Project Update: Content

This project has been incredibly fun, but incredibly challenging for me. The number of times I’ve written, re-written, and re-written AGAIN is almost ridiculous. It’s not that I think my original work was bad, but I keep thinking of new ways to present my ideas, and mastering my intended tone has been difficult. My original pieces felt too forced in terms of comedic content, and my revisions felt too sterile. It’s taken a lot of time, but I think I’m finally achieving the tone I was looking for. The only way I’ve been able to achieve this is to think of my blog as a conversation between friends (almost as if I’m texting one of my friends about how I’m feeling). Obviously, this isn’t exactly how the piece comes off because I had to “dress it up” a bit (make it slightly more formal to appear credible), but it’s really helped my find MY voice. As I’ve said in my previous experiment reflections, personal writing, especially personal writing with satirical elements, is really challenging for me because I’ve dedicated years to writing and perfecting formal papers, but I’m really proud of how far I’ve come. I don’t think I’ll ever consider the work I produce (both on this site and otherwise) perfect, but I am really happy with how things have turned out.

Personal Paradox

So, for this week we were asked to discuss competing thoughts which were at least partially contradictory as far as our evolution as a writer. These thoughts manifest in the evolution essay and are something that we must grapple with to create a solid, meaningful essay. I have two that go hand in hand.

Revision is important vs. I’m good enough to not revise.

It is a self identified fact that my biggest writing flaw is a lack of revision. I don’t go over my work nearly enough. Because of this I end up with dumb mistakes and shallow messages. Sure I can make this mess pretty, and someone might not realize that I didn’t put extra thought into the piece…but writers know. I know when I look at the piece again. My teachers know when they grade. I’ve gotten a lot of messages that are summed up as: this is good work, but needs more revision to connect and string through theme, or where exactly are you going here, and this is close to potential, but needs more thought. I always seem to come up a little short because I won’t go back and do the necessary re-writes and edits and final polishing and teasing out of a central theme and bringing that theme out through an entire project. I guess I am a lazy writer sometimes. I think I am also a bit vain at times. I do actually feel as if I’ve written a perfect draft after five hours of typing a paper (beginning-middle-end). There are many times that I don’t even go back over this rough, rushed draft…and to be honest it usually works out. However, once I got into upper level writing the chinks in my armor were exposed. I was specifically called out in my evaluations for lack of necessary revision. I still attacked my papers with the same attitude and as a result received the worst grade I ever have in an English or writing class. The kicker here is that my dad has the same problem…and I’m pretty critical of him for not revising like he should. He has published two books, and is about to release his third ( a sequel to the second book).  While I think that he is a good story teller, and I credit him highly for constructing a story that spans 300+ pages and connecting the dots, I think he could be so much more. I know for a fact that he has read literature from all over the world and from many different times. He knows what good writing is, does, feels like, and looks like. He is smart enough to produce writing that at least moves in that direction. And yet, after writing a book for nine months he gives it a two month break and then revises for about a week, maybe two. And bear in mind that he isn’t a professional writer so the actual revision that is happening isn’t two weeks of nonstop revision. The effort into the rough draft is completely imbalanced to the work that goes into the final, he also spends the revision time making the book cover! I’m not knocking my dad, but just pointing out my own problem on a larger scale…5 hours of writing to 5 minutes of revising is basically nothing. Moreover, it’s even worse on me because I know better and I know that it is my primary problem in writing, and yet I still don’t revise like I should. I’m working on it! One great thing about this capstone class is the high stakes which will require the revision or else risk embarrassment and failing grades.

My love for writing vs. Only writing for school

These two connect in the phrase “I guess I am a lazy writer sometimes.” I think writing is potentially the thing I can be best at. I play music and have good reviews by people who here me, but I don’t really like to brag because there are so many better musicians. I was okay at sports. Understanding high level writing at a young age, through reading, and then eventually starting to form complex metaphors and messages in my own writing made me feel gifted. That is the one area that I (at least used to) brag about. Of course there are countless writers out there that are better than I am, but I truly feel like someday I could have my name in a book with them. Maybe not, and who cares either way, but I think I’m good. Even with that confidence and passion though, I don’t really do a lot of writing outside of school assignments. I populate my free time with friends and video games, and an array of social events to the point that I don’t really give myself the free time necessary to write. This is a huge problem. On one hand I don’t feel too bad because I like my life and the people in it and the way I live (mostly). On the other I feel like  I could have written a book by now if I followed this passion and shut out the other stimuli. For this reason, I am very excited for the capstone project. I will actually be forced to apply myself to a writing venture of my choosing, that I am interested in, and that will require the work and level of thought to make it a high quality piece that I can be proud of. I am grading against my own expectations and ambition, not a rubric. I feel that the capstone project will help me to fix…or at least find a path through my writing deficiencies.

Writing and Rewriting

All writing is rewriting.

My professional writing professor last semester drilled this idea into my head and, at first, I didn’t see the connection between that statement and the question of “what counts as writing?” that we discussed during class.

However, after the readings by both Ong and Brandt as well as the gallery composed by our class, I’ve found the multifaceted and totally ambiguous answer. What counts as writing is constantly in revision, which is why it is so difficult–I’d even argue, impossible–to narrow down what “counts” as writing.

Writing, to me, has always been a form of communication. The physical act of putting pen to paper or writing code on a computer is in an effort to relay a message. When I write, I have some sort of audience in mind, whether it’s myself when I’m writing in my five-year diary or my boss when I’m crafting a blog post for work. What distinguishes writing, for me, from other forms of communication is the physical nature of creation, which Ong iterates. “There is no way to write naturally.” Ong explains, “…writing is completely artificial” (81). Whereas oral speech can come about organically, writing requires agency and action. The gallery showcases this “action” in the form of videos, Google Maps, and recipes–things I wouldn’t usually think of as writing–and supports the artificiality and physical nature of writing Ong presents.

Another aspect of both Ong’s and Brandt’s readings that challenged me had to do with the idea of trust that the reader instills in a writer. Academic institutions constantly reinforce how unethical plagiarism is and the consequences of carrying out such an act. Still, plenty of students copy and paste sentences from papers they find on the Internet or even take another student’s paper and submit it as their own. Clearly, this paragraph mention in the syllabus isn’t working. However, as Brandt points out, “Plagiarism is a form of material theft but what makes it so morally egregious is that it betrays the trust fundamental to the act of reading; it interrupts the moral transfer of the good from the writer to the reader” (143). This idea of trust and lack thereof places writing on a moral pedestal and requires us, as writers, to think of our obligation to the reader, which is something that I have never considered over the 15+ years I’ve been writing.

When I write, I am telling my reader that I can be trusted. I am telling my reader that my words and thoughts are my own and that, even if they don’t agree with me, they come from a genuine place of communicating.

What I look forward to most about this course is being challenged. I believe that it’s easy to get into the habit of agreeing with others because the potential for failure exists and being vulnerable is unnatural. I feel that the minor will challenge me to take my preconceived notions, my vulnerability, and my passion and create work that provokes others to push themselves out of their comfort zones.

getting wix-y with it

site preview
The tentative top-half of my ePortfolio’s home page.

After presenting a Wix tutorial to the class on my ePortfolio, I feel pretty good about all the work I did last week to get me up to this point. Instead of procrastinating this assignment like I thought I would, I spent four hours last Thursday evening laying out as much as I could and then creating a useful Google Doc for everything else that needed to be written. It was my first time ever using Wix, and through experimenting with different plug-ins, widgets, and ways to present all of my work, have an ePortfolio I can really be proud of.

The coolest part for me about my “tech challenge” was that the class generally seemed to enjoy it and asked questions about how they could enhance/improve their own ePortfolios. While I didn’t have a pre-planned script to go off of, my impromptu tone allowed me to navigate through my portfolio and all of its pages through the eyes someone who has never seen it.

Now all that’s left is revision, revision, and more revision. As much as I love every written word on my portfolio now, I want to use the time until the due date to make sure everything is said in the most coherent and clear way possible. There are so many variations to choose from as far as how to present our work. Every decision must be made with extreme clarity and reason.

Overall, I think I accomplished my goal of using my choices to create a stylish, “final” product.

I’m looking forward to see my peers’ ePortfolios-in-progress soon. Hopefully my ePortfolio will give others inspiration to start theirs now and not the week before it due (or sooner). So much value is gained by starting a term project so early, including not panicking, creating quality work, and having the ability to go back and revise where necessary. The more we get done before the last day of class, the more we can help each other out through peer feedback and revisions.

Another component of my project that Shelley commented on that I need to be cautious of is the images I used that aren’t mind. I need to make sure they are fair use and not violating any copyright policies. I will go back and pray that the images I have up are fair use because I really like them a lot and they fit in with my vintage theme. Other than that hiccup, the other technical components of my ePortfolio are solid.

Content-wise, I also need to ensure that my annotated bibliographies are added to both the re-purposing and re-mediation pages. As this is a required component to the course I need to make sure I don’t forget to do it. I think the best way to represent them will be putting them at the end of the embedded documents so that users can just scroll down more and browse through them.

I’m super excited about having so much done already and look forward to really being done in a few short weeks.

Project Make-over #mixer

*advice, please!*

I’m speaking to those who are making/have made personal blogs about a particular experience, trip, or phase.   My blog posts sound like diary entries. My concern is, how to speak to an audience beyond myself.  I changed their statuses to “unpublished”.  They seem lame, stagnant, and unrepresentative of my experiences.   My original capstone project plan was to make a blog about the making of a double bass recital.  I’ve hit a wall. Is there reader appeal to reading someone’s diary about making music?  Paul does not want me to scrap the whole thing but…oy

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My own solution has been to try and create something in a different medium. I remembered Ray advising me to generate questions.  I remembered a Q&A with myself becoming the foundation of my Gateway project.  I decided to make a zine (self-published, hand-crafted, magazine; a medium likened by 90’s female punks), centered around the question, “Why do I music?”. Yes, it is a reference to George Orwell’s “Why I Write”, but I think it works.  Here’s the cover page.

zine cover

Reflection on Why I Write

Although I did not have time to revise my Why I Write essay (finals, am I right?) I did get a chance to look at it again when creating my portfolio. When looking at my writing in a compiled form, I noticed a stark difference between my writing at the beginning of the semester and now.

Firstly, although I thought I knew why I write at the beginning of the semester (personal expression) I hadn’t even tapped into my true interests yet. Through this class as well as my Art of the Essay class I’ve learned a great deal about considering your audience when writing. I had never had reason to think about my audience before, as I was writing in a journal or for a teacher who knew everything already. However, when I began writing for blog posts that my peers would read or with the mentality of a magazine editor I started to consider the other people in this community that I’m interacting with. I’d been ignoring the other side of the page and simply thinking about myself. (I’m a little disappointed in my selfishness, but I’ve grown now so it’s okay)

While I still explore myself through my writing, one of my main considerations is the larger theme and how my writing can be applied to other people. It’s simply just not that interesting if it can’t speak to a larger question. I’d love to go back and rewrite my Why I Write essay to explore how I write to connect with others and learn about others as I learn about myself. Maybe I will one day.

Revising

I have a strong love/ hate relationship with revisions. There’s nothing I hate more than having to re-do something I’ve already done. I’m more of the get-er-done type instead of the take your jolly ol’ time and mull it over type. But generally, this means that revisions are really necessary because I didn’t take the time to get it right the first time. I guess if I tried slowing down for a minute to outline or storyboard instead of just diving in, I might be able to avoid massive revision parties.

Regardless, I find myself constantly zooming through assignments and then having to go back and heavily revise them. Therefore I have a lot of experience with fixing and workshopping my own pieces because they often really need that extra attention after they’re done. I think this is a reflects a lot on how I live my life as well. I like to just get it all out there and then go back and fix after the fact. That really just doesn’t always work the best, though. I think in the end, that way is going to get you to a result you might be happy with, but it has to be a little bit about the process as well.

One thing I would personally like to work on as far as revising goes, is having more time to do smaller revisions. This would likely mean doing things earlier and taking more time on them. It would also probably mean outlining before I just start writing, which I generally find a waste of time. However, I can completely see where in a lot of situations it would help out greatly to the overall process.

I guess in a way, my love for revisions comes from that end product being really what I want, but the hate is the way I go about revising. With a new strategy, who knows? Maybe I’ll end up loving revisions all around.

The Perks of Revising

To be completely honest, most of the time revision for college students feels like busy and unnecessary work. From our perspective, we already wrote the dang paper and we were happy enough to hand it in the first time so why the heck do we need to spend more work on it? Just because this is how we feel, though, does not mean that it is the truth.

Revising is annoying and it is more work than any of us really want to do, but it is also completely necessary. Every time you take a step back from your work and come back to it you understand completely new things. For me after I write a paper, for example, it just looks likes a monotonous pile of words that have lost all meaning. But if I am to come back to the paper with fresh eyes I can see the peaks and valleys and understand where my argument falls short. And honestly, it’s a really good sensation to know that you’re not getting judged on that pile of crap you turned in the first time you took a go at it.

Revision sucks, definitely. It takes time and it’s a pain. But if any of us care about the quality of our work (and I’m assuming all of us do) it’s sort of cool. Maybe.

Revision

I think my writing process is different than a lot of people’s: I tend to have a short attention span, so I’ll typically start writing something, get tired of it, and then come back to it later. The thing is, every time I do this I usually have to re-read and revise it, which takes a while (I just caught myself doing this right now). Also this strategy allows for a lot of procrastination: I’ll start a bunch of things but then put off finishing them. If I have enough time, this usually means that the final product is polished, but if I don’t because there’s a deadline and I’ve taken too many breaks, I’ll often have to rush the ending to finish on time.

My compulsion with revision probably stems from the fact that I hate releasing something publicly that may have mistakes in it. I want it to be my best work. But as I’ve gone through school, and especially college, I’ve realized that this is definitely a balancing act – at some point you just need to be done and move on. I think I’ve gotten better at this, and honestly some of my most fluid writing is stuff that I’ve written quickly with few breaks and less full revisions. At the same time I think there’s also positives to constantly revising as you write. It obviously curbs grammar and diction mistakes, but more importantly it helps bigger ideas stay connected and on topic. Plus, when I do go to actually give someone a draft, there is usually less work to be done on the reviser’s end.

This semester, being busier and having more responsibilities than I ever have before, I’ve really been faced with how to revise when time is a limiting factor. I think the most important strategy I’ve learned takes place before the revision process even starts: planning. If you can map out the general ideas that you want to present, whether on paper or just mentally, the revision work will be a lot lighter and more time can be spent generating new content. Revision will always be important, especially as a way for other’s to share their ideas about your work, but it can be less of a burden and more effective if you know exactly what you’re trying to communicate.

second chances

Like some of my classmates have expressed, I never appreciated revision until college. In high school, my classes mainly required in-class writing, and time constraints, convenient rubrics letting me know exactly what I needed for an A, even boredom led to my “one and done” philosophy towards writing. I wasn’t pushed until freshman year to actually, you know, think about the words I’d put to paper. Now I find the whole process weirdly calming. I’m a big backspacer and re-reader as I go, but even that isn’t enough to save me from the awkwardness of initial thoughts all running into and around and between each other. Somehow I’ve grown to enjoy stepping back and trying to see my writing from a different lens.

That said, I’m no stranger to those awful hours staring at the same page, rearranging paragraphs and words and commas hoping everything will somehow fit together, until finally reality sets in and I admit (sometimes only a temporary) defeat. The opportunity to revise, both directly in this class and just the practice of turning in multiple drafts by hard deadlines, has made me realize the amount of work that really goes into writing that we just don’t see. I think I tend to glaze over the actual painstaking effort of my favorite books and assume their authors just sat down and came up with genius on the first try (this theory is most definitely supported by the whole “one day JK Rowling sat down in a coffeeshop and wrote Harry Potter on a napkin” story). Of course I don’t know anyone’s writing process but my own, but I probably discredit the amount of hard work, not just talent, that goes into really great writing.