The Happy Medium Between Science and Personality

For my past experimentation, I took a more scientific approach on a personal experience. While, the insight gained from this process was extremely useful, something was missing when the information was presented in a purely scientific format. The voice and personal experience that was cultivated through the series of diary entires was lost. So, for this next experiment, I plan on combining the personal experience of the diary entries and scientific basis of the literary review paper into a comic. I think this will be a great platform, because in cartoons and comics, authors convey current events, controversies, or historical events in a comedic or personal manner, which amplifies a reader’s reaction to the piece.

Traditional comics have relatively the same overarching characteristics of creating an argument or claim, usually through humor. They are usually published in online or print magazines and newspapers, and therefore lend themselves to an intended audience of people who are interested in the subject, so scientists, professors, and students for scientific comics. However, I think comics are so powerful because their audience invoked is so large. Anyone who reads the magazine or newspaper where the comic is located is exposed to it, whether they are originally interested in it or not. In fact, some people skip straight to the comic section in the Sunday news.

Here are some traditional comics that caught my eye:

After researching some examples for formatting a comic, I found that there are a few variations in the genre:

  • Color vs. black and white
  • Multi-strip vs. single strip
  • Comment blurb vs. words throughout

This helped me narrow down what I want to do for my piece. Looking at different examples, I find the color comics more eye-catching and will use that technique in my own piece. I believe that my message will be better suited for a single strip, rather than multi, comic. Also, having words throughout my comic will flow better than containing them to blurbs.

While many comics use humor to further their claims, I feel like this might be inappropriate to talk about such an impactful disorder like depression. Therefore, for my experiment I am choosing to go against this norm of the comic genre, and instead attempt to draw deeper and more emotional reaction from the readers, while still keeping the same formatting structure.

I think what I hope to emulate is more along the lines of a project that my friend, Kathryn Rossi, a student at FIT, created for her math class which she shared via her Instagram @kathryn_rossi:

 

Research Papers

I have always hated research papers. Always. Throughout high school I bullshitted my way through every research paper I wrote, rarely ever concluding anything worthwhile or unique. Once I even wrote a 15 page research paper in one day and got an A. That’s either an insane skill or my teacher was just oblivious to how little effort I actually put into the assignment. Either way, research papers were, and still are, the enemy.

But you know what they say: keep your enemies close. So, I guess that means I’ll take a stab at a research paper for this experiment (Ha, get it? Stab the enemy?).

But, in all seriousness, for every high school research paper I wrote, I was missing a crucial component: research. Research for a topic, no matter how simple it is, cannot all be collected and analyzed in a day’s time. When I did this, I undoubtedly compiled a couple of worthwhile sources, but definitely did not find multiple perspectives in order to deduce anything significant. So, after my K-12 education plus my short time at college, I have decided that research is indeed important for a research paper. Who would’ve thought?

Research papers usually have a few more consistencies, regardless of topic, such as:

  • An abstract, or a summary of research project
  • An introduction, with a clear purpose
    • Including a thesis statement, usually at the end of the introduction
  • Body paragraphs, with a strong argument, a stronger argument, and a strongest argument, accompanied by in-text citations
    • Including a review of the literature and how it supports the claims
  • A conclusion and/or discussion, with a summary of the arguments and how they connect to deduce a significant claim
  • A call for further research, when there is a need to delve into a topic further
  • A bibliography, to cite the sources used

Looking at aspects other than formatting, research papers often have a professional, formal tone in order to appeal to the norms of academic works. Often, they work off of already existing research and are a stepping stone for research in the future.

The following examples, while differing in topics, all include the components of a research paper stated above, and I plan on using these as templates for my own work:

  1. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/18/
  2. https://kucampus.kaplan.edu/DocumentStore/Docs11/pdf/WC/Sample_APA_Paper.pdf
  3. https://depts.washington.edu/owrc/Handouts/Hacker-Sample%20APA%20Formatted%20Paper.pdf

My research paper for experiment two will focus on the effects of heartbreak on mental and physical health. Many people think of a break up as something that you just have to get over, but, coupled with depression and other health effects, it isn’t as easy as it seems. I hope to call attention to this  phenomenon as a stressor for health, rather than a simple hiccup in one’s personal life. I hope to build on my diary entries from experiment one which tried to highlight this, but lacked the research to back-up my claims in any significant manner.

And, yes. I promise to put more effort into this research paper than the ones I wrote in high school.

A Messy Process

How I Write

            Every piece of my writing starts off with one very important phone call. To my mother. Not to ask for help, but rather because she is always willing to listen to me. She serves as a sounding board, allowing me to ramble on and on about my possible ideas and helps me narrow down my thoughts into something resembling a coherent outline. During one such phone call, I managed to flip positions on the issue I was writing about three times before I settled on an argument, and luckily my mother was patient enough to let to me argue with myself.  Before I can write anything on paper, I first need to talk about it. A lot. Luckily, venting my thoughts out to my mom usually results in me discovering thoughts I didn’t even know I had. Saying everything out loud helps me figure out what actually makes sense and what is a random point that doesn’t connect to anything, and this preparation time also puts me in the mindset to write.

Once I have my thoughts somewhat processed, I start from the top. Well, slightly below the top. After writing “insert clever/witty/interesting title here!!” at the top of the page, I attempt to write my introduction. This is usually the worst part of the process. The first few sentences, trying to start out with something that sounds interesting, quirky, or at least coherent. I have never been the type of writer who could write the introduction last, or jump around to different sections of a piece of writing. In order for me to make real progress on anything, the introduction has to be at least decent. This is where the bulk of my procrastination occurs; I never feel more of a drive to clean my room or go work out as when I have the weight of a paper pressing down on me. Once I have something down for the first few sentences, everything flows much easier, and I can churn out a rough draft to promptly rip apart. Said draft is usually a colorful mess. Colorful, because I’m a big fan of the magical aspect of Microsoft Word that lets me change font colors. Purple marks a sentence that is worded weirdly, blue means it seems like it is out of place or could fit better somewhere else, red says oh my goodness please edit that terrible horrible thing before you turn this in. Marking up the paper as I write helps keep everything clear, in a weird way. I never want to delete things right away, but if I turn them red I can often go back and find some merit in what I wrote. I can recognize what makes sense, and am painfully aware of the structure or lack thereof.

All in all, my writing process is messy, both in my need to say things out loud to see if they sound right and in being a little trigger happy when it comes to changing the text color. It takes time to sift through the junk to find the things that I like about my writing, but if I don’t make it messy first, there is no way for me to clean it up.

 

You’re asking who I am as a writer? That makes two of us.

Preface: This is essentially a free-write where I drone on about my “evolution” as a writer, which I’m going to work on for my final essay.

I came into college freshman year Hell-bent on becoming the next Erin Andrews. Looking back at it, I might want to stop saying she was my role model because she shot herself in the foot career-wise. But that’s beside the bigger point here, which is that I wanted to be a sports broadcaster in the worst way. I thought it was so appealing to be on television talking about sports 24/7, but then I found out that it wasn’t all I had chalked it up to be.

After a year and a half chasing that dead-end dream, I decided to switch gears. The greater majority of women in my family are/were in the education field, so naturally I thought about teaching. The only bad part about this idea is that I have about as much patience as a hungry lion standing by an unarmed zookeeper- AKA, not a whole lot.

Finally in the fall of my junior year, I was thinking about writing for a magazine. I write for two publications on campus, so it felt natural to continue this progression after I graduate. Except I have fallen victim to what the kids call “burning out.” Now I am a year away from graduation, writing editorial pieces is growing old, and I haven’t the foggiest idea of where to direct my life.

All that I’m trying to say with this is that my evolution as a college student has been pretty normal. I’m 21 years old and I still have no clue what I want to do when I grow up. All I honestly know is that I’ve been writing throughout this entire journey, for whatever that’s worth.

That sounds rather blazé, but it’s true. These past few semesters I’ve been trying to figure out the importance of having my writing by my side, and working on my minor in writing has only emphasized this more. It’s odd because I’m not quite sure where I sit with writing. Hearing my classmates talk about writing novels or screenplays in their free time makes me feel inadequate, but I think that might be the beauty of writing— it has different meanings for everyone. For me, it’s just something I do, like it’s an extension of myself. I never try to be extremely formal when I write, because, like, what’s the fun in that? Maybe that’s the wrong way of saying that; I just include my personality in everything I write. For instance, I’ve never been one to write a boring introduction, there always has to be a cultural reference or a witty remark (at least it’s witty in my mind).

That being said, writing on this blog all semester has really allowed me to do me (YOLO). The way I see it, there is only so much of your own voice that you can put into an article about a Michigan athlete (a lot of what I write for the yearbook). While it is fun to try to find a new angle to cover a story, nothing really compares to just being completely me in my writing, which I can do in a blog. I feel like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music when she is singing “The Hills are Alive” and dancing in the field of flowers, except I would be having a severe allergic reaction to nature if that were the literal case.

After writing this, I’ve realized I don’t really like calling the past couple of years my “evolution as a writer.” I don’t think that’s the right term. It probably doesn’t sit well with me because I just think of humans evolving from monkeys…thanks Charles Darwin. I just don’t think it’s analogous with my situation. I haven’t really changed, transformed, or become this supreme writer, and I think “evolution” signifies coming from the bare minimum. Instead, I like to think of my life as a map-less road trip where my writing is my only fuel. I don’t really have a final destination in mind, but when I make it there, I’ll be home.

How I Write, with Lorna Goodison

Last Tuesday I went to Lorna Goodison’s book reading, as part of Sweetland’s How I Write series. She read several poems from her latest collection, Supplying Salt and Light.

I really enjoyed the event! It is always interesting to hear directly from an author, both to gain insight into the author’s inspiration and to listen to a piece as the author intends it to be heard or read.

What fascinated me most about Ms. Goodison’s work was the way she chose to write about her experiences. Many of the poems she read were about a trip she took to Spain and Portugal. However, instead of transcribing the trip as it happened, which is what I would have done, Ms. Goodison created beautiful stories that truly seemed to capture the feeling of the place she was in.

A few poems that stuck out to me were about African immigrants, such as the individuals who sell goods and souvenirs in public plazas. Rather than writing about these experiences as she observed them, Ms. Goodison added her own interpretations, creating stories about the people she saw and how they may have ended up there. Her poems, overall, were a very pleasant mix of real life experiences and the author’s imagination.

I usually am not very interested in poems, but hearing Ms. Goodison’s reading definitely made me want to read more of her work.

Lorna Goodison- How I Write

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Sweetland Center for Writing’s How I Write serious featuring Lorna Goodison. The audience was treated to the author’s reading of her own poetry from her most recent book and answering of some questions from the audience.

Lorna is Jamaican, which caused for an interesting reading as her accent added flavor to her poems spoken aloud. On the same note, she talked about many different places and cultures across the world. The entire reading felt like an exotic experience, not only inspiring me to write about the places I go, but making me feel as if I had been the places she talked about.

It seemed that she wrote about many things that simply interested her, mostly items that came from her heritage. She wrote about Africans or Christopher Columbus, as a kind of homage for what her history has done for her now.

This reading was a great experience and I’d be interested to see how other authors come off in the same context

What Does My Writing Look Like?

“Some say, despite this overwhelming evidence, that the income and wealth disparities do not matter as long as GDP continues to grow, but this does not take into account that this inequality threatens the fundamental incentive structure that drives our economy; when workers do not have the opportunity to move up the socio-economic ladder, there is little reason for them to invest in their future with higher education, and therefore they will not have the opportunity to advance in our economy.”

This is an excerpt from a recent paper that I wrote about income inequality in America. Though this particular sentence is slightly long-winded for me, it does give a pretty accurate representation of my writing in terms of shape and diction. This sentence seems to be compound-complex, which is fairly common for my papers because I feel that, as long as my wording is accurate, this style can really illuminate the subject matter. I am very aware of the stigma associated with the use of semi-colons, but I use them reasonably frequently because it gives me an opportunity to further explain my theses in a way that flows more easily than a period would.

In terms of diction, I have noticed that my wording can often be vague, but at the same time vague can be relatable to certain audiences and in certain media. For example, in news media you may find specific details about conflict in Syria but you won’t find sentences like, “Their eyes flickered the mirror image of the incendiary rebellion that raged before them.” This sentence does give me a picture of the conflict in Syria, but it’s imagery is melodramatic to the point of discrediting the author. This is possibly the fine line I am trying to walk as a writer: I want accurate argumentative style and reporting, yet I appreciate the stylistic choices of creative fiction. I just don’t know how to reconcile the two.

How I Write

So for this How I Write post, I am going to talk about a lecture given by Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors. In this video, Vonnegut has a chalkboard and draws the graph of stories. This visual representation of how he writes a story and how we digest a story is not only very funny, but also shows how we can use diagrams and shapes and drawings and graphs as a means of understanding a written story or piece. I have never been one to draw for a prewrite, but there is something nice about mapping out writing and having a visual to refer to when all you can think about is the lack of words on a screen.

It is also interesting how Vonnegut is trying to use this visual representation of written stories so that computers can digest them; this video is from at least a decade ago, and Vonnegut already can see the importance of the digital world and the world of words to be able to mesh. Stories need to adapt, and can be told in more ways than just with words (i.e. charts, pictures, etc.).

I love Kurt Vonnegut on writing, and I will leave off with another famous (in the world of English nerds) bit of advice from the writer about writing short stories:

On How to Write a Short Story

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

The famous Tony Kushner

I just listened to an NPR interview with Tony Kushner talking about how he wrote the screenplay for Lincoln. Finally I have a little more insight into Shelley’s favorite screenwriter/playwright!

To start, I don’t often think about how screenwriters have to keep in mind someone who will play the parts that they’re writing. Tony talks about this and how he played a role in selecting the man who played the main character. With screenplays, suddenly words on paper become spoken and there is the real possibility that how your writing sounds in your head may not be how it literally plays out on stage/on film. Tony’s role in selecting the actor was probably crucial to the success of the film.

Because Lincoln is a historical film on the President Lincoln’s final moments in office, Tony had to consult a lot of sources to gain historical background. Tony also talks about how he had to check every single word he used to make sure that they weren’t too modern. This type of writing seems so tedious – it would take so much time and precision to make sure every word is from the right time period!

Another interesting point from the interview is when Tony actually discusses “how he writes”. He admits that he is probably one of the last to use pens and notebooks to begin writing. He specifies that he only uses fountain pens because he likes the expressiveness of them (i.e. “if you’re angry, the pen’s lines will be dark and thick; if you’re tentative, the pen’s lines will be light and thin”) and the ability to leave a paper trail in case he wants to go back and use something that he’s written during the drafting process. I can totally relate to this. I love to draft my writing with pen and paper and keep all of my notes. Even if I do type the beginning of my writing process, I save multiple documents with all of my notes so that nothing gets deleted!

Having not had much exposure to the writing process of screenwriters, this interview was very interesting. I’d recommend listening!

How I Write: “It’s the details that draw in the reader.”

The second “How I Write” event of the semester (Monday, November 19) was equally intriguing, although I didn’t walk into the event with the same enthusiasm as the first speaker back in October. It’s that time of year – my body hurts, my head is toasted, and my job is asking me to travel across the country. In all honestly, I struggled to get to the Kalamazoo Room of the Michigan League to hear author Thomas Hager speak about writing compelling nonfiction. I thought to myself, “How could anything but sleep be compelling at this moment in my life?” Boy, was I mistaken.

Hager spoke about his most recent published book, The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery that Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler. I’m not much of a hard data girl, but his methods and rationale for writing were things I needed to hear. The speaker emphasized that he wasn’t writing for exploration or expression, but that he was writing for readers to read. He went so far to detail his research process using note cards to document each piece of information that could possibly be useful in writing. How smart is that?

The one takeaway that really grabbed me was when Hager was talking through some of his beliefs in any sort of writing, saying, “It’s the details that draw in the reader.” We relate to human flaws, connect through common failures, and are captivated by the vivid language painting the scene of our lives.

From author Yann Martel in Life of Pi:

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.” 

If you don’t allow the details to draw you in, you would miss the great influence writing has, and that’d be quite the shame.