I suppose there’s value in bad experiences, though? Hopefully.
I am glad that I wrote a super shitty first draft of an introduction, because it taught me exactly what not to do in my actual project. I know that might sound dramatic, but it’s the truth; I honestly am not sure that I could use a single sentence from that introduction in something that I would actually present to an audience.
Essentially, what I wrote was my condensed perspective on the situation in Detroit. It was poorly organized, rambling, incompletely researched, and also highly opinionated. As I was writing, I knew that I kind of hated the way I was saying the things I was saying; I disliked how condescending and sanctimonious it sounded, how unsympathetic it was to suburbanites, and how vague it was about my actual concerns for Detroit. The issue was that I wasn’t acquainted enough to write about my topic in a way that didn’t feel over the top; I couldn’t sympathize with suburbanites because I haven’t yet investigated their beliefs (beyond cursory looks at Facebook statuses, which I always follow with a scowl), I couldn’t make specific points about my project because I haven’t yet found the stories to serve as evidence for my larger argument.
This is where I plan to go next. I realized as I was writing that it would be so cool to use some sort of personal narrative, whether it’s my own, one I get from someone I know, or one I uncover through documents like newspapers and civic records (time to put those history research skills to work!), to capture all of the ideas that I was expressing in this introduction. I don’t think that my feeling about Detroit’s ongoing transformation needs to be stated specifically; doing so would not only be less interesting than allowing stories to speak for themselves, but also might turn off people who don’t want to read a critique lambasting their worldview. A story, I hope, would grab readers from the moment they approach my project, would make actually feel an interest in the stories of Detroiters.
I also see from this exercise that writing an introduction connecting the four essays in my project will probably be impossible right now. I envision this introduction as a sort of skeleton for my project; it will hold together disparate elements, will ground them in common ideas about gentrification and urban change, and, because it will welcome readers to my webpage, it should make clear what is to come in my individual essays. Because of that, I think it’s important that I tackle at least one of my essays first; my plan is that, by the time of my workshop after break, I will have a fairly complete draft about one of my topics. My inclination at the moment is to write first about the QLINE rail; I probably know that topic better than any other, and I think exploring it now would give me the confidence to do well on my other sections.
Going forward, I’m still questioning how exactly I can keep this piece balanced and interesting to an audience that it is more or less criticizing. I’ve actually thought about reaching out to Lorena Balic, from my blog group in Gateway, because she too did a project in which her target audience was not necessarily a sympathetic one (although her stakes were higher than mine). What is the best way to get someone to hear something they might not want to? Is it better to be blunt, or to lull them into thinking I’m on their side before I strike? My natural inclination is to do the latter (I’ve watched too much Survivor, probably). But again, I don’t want this to be a hostile project; I want to make people from the suburbs think, rather than criticize them, I suppose. My guess is that this will prove to be the most difficult balancing act for me on this project; how can I rein in my own opinions to make a piece that will not exclude from its readership the very people who I’d like to see it most? In order to solve this, I think it would be useful to look at some pieces in which the author had an opinion (or even agenda), but maintained a fairly unbiased writing style–I’m not really sure what one of these pieces might be, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!