Emotion in Motion in Writing

At an early age, writers are instructed to show, not tell.  Exercises help writers improve their ability to transport readers to any place imaginable, and depict all five senses through words.  From the moment I began work on my Capstone Project, which focuses on a trip I took to Japan 8 months ago, I knew that showing my writer the places I visited through writing would be key to completing a well-rounded piece.  I tried, and have succeeded, in painting vivid images through words.  Yet one area of my project that has been a serious challenge has been the portrayal of my emotions during my trip through writing.

One of the difficulties in writing about emotion stems from experience: different people experience emotions different ways.  Identifying the proper metaphors or descriptions to portray emotions can be challenging.  One helpful tip I received was to use physical descriptions as a conduit for emotions.  For instance, describing beads of sweat forming above an eyebrow is a nice and easy way to portray nervousness or fear.

Another difficulty is striking the balance between over-encumbering a reader with emotional descriptions, and leaving too much up to the reader’s imagination.  We always strive to force our readers to do some work as they process our writing and imagine our descriptions.  Yet leaving readers with too much work to do, or creating descriptions that are not tight enough, can damage the lens and message that a piece is attempting to deliver.

I’m curious to hear if other writers on the Minor in Writing blog have struggled with depicting emotion in their writing. What methods or tips can you share for crafting emotional and thought-process descriptions that are both accessible and deep enough for readers?

Writer’s Block

As a last semester senior, I rewarded myself with a nice, long week off for Thanksgiving. With this lovely vacation, I promised myself that I would write immense amounts for my capstone project. However, I had reached a point in my writing where I was absolutely, completely, totally stuck.

Every time I opened up that word doc, hoping that a fresh day and a fresh perspective would suddenly bring about free-flowing thoughts and words, I was still stuck. After multiple failed attempts, I simply decided to skip over that area and jump to the next section of my project.

That worked. I was able to do a lot of writing on the next part and was happy with what I produced. I was sure that after completing that section, I would be able to go back to the previous one and beat that writer’s block once and for all.

But nope.

So… HELP! What do you guys do when you’re stuck? How do you become unstuck? What do you do when the idea of writing what you need to write immediately makes you exhausted and unmotivated?

No Place I’d Rather Be

I am actually really happy with the writing that we’ve done for this course. My whole academic career, I’ve been at least a little bit opposed to the academic papers I have had to write. They always seem so formal and rigid, and depending on the teacher and the class, they may force me to write about things I do not care so much about, or at least in perspectives that barely interest me. Exploring myself as a writer has been a fun and enlightening experience in many ways. Writing from my perspective has been transformative.

However! There is always some room for improvement, and I think this is a good to go ahead and voice my opinions on what I think I would have liked to be working on during class time and outside the classroom.

We do a lot of reading in this class on abstracts; we learn about style, genre, and rhetoric in their broader contexts, and then apply it to our own work and to other writers’ works. This is very informative and interesting, and helps us better evaluate those pieces which we find interesting and influential. I think in order to supplement this process of learning, it would have been helpful to practice with specific genres and styles of writing. I know I chose journalism as my genre and the New York Times style of investigative journalism and objective writing. This was all my decision, though, and looking back, I think it would have pushed me to better understand style and genre if I was told to, for instance, choose another classmate’s exemplar genre and style, evaluate it, and attempt to write in it. This could be a cool classroom activity or something along those lines. Basically, getting to see and learn to write in genres and styles different from what I am already familiar with.

I think context in writing is also very important, and we have talked a lot about that as well. Gauging the audience and evaluating the purpose of any piece and the exigence are aspects of my writing that I will carry with me forever. That is how important they are. Sometimes, I had wished we worked more with this idea. We could have done fun writing activities in class in which we took one concept and applied it to different contexts, with different audiences and different exigence, so as to practice our manipulation of rhetoric. This could be a really fun and interesting activity!
Those are my ideas for now. I really have enjoyed writing about projects that have meant a lot to me in this class. It has been an outlet to pursue my true writing aspirations. I have become a lot more knowledgeable on issues that I care about and on how to write about them.

Sorry 4 the Wait 2

Well, I’ve run out of snappy Kanye quotes to excuse my second late blog post, so instead I’ll have to settle for Lil Wayne: “I’m soooooo sorry, so soooooorry. Ooh! This this that Sorry 4 the Wait 2.” And then, I’ll follow that up with the classic running-late excuse: traffic (and by that I mean the travel complications that are consequences of the inevitable traffic in the 700 mile trek from Ann Arbor, MI to Woodstock, VT, and then the familial responsibilities that come with the fourth Thursday of November each year). But, alas I am finally here and able to submit this post, and thankfully so, because I just can’t imagine this blog without one of my posts to lighten the mood. In the words of Mr. West, “My presence is a present, kiss my […]” …well, I’m gonna cut that one off there, but I knew I could snake a Kanye quote in here. Seriously though, my apologies to anyone to whom the lateness of this blog post caused any inconvenience.

Had I been asked what kind of writing needed the most focus this time last year, my answer would’ve without a doubt been either professional or academic writing, two fields that I for the longest time struggled with, the latter due to lack of exposure, and the former because frankly I’d no idea what professionalism is. However, due to a class in professional writing last semester and an over-exposure to academic writing through my major that forced me off my ass regarding that discipline, I’ve suddenly become semi-proficient in what I would’ve formerly identified as my weakest points in writing, while falling out of practice in what I thought was my strongest point: writing for fun.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t enjoy the writing I do through this course, or through any other. But, as with reading, there’s just a divide in my motivations between when I pick up a pen and paper because I want to and when I do it for a deadline, and despite the fact that the machinations within the two are virtually the same, there’s some elusive element missing from the latter. And with reading, the over-prominence of being forced to do it on a schedule has, with rare exceptions, disillusioned me from the practice of reading almost entirely, something from which I used to draw immense amounts of solace and pleasure.

Through my posts here, I think I’ve made it quite clear that I draw similar things from writing, so I will just state plainly that I would be crushed if I lost interest in writing on my own time the way I have with reading. And while it would be easy to blame the internet age for the lack of importance most people assign to casual reading and writing nowadays, I rather blame the dearth in downtime that I have as a college student, and the amount of energy that has drained from me by the time I have any. Do I spend my week-day evenings curled up in bed half-conscious while Netflix beams episode after non-stop episode of [insert show of the week] into my skull? Absolutely. But it’s honestly not because I want to, or even because I draw much enjoyment from that. It’s simply because I don’t have the energy to engage with anything else, not reading, or making music, or even video games, let alone writing.

College education is important. But we all know it takes a lot out of you. The struggle is to make sure that it’s not taking the really important things out of you – your energies, your passions. It’s this delicate balance that I’m working on the most recently, and unfortunately have yet to find it. But I have faith that one of these days life will slow down and I’ll get a chance again to write because I want to, not because I have to.

Branching Out

Over the course of this semester I have really enjoyed working on projects that are unfamiliar to me, or working in mediums I’ve never worked in before (like iMovie).

Lately I’ve found myself thinking about how I’ve improved as a writer through the course of this semester. While I think challenging myself with new project has allowed me to push myself as a writer, and think about audience, and tone, I’ve also been wondering about word choice and style. How is that writers come to develop their own writing style?

In the first and only creative writing class I’ve ever taken, I really enjoyed the fact that we spent a lot of time reading other authors’ creative writing. From work of professionals to that of our own classmates, we really got a chance to expose ourselves stop different writing styles, and thus were able to develop styles of our own as well. I’m not entirely sure how that same idea can apply to the minor, but I think it would be beneficial to read more work that mirrors the projects we have done. For example, I know many of us did creative nonfiction projects, so it would have been nice to read some different examples of that genre before we started the project. We spend a lot of time reading about writing, but I would like to read a wider variety of authors and styles, in order to learn about developing our own personal styles.

Masochistic sentimentalist?

I love Writing 220. I really do. It’s a class that I know I’ll keep in the back of my head as I continue with the minor and throughout my academic career. It has taught me to broaden my perspectives of what writing can be and let me explore a more creative, innovative style of communication.

That being said…

I miss writing big, ‘important’, tradtional papers. I know that sounds masochistic, but it’s true. Finishing a big ol’ research paper and printing it out at 2 am the night before it’s due is one of the most exhilarating feelings the in human experience (at least I think so). I kind of miss those ultra-quantifiable, cut and dry papers that are so traditional alumni from 20 years ago could show you the exact same assignment and they would look the same. Maybe I’m a stick in the mud. Maybe I’m a sentimentalist who is too attached to “old school” writing. Regardless, I wish I had to opportunity to do some good old-fashion, hardcore research and churn out some concise, clean, and effective papers. Of course, I’ll probably be ultra-stressed out and a little miserable while writing those papers, but it’s that feeling in the end that makes it worth it (right?).

Baby Steps

I really am very thankful that this course allows us to go in directions other than that of your typical analytical essay. Other classes give us nowhere near that kind of freedom, and its nice. I almost forgot what it feels like to do a creative project. But alas, this is a writing course after all, and I do need to return to the essay at some point.

And so on that topic, I do have some writing skills that are in need of improvement, mostly my pre-writing process. Perhaps I missed this memo in high school but I feel like my paper outlining skills are practically nonexistent. When I sit down to write a paper, perhaps I have a few notes on what I want to write, but I just start writing the intro and then the body paragraphs and so forth. This is doable, but I feel like it’s not practical. This process is also stressful lol. I could save myself a world of trouble if I learned to outline my ideas before hand. Its like sitting down to do a painting and just jumping right in with the colors without doing a sketch first. I need to learn how to sketch!!

Aside from honing in on my pre-writing process, I would also like to eradicate all my anxiety that comes when I hear I must write a paper. Even at this point in my education, a junior in college, I still get nervous when an essay assignment is presented. This is unacceptable to me. I don’t want to feel anxious, I should feel confident and prepared, like I know I can do this and it’s not a big deal. Like I’ve done this so many times before and this will be none the different. I think the problem is that I don’t have enough experience cranking out essay after essay like it’s nothing, and (as boring as it sounds) maybe I need some high intensity essays in a short period of time to sponge out this fear.

But this would mean class won’t be (as) fun anymore! And thats no fun! I need to conserve my fun, since I only have one year of it left before the real world arrives 😉

Looking Back

By this point, this far into the semester, my idea of writing has changed a lot since the beginning. My expectations for the class were that I would be writing everyday, cranking out papers and heavy revisions. Instead, we have been looking at writing in a broader sense than I had thought of before. Some of my expectations are being fulfilled and I’m not too upset about the ones that aren’t.

One of my biggest goals for this class was to work on my tendency toward repetition in my writing. It is one of my biggest problems, so I really thought this class would help me be more direct and effective so I wouldn’t feel the need to repeat myself. I think that working on the same/similar projects all semester has definitely helped with that. Being forced to take time to revise the same thing has shown me how much more effective my writing can be if I make that effort. Revising the repurposing project, and now the remediation project is getting me into the habit of doing the same thing with all of my writing.

Although I don’t always write every day for this class, with my broadened definition of writing, I do some type of writing every day. Mostly for other classes, which include more academic writing or note taking, but also some creative writing. I’ve been working on my imagery and figurative language in another class, and I think that is somewhat transferring into all of my writing. The papers I mostly write are for my art history major, so the increased imagery is serving that well. Trying to describe works of art in writing is one of the most difficult things I have to do, I rarely feel like I do it justice. But writing figuratively in another class is helping me better do that.

I expected to do a significant amount of writing in this class, which I don’t think we have. But the things we do in this class I can use in my more writing intensive classes. I feel like I’m building skills and habits that benefit me as a holistic writer, not just benefitting me in this class.

Writing Ambitions

In my application I definitely mentioned poetic language, or at least figurative language. I think I only engaged in a version of that during syllabus week when we did the aleatory writing. As of now, the Why I Write project is probably the best project for this kind of language, at this point in the semester. Right now that seems like an easy thing to do, which is why I’m not sure I want to devise a plan to implement more unconventional styles of writing into an essay like piece. I was hoping to play with conventions of the academic sentence. But then I think about okay how well does this kind of language, and that kind of style, and that kind of genre fit together? If I’m modeling a piece without that style, or if I want my writing to seem cohesive, where do I draw the lines? I think before stepping foot into writing 220 the first week of school, I thought pushing ourselves and thinking “outside of the box” was going to be almost at a sentence or paragraph level. Something within that tangible form of writing. 

Also, I think my writing ambitions were also related to volume. I wanted to walk away with a lot of writing, a much larger body of work. A lot of classes have 3-4 papers. But I can usually get inspired from little writing assignments that I revisit when I’m doing something similar to repurposing. It’s interesting to think about how often we repurpose our writing without attaching that label to it, because I would argue it’s a frequent occurrence. Sometimes I think there’s a strong relationship between quantity of writing and quality. Like you have t o write a lot to get better at it. But I want interesting prompts that prompt good writing. I feel like the more I’m exposed to those, the better I am at producing something to that effect. I’ve seen other classes kind of work though things on the board like we have, but they were more related to certain aspects of writing rather than revolving around rhetoric. I tend to return to these kind of exercises over the course of my collegiate careers.

It’s likely I’ll fulfill any “writing ambitions” in Why I Write, but even more so in the capstone course.

Noveling & Growth

I think one of the forms of writing I wish I was working on is noveling. Noveling is extremely hard, but rewarding. It takes a lot of planning. You must set aside a huge chunk of time over the course of a few months/year to get it done. It’s definitely a delicate balance between burning yourself out and not having too much time between the times you work on it (or else you’ll forget what’s going on, and then just waste a bunch of time rereading and catching yourself up to what’s already happened. Of course, not that I have any personal experience with that or anything…lol).

 

My plan to engage in novel writing is to write a novel for my honor’s thesis. We’ll see how that goes: P It’ll take a lot of planning, collaboration, yada yada. But I’m honestly really excited for it.

 
On a different note, I think what I learned the most this semester is to just step out of my comfort zone and try new forms of writing. I’ve learned about new resources that can help me with my writing, and exposed myself to new forms of it. The world is so large and exciting, all I have to do is reach out and touch it. Honestly, I love the support I’ve gotten from this class. No idea is too big to achieve, no plans are too out-there. Thanks y’all: )