I Would Love Some Thoughts

Hellooo fellow capstoners. In the process of working on my project, I have found that our class discussions in small groups have been the most effective in helping me move forward and make progress in my ideas. So I’d like to continue that to the blog and see if I can get more thoughts from those I have worked with as well as new thoughts from people who haven’t heard my idea. So here it is:

My overall topic is mental health/illness and the stigma on campus at the University of Michigan. In order to do so, I’d like to understand further the line between talking about mental health with positive affects and talking about mental health in a manner that reinforces negative stereotypes.

I plan combine knowledge from research study research done at other campuses with my experiences at Michigan to create a comprehensive survey for University of Michigan students, portraying their overall experiences with mental illness, mental health stigma, and the University’s existing mental health initiatives.

I will then use this research and new knowledge to inform my creation of a mental health campaign, aimed to destigmatize mental health. My current ideas for this right now is somewhat of a photo essay, which would be used to share on social media to reach students. Or I could create a video (not sure of my capabilities for this). But overall, I think that doing something personal, that shows everyone what it looks like to be involved in mental health (whether that means experiences with mental illness or not) and that those people look just like everyone else.

Any thoughts/ideas/comments are appreciated!!!

Also a specific question: does anyone have ideas of how to get this survey out to more of the University of Michigan community than just my friends on Facebook, etc. I’d love to get a diverse participant base and people who don’t know me.

Habits worth breaking or NAH

So we’ve all realized how we’ve improved in our writing. But in that process, at least for me, there were some writing habits I became painfully aware of and I’m not sure whether I should be critical of them or embrace them. I’d like to address these on a couple of different levels:

1.) I ALWAYS want to incorporate music/lyrics in my writing or just straight up write about music. I’ve realized that for as much as I love to write about it, I don’t actually play instruments frequently enough. Sometimes I fear that yes, I’m faking it all. But the interest is there, I swear. It pops up in every piece of writing I actually value. Do you think that such recurring topics are ultimately a hindrance to exploration of other topics or further writing development? What’s up with being eternally caught up on one subject? Do you tend to incorporate a certain topic in much of your writing?

2.) I’ve realized that the quality of my writing depends on way too many external variables. How am I feeling today? Do I feel creative? Am I comfortable? Do I like the scenery? Can I work with background noise? What song should I play on repeat for the next five hours? And by the time I figure all of it out, an hour has gone by. Do any of you experience this? What’s your favorite writing environment/scenario/song? How much emphasis do you think should be put on creating the perfect writing environment?

And if you’re interested, here’s my current writing playlist (aka the biggest determinant of my writing environment) :

“Another Night,” Real McCoy

“If I Fell,” The Beatles

“Mr. Blue Sky,” ELO

“Tim I wish you were born a girl,” Of Montreal

Your Favorite Writing

What has been your favorite piece of writing you’ve ever done and why?  Not necessarily in college and not necessarily for a class (though falling into either category is totally okay too)… just plain and simple, what and why?

For me, I think it was a writing piece I wrote about my siblings for my 325 class.  I wrote it over the most recent summer term and I think what makes it my favorite are, well, a few things.  The topic itself was fairly broad (something like “something in the past that happened over a long period of time”), which helped because I could pretty much pick anything.  I also chose a topic I felt very strongly about – not just in general, but in that specific moment in time.  Finally, I put a lot of work into the re-writing and felt the final product wasn’t unfinished in any way.

So, in short, it was a meaningful essay that meant a lot to me personally.

What’s interesting, however, is that my second-favorite essay I’ve written is likely my Biochem 352 research essay for basically reasons that are entirely opposite the ones above.  The short version is: it made me feel incredibly smart when I was finished, because I’d pulled off an assignment I thought I’d bomb.

So again, I’m curious, what is your favorite piece of writing and why?  Any writing, any reason.

La Voce

I wonder if I can make this sound more interesting if I write the topic of this post in another language.  Maybe, because you clicked on this, it did its purpose! For those who speak Italian, you know what I’m talking about. And for those who don’t, I’m talking about voice.

Not in the type of sound that you hear when you speak – like mine that has lately become so raspy and crackly I wonder if anyone will be able to hear me in the future. I’m talking about a writer’s voice. We hear this term all the time. English professors and any other discipline’s professors telling you that you need to find your voice as a writer. But, as I am tackling this evolution essay, I am trying to understand what this voice means. I can look it up, but this definition doesn’t seem to be what I am looking for.

So I am sending this off into this blogosphere. How would you define a writer’s voice? Can it change? Do you think you have one? Does a writer’s voice define their writing?

Writing Your Way to Happiness

I came across this article, Writing Your Way to Happiness from the New York Times and was intrigued by the title. The article discusses multiple studies done showing that expressive writing essentially does wonders for your mood. Most situations were getting out what you were thinking or feeling on paper and experiencing someone else wanting to hear what you have to say. However, one described “rewriting” your narrative and changing how things have gone/will go in the future. This I haven’t tried, but many students did better in school after writing about improving their future. Maybe I will give it a try.

I have always been a very expressive writer, which is a struggle I have in the writing minor or other classes when I try to make things less expressive. I’m wondering if everyone else feels like writing is or can be an expressive, mood-lifting experience or because we are MiW’s it has just become work and something we’re kinda good at.

Girl, seeking inspiration

I’d like to think of myself as a creative person- the kind that can come up with interesting and different ideas or can see things in ways that other people can’t. I’m a creative person and this project is really stumping me.

My intial reaction is that I am approaching this with too much of a creative edge. I am very hopeful that my finished project will provide some sense of accomplishment and as I am completing it, I will be inspired to make something really cool. But I really don’t know where to begin. My first problem is that I have a extremly large range of interests. In choosing my history honors topic I bounced from studying the witchcraft trials in medieval Italy to analyzing motown music as a social construction in 1960s US. When asked to apply for jobs, I   don’t even know where to begin because I don’t have one direct interest.

So what gets me passionate? What scares me? This seems like the ultimate question I’ve been trying to figure out for years- unsuccessfully at that And even though I’m sure this will change, one idea or topic comes to mind.

I’ve found that gender really interests me. The one thing that was in common in both of my thesis topics is that they are centered around women and how they are understood in those moments in history. From this, I think I might like to explore something different than my historical studies of women. I am good at research and understanding the social constructions in history. What I have not really explored is the present. I have been firmly situated in the past for most of my college career, and I would like to apply my understanding to my own life. I think it would be a cool topic to apply what I know about history of gender and try to understand how personally am effected by it. How have those events influenced me? The people around me?

So now that I’ve picked an interest, I’m not sure where to go from here or how to explore this in a project. Any ideas?

A Two-Pronged Approach to Gamer Society

When we first discussed the Big Project for the course, my mind went in a couple directions.  I’ll be honest, most of the writing I’ve done for previous classes has focused on “sad” things.  And to me, that’s fine – I’ve actually (I think anyways) become quite good at pathos.  So my first instinct was to focus on death in some form or another – (I have my own personal reasons for this, but that would be a post in and of itself).

But when RayRay started talking about personal interests, and working around something we maybe haven’t been able to focus on as much as we’d have liked during undergrad, I started to shift focus a bit.  I’ll get it out right now: I’m a big, nerdy World of Warcraft gamer.  It’s not something the always comes up in conversation, but it’s a big part of my life.  To an “outsider” (if you want to call it that), saying a game is a big part of my life might sound incredibly weird.  And, admittedly, that’s an understandable reaction.  But that’s also part of where my mind began to head during our discussion of this project.  I wanted a way to somehow get across just how influential something as seemingly silly as an online game has been on my life.

There’s quite a bit more to it than I can easily get into here, but to give you an idea, I’ve been playing this game with the same group of people for years now.  People from all over the country, sometimes world, have been part of my online social experience.  I’ve been able to talk with people from Singapore, Bermuda, Australia, England, that weird country above us… the list goes on.  These people aren’t just “gamer friends,” they’re people I’ve been able to talk with over familial, social, school, and really any time of personal problem in my life.  They’re people I spend six or more hours a week with playing, shooting the shit, and getting drunk with.  I have friends in New York, Chicago, Florida, California, and elsewhere all willing to let me stay at their place if I ever decide to visit the area.

What I’m getting at is this: these are real people and real social experiences.  They happen from the comfort of my computer monitor, but – despite the insistence to the contrary by my parents during my teenage years – this is a real, personal group of friends and this experience, to me, holds just as much weight as any other social experience.

…So all that is one aspect of what I’m considering trying to tackle in this project.  I know for a fact it’s not singular to me – people have met through World of Warcraft and happily married! – but it will also be difficult to keep it unbiased.

Alllllllll that being said, there was a second approach I wanted to take, and since I’ve talked a lot already, I’ll try to keep it short.  This second approach came to my mind when Pikachu mentioned practicality.

It’s probably not known to many, but among the gaming community – (not necessarily World of Warcraft, but other games like League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Starcraft 2) – are all becoming part of a growing movement toward “eSports.”  eSports are exactly what you think they are.  Matches, events, etc. all rivaling athletic sports in fervor, dedication, and audience appeal, but instead played out online.  They’ve grown tremendously over the years and to give you an idea of the magnitude, I want to direct you to two figures:

1.) This picture of the League of Legends world championship over the past 4 years : http://i.imgur.com/KxjQWWi.jpg

and 2.) The fact that the most recent tournament drew 27 million viewers and surpassed Game 7 of the World Series in viewership.

Couple this growth with the fact that colleges are now offering scholarships to eSports teams AND the fact that the first ever Sports Visa was issued to a South Korean Starcraft 2 player in order that he might participate in a tournament in the States and you’ve got real monetary value behind these games.

Okay, so that’s where I’m at.  I talked a lot more than I thought, but I can’t decide if I want to do one or both of these as my primary focus.  I’m fascinated with the growth of eSports, but it also lacks the humanistic side to a story I’m more familiar with.  Hope you all learned at least a few fun facts from this post!


A Sure Form with an Unsure Content

As of a month ago, I was fairly certain of the project I would do for my capstone course. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, my opinion on this project reversed, and now I am back at the drawling board. Though I have ideas, I have no sure project in mind, which brings me both anxiety and curiosity.

The one thing I am sure of is the form in which I want to explore a topic. Over the past year, I’ve become familiar with documentary production. Last semester, I became familiar with essay documentary more specifically. It’s my favorite art form because it is an excellent device for an author to show their perspective both visually and verbally, allowing for a dialectic between the word and image. In it, the author of the documentary usually plays a role from behind or even in front of the camera (or both), and uses his voice over to comment on the events that visually unfold. An example of an interesting essay doc is John Bresland’s The Seinfeld Analog. You can also check out a recent essay doc I did (it’s a semi rough version uploaded for class that I haven’t started publicizing–we’re still polishing it in post prod). It’s called Screens and Stages. I also really enjoy work by Ross McElwee, in which he explores his own personal relationships in order to make metaphysical statements often very reflexive of film.

A more radical thing for me to do would be to make a fiction essay doc (meaning script something that the audience would perceive as a non-fiction documentary if they went into it without warning). I love non-fiction filmmaking because of it’s ability to make me go out into the real world, but I’ve always been curious about blurring the lines between fiction and nonfiction through documentary.

So, I have a mode down with several examples in mind (though I could always take more recommendations for inspiration!), but I’m not totally sure on the content. I have several things in mind:

1. An essay doc regarding my family or my home town. I think as a VERY small town raised boy, I have an interesting story on what it’s like to examine your roots before you graduate and finally make a large departure from them.

2. Possibly do a relationship oriented piece–explore the question of how much our emotions for someone is in our control or is determined by timing, place, and physiology.

3. Any interesting doc that can deal with identity in new ways.


I’m still very much in the brainstorming process. But I can tell you that I’m most inspired to do work that reflects on identity, relationships, sex, and that act of storytelling itself (especially if I can tie all of these things together). Let me know if you have any advice for finding my muse!

The Facts (?) About Fiction

The very first thing that popped into my mind when considering the MIW capstone project is something I have never really attempted before: fiction.

I know, probably not the smartest idea. Fiction/creative writing is not something you’re magically good at without practice, and the thought of attempting it in this context is mildly terrifying, but the idea just won’t leave me alone. Despite my lack of experience, the fiction writing process is something I’d love to explore. It’s always something that I’ve wanted to try or to learn, but in a few months I will graduate with a degree in English and not a single piece of creative writing to show for it. Not that creative writing is required or necessary, but something feels off about the fact that I’ve spent years loving, analyzing, and defending the value of fiction but haven’t tried writing it myself— unless the highly questionable fanfiction that I wrote as an experimental part of my gateway project counts.

The relevance and experience of fiction is something I have always been really interested in. So, I thought it might be interesting to do something regarding the experience of reading fiction versus the experience of writing fiction, and the value—perhaps intertwined or similar, perhaps rather different—of these experiences.

What is the value of reading fiction? What is the value of writing fiction? Are they the same? What is the value of these experiences in formal education? These, of course, could be personal questions, varying from individual to individual. I’d like to think that this could involve research/reading books/talking to people about the creative process and the process of fiction writing.

The idea for the project itself is all very muddled right now, but I like the thought of the whole project being immersive, and the overall result being analytical of the experience of fiction vs. nonfiction, so maybe it could be a collection of short fiction stories and nonfiction creative essays (…or one of each) discussing the experience of learning and the value of fiction, maybe making it a bit more coherent by choosing a specific genre or idea to explore in fiction.

I’m having trouble transforming what I would like to explore in an actual project—any and all advice is insanely appreciated!

General Thoughts, Preoccupations, and Anxieties

What’s in my #1 spot right now is a host of anxieties and preoccupations that have been with me my four years, but I’ve never been able to fully address. This specifically has to do with how what I like to read, influences how I want to write.

I love to read about flawed characters – the more specifically messed up the better, because the words on the page then feel like an act of vulnerability, which is something I deeply admire. This kind of vulnerability also feels like a kind of honesty which is something that I aspire to cultivate in both my life in general but also in my writing. Because of this I think, I’m drawn to memoir. Writing about my life has helped me understand my life – and doing so feels like a way to be honest with both myself and whomever is reading it.

But I’m often not the only character in the personal essays I write and I’ve been thinking more and more about how each person I choose to represent in some way or another becomes collateral damage for my own selfish wants. The two things that I value most right now are honesty and relationships, but in a memoir, or an investigation piece these seem to be mutually exclusive. I could write about a person, fangs and all, and I’d love to do it, but even if that writing is smart and nuanced and handled much better than I’m likely currently able to handle it, does it justify the potential of a lost relationship? And if it doesn’t, than how much do I really value honesty? Or if I’m more than willing to do it, as long as the person never reads it, than how much do I really value either?

The main assumption that I also keep bumping my head up against is “that I actually know what I’m talking about – that I see these people in ways that they’re incapable of seeing themselves  and therefore my version of them equals truth, which I have a interest in capturing and a responsibility to capture accurately.” And I know that’s arrogant, and likely impossible but I keep doing it anyway.

Is there a way for me to ‘safely’ tread this line? (The main assumption here being that I want to, or should want to ‘safely’ write) And if not, then how can I be the most ethical while also being nuanced and interesting. Is there a way to do that without compromising what I believe is valuable and or losing a relationship

I don’t really know if this is a topic – or how this would manifest itself so any suggestions/thoughts would be more than welcomed.

Another random thing that I’m kind of interested in is I bought a hand lettering tutorial last summer because I wanted to learn how to create beautiful and elegant letter forms. But as part of that, I get these emails from Sean (that’s the guy’s name) twice weekly with all kinds of advice about chasing your dreams and ways to align your passion with your work etc. etc. with podcasts and everything. They their own folder in my email because I love that stuff and at some point I would really like to read/listen to all of them. But I’m also kind of baffled by him and the emails all at the same time. 1) how does he constantly feel like he has a revelation he needs to share with the world 2) what makes him so confident the world wants to hear it and 3) why does this kind of writing seem more and more common place. I think in one he explicitly says that this part of his work – and even though he’s giving it out for free (I only paid once for all of the tutorials) is crucial to his success, but I still don’t understand how that’s possible. I signed up to learn how to do art, not necessarily to hear platitudes. So there’s a potential angle of blog culture and why so many small businesses see it as essential.