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:

 

I Read to Judge

Here’s what I learned about myself as a reader: I read to judge.

So…what does that say about my desires/preferences as a writer?

I want readers to sit down, read the text, and come out of it with something meaningful that’s not clouded by judgmental thoughts. Of course, part of this hope is motivated by my fear judgement. And so I write very carefully so that someone will not skim my work and then throw it in the trash. Another motivation is my desire to produce something that readers will enjoy, something that won’t sidetrack them by its flaws. I want readers to be able to immerse themselves and, again, get something meaningful out of the writing. There’s this subconscious (now conscious) notion I have that I can help people by writing, and writing well. As a reader, I’ve been helped by writers, and now I really want to do something for readers.

Why I Write Examples and Analysis

I began my journey to find Why Everyone Else Writes by simply Googling “Why I Write.” Unsurprisingly, the number of examples I had to choose from were intimidatingly high, so I panicked and immediately typed “sports” behind my previous search term because that felt safe to me. This yielded an interesting article by J.A. Adande, a sportswriter for ESPN who I vaguely knew of from previous experiences watching sports. His article was titled “Why I Write About Sports for a Living.” As I read it, I realized that sports are the author’s main passion and from that the author was able to justify his actions, including becoming a writer.

I found two other articles off of the internet and found a similar underlying effect. In an essay titled “Why I Write” by Tom Schachtman, he writes about a more profound, or rather less tangible, passion that he describes as “curiosity.” He uses a number of anecdotes to explain how curiosity was so fundamental to his development as a writer and how his greatest breakthroughs in his work was due to his curiosity.

The second article I found online was written by Zetta Elliot. In her piece, her main passion relates to her difficult childhood. She writes to recover from her youth and to make sure her voice is heard.

The two MiW “Why I Write” essays I read were written by Sean Anderson and Tommy Lewis. I found that both of the pieces were actually less personal than the three pieces I found on the internet. They took more of a technical approach rather than rely on anecdotes to entertain the reader. Anderson came across as a product-minded kind of writer, while Tommy seemed to be more about the process. I was a little disappointed reading these two as I didn’t really see the passions that I saw in the other “Why I Write” essays, though I do understand why these two may have gone more technical after reading and discussing Didion and Orwell.

So. Much. Formatting.

Remediation: I finally found someone who is willing to help me with Photoshop! Because I’m preoccupied with quality, I hope this assistance will help me have more confidence in my work.

These Photoshop endeavors have truly been a challenge, but I’m glad this class has pushed me to grapple with new software. Although its arguable that every class at U-M can give you skills you can put on your resume, this is the first time the takeaway has been concrete and objective.

I’m shocked by the amount of time I spend formatting EVERYTHING on the website I am creating. So much of the content is shaped by the design and vice versa. I’ve been struggling with the more subjective parts of my project, where I get to be choosy. It is hard for me to feel like I’m making the right choices at all times. I’m also an inherently indecisive person, so that doesn’t help. 

I didn’t expect that I’d put so much thought into controlling and shaping the way my readers navigate my site and encounter information. Design used to seem enjoyable, but now it feels tedious and almost stressful. There’s almost too much control. Overall I’d say I’m focused on making sure everything is as effective as it can possibly be. Making sure there isn’t too much of this or too little of that, or that links are obvious and that the information they contain is relevant enough and worth my viewer’s time. Etc. I’m also focused on making sure I’m doing enough work, not only for this project to be considered legitimate, but also in terms of achieving my purpose.

me when I found a generous soul to help me with photoshop
me when I found a generous soul to help me with photoshop

Why I Write: I knew going into this class that this assignment would be one of the hardest assignments I would complete in college. I could write 100 Why I Write papers, and all would be valid, yet different descriptions of how and why I write.

I knew I wanted to tell stories and use some figurative language, or at least some informal language. But I struggled not telling ALL the stories. I also wanted this paper to be a maximum 3 pages, and that was a struggle.

I wish I could write two papers: why I write, in relation to the work I’m doing in this class, and then another one that is more emotional, and abstract, and filled with sentence fragments. It’s hard to balance the personal and academic (or maybe I should say requirements). But I still got to do some figurative work, and I’m grateful for that. I also think it reminded me of why I write, which was inspirational. Drafting certain parts of this piece didn’t feel like school. It felt like pastime. I love when that happens, and I’m grateful for that too.

I feel like I’ll never be happy with this piece because it could go in SO many directions. I would have to write every possible draft, then choose the one I think is most fitting at this point in my life, to be happy with the work I do for this assignment.

I really wanted to not write an essay.

RE: why and how I write

[insert title here]

So, I did a comic which ends in a brief poem.
I really like this format because I was able to show my process really well. Most of my writing process is inarticulate and is me basically staring at the screen and trying to think of what to write. And of course I don’t feel alone in this struggle at all.

However, when you’re doing it that way it can seem a bit lonely, a bit stressful, and very anxiety making. I tried to show this anxiety and solitude in my first few panels by exhibiting the notorious blinking type line. I’m not really sure what it’s actually called in certified technical speak. I’m not sure if it comes across in the 3 and a half panels as well as in this gif. blinking cursor gif

One issue I’ve run into is it’s hard to include much evidence in this format. The second page is where I provide some reasons (academic, feels, and communication are what I was going for) for my writing and in the final panel on that page I span many windows, each of which will have a bit of text showing themselves as writing I have stored on my computer. As far as evidence, it’s a bit shallow. I really want to stick with this format though.

The poem was written a little hastily (hey, it’s a draft), but it is heartfelt in its composition none the less. I will definitely revise it going into the last days of Gateway, because in peer reviews there were some mixed thoughts that I’d like to try to clear up.

Overall the review process has been very helpful for this piece though. It gave me some great ideas of including a few more panels to dig just a bit deeper for evidence and analysis, and maybe to add a bit more text (which at this point is basically any) to the first part of the piece.

In the final copy for the portfolio I’ll probably keep it colorless, at least for the most part, and hand drawn, but I’ll clean up my lines and use a good black pen.

 

 

Writing Expanded

I remember when I first started this course I imagined I’d be up late writing lots of long essays and analyzing academic articles. Well this wasn’t true at at all. So far in this course I’ve just been analyzing myself. I could have chosen long essays to write, just like for every other class, but sticking to the familiar wouldn’t help me get everything I could out of this course.

Instead of essays I chose alternate forms of rhetoric, digital rhetoric, such as informative videos and web pages. I learned how to expand my ideas past pen on paper and transition toward more contemporary platforms. The world of writing is expanding fast and its so important that this course teaches writers how to capitalize on that. Just like Joan Didion, I write to peddle my message, to have the ideas in my head be served to a wider audience, whatever the medium. It is important to me that my writing reflects how I think and feel about the world around me. After all, writing is conveying one’s world to another.

By this point in the semester, after finishing my repurposing project and beginning on another, I’ve found my writing becoming more and more fearless. I feel like in the past I’ve been hesitant to express what I really wanted to say, afraid of displeasing some invisible writing overlord. But now for whatever reasons, probably personal growth, I care less about comments and more about being true to the message I want to express. I’m really proud of myself for becoming more bold, since it can’t be my best writing if the vision isn’t authentic.

On: Grammar

“Grammar is a piano I play by ear, since I seem to have been out of school the year the rules were mentioned”.

Joan Didion, in my opinion, resonated incredibly clearly with my thoughts and feelings as a writer. Ms. Didion captured the very essence of what I believe I personally associate with grammar, in that I never really did take a grammar specific course growing up. Sure I can “hear” proper grammar..but can I put that down on paper too? And I could not have asked for more in terms of preparing myself for college writing from my previous schooling, and I attribute every last bit of success I’ve had in building my skills and talents as a writer to the outstanding teachers who’ve been there with me throughout the course of my life. I would not be anywhere in my writing ability without their guidance and their constant support to persevere. But grammar seems to be the place where my education in writing and writing technique has taken so many twists and turns, I never really have been given concrete instruction on grammar, ever. And I speculate this was the case for me because many of my teachers growing up focused more on what I was saying as a writer, and less on if I was saying it in some technically correct way. Truth be told, I appreciate this outlook profoundly.

And like Ms. Didion pointed out so clearly: “All I know about grammar is its infinite power”, and that’s exactly how I feel today in my relationship with grammar.

But I believe that Mr. Orwell offered up plenty of insight on how I see political opinion being shaped and intertwined in writing today.

We are all inherently bias in a sense, unable to perfectly escape the thoughts and the opinions we hold from the things that we write. This is true in almost everything I write, and all of the interactions I have had with my fellow writers. Whether it be writing letters to local constituents from Capitol Hill this past summer for my internship, or simply trying to state facts regarding American history in my recent Political Science coursework, I thoroughly see and absolutely agree that it is virtually impossible for us to completely remove our own voices from the pieces that we construct.

Why Write?

When I was little, I wanted to be an author. I memorized a 10-minute presentation in the fourth grade in which I was assigned to pretend I was my favorite author, JK Rowling. I amazed my parents with my presentation at the “Author Open House” because I was so shy and quiet as a child that they couldn’t believe how loud and excited I was to talk about the Harry Potter series. I “broke out of my shell.”

Later, I wanted to be a teacher. At other times, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then, in middle school, I read “Last Shot: Mystery at the Final Four” by John Feinstein. I remember being so thrilled by the prospects of covering an event on deadline, being surrounded by spectacular athletes, and finding stories everywhere. For a while, I wanted to be a sports journalist.

Then, in high school, that dream somewhat disappeared. Without a school newspaper to write for, I had no chance to gain experience in print journalism. Fast forward a few years though (and I’m not even sure how it happened) and I’m covering a college basketball team that has the potential to make it the Final Four, and I could cover it just like the main characters did in “Last Shot.”

It’s kind of weird how life works out. I don’t plan on pursuing sports journalism as a career, but I’m not altogether ruling it out. I love the way I feel when I’m proud of an article I put together. I’m most proud of when an article works itself out after struggling through days of writing a feature with no idea of where the story is headed.

I agree with Orwell’s motives for writing, especially aesthetic enthusiasm. When I hear something that I feel needs to get shared, I want to write about it, and I want to write about it in a way that “clicks” for me. I like playing with different words to find out which ones sound the best, too. I also agree with sheer egoism. I think most people start to seriously write because they feel that what they have to say is valuable or important. I know when I started, I wanted to be clever and respected because I had always been the quiet kid who never shared her thoughts (not anymore, though, and I wonder if that has anything to do with how often I currently write). For me, confidence is such a big part of writing that it’s particularly hard to put words down when I’m having a rough day.

 

So You Think You Can Write

For the longest time, I’ve been aware that my answers to the questions “why do you write” and “who do you write to?” is I write to and for myself. No matter if I am writing to my brother, to a class, a population of people, at the end of the day the most consistent “audience” that always sits amongst the crowd is me. I write to capture intense feelings. I write to justify my thoughts, organize them, understand them. I write because I have the urge to tell stories. I write because of my desire to discover things. (Perhaps that’s why I’ve recently developed a draw towards investigative journalism.)

 

I have wondered if this motivation is shallow. Afterall, some of the greatest writers write to shape society. To show people the things that are wrong, to start a political movement, to be Great. Well, I haven’t strived to be Great. I’ve only strived to be myself and listen to the words arranging themselves inside my head.

 

To read Joan Didion and George Orwell’s purpose for writing was somewhat a breath of fresh air. Didion’s words that stuck with me: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I’m seeing.” Orwell’s words: “All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention.” It appears that I’m not the only selfish writer.

 

I love Orwell’s point about noveling in this long quote. I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of noveling. I have this story that it’s inside my head, needing to get out onto paper. The novel started in a period of my life where I was really lonely.I would distract myself and fill my head with awesome characters and plot twists. Noveling became one of my favorite pastimes.

 

But noveling is hard. I spend hours rearranging words on one-tenth of a page, and there’s thousands of on-tenths of a page needing to be written. In an unpractical manner, I’ve approached my novel writing in the way I’d approach journaling. I would rely on emotional inspiration to write. When I felt great happiness, I’d want to capture that feeling into my novel. When I felt great sadness, I’d want to capture that with my characters as well.

 

That’s not practical, given that they’re a larger plot going on. You’re not supposed to make the characters happy and sad, then happy and sad again without justifying it with something in the story. Or else it would make the characters seem really emotionally unstable…

 

It’s a struggle. A beautiful struggle. Beautiful in the way that I get to look back to page 3, or page 15, or page 76, and think to myself, Wow, I did a pretty dang good job, can’t believe I was capable of writing that. It’s also beautiful in the way that sometimes the stories tell themselves. I discover as I write, write as I discover. These two things are superglued to each other. Because of this, writing is incredibly personal.
Funny enough, you are justifying yourself when you’re justifying the quality of your work to other people. I have usually withheld judgement of my own writing. Of course I am my worst critic when putting pen to paper. But when the product is done, reached the maximum potential I envisioned for it, I no longer have an inkling of a clue whether or not it’s Fantastic or Mediocre. I’ve found myself thinking as an afterthought, moments after winning awards for my writing, “Oh yeah, maybe that was a pretty good piece of writing.” I guess that’s the exciting–and frustrating–part. You never know how good you are until you’re showing your work to an outside audience–taking a risk and subjecting your voice and thoughts to other people’s criticism.

Why I Write

Something I definitely find different from the view of Orwell is that I did not know I was going to be a writer form an early age. If you asked “sophomore in high school me” if I would be minoring in writing four years later I would have told you were crazy. Writing was never something I found fun. I enjoyed it more so than math, therefore it was bearable. I know that all sounds really harsh, but it is true in the sense that I always felt smothered by academic writing. The English and writing classes that I have experienced in college have given me the chance to explore new types or writing that are not as constraining.

At this point, I feel as though I have learned how to write in my own voice. For as long as I remember I would always try to write like the amazing writers I read. Copying their sentence, structure tone, and ideas. It worked for them so I tried to make that work for me. Since then, I have learned that it is okay do do something different and to say something different. uber cliché I know, but it is true. I never would have imagined that this whole class would revolve around my trip to London. Learning how to express the journey on different platforms and through different mediums has been a skill that I will be able to transfer to all areas of my academics.

At this point this class has also forced me to get more familiar with certain technologies. I mean I am creating an iBook; I would have never guessed that when I embarked on the writing minor that would be possibility. Sullivan expresses his thoughts on writing in a blog as “to blog is therefore to let go of your writing in a way, to hold it at arm’s length, open it to scrutiny, allow it to float in the ether for a while, and to let others, as Montaigne did, pivot you toward relative truth.” I did not relate to Sullivan this past summer when I was writing the original source for my repurposing project nor did I really care. However, now I feel like I can relate more to what these writers are expressing in their thoughts of development as writers.