Trying to figure this out

Hearing everyone’s pitches the other day was exciting. And nerve racking. And stressful. It’s really hard not to compare my ideas to others, especially when they’re impressive and scholarly and academic. I’m just sitting there like:

because I want to write stories!!! Well, kind of. I want to read my stories and essays out loud, record them, and make it like a podcast series. But the idea of just using my own work and recording myself seemed a little self-centered and weird, so I plan to open it up to friends, and even the public, who want their work to be spoken into existence, too. It’s going to be interesting. I don’t know how many people want to share their writing with me, let alone have it be part of a project. What if no one wants to participate?? I’m worried, but I think it’s all going to be okay. These things have a habit of resolving themselves in due time. I know I’m surrounded by closeted writers who just need a little convincing, because I used to be one of them.

Also this proposal seems scary. It’s really looming in the back of my mind. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Commitment Issues

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I have horrible commitment issues. So pitching ideas for a project that will more likely than not occupy my head space for the next four months is tough to say the least.

OKAY, MEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

It was tough to flush out four ideas to pitch in class. I thought I was in the clear to hold off on decision making for a while, but I know that I’ll blink and the proposal will be due.

When I wrote my pitches, I admittedly was just brainstorming to get something on the paper and writing because I knew I had to, not because I was extremely passionate about any of my ideas right off the bat. Coming into class and having to stand behind my pitches and explain why they’re important, why I feel like the time is right to devote my attention to them was the first time I think I got excited about the any of my ideas. Speaking to others made me want to fight for the pitches that I previously thought might not be good enough to craft into a formal proposal. Now here I am. With four ideas that I’m not just willing to pursue, but eager to devote my attention to, when I thought I had none. And all it took to get me there was to have two heads nodding back at me encouragingly, reassuring me that the things floating around in my head are worthy enough for others to care about them.

And

Here

Come

The Commitment Issues.

1, 2, 3 or 4? What if we could combine 1 and 2? Make 1 more of an introduction to the greater topic of 2. What if I pick 2 and get in so deep only to lose interest? What if I wan’t to explore all of these ideas, but I’ll never again have this time to dedicate myself to them? What if I won’t be able to write about 4 the same way as I can now through the lens of an almost-graduate? So many what ifs.

Is it too early to ask for an extension on the proposal????? Lol jk

… maybe

Reflecting on Project Pitches

When we were tasked with coming up with four pitch ideas for the project last week, I was immediately overwhelmed. Since the Minor in Writing showcase last fall, I had been thinking about what I could do for my Capstone project but never came up with anything I was actually excited about. I remained uninspired even after checking out many of the past Capstone projects over the weekend. As I sat staring at my blank Google Doc on Monday night, I feared that my Capstone experience might resemble my Gateway experience, during which I struggled to come up with a good idea until the very last second.

Me on Monday night

Luckily, some ideas came to me at the Ugli on Tuesday morning. Here they are:

Pitch #1: My first idea was inspired by one of my favorite classes last semester, Sustainability and Health. One of our assignments for the class was to adopt four conservation behaviors for two weeks and write a report about our experiences. This assignment invoked some cognitive dissonance and caused me to think even harder about many of my behaviors.

I was thinking of taking this experiment to the next level for my Capstone project, adopting several conservation behaviors for the remainder of the semester and documenting my experiences through regular blog or journal entries, short videos, and/or a social media account. The final product would be a website that discusses my journey through words, photos, and potentially videos. It could be a resource for people who are trying to behave more sustainably themselves.

Pitch #2: This idea is pretty similar to my first. It would involve challenging others to adopt some conservation behaviors for a shorter period of time and interviewing them about their experiences. This could take the form of a series of interviews or podcast episodes.

Pitch #3: I have been thinking about my two remaining grandparents recently and how I know very little about their lives before I was born. I also know almost nothing about my family history and origins. I have been wanting to interview my grandparents while they are still sharp and I was thinking this could be a cool idea for my project.

This project might entail interviewing my grandparents, conducting research about my family origins, and creating an interactive website to document it all. I am interested in potentially creating short videos featuring remarkable family stories or maybe even a documentary. I was also thinking I could have a section of the website that provides guidance to other people looking to learn more about their own families.

Pitch #4: My last idea was trying to learn how to code this semester using online platforms and documenting my experience by writing a series of blog posts or journal entries. I have been wanting to learn how to code for a few semesters but have not been able to fit a class into my schedule. So, I was thinking this would be a way to hold myself accountable and also do so more personal writing, which I have not done much of in college. The final product could also be helpful for someone who also wants to independently learn this skill.

After discussing these ideas with Bailey and Kayla, I think I could reasonably see myself picking any of them. I am especially interested in my first and third ideas. Most of all, I feel super relieved to have a bunch of ideas that I am excited about only a week into the semester!!

Me on Tuesday night

Capstone Class 1: Where do we go from here???

Me, colorized, following day 1

Overwhelmed is a complete understatement if I’m being quite honest. So much is happening right now, from classes starting again, to it being my final year and all the stress that comes with that, i.e. what the hell am I going to do after May 2??? But, we’re not going to talk about all that right now. Well, I guess you’re not talking (I mean you could totally comment and maybe help me figure out what I should do for this project), but anyway I’m going to be talking about my pitches. And cursing myself for being actually really interested in all of them. Since one thing that was apparent from the pitches is that I really wanted to include a photos (and a lot of them) somehow, I’m going to be putting a lot of photos in this blog post, so bear with me.

And without further ado: pitch #1.

So you’re probably wondering: what’s up with the goggles and random awkward teenage girls (I’m the one in the upper right hand corner by the way)? Well, this is my visual representation of a totally nerdy project. And while I don’t actually need to wear scientific goggles for this one, it definitely requires a lot more work than my high school chemistry class did. You probably guessed it by now, but my first pitch idea involves writing a meta-analytic research article.

I think it would be really cool to try and sort of meld the two types of writing I’ve been focusing on lately: fictional novel and psychology thesis. I’ve been on-and-off writing a novel about romance and of course heartbreak. And I’m also writing a thesis on PTSD for my senior year. So, my first pitch seemed obvious to me: write a research/review article examining the role of different areas of the brain in love and social pain. Some feedback I got from this was to try and make it more interactive or personal, and one way we thought about this was to somehow incorporate interviews from people that are in love and people that are experiencing heartbreak. This new addition to this piece definitely makes my life harder because it only makes choosing just one pitch so hard.

But, the show must go on, as they say, and because I don’t want to bore you all to death I’m just gonna combine pitches #2 and #3 into one since they are so similar anyway. (And honestly if I were to pick either of them, I’d probably just do both and you’ll see what I mean in a second).

So, here’s pitch #2.99999999999

So, if you couldn’t already tell, this pitch is all about ME (Travis kinda stole my limelight in the last pic, but that was the most recent pic of myself so oh well)! Now before this gets way too narcissistic and boring, I just want to assure you that it’s not. Phew. Now that that’s out of the way, we can talk shop, as it were.

For these ideas, I really want to go back all the way, to day 1, Aug. 15 1998 and pick out pictures that kind of highlight my biggest moments, both good and bad, and then hopefully find writings from those time periods to show how I was really feeling. Then editing these images to kind of express those moods through size, shape, coloring, orientation, etc. and writing about how I feel about them now. This was basically pitch 2. Pitch 3 was to post a picture to Instagram everyday and write a short bit of writing to go along with that to document my final semester here at Michigan.

My goal in combining these two is to kind of create a more holistic final product, showcasing my own growth as a person and writer. Additionally I would like to write a reflective piece at the end to examine and talk about how documenting everything may have changed the way I experienced them. To make this even more of a multi-media project, as kind of a small addition, I think it would also be cool to find songs from each time period that help express how I was feeling at that time and include those on the site!

As, I’m writing this I’m thinking maybe this is a bit too self-centered, even though I promised it wouldn’t be. So maybe another idea could be to have a friend do this (posting everyday) with me and then I could interview her about her experience with it and compare it to my own, or something to that effect.

Phew, almost done! And pitch #4, let me just warn you is a total oddball.

No, this is not another pitch to write about myself. However, I thought the face-paint I have on in this picture symbolizes what I had in mind for this final pitch: a sci-fi/fantasy novel. Like I said, this idea is totally different, totally out of my comfort zone, and also really interesting, maybe because it’s so different. This idea really did just come out of nowhere, but I thought it might be cool to write about an alternate reality where college is kind of seen as a waste of time and money and the protagonist is a biology/pre-med major. I think this idea intrigues me because I think this character might echo how I felt being a first generation college student and constantly feeling like I wasn’t good enough.

Anyway, that was a lot of writing. And I’m still not sure if I’m any closer to narrowing it down to just one idea, but hopefully tomorrow’s class will help.

Stay Tuned!

Reflection: What In The World Is My Project Going to Be On???

Finding a topic that I’m passionate about and not going to get bored of for the next 4 months is daunting! I want it to be meaningful, personal yet also academic and significant. I want to learn about subjects and topics I know nothing about yet also connect it back to my life. It’s a tricky balance and I still don’t know what topic is going to do both for me.

Me rn. Also obsessing over this season of the bachelor sadly :/ so thought this worked pretty perfectly

Talking with my group members was a really awesome experience. I loved listening to their ideas as it inspired to dig deeper in myself and find something more personal to me. My group members had mostly personal topics that made me want to turn mine more personal as it will be something more signifiant to my life. I liked explaining my ideas to them but they also felt a little to rigid and academic to me. One of my topics about exploring modern love on campus and in our world was the most personal, yet I couldn’t concisely find a way or a theme to string a whole 4 month project along. So yes, I’m still in the brainstorming mode and marinating with a lot of different ideas I have.

The one main thing I’m trying to grapple with as I begin my last semester is my impact on this world, as one human being, and the legacy I will leave not only on University of Michigan but the rest of my life. It’s SCARY to think about and makes me rethink and reflect on a lot of what I have done here. I’m putting a lot of pressure on this project and my topic as I feel like this is one clear way I can distinctly make an impact and create something significant that I can show to interviewers, employers, family, friends and be something awesome that I can point to and display after my 4 years.

Reflections on Pitching

I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to work on for my capstone when I sat down on the first day of class last week. I’d just spent the second half of the fall semester working on an immersive essay about Detroit’s Jewish community, and I still felt like I’d barely scratched the surface of a topic that was incredibly important to me. Capstone seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand on my research and incorporate as many perspectives and as much history and nuance as possible.

But then at the end of class on that first day, T asked us to write a few things we were interested, passionate, or curious about on an index card. I paused when I reached that question, and then wrote down some topics that have been at the forefront of my mind recently: cooking (I’ve been trying to find a new hobby and build life skills), letters (I’m taking an English class about the art of letter writing), and my grandma (in preparation for my letter-writing class, my dad had recently unearthed a stack of my grandma’s old correspondences for me). Immediately a new idea emerged — what if I worked through my grandma’s recipes, reflecting on our relationship as I baked her classic dishes? And what if I put that all into a cookbook that incorporated images of her letters, too?

I came into our pitch workshops with four ideas, but as soon as I said the cookbook pitch out loud, I knew it excited me more than any of my others. Luckily, my groupmates (Ashley and Sydney) seemed thrilled about the idea and it’s reflexive, intergenerational nature, too. Their enthusiasm had me almost convinced, but I thought I should still go through my other pitches, in case something else caught their eye. Sure enough, when I brought up the idea of continuing to work on last semester’s essay and Ashley asked if I thought I’d had enough time to process what I’d already written, I knew I hadn’t — and that meant it wouldn’t be the right project for this class. Cookbook it is!

Interestingly, Ashley and Sydney also experienced this same pattern of “I thought I knew what I wanted to do but then I started the class and something else inspired me.” I wonder if there’s something about just being in the capstone environment that sparks new ideas, or makes our old ones seem more vibrant. I loved seeing how excited all three of us got about our pitches, and how we were able to encourage each other to chase down the ideas that we felt most passionate about. Maybe I’m naive to hope all workshops in this class make me as happy as this one did, but wow — we’re off to a good start.

A Reflection of Day 1: Project Pitches

My last words for the MIW gateway course. Something that never happened lol.

I always find it fascinating how fast time flies. I was in the gateway course what feels like an incomprehensible amount of time ago but really was only two years ago (I think?). Thus, I find that these reflections document our change and growth over the course of the years… our life both in and outside of writing. An archive of our experiences, so to speak. But Before I begin this reflection, I wanted to mention the first thing that I immediately noticed upon revisiting this blog: my last post from the gateway course. I intended to continue this capstone course with writing my novel/novella that I started in the gateway course, though none of the pitches I made today even considered this at all. Again, it just fascinates me how much I’ve changed in both my writing interests and style. Anyway, regarding the pitches…

Overall, my peers commented that they enjoyed my ideas and the diversity in my pitches both in topic and medium. My peers suggested that I encourage challenging myself more however, as most of my mediums were in theatrical playwriting of which I am already fairly comfortable/familiar writing.

The Waitress, The musical which inspired me to want to write a musical too.

My first pitch proposed the idea of a “silent musical” (minimal dialogue, except possibly during the occasional songs which would have lyrics). I am not sure if this is a relatively unexplored genre of theatre/plays, so I thought this would be fascinating to dive into. I was hoping to explore the ideas of love/romance and how gender & hypermasculinity influence people’s relationships. A big part of this is that I wanted to explore not only this unfamiliar/challenging idea of a silent musical (composing music to tell a story and minimising dialogue) but also writing something like an ensemble cast for both characters to allow equal stage time.

An example of a popular notation software, Sibelius, that I would use to compose the music to complement my writing.

I received fairly positive feedback for this idea. My peers wanted me to challenge myself if I were to continue writing plays, as I have mostly written plays in my creative writing background. However, they were receptive toward the idea of challenging myself with composing music/lyrics as well as silent storytelling. My peers could see that I was passionate about exploring both of my hobbies in music and writing, combining them into an interesting medium of storytelling through the silent musical.

A performance of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (a UM alum!)… Miller’s methodology of storytelling is my inspiration and model for playwriting.

My second idea was to write a traditional full-length play for the theatre. The topic of the writing would entail exploring mental health and mental differences (often referred to as “mentally challenged”) and how people’s different perceptions of the world because of this can influence their meanings and evaluations of life. My curiosity in this lies in my weaker background on the topic, so I wanted to simultaneously write and research & learn about mental health.

The feedback I received about this was that although the topic was interesting, the medium was not exploring a new form of writing for myself. Because of my background in playwriting, this would not challenge me in my writing abilities so much as the other pitches. Nonetheless, because the topic is still valid, I might wish to explore applying this topic in other less familiar mediums to still utilise the main story components whilst also exploring another form of writing.

An example of how a product white paper looks like… which also happens to describe how it should look like itself.

The third idea I proposed was the idea of writing several product papers for a B2B security solutions/tech software startup for which I head sales/customer experience. I thought this would be a very creative writing experience, since the product paper is inevitably highly multi-modal and explores the usage of space & structure in formatting the paper’s design. Because I would also have to cater it to my audience’s needs (the customer), I would also be able to explore writing several product papers to produce multiple different yet similar kinds of work that I have not done before.

The feedback I received was mixed about this one. Agreeing with my peers’ sentiments, I also found it to be far too professional for my tastes of creative writing — it felt more like a job/task as opposed to exploring creative writing. Although this would be a highly challenging and multi-modal piece, I do not think it is what I seek to learn from the class’s goals & learning environment.

The fourth and final idea I had was to explore screenwriting. I proposed rewriting one of my plays as a film and seeing how that goes. This pitch arises from my interest in entering the film/media entertainment industry and how I want to see how my previous experience in playwriting will effectively transfer over to screenwriting. Because I have no experience in this, I thought this would be a nice incentive/initiative to begin.

My peers found this to be the best pitch despite the fact that I would be rewriting a play (and thus not ideating new content necessarily). Because I have never explored screenwriting before, yet it is still within some scope of comfortableness due to the similarity of playwriting to screenwriting, this connects well to introducing the screenplay genre to myself.

All in all, the pitching experience was highly beneficial. Not only did I receive feedback for each pitch, but I learned what made each pitch strong and weak in terms of exploring my writing learning experience. Overall, to align with challenging and thus learning as much as I can through this course, I think I will follow through with the fourth idea of screenwriting. I also explored this further by possibly taking a screenwriting course simultaneously (intro to screenwriting), though I think I find myself more effectively learning through rigorously challenging myself in this environment.

I took a pretty dissected and objective analysis of my peers to help myself parse through the pitching session so this might not have been the most fun read. But, anyway… because of the interesting topic of mental health I also discussed earlier, which I know very little about, I might combine both this unfamiliarity with the topic of mental health and unfamiliarity with screenwriting to create a feature film about mental health and the mind.

I have some ideas boiling & ready to explore, so I’m looking forward to the semester!!

Cheers,

Alex