Commitment Issues

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I have horrible commitment issues. So pitching ideas for a project that will more likely than not occupy my head space for the next four months is tough to say the least.

OKAY, MEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

It was tough to flush out four ideas to pitch in class. I thought I was in the clear to hold off on decision making for a while, but I know that I’ll blink and the proposal will be due.

When I wrote my pitches, I admittedly was just brainstorming to get something on the paper and writing because I knew I had to, not because I was extremely passionate about any of my ideas right off the bat. Coming into class and having to stand behind my pitches and explain why they’re important, why I feel like the time is right to devote my attention to them was the first time I think I got excited about the any of my ideas. Speaking to others made me want to fight for the pitches that I previously thought might not be good enough to craft into a formal proposal. Now here I am. With four ideas that I’m not just willing to pursue, but eager to devote my attention to, when I thought I had none. And all it took to get me there was to have two heads nodding back at me encouragingly, reassuring me that the things floating around in my head are worthy enough for others to care about them.

And

Here

Come

The Commitment Issues.

1, 2, 3 or 4? What if we could combine 1 and 2? Make 1 more of an introduction to the greater topic of 2. What if I pick 2 and get in so deep only to lose interest? What if I wan’t to explore all of these ideas, but I’ll never again have this time to dedicate myself to them? What if I won’t be able to write about 4 the same way as I can now through the lens of an almost-graduate? So many what ifs.

Is it too early to ask for an extension on the proposal????? Lol jk

… maybe

A Reflection of Day 1: Project Pitches

My last words for the MIW gateway course. Something that never happened lol.

I always find it fascinating how fast time flies. I was in the gateway course what feels like an incomprehensible amount of time ago but really was only two years ago (I think?). Thus, I find that these reflections document our change and growth over the course of the years… our life both in and outside of writing. An archive of our experiences, so to speak. But Before I begin this reflection, I wanted to mention the first thing that I immediately noticed upon revisiting this blog: my last post from the gateway course. I intended to continue this capstone course with writing my novel/novella that I started in the gateway course, though none of the pitches I made today even considered this at all. Again, it just fascinates me how much I’ve changed in both my writing interests and style. Anyway, regarding the pitches…

Overall, my peers commented that they enjoyed my ideas and the diversity in my pitches both in topic and medium. My peers suggested that I encourage challenging myself more however, as most of my mediums were in theatrical playwriting of which I am already fairly comfortable/familiar writing.

The Waitress, The musical which inspired me to want to write a musical too.

My first pitch proposed the idea of a “silent musical” (minimal dialogue, except possibly during the occasional songs which would have lyrics). I am not sure if this is a relatively unexplored genre of theatre/plays, so I thought this would be fascinating to dive into. I was hoping to explore the ideas of love/romance and how gender & hypermasculinity influence people’s relationships. A big part of this is that I wanted to explore not only this unfamiliar/challenging idea of a silent musical (composing music to tell a story and minimising dialogue) but also writing something like an ensemble cast for both characters to allow equal stage time.

An example of a popular notation software, Sibelius, that I would use to compose the music to complement my writing.

I received fairly positive feedback for this idea. My peers wanted me to challenge myself if I were to continue writing plays, as I have mostly written plays in my creative writing background. However, they were receptive toward the idea of challenging myself with composing music/lyrics as well as silent storytelling. My peers could see that I was passionate about exploring both of my hobbies in music and writing, combining them into an interesting medium of storytelling through the silent musical.

A performance of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (a UM alum!)… Miller’s methodology of storytelling is my inspiration and model for playwriting.

My second idea was to write a traditional full-length play for the theatre. The topic of the writing would entail exploring mental health and mental differences (often referred to as “mentally challenged”) and how people’s different perceptions of the world because of this can influence their meanings and evaluations of life. My curiosity in this lies in my weaker background on the topic, so I wanted to simultaneously write and research & learn about mental health.

The feedback I received about this was that although the topic was interesting, the medium was not exploring a new form of writing for myself. Because of my background in playwriting, this would not challenge me in my writing abilities so much as the other pitches. Nonetheless, because the topic is still valid, I might wish to explore applying this topic in other less familiar mediums to still utilise the main story components whilst also exploring another form of writing.

An example of how a product white paper looks like… which also happens to describe how it should look like itself.

The third idea I proposed was the idea of writing several product papers for a B2B security solutions/tech software startup for which I head sales/customer experience. I thought this would be a very creative writing experience, since the product paper is inevitably highly multi-modal and explores the usage of space & structure in formatting the paper’s design. Because I would also have to cater it to my audience’s needs (the customer), I would also be able to explore writing several product papers to produce multiple different yet similar kinds of work that I have not done before.

The feedback I received was mixed about this one. Agreeing with my peers’ sentiments, I also found it to be far too professional for my tastes of creative writing — it felt more like a job/task as opposed to exploring creative writing. Although this would be a highly challenging and multi-modal piece, I do not think it is what I seek to learn from the class’s goals & learning environment.

The fourth and final idea I had was to explore screenwriting. I proposed rewriting one of my plays as a film and seeing how that goes. This pitch arises from my interest in entering the film/media entertainment industry and how I want to see how my previous experience in playwriting will effectively transfer over to screenwriting. Because I have no experience in this, I thought this would be a nice incentive/initiative to begin.

My peers found this to be the best pitch despite the fact that I would be rewriting a play (and thus not ideating new content necessarily). Because I have never explored screenwriting before, yet it is still within some scope of comfortableness due to the similarity of playwriting to screenwriting, this connects well to introducing the screenplay genre to myself.

All in all, the pitching experience was highly beneficial. Not only did I receive feedback for each pitch, but I learned what made each pitch strong and weak in terms of exploring my writing learning experience. Overall, to align with challenging and thus learning as much as I can through this course, I think I will follow through with the fourth idea of screenwriting. I also explored this further by possibly taking a screenwriting course simultaneously (intro to screenwriting), though I think I find myself more effectively learning through rigorously challenging myself in this environment.

I took a pretty dissected and objective analysis of my peers to help myself parse through the pitching session so this might not have been the most fun read. But, anyway… because of the interesting topic of mental health I also discussed earlier, which I know very little about, I might combine both this unfamiliarity with the topic of mental health and unfamiliarity with screenwriting to create a feature film about mental health and the mind.

I have some ideas boiling & ready to explore, so I’m looking forward to the semester!!

Cheers,

Alex

IT’S DONE! But is it ever really done?

Gosh, this title encapsulates so many parts of my life right now. This has been quite a strange senior year for so many reasons. For starters, I did not expect to be embarking on a capstone project that I would turn into a published novel. I mean sure I wanted to create something I was proud of, but I did not expect to uncover something so meaningful to me that I wanted to share it with the whole world (beyond my website of course). The showcase is tomorrow and I can’t help but keep adding to and editing my website. I am experiencing a serious sense of “this can’t really be done… can it?”

This is the theme of senior year. We are graduating and moving on to bigger and (hopefully) better things. I will be living on my own in Manhattan and taking on THE big city. Okay, that’s dramatic I have lived on Long Island my whole life and I lived in Manhattan with my best friend last summer so this isn’t some new uncharted territory that I have never explored, but STILL. ALL BY MYSELF! Now that, is new.

College has been a learning experience. For many more reasons than just that we learn in our the classroom. I have learned a lot about myself and the people I choose to surround myself with (and not surround myself with). I also have learned to explore different things than I already know I like.

This capstone project has allowed me to explore myself intimately and reflect deeply. I am very grateful for all that this university has brought me over my 4 years here, especially the MiW.

A very special thank you to Ray for supporting and encouraging me through my gateway and my capstone and allowing me to truly grow in ways I never would have imagined, both as a writer and as a person.

Capstone Challenge Journal 3: Editing

Everything to this point has been easy for me. Sure I had some writer’s block here and there and it was time-consuming to take on 15 chapters, plus intro and conclusion… however, it was easy.

Editing. Editing is hard. I feel there are so many ways to edit something I have a hard time deciphering which would be the most effective and successful for my final product. I have had to reflect on what exactly this project was made for in the first place, and what it has taught me along the way of writing it. The formatting was a front-heavy challenge, but I committed to a form and have gone with it thus far. I believe it has worked well for me and I hope it is not too overwhelming for people to fully immerse themselves in the content.

I am starting to worry people will be waiting for the point in the beginning couple of chapters, but hoping they read far enough that it actually becomes useful and relevant to them. I guess the real worry here is selling the reader on their time being well-spent reading my content.

And thus, we begin editing.

Experiment 2 Reflection

For this second experiment I decided to turn my origin piece (a cultural commentary essay) into a PowerPoint. I would still be discussing everything in my origin piece but in a new format and with images. It’s not a very radical change, but I think it would be interesting to try and turn something so text based into something so visual. I would just change the format in which I present the information. 

 Although I was more excited about my previous experiment, I could see myself actually doing this one. I would keep all the information I wrote in my origin piece but maybe reorganize it and add other outside information which I would include my PowerPoint. I could even look at my first draft of my origin piece to see if anything I originally took out could be added back or returned to in a new way. The hardest part of this experiment would be to find pictures and deciding when to move to a new slide. I can also get very particular about how my slides look so I think also formatting it will take a long time. I don’t think my idea about this experiment has changed much from the proposal stage. Rather I’m more realistic about how much work and effort I will end putting into this experiment if I choose to do it.

 That being said, the research I did to learn more about the genre helped me realize some techniques that I can use in my PowerPoint. It’s not that I can’t have any words, besides a title, on each slide but that it should be limited. I knew PowerPoints should be more focused on images and figures, but I still like using some text to explain what is presented. I also liked that it doesn’t have to be just pictures but the way you organize text on a page to make it visually stimulating. And as long as it looks clean and organize, the slide should be understandable to the audience. One thing I don’t love about this genre, though, is how much importance is place on the presentation: i.e. the person up there talking about the information. This is more about my own personal preference of not speaking in front of a large group of people. I don’t enjoy public speaking. However, if I did this experiment, I don’t think I would do a formal presentation but write the notes and script as if I would. 

To help with some of these issues, I would want to learn more about how my previous professors have put together their own slides. How much time is too long for a slide? Can you have too many or too little slides? What is an effective transition between ideas? What should the script look like? I think it would be beneficial to learn more about how they are presented because even if I don’t present my own, it would help me to create it. I would gain a better idea of when to switch to a new slide or whether to combine the information into just one slide. So rather than just looking at other’s PowerPoints I would watch some being presented.             

Overall, I think this could be an interesting experiment to do. It seems pretty straightforward and although it is similar to my origin piece, it’s such a different way of looking at and communicating information. 

Capstone Challenge Journal 2

The writing games have begun. My project is two-fold in that there is a personal storytelling component and an analytical narrative component. Originally starting this project I figured the analytical narrative would be the easiest to write as it is the most interesting aspect of this to me, however, in me experience thus far it has been quite the opposite. While the personal storytelling has been hard to think back on, it has been easy to write about. Whereas, when it comes to the analytical component, I find myself more stuck. I believe this roadblock is because reflecting on these experiences analytically will make my feelings about them more real, which can be tough to deal with when they are emotions I oftentimes try to forget about. All in all, I do think this will be a therapeutic experience for me when everything is all done and I look back on it.

On a dryer note, I have created my website. I say dryer because I am not a very creative person. I find the content producing aspect of this to be the easiest while I wish the website would have just made itself. After 4 hours of obsessing over what would be the perfect design for this project, I think I am pretty happy with where everything landed. It is coming together nice with complementary colors working in my favor and the flow of where the content will live seems to be productive for the reader. 

As I continue on this journey, I know I will face more challenges, however, I am excited to tackle this current challenge of analytical reflection in the coming weeks.


Capstone Challenge 1

The beginning of the Capstone journey was intimidating to say the least. I wanted to choose a topic that not only would keep me engaged and entertained the entire semester, but would also invigorate a conversation within a larger audience. I have landed on the topic with these three driving questions:

  1. What effects does gymnastics have on mental health, specifically anxiety, and sexual assault?
  2. Is the advertising surrounding the sport portraying the sport in a problematic light?
  3. Are the cultural norms connected to gymnastics the root of the problem?

These such questions will allow for an intersection of mental health, sexual assault and the sport of gymnastics. This is something that not only I am passionate about, but I connect with personally. I find this to be an important and relevant societal conversation that I am looking forward to exploring. I am joyful as I begin to think of the proclamations I will be able to make and the voice I will be given in this conversation. I think this is a hot topic in society as of right now, and especially in the gymnastics world. Too many people have too close of ties to make bold statements without treading tumultuous water, whereas I feel these statements need to be made. I think this would stretch beyond just the gymnastics world, however, since such a large portion of society was invested in the Nassar case which was heavily surrounding this topic. I am particularly interested in this topic because it not only would be a positive self-exploration for me personally, but I think it has a possibility of being extremely conducive for positive change in the gymnastics world once it is put out into the world.

Here’s to (me)? Nah…

So the bio section is a little weird. When I was first setting up my site for the og workshop I was all “yeah I’m gonna link my Instagram, It’s gonna be a little mysterious and fun.” And then I looked at it.

My Instagram is basically all food. That has nothing at all to do with my project.

Frankly, fun and mystery don’t really have very much to do with my project.

My bio so far feels a world away from the rest of the site. How do I remedy this?

I think that my initial bio ideas would make sense for some sort of author website, but this is a project website. So, I need to lose the personality extensions (insta, quirk, mirth) and mold it into something a bit more architectural and, potentially, angry.

The site example I looked at from previous capstones was an activism project, which isn’t too far off from where I’m trying to leave my own project. His bio was all about the labor activism that he had been involved with in and around campus. So maybe my bio turns into an open cover letter?

I say this, because I’ve been applying to jobs like crazy, and all of my cover letters have the common element of me wanting to live/work/make an impact in my community. This project is all about that community. Writing this now, it seems hecking obvious. And I’m sure anyone reading this who knows anything about my project is like “duh, ur dum.” But it never ceases to astound me how we can compartmentalize things so much in our heads that it takes a few months and an army for the lines between them to start to blur.

I’m so used to separating Job and School. And now School is about to go away, at least for a year while I regain some mental capacity and health, and Job is going to take over. I wonder if something might replace School in my head’s filing cabinets, or if it won’t ever quite go away until after my masters. Or if I decide to teach at some point, which I kind of want to, maybe it will just transform a bit? Because I do like have compartments; I think it makes my inner life categorization a bit easier, even if my desk is a literal mess.

 

desk mess studio work space
                         actually me rn

Ew.

 

Anyway, I really do hope that I keep being able to have separation in the parts of my life, even when the categories become less outwardly defined. I love the moment when things just ‘click’ together. During my time here, this usually happened between different classes, which was honestly one of the most exciting things, because it made me feel like I was on track, and that everything really was connected. Not being sappy, just being real.

I think that’s my end of semester mantra.

A Semester in Review

Being accepted into the Minor in Writing program was so exciting, but I honestly had no idea what to expect. I remember coming to class the first day worrying about how intense the program, and my instructor, would be. I can honestly say this class (and the minor) surpassed my expectations, and has only assured me that this is the right direction for me. While I’ve probably done more revisions in the past 3 months than I have in my entire life, I’ve loved every second of it, and truly believe that I am progressing as a writer. One thing Ray said to us that has really stuck with me is that every year we grow. Senior year we wrote English essays that we thought were incredible, only to turn around freshman year of college and think “dear god, how did I ever put my name on that?” Then freshman year we wrote even more essays and thought we had nearly perfected our writing capabilities, only to realize sophomore year that we hated what we produced the year before. The cycle goes on. This really stood out to me because, while I’ve never recognized it, the pattern is true, and it was comforting to know that everyone, even people writing dissertations and working towards their doctorates, feel the same way. This realization has encouraged me to use every year as a stepping stone; although I will never think my work is perfect, it will always be better than whatever I wrote the year before, and that’s a really exciting and encouraging fact to recognize. In this way, I could probably spend years working on my site and never be truly satisfied, but what I’ve produced this year is definitely way better than what I’ve produced in years prior, and I can see how much I’ve grown as a writer. I’m excited to see what my future in this program (and beyond) will look like.

Dear Prospective Minor in Writing Applicants,

I was hesitant to apply to the Minor in Writing because, well, I didn’t really know what it was. It was introduced to me with an email forwarded from an older friend without any real explanation. As I searched the Sweetland Center’s website I understood the structure of the program, but I still had unanswered questions. How much freedom do I have to write what I want? Am I just going to be studying grammar and punctuation all day? What will the classes be like?

I wished I could have seen students’ work, their progression, their struggles. I wished that there was a glimpse into the program other than the descriptions of courses and historical syllabi.

Over the course my time in the Minor in Writing Gateway, I’ve developed an understanding for all of these questions. And so, I wanted to share my experiences to show you, the prospective applicants, my struggles and progression, my missteps and successes.

An accumulation of my experimentation can be found here, in my Gateway ePortfolio.

You’ll see a discovery of my writing process, how I learned to think again. You’ll see the progression of my voice and how I learned to highlight it throughout various genres. You’ll see how I developed a strong sense of different audiences, and how they might react to assorted techniques.

And hopefully, you’ll see how I plan on continuing to experiment and question my ideas from now, until my final Capstone course, and beyond.

Happy reading, prospective students. Send in that application; you won’t regret it.

Best,

Ashley