Making Another Writer’s Decisions

When looking at my project ideas I get a little overwhelmed.  I am not sure what to do specifically for my project and I always tend to get a little flustered when having to choose a topic for projects that are open ended.  I think Ben understood my interest fairly well and tried to make the interview as useful as possibly with the time we had to talk about subjects.  He gave me a good idea on a type of media to try, which is Prezi.  I have never used Prezi before, but I have seen multiple presentations using it and they look great and flowed well for the presenter.  I’m not sure that there are any topics on my list that I would be interested in pursing for this project.  The main topic that we talked about that I was considering doing for the project was speech synthesis.  Speech synthesis is basically the communication between humans and computers.  The only reason I am not considering this for my project is because I feel that it may be a little too technical and it may get boring over the course of an entire semester.  I think that Ben was led to propose the idea of speech synthesis because it came up when we were talking about interest and the topic also ties into my major, which is linguistics.  Based on this experience in the future I may be less forward about saying certain things that interest me and maybe let them be pried out because it may make the topic something that would be more creative and seem less forced.  I do not think that because of using this method it will change how I solicit advice in the future, because I tend to use a type of interview method to figure out topic ideas, but mostly it is just talking it out with someone.   This experience is sort of sending me back to the drawing board as far as finding a topic, because I did not find anything that was particularly interesting the first round.  I will have to implore other brainstorming methods to try to find a project that will suit me best for the semester.

Making Another Writer’s Decisions

As the prompt suggested, I feel like helping Carly come up with ideas for her project in turn helped me generate some of my own. We were both on the same page before the brainstorming process began; we didn’t fully understand the assignment 🙂 But we decided to spitball some ideas starting with what we are already interested in and the ball kept rolling from there. I did not however, come up with a specific list of things for Carly to try; I mostly just threw idea darts into the air after learning some of her interests, and I found that some of them stuck and some of them did not. I thought that this process worked pretty well for us, because it allowed the other person to come up with ideas that the other may not have thought of.

For instance, Carly mentioned that she loved Eminem growing-up and could quote every single one of his lyrics. I found this interesting since I also love music, and we came up with the idea that she should try writing song lyrics as if she was writing an album. After reading her post, I see that she is excited for that idea and has come up with many more interesting ideas branching off of that as well.

Carly did the same for me by asking questions about my interests and then threw some ideas into the air. From our brainstorming session, we came up with a number of good ideas that I know I will have trouble choosing between now. Some of them are:

  • A fictional book about a government official who learns that aliens visit earth and then tires to uncover more details
  • A stand up comedy routine
  • Sit-com script
  • Organize a concert that raises money for sustainable farming and make a documentary about it
  • Make a documentary about recent graduates who chose to pursue something other than their degree field
  • Finally a documentary about artists who have been struggling for years and how they cope with life / what they’ve learned.

As of right now, I am most interested in the first and last idea on this list. If it were not for Carly, I may not have considered the documentary idea that would follow struggling artists which I have a lot of interest in.

Based on this experience, I would maybe change my advice in the future by having my partner write down their interests and hobbies, and then I could come up with a bunch of related project ideas. However, I actually think that our natural conversation and the interest we showed in helping each other could not have been more productive. This experience taught me to consider obscure ideas and to get another person’s point of view whenever possible because their unique perspective can be instantly more valuable than many hours of thinking something through myself.


Making Another Writer’s Decisions

I came into class on Monday full of anxiety about my project. The prompt was so open-ended! But Beixi completely came to my rescue. She began by asking the list of questions on the assignment handout, and we quickly determined together that I wanted to take this opportunity to write about something unrelated to my studies or future career. When she suggested (really interesting!) project ideas related to my summer internship or job aspirations, I immediately reacted negatively. Beixi was wonderful at redirecting questions and exploring my other interests when she sensed my apprehension!

We started talking about my passion for collegiate, competitive waterskiing, and she developed several interesting ideas about projects relating to the waterski team and my teammates. After I read about this project on Wednesday, I was pretty sure I wanted to do something related to waterskiing, so Beixi and I brainstormed different mediums like a video or a letter as a way of creatively tackling the “ski theme.” However, as the conversation wound to our general thoughts and feelings about our best experiences at the University of Michigan, Beiji sprung on me her BEST IDEA YET.

Her idea about completing a “U of M Bucket List” really excited me. I have been grappling with this being my last year at this amazing University, and I would love to do a project that somehow encapsulates some of the magic of this place. This project would also push me to continue having unique and fun experiences this semester in Ann Arbor.

I think Beixi made the choice to pursue this idea because it arose out of an organic conversation about our four years at Michigan. She was creative enough to make the leap from something I was clearly interested in to an actual project for this class! I could not be more grateful.

After this in-class assignment, I will definitely be more open to sharing my writer’s block with friends, family, and classmates. Other people can bring really unique ideas to the table or at least force me to think outside of the box about my own writing. I also hope to spend more time choosing topics for projects. After doing this assignment, I realized I’ve rushed through the brainstorming process in the past. Thanks Beixi!

-Elizabeth McLaughlin

The Power of Perspectives

I have an actual, debilitating fear of choosing a topic. The amount of times I’ve complained, “I don’t know what to write about” too anyone in the nearest vicinity is embarrassingly high. The majority of my stress comes from not actually completing an assignment, but from getting to a point where I feel excited and confident about a topic. So, I must say, I am a huge proponent of this “Making Another Writer’s Decisions” activity.

During the “interview” Kaitlin picked up on several topics that I would have never thought to be interesting enough to consider. For example, I live in a house with 10 girls, and as an out of state college student I have not been home in a full year. From a fresh, outside perspective Kaitlin found these statements to be interesting and unique, whereas I would have seen them as normal and mundane. She suggested writing a series of short stories about living with 10 girls, or a blog for out of state college students documenting my journey thus far.

It was not until the very end of the interview that I mentioned I actually had an interest in expanding on a piece I wrote about my experiences studying in Belgium last semester. I think if I had shared this at the beginning it would have hindered many of Kaitlin’s other exciting ideas. In the future, I want to continue this technique when soliciting advice. With less guidance and foreshadowing the advice becomes more unique and different from your own thoughts.

I can’t say that I came away with an exact project that I want to pursue; however (and more importantly for someone like myself) I came away with numerous subjects that I am excited to choose from. I now have a large bank of topics that I would have never considered when brainstorming on my own. What shape and form these topics will take I still don’t know, but at least now I have exciting topics to shape and form.

Making Another Writer’s Decisions

After talking through my interests and project ideas with Erin, it was a lot easier to think through the various possibilities for genre and medium of the project. Not only did her suggestions help me out, but having to come up with project ideas for her helped me to think of more interesting ideas for myself. The list of ideas we came up with together were as follows:

  • A magazine targeted at a female gamer audience containing various topics (game reviews, game news, upcoming releases, controversies)
  • A website or blog from the perspective of a female gamer, talking about the gaming community and various experiences
  • An actual game concept treatment that works against the current representations of women in gaming

My first impressions of these suggestions is that the magazine sounds like an awesome project idea – it would be possible to combine a large variety of topics throughout something like an online magazine. This definitely combines my interests in studying feminism and gender representation in video games, and it allows me to translate this interest into a new media format. I would be most interested in pursuing making a short online magazine and perhaps even accompanying it with something like a Twitter account to get people aware that it’s something that is being created.

All of these topics would definitely be interesting and relevant to me, but as I’ve actually written a game concept design before I know how much work goes into them. For this reason I think it would be a little too much for me, especially to come up not only with game mechanics but the world, the characters, and the narrative as well. And to do it all in a way that throws out stereotypes respectfully while retaining good character relationships and story? I’m not sure I manage that in one semester. It’s a great idea, just a little bit too difficult for me.

I definitely had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do topic-wise; some of my favorite writing projects in college so far have focused on gaming and representation. I also talked about being interested in using new media for my project, so the fact that Erin suggested blogs or websites totally fit with my interests as well. It was really interesting to talk to her because she much prefers scientific writing rather than doing any kind of new media writing, and she prefers freedom in writing while I need to have some kind of rubric or structure to follow. Because of this I will be more likely to look for advice both from those that enjoy writing in a similar manner that I do and those that prefer a different style, as they will be more likely to think differently and have ideas I wouldn’t think of.

While I kind of already had an idea about what I wanted to do for the project, talking it through with Erin helped in terms of deciding what topics were most interesting to me and even thinking about other awesome project ideas like creating my own concept for a game. We talked about how I could pretty much talk about gaming gender representation in any genre or media I would like, and that a magazine or a blog would be the most fun for me.

Making Another Writer’s Decisions

My conversation with Patrick helped me generate creative ideas for my project. Brainstorming is freer, more imaginative, innovative and far-reaching when two brains are working together rather than one. I found that I was able to generate many more ideas with Patrick’s creative juices jiving with mine – ideas that were likely richer in quality and potential than I may have otherwise been able to generate alone. My experience brainstorming with Patrick confirms the power of reflective teamwork and the capabilities of an idea.

The way in which Patrick and I brainstormed was fluid and natural. We did not try to contrive ideas for one another right from the get-go. Rather, we conversed about our interests, passions, our favorite pieces of past writing and our inspirations. I shared with him that some of my favorite pieces of writing were intensely personal – writing about myself (introspective work), writing about my family and really, anything that is honest and blunt. We connected on the basis that both of us prefer bluntness in writing. I then expressed my love for music and the power that music has on me as a calming agent. Ironically and luckily, Patrick is also a music buff. It was through our shared interests, mutual understanding and genuine learning of one another that sparked thoughtful conversation and strong areas of consideration for the project.


Patrick and I generated the below list of ideas:


List of ideas:

  • Children’s book
  • Music and the expression of the self
  • Stand up comedy
  • An Advice column
  • Write an album’s lyrics…a theme behind the album and then a story told through the album (Essentially a collection of poems)
  • Spoken word song—example: Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen-Baz Luhrmann
  • What makes people tick? What is happiness? Interviewing people who share different definitions of happiness…compilation of their interviews

I feel as though I have some possible solutions to this open project prompt. Many of the ideas we thought through resonate with me because they are personal. These ideas would blend well with my previous favorite writing pieces and would also add to my portfolio of work. Patrick suggested that I work with music in some form – either that I actually write music or write lyrics to an album. I love the idea of writing lyrics to an album. As a child, I was always a big Eminem fan…I loved the honesty of his lyrics and the storyline as each track progressed. I think it could be cool to write a series of songs – an album for all intents and purposes – that tells some kind of personal story. I could write the lyrics and even at some point create the music itself. This seems like a doable idea. It’s definitely one I am highly considering moving forward. This idea sparked some other thoughts in my mind. I have always been a fan of spoken word poetry and poetry slams. I could put together a video of the most powerful acts I’ve seen in order to make a larger statement about passions, life struggles and overcoming adversity. I would then try to film myself making my own “poetry slam” which would be the final thought of the video. Alternatively, I can treat this as a piece of writing instead of a video. I can quote the most powerful bits of writing from poetry slams, pulling from the existing talent, and add my own perspective. Essentially, I would be accessing inspirational words as a platform from which to build a larger conversation.

I’ve learned that the best advice comes from sharing interests. By being open. Because all people appreciate honesty. Patrick was able to play up my love for music and my writing style in order suggest the most helpful ideas. I feel like I have some direction moving forward.

Making Another Writer’s Decisions

I’m a pretty controlling person. I like to be in charge, and I don’t like to be told what to do. So when Shelley introduced this activity to the class, I was a bit skeptical. Our final project — the capstone of the capstone class — is an important one, to say the least. It needs to be perfect; it needs to be uniquely mine. I questioned whether somebody other than me could brainstorm topics that I’d actually consider.

Upon completing the activity, I was pleasantly surprised. After listening to my likes, dislikes, etc., my partner seemed to really understand the types of writing I prefer, and the ways I can push myself to try new things.

The suggestion I’m leaning furthest towards is this:

“Observe a person of interest for a day, noting their hobbies, habits, routine, etc. and create an article based on their experiences of particular events.” 

I think that this suggestion works best with my particular interests and skills, as I hope to someday become a journalist. Additionally, my favorite writing assignments have been ones where I have creative flexibility, notably those in my Art of the Essay class, where I practiced writing creative nonfiction. This topic suggestion combines those two genres (journalism and creative nonfiction) to create something unique, interesting, and challenging.

Of course, I’ll continue to brainstorm on my own, but this activity has provided me with some great places to start.

Making Another Writer’s Decisions

The brainstorming session yesterday was a great way to get some ideas flowing and to start looking into some new areas of writing I hadn’t considered before.

One topic that I’ve explored throughout my writing, even in the Gateway class, is the concept of being so busy with our lives that we forget to live the day to day and to enjoy the present. I mentioned to Elizabeth that historically my writing has been very memoir based, from my own perspective, and that I was looking into ways to expand this perspective. She came up with the great idea of perhaps interviewing or bringing in other people and their perspectives, which led us to an idea of creating stories based on people that I know really well. For example, I can anticipate the feelings and perspectives of my parents because I am so close with them, and using them as the main characters in a story could be a great way to break out of my own voice.

Another idea we touched on at the very end is the concept of being an only child. We both happen to be only children, and we realized that there are so many differences growing up as an only child versus having siblings, and many times, the opposite is hard to imagine. A (hopefully) witty, humorous way to show the perspective of an only child may be a nice way to spin personal experience into a different format.

Elizabeth was also great at bringing up the potential for different mediums in this project. Whether it’s film or a website, there are so many different forms of expression that this project really could go in many different directions. I haven’t quite decided on whether I will use these for this project in particular, but these are ideas that I hope to expand on going forward.

Walking away from our session, I’m drifting more towards the idea of writing a short fictional piece, using someone close to me as the protagonist to hopefully imagine a world from someone else’s eyes. The details of what I want to include are still in the making, but I am very determined to push my writing into this grey area where I’ve never been. Maybe I’ll even throw a little caveat “only child” piece at the very end, like an author introduction.

Making Another Writer’s Decisions

Wow. I can’t imagine I am the only one who is slightly overwhelmed by the freedom we have been given with the capstone project. The possibilities are literally endless. But, after talking extensively with Sarah, I feel like I have narrowed down my potential list of topics to a manageable number. Manageable being loosely defined, of course.

After explaining my background in research and general interests, both academically and personally, I feel like we landed on a few really great ideas. In addition to suggesting I write about one of my research projects, it seemed like Sarah really understood my interests and made an effort to integrate two or more of them into a single project. For example, one topic that I would consider perusing is the development of a “mock” grant to conduct research on the topic that interests me, drug addiction. She also suggested that I create a blog detailing my experience I had during my study abroad program. Although this is an interesting idea, I think the proposed grant project applies to my future endeavors in writing. I think experience in research and my interest in the topic of addiction led Sarah to the idea of a project that combines two of my greatest interests.

Based on this experience, I think that I have learned a new way to solicit advice from my peers. Instead of simply asking of suggestions, talking about our interests and type of writing we enjoy, I feel as though we were able to come up with genuine ideas for one another. After talking to Sarah, I think if I do not decide to work with the grant proposal idea, I am definitely going to try and incorporate more than one of my interests into my final project.

On (not) making decisions

I rambled to poor Katie for our allotted fifteen minutes about thoughts that I didn’t realize have been floating around my mind for a while. I kept babbling about the intersections I see between computer science and writing, and writing and thinking, and how technology has shaped our writing and thinking, and even between running and cooking and everything else, and it all combined into a laundry list of ideas I was somewhat awful at articulating.

So Katie came up with a super neat idea to make sense of these intersections by creating an interactive visualization of my brain, separated into fragments based on my interests. The user could click on one or more different sections, and all my ramblings could be organized in this way (i.e. clicking on both the CS and writing sections would show an essay on those parallels, but only selecting CS would show an essay solely on my thoughts there). I’m unsure how well I can separate my ideas and research overlapping topics in a logical way, so her other suggestion to write a New Yorker-y kind of article might offer a more coherent and straightforward (if that’s even possible for me…) argument. She also suggested making a podcast (since I mentioned I like listening to them), which sounds entirely daunting. I do think a podcast would lend itself well to integrating other people’s direct perspectives, though, so it’s definitely an avenue I’m looking into. Thanks Katie!!!!!

Coming up with project ideas for Katie was way easier than coming up with my own. I guess being removed from my personal fears of all the freedom we’re given made it easier to brainstorm creative (and hopefully maybe kind of helpful) ideas for her.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one in our class terrified of commitment.