Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever struggled so much to get started with a project. I’m having issues committing to any one thing, consequently hindering my ability to create a decent production plan. The open-endedness of the capstone project, while a huge privilege, is also the most daunting part of it. My fear is I’ll pick something that I’ll end up hating. I recognize that anything I start will require a substantial amount of research, so I’d like to at least be excited about doing the work since I don’t think I’ll have another opportunity to like this one.
My original plan was to write a short fiction story about a crime (probably rape or murder) from the perspectives of the plaintiff and defendant. I wanted to make it complicated enough to make the reader sympathize with the person committing the crime. The issue with this piece was the fiction writing. I realized just how clueless I was when it came to fiction and the amount of mentoring or research just on how to do it well would take up the bulk of the assignment – plus, I wanted to work with true stories, existing tragedies. But then this would just turn into a report on various controversial crimes and my thoughts on them. No thanks.
My second decision was to pursue a piece on climate change. I care deeply about climate change issues. I wanted to work with nature writing and maybe do a personal narrative. After days of researching nature writing and important people in the field, I think I turned myself off. Why? I’m not entirely sure. The topic just doesn’t have the ‘oomph’ that I usually get about picking a topic.
So I am backtracking- reflecting on the things I set out to do in the minor in writing initially, which is to work on my writing skills, voice, and style. I started these mechanics as freshman and I’d like to walk away having improved them quite a bit. I don’t know what genre would allow me to do this but I’m pretty sure it’s a feature piece/personal narrative.
Presently, I find myself yearning to write about a topic I’d already written about: the Bosnian war, immigrant status, etc. I swore I wouldn’t do this in the Capstone, but I’m now realizing I was too preoccupied with the thrill of something new that I didn’t consider how many different things I still have to say on the subject. I ran across this hesitation about writing about the same thing over again in my New Essay course last semester (ENG345). We were working on a photo essay, and I expressed concern that the only things I could think to write about were about my family’s background as Bosnian refugees and how this has shaped by identity here. My professor challenged by anxieties by asking, “so you’ve said all you could say on the matter?” I ended up writing about epigenetic inheritance (trauma passed through generations). It offered me a new look at the same topic, a way out of my comfort zone. I’m realizing that the reason I write about my family’s identity and the former Yugoslavia so much is because something still feels so unresolved to me- what are the lessons that need to be learned from war and atrocity, the lessons of resilience and redemption that come from tragedy?
So with that in mind, my plan is to just start writing a thing tonight. I’ll write about war.I’ll write about nature (because I’m not quite ready to abandon that yet). I’ll write about my anxieties. And I’ll write until I understand what it is I am trying to communicate. I think of Ann Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts,” in which she says that something you’ll have pages of material before the bulb lights up in your mind.