members advised me to write what feels right, without worrying about achieving an exact number of stories, so my plan may yet change and grow into something slightly different than the plan I am laying out now.

For instance, while I have already created outlines for five stories I might want to tell, I am significantly more passionate about three of them compared to the other two. As such, unless I come up with ideas for different stories to tell, I may need to adjust this aspect of my project.

For the three stories that I am passionate about, however, things are going pretty well! I have already drafted the first third of a story that explores grief and loss, and I’ve made attempts at starting two other stories – one that explores relationships/singleness and another that explores health/mortality/the unexpected.

I foresee a couple concerns with being as vulnerable as I want to be in my stories and with discerning if the story I am writing will have the same impact to someone who didn’t live it as I did, but that’s why I have mentors and classmates!

So, what’s next?

In the coming weeks, I plan to continue my research, meet with my mentor(s), and undergo a workshop to get feedback. I will also be writing a lot more (hopefully creating complete rough drafts of each of the stories I plan to tell) and thinking a lot more about what I want to write and how I want to communicate my ideas. Furthermore, I will need to explore and challenge my own sense of self to hopefully push beyond any hesitancies in vulnerability to create a collection of writings that are as honest and powerful as possible.

If all goes well, I won’t have many blank pages for long, and that provides at least some relief.

Wish me luck, and stay tuned for my next post!

Uncomfortable Conversation

I would like to to reach an audience that is not usually brought into the conversation nor abruptly enters, which means to do so means I will practice being the mediator between my field of study and the outside audience.

Everyone would like their writing to be good, if not excellent, but what is good writing? Is it good if enough people read it? Is it good if only a certain group are able to read it? What if writing was judged on what it represented, the ethic within the piece?

As I begin to interview people who I do not usually talk to, I am hesitant to do so because of the unpredictable outcome. Will this turn into good writing? Will my readers like it? But then I also consider the ethical questions, would this piece create more equality as it brings in more diverse voices?

As a writer, I am choosing to put the ethical question before others. Questioning, how would my piece impact the lives of others? This encouraged me to enter spaces and conversation that I am unfamiliar with, yet at the same time, my syntax and diction must be persuasive to the reader. So despite the question of ethics, the reader must be able to connect with the piece in order to be persuaded. A piece of good writing is not necessarily based on ethics, but who the readers are that are connecting to it, be it select audience or the mass.

Tackling Capstone from multiple disciplines

In launching my Capstone project, I’ve been reflecting on an essay I wrote last semester in English 325, titled “It’s Just a Girl Crush.” In this essay, I explored the pervasive idea of the “girl crush” (an attraction between presumably straight women) from many different lenses – biological, social, cultural – as well as in the context of my personal experience.

As I wrote “It’s Just a Girl Crush”, I ended up teasing out much of the nuance tied up in this topic, and even probed some of the ways in which female sexuality diverges from male sexuality. I think what allowed me to tap into the many layers of the girl crush was my emphasis on interdisciplinary research. For instance, I investigated the girl crush from a scientific perspective, finding that indeed, sexual attraction and romantic, crush-like feelings do not always go hand-in-hand. However, I also found from reading some academic theory that in fact, women’s sexuality is far more fluid than men’s, and influenced by different factors, so it’s possible for a woman who sees herself as predominantly straight to experience significant attraction to other women throughout her life. In addition, I found it helpful to look to pop culture and more sociological analyses, discovering that the girl crush is problematic in many ways – for instance, it glamorizes and “straightens out” same-sex attraction and contributes to bi-erasure. If I hadn’t used these many different lenses, I wouldn’t have been able to understand the complexity of the girl crush, a social construct that is rooted in both truth and stereotype.

I’m proud of the nuance I was able to achieve in this essay, and going into my Capstone project on the relationship between religion and climate change, I hope to achieve a similar level of multidisciplinary thought. The premise of my project is that many liberal houses of worship in the United States have proclaimed their commitment to environmentalism, and similarly, many religious scholars have pointed out ways in which religious texts and tenets support an environmentalist mindset. However, I want to dig into this idea of compatibility, to see if there is in fact some inherent disagreement being smoothed over. I hope to extend that critique to the environmental movement itself by illuminating the cognitive dissonance most people need to hold in order to reconcile their personal needs with their environmentalist beliefs.

To make this critique interdisciplinary, I plan on drawing from the perspective of religious environmentalists themselves, perhaps taking a more academic approach to presenting their analyses and arguments. I’d also like to rely heavily on personal observation, since I’m someone with both a Christian background and a strong interest in environmentalism. Hopefully, that personal experience can be bolstered by others’ sociological commentary. Perhaps working in scientific research on the timeline of climate change will also help me get my argument across. Overall, I think that using frameworks from different disciplines helps to enrich and complicate a piece of writing. I welcome any suggestions as to how I can achieve that effect in my project.

Let Me Paint the Picture for You

Looking at my four pitches, there are three things that can be easily discerned:

  1. I want to do something more creative and of personal value rather than academic or practical for resume-building.
  2. I am a poet, an observer, a nostalgic, and a lover of stories.
  3. If it doesn’t have a semi-catchy title already in the works, it’s not for me.

When I think about it, none of those things really surprise me about my work, and that’s an exciting (and intimidating) place to be as a writer. It means I know myself – or, at least, I’m getting closer to – but it also means that there’s no arguing with the grinning child in me who demands more paint rather than a nice pencil.

So, all I can do is sigh.

But, truly, I think it will be alright. Talking through my ideas with my partner helped me understand the situation for what it was: a passion project. And if I’m not “all in” about what I’m making, I’m probably going to struggle more than if I had undertaken the thing my heart was set on in the first place.

Taking another look at my pitches, something that is less discernable (but still strikingly evident to a perceptive eye) is that two or three of my four pitches are all getting at the same thing: I want to write and share my stories – either as poetry, creative nonfiction, or both. I want to revisit the experiences that have shaped me, and I want to believe that I am as important as to have learned something worth sharing from the short life I’ve lived thus far.

So, call me conceited. Call me reflective.

Call me thrilled.

Whatever you call me, please allow 3-5 business days for a response.

After all, you can’t expect to interrupt an artist when they’re elbows-deep in their work.

It Seems Like All I Do Is Research

I think it’s the nature of a Communications major, one that’s heavily interested in media research, to always be researching. I feel like there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not thinking about an old study I really loved, or listening to my boyfriend talk about their favorite research, or my roommate discussing the racism in Artificial Intelligence. Or I’m talking about what I want to research, about Black History, about Black Media, about things that mean a lot to me.

And that’s what a lot of my research so far has involved. Black identity, femininity, things that impact my outward appearance (although for some people it’s a guessing game when it comes to my identity, something I could write a whole other blog post about).

What I’m coming to realize with this project, how little research, like hard research I know about the LGBTQ community, and trans individuals. As someone who is bisexual, and has been involved with trans rights (wow, does that sound self-indulgent? like hahaha “i have a black friend”-y?”). But I guess it’s one of those subjects that…I didn’t really research. Someone in a class has smacked down a reading, or a study, about being a trans-cyborg, and I didn’t understand it, so I just shrugged my shoulder and moved on. Was it the writing? Do I not care (I definitely care, I’m just constantly full of that good-ole self-doubt)? Was I just not paying attention?

I think it’s important to know how other’s identities can intersect with our own. My project is focusing on such an organic, human experience: love. And sex. But some individuals don’t have sex. Some individuals don’t love in the same ways that I do; that requires research, in areas that I’m scared to go. I know anytime I’ve read research on bisexuality, it’s always hit a little too close to home. “Many people believe bisexuality is a myth; that you’ll eventually be straight or be gay.”

My next podcast episode is about sexuality and gender identity. I don’t know if it’s right to combine the two together, but Olliver is such a strong-willed, opinionated individual that I couldn’t resist trying to ask him about all of it. But I also don’t expect him to know everything, to want to spill all the beans, to do all the work for us. Because we shouldn’t be relying on those outside our own identities to have to do all the work to inform us, to tell us how their lives are different from ours, and how they intersect. We gotta meet them halfway, know our shit, and ask questions that aren’t demeaning or blatantly intrusive. But my project relies on strong voices, relies on these experiences, to provide a sense of authority on these lived-experiences.

I think there is a fine line in research, to fetishize groups we don’t know about. I don’t want to do that. I need to be reading from those who have these experiences, not those who are interested in these experiences.

So, I just looked up trans writers and their nonfictional narratives. Because their stories matter more to this part of my podcast than my own narrative.

It definitely will inform me of how to formulate questions that are engaging, but also inclusive and respectful of everyone’s transitions, not one type.

***Update: podcast episode 3 went well!

Hating it all?

Have you ever come to the end of the project, reread your work, and realized “I hate this?” I think I’m being a little dramatic, but it wouldn’t be Casey fashion if I weren’t overreacting a bit. However, I am running into a wall less than a week before the Capstone project is due. It’s not that I hate all of my work, I promise that I don’t – it’s just that, around this time of every project, I tend to second guess all of the hard work that I’ve put into a project.

When I was in English 325, I wrote a very personal essay about my relationship with my hometown and all of the people that I grew up with. I was so proud of my work, until the night before it was due, I decided to revamp a majority of the essay, not sharing all of the details that I originally intended to. Looking back on it, I wish I would’ve included those details, but in a better, more concise yet also detailed, way. I hated my work, but then I hated it even more when I didn’t include all of those details – so, maybe I’m wondering how you function when you think you hate your work?

Do you continue to power through – trusting yourself and your story? Do you play devil’s advocate and go through all of your work with a fine tooth comb until you’re happy with the final result? Not sure what I’ll end up doing, but curious to know if anyone else feels this way!