So…what now?

I mean, technically I’m not done with my project. But the closer I get to the end, the more I think about how, despite all of the long nights and drawn-out papers and peer review workshops, I really enjoy having a creative outlet. Whether that’s been an amazing 325 course or one of my classes for the minor, I’ve always enjoyed my English-based classes the most because they give me a chance to express myself, or whatever it is that’s on my mind.

But I didn’t major in English. I’m going into a writing-intensive career, but it’s public relations for sports teams. There’s only so much creativity you can add into that before it becomes unnecessary and superfluous. I don’t think I majored in the wrong thing — I certainly like what I do — but how do you keep up with creativity in writing outside of school? If it’s not on your checklist for work, when will you write that essay about your favorite day of the year?

This is probably just some pre-graduation crisis I’m going through right now, but it feels very, very real. I love writing, and I love creating things. But I feel like I don’t have the same outlet to express myself in the future, and that scares me. I don’t want to lose any of that.

Is there anyone going into a similar career (or career without a lot of writing) that feels the same way, or knows of a way to keep up with writing outside of school? I’m sure there are a million ways, but I’m just not sure what they are.

Is it really crunch time or does it just feel like crunch time?

I feel like regardless of how much work I put into a paper, or my homework, or a project, or whatever it is that’s causing me overwhelming stress at any given moment, I always tend to hit panic mode toward the end. I’ve literally written entire papers before, had them done days before the deadline, and just spent so much time tweaking or experimenting or doing surgery on them that I find myself working right up until the deadline.

I think this is pretty emblematic of who I am as a person, in both a positive and negative way. I never think anything is done, ever, which is a pretty horrifying trait to have because I never feel satisfied with something until it’s turned in and Canvas is closed and I literally do not have access to the document I’m trying to tweak.

On the other hand, this is really good when I’m applying to jobs, because my resume is completely nit-picked to as close to perfection as a semi-decent resume for a 22-year old hopeful can be. Right now, though, this is not the case. Right now, despite working on this project for months and compiling as much information as possible an interviewing people and completely reshaping my project, I’m in panic mode. I’m in the furiously-typing stage, the stage where you incorporate and un-incorporate the same source approximately 10 times before deciding to cut it all together.

Yay!

I know my project is in a good place, and I know that I’ve done a lot of work for this. But my biggest battle right now is myself, I think — so maybe it’s time to close the laptop and take a nap and pick it back up tomorrow, when there’s less time to panic over every little thing.

When do you know that you’re done?

Whenever I submit a paper or writing assignment, I have made sure to read and read and reread and then reread again each and every word/sentence to make sure its perfect. The Capstone project, however, has proven to be a bit different. While I’ve read through every post for my blog, I still don’t feel like they’re ready – does anyone else feel that way?

Recently, I had to submit a term paper for my major’s Capstone course. It was 10 pages (single-spaced!), and it was long. It was full of detail, and, naturally, I wanted to do well. I scrutinized that paper over and over again, reading it multiple times even when I didn’t make any edits. I could have been done at 9pm the night it was due, but instead I turned it in at 11:45.

I guess my question here is, how do you know when you’re done? The thing about writing is that it can always be read again. You could always make changes if you want to, so what’s another read through? How many read throughs is too many read throughs? It seems as though I adjust my piece every time I read through it – either changing an adjective or removing an article or removing an entire sentence. An essay or piece of writing can always be improved, right? So how do you know when to stop?

I’m hoping I figure it out soon! With the Capstone project due so soon, I’ve been thinking about my editing capabilities over the next couple of days. Anyways, I wish everyone the best of luck in the final stretch. I cannot wait to see everyone’s final product!

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!

Update: I still can’t navigate Wix

It seems like just yesterday I was a freshman trying to use Wix to build a website for my Gateway project.

(Technically, that really was only like a year ago, so I’m not too removed from that experience but that’s not my point. )

They make it look so easy — cute little blogs with photos and buttons and interactive features that make you go, “Wow, this person really knows what they’re doing!”

And THEN.

Then you try to build your own little interactive feature, and suddenly it’s like I should have gotten a degree in computer science. I try to customize a button, and I’m on YouTube watching “How to” tutorials for an hour, which is approximately 59 minutes longer than I’ve actually spent building my website.

I remember last year thinking that I’d need to budget myself 100,000,000 hours of time to build my website for this project. Or, I’d find a way around building a website — maybe I’d like, magically become good at music and make like an album, or a movie! (Turns out neither of those things are things you magically become good at.)

So, here we are. Battling the never-ending battle with Wix. Building my interactive features one painful click through the navigation process at a time. And it has been an absolute joy. But, on the bright side, the website IS coming along — and it WILL end up looking good, regardless of how many YouTube tutorials I have to watch.

(Side note: I am accepting any and all tips and tricks for Wix.)


Capstone Challenge: Reflection

I am less panicked about my project now. I still have to edit and refine whatever I have written but it’s about done. There are many things to reflect about the process of doing this project but here are two lessons that I’ve learned along the way:

  1. UMich Library is great

When I decided to do my project on food behaviors and how those behaviors enacted culture, I was overwhelmed by the narrow focus that this subject had. Google did not help as much as I had hoped for and I felt I had an impossibly difficult task ahead of me. So, I put off the real content of my project and focused too much on the personal narrative aspect of the project. Driven by mid-semester panic, I went to the library website and only got books on culture that were written in Korean and Japanese (I was focusing on East Asian culture that time). I couldn’t remember what I tried after but I went back home with six books on the subject matter. While gathering the books, I came across a whole aisle of books on food and culture, and people do academically study and write about food culture.

I figured that resources are abundant. In any writing task, no matter how obscure and impossible, there are resources. They can come in many forms. What is more important is having the right toolkit to search for these resources. I usually start any kind of research-based writing with Google. It’s a no-brainer. But usually with so much materials already on Google, I never really explored other options. I think that being in a college that provide its students with access to good resources, paired with doing projects, help so much in building the right toolkit. This is what my housemate (who already graduated many years ago) means when she says college is about building skills and techniques.

2. Workshop is important

Sad to say I have had to miss many workshops due to illness and work. But on the days that I’ve had workshops, I’ve gotten helpful feedbacks on things that would help the writing process. I think that workshop is an important session where writers get to get together and exchange ideas on what tools they use to begin and continue writing. Somehow it creates a sense that we are all in this together and writers are not lonely people. 

It also teaches me to understand things from other writer’s perspective. Sometimes I really want a certain writing to sound a certain way that I like. But with workshop, it’s important to have the other writer’s intentions in mind and offer feedbacks on the things that they intent to do. In short, workshop is the session to help the writer get to their goals, not my imagined goals for them.

Learning is good, but after I finish the class (and the minor), I wonder when else will I get to write and be among a community of writers. It seems like while in college, my motivation to write, write, write is deadline because deadline = grades. I’ve tried many times, over the years, to get into the habit of blogging but knowing that other people (read: strangers who I don’t even know about) have free access to my writings and thoughts. That just seems scary. With writing in class, however, my audience is my lecturer, GSI and classmates. I know them.

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!

I need to drink some coffee & relax

Normally, I feel so good about picking what material to put in a project and what to cut.

I know what adds value, what adds context, what adds a little extra flair and creativity to a project to give it some spark. Typically, this isn’t the hardest part of writing for me — this is the part that makes a story what it is, and generally, I’m good at telling stories.

With this project, though, I feel like I’m drowning in how much information there is. How many infographics are too many? I’ve done interviews, but how do I incorporate them in a way that adds the right amount of flair, and doesn’t stray too far from the beaten path? Does everything make sense together, or is it just a mishmash of information? How do you choose what to include when you’ve got a million different things to choose from?

I think I’m doing the inevitable by trying to protect my project too much, and not giving it the freedom it needs. I know I just need to let it flow, to make decisions that feel natural and include things that I think make sense. It’s important to trust your gut when writing, and not the image of how you picture the “perfect” project turning out in the end. Nothing’s perfect anyways, right?

I want to relax moving forward and just let the project drive where it needs to go. I think we looked at something earlier in the year about how we’re the horse and not the rider (rider and not the horse? I think it’s the first one.) We’re here to help get our audience to a place, not to control the way they get there — hopefully, with a little relaxation (and maybe some coffee) that will happen 🙂

Capstone Challenge Journal 3: Coming to Conclusions

I’ve finished (if not polished) the main body of content for my capstone, leaving me with what is probably the more challenging task: developing a conclusion to cap-off the piece and justify all the work I’ve done so far.

I went into this project with an idea for what my conclusion would look like based on how I originally framed my argument, which was to use my analyses of video games to justify that the medium has artistic potential. What became apparent as I continued to develop my ideas, however, was that there wasn’t actually a need to make this argument, as at this point in the discussion surrounding games, anyone who still insists that video games are incapable of being art clearly isn’t informed enough on the medium to be making that call. So I ditched this foregrounding and focused on developing my analyses, knowing a proper conclusion would make itself clear once that was satisfactorily explored…

…well, it hasn’t turned out that easy, actually, and now I’m confronted with the need to have some larger purpose or context to encase my work without a perfect sense of what that might be. That could certainly prove fatal to the integrity of the project should I fail to come up with a substantial enough stance, but I take some comfort in having tackled similar problems in my writing before.

The specific instance I’m thinking of comes from an assignment I had in English 325 last fall, which tasked me with recording ten minutes of dialogue and to somehow find an interesting enough topic for a paper out of it. We were instructed not to deliberately aim the conversation in any particular way, but to try and have as naturalistic a dialogue as possible, only to find its greater purpose in the act of recreating that naturalism in our writing.

It was a formidable task, certainly, but it really tested an essential skill of any writer: the ability to find the deeper meaning in any given circumstance, be it the underlying gravity of a casual conversation or the grander implications of a collection of video game analyses. Before that assignment, I’m not sure I was confident in my ability to accomplish this, but by thinking outside the box (and, arguably, outside the parameters of the assignment, but the professor didn’t seem to mind) I was able to produce something that actually felt substantial. That assignment – and 325 as a whole, really – was hugely productive in how it developed my eye as both a reader and a writer in this regard, which, given the situation I now find myself in with my capstone, is going to prove invaluable over these final desperate days of work.

Capstone Challenge Journal #4 – Where to go from Here

I cannot believe its almost the end of the semester. Moreover, I cannot believe its almost the end of my undergraduate college education! One thing I am really struggling with as this semester winds down is how I am going to continue writing beyond college.

I intend to move to DC and continue contributing to neuroscience-related research at the National Institute of Health after graduation. This job will definitely come with a lot of writing tasks, however they will be scientific writing assignments and a lot of brief business-type writing. In an earlier blog, I discussed how I have had a problem in the past with balancing factual and creative writing, and I am worried that with this new job I will regress back into a writer without the ability to creatively capture a reader’s attention.

I think that the two courses I have taken in college that will help me the most in retaining the creative writing skills I have developed will be English 325 and the MiW capstone course. English 325 showed me that I can write in a creative and entertaining way that keeps a reader’s interest, and the capstone showed me that I can balance this entertaining quality with factual writing.

I think that in order to maintain my writing abilities beyond college, I will need to practice the skills I have learned (especially in these courses). I will need to keep writing outside of work so I do not lose the skills I have worked so hard to acquire the past four years. Writing has never come especially easily to me, and the growth I have undergone as a writer in college is exponential. It will be through continued individual practice that I take what I have learned with me, into the ‘real world.’