Searching for Clarity

Since my last virtual appearance here, a lot has changed. I approached this project totally lost, with a million ideas that felt not good enough and none that felt great. In all honesty, this is classic me. I approach projects like this a lot, so overwhelmed by the extreme potential that I find myself paralyzed by the decision making and organizing. A lot of the time, I rely on the universe to strike me with an idea, for things to just suddenly click when I need them to, in the last hour (literally) when I’m once scrambling to write papers the day they are due. So the idea of a big project, of the commitment to one idea for the whole semester, was daunting.

Live footage of me writing an essay I forgot about the day it’s due

My indecision lasted for a while–actually, until Sunday night, to be exact. I’ve started a new thing recently where I keep a pad of post-it notes and a pen on my bedside table so I can write down the late night insomnia thoughts I want to remember. At about 1:30 AM, I realized how to pull together all the things I wanted to do, which I will attempt to explain now, after this brief interruption from the multimedia I’ve decided to randomly insert into this blog post

My! plan! is!!!!! Ok, so to adequately explain this, I think I have to back track. Initially, I wanted to write a novel, because I love to take on unrealistic projects I don’t have the motivation for. This evolved into a novella, which evolved into a short story. But I was unsatisfied with this idea of just writing a fictional short story for a few reasons. First, I wanted to use my experience. I don’t want to write pure nonfiction or memoir pieces, but I want to take inspiration from my life and perspective and semi-fictionalize these stories, putting them to another character. I also really wanted to touch on the themes of growing up, finishing college, becoming an adult, getting jobs, college dating/love/sex/hook up culture, friendships, etc. I realized the perfect way to integrate all of these is to write multiple short stories, and the stories that strike me the most are those that I hear from others. Thus, I plan to use in-person interviews to get inspiration for the short stories, which I will write with as much or little fidelity to truth as I feel so compelled to.

I’m now really excited bout my project. The stress that came along with creating totally fictional plots is absolved, and I am inspired by the idea of talking to all the incredible people I have met throughout college, using these stories to represent the ups and downs, paradoxical lifestyle, and ridiculous moments and friendships that college has brought me. I hope my stories feel like honest representations of what if feels to grow up at this time. The opportunity to write these stories about growing up at this exact time, the end of my education, the start of my official adulthood, feels like the kind of significance I was looking for in this project.

I am of course anxious about the work that remains ahead, but I am more excited. I also just wanted to go on record and say that I think our class is awesome and talented, and I’m even more excited to see the project development of everyone else and to start workshopping and sharing our work.

For those of you who got this far, I commend you, but am also kind of wondering why. Shout out to Max for reminding me to do this blog post, anti-shout out to the airport restaurant I’m in that only plays angsty 80s rock and to Spirit Airlines for delaying my flight for hours and overall just sucking always. Here’s to the overly ambitious production plans we made for ourselves; hope everyone didn’t schedule writing an entire play for spring break like Alex did! Happy spring break second semester senior year, where some of my friends are bridesmaids at their best friends weddings and going on romantic vacations with their boyfriends and then some of us are…… not… xoxo see you all soon have a great break!! 🙂

Weird GIFS and memes brought to you by hours to kill in the airport

My Project

A lot has happened with my project since I last posted here. My idea has stayed pretty much the same, but I’ve gone through a lot of different ways to do this in my head, and I’ve landed on doing it almost the same way that I originally envisioned it. Sometimes that happens I guess!

My capstone project will be a photo book. I’m recruiting feminists around campus right now. The plan is then to interview each feminist and take their photo. I’m then going to compile those photos into a photo book and include their answers from the interview on the opposite page.

I talked to T about the best way to do this project. The reason I thought this project was a good idea now is because of the upcoming election and how people are really sharing their views. Even with groups like liberals and feminists, everyone is trying to say that their way is the right way. So, I’m framing this whole project now based on the upcoming election. I’d really love to see people’s different viewpoints and how the election is informing those viewpoints.

I’m very nervous about getting enough participants for my photo book! I’m planning on drawing on my communities on campus for students and faculty to interview, because I really would like this to be a project that represents as many people as possible on U of M’s campus. I really, really hope that people will want to be a part of this, because the photo book can’t happen if people don’t want to be.

https://tenor.com/view/cute-pout-puss-adorable-please-talk-to-me-gif-13085361

Now, I just have to do even more research about photo books and feminism. After spring break, I’m going to start taking photos and doing interviews! I’m hopeful that this is going to turn out, but nervous that it won’t. I’m focusing on the positive now!

Blank Pages Are the Worst (And Yet, Pretty Exciting!)

Sitting down to write this blog post felt a lot like sitting down to work on my project: overwhelming confusion and frustration about where to start or how to phrase something or what even to write about at all, followed by a stream of words flowing almost mindlessly from my veins to the keyboard.

Followed, once again, by an overwhelming sense of writer’s block. 🙂

But that’s ok. The good stuff comes from being patient. I definitely can’t call this blog post “the good stuff” (more like force-feeding the screen in front of me from what feels like an empty pantry), but I do believe that my project, at least, is getting some of that odd, trance-like magic.

When writing my last blog post, my project was still in the very early stages – having barely even been conceived of, much less fleshed-out. To use a metaphor, it was still that unformed ball of cells growing in the mother’s womb. But now it’s been a few weeks, and I actually think it’s got some limbs and a heartbeat! Exciting stuff!

So, like the technician doing the ultrasound, let me explain what you’re looking at:

I’m planning to write about five “memoir essays,” which can be thought of as a hybrid of memoirs and personal essays. In my five memoir essays, I will use creative nonfiction to tell stories from my own life (memoir), then give them a little spin toward the end so that the audience can walk away with something more than just a random story from some random person’s life (kind of personal-essay-ish).

While my goal is to write five stories, my workshop members advised me to write what feels right, without worrying about achieving an exact number of stories, so my plan may yet change and grow into something slightly different than the plan I am laying out now.

For instance, while I have already created outlines for five stories I might want to tell, I am significantly more passionate about three of them compared to the other two. As such, unless I come up with ideas for different stories to tell, I may need to adjust this aspect of my project.

For the three stories that I am passionate about, however, things are going pretty well! I have already drafted the first third of a story that explores grief and loss, and I’ve made attempts at starting two other stories – one that explores relationships/singleness and another that explores health/mortality/the unexpected.

I foresee a couple concerns with being as vulnerable as I want to be in my stories and with discerning if the story I am writing will have the same impact to someone who didn’t live it as I did, but that’s why I have mentors and classmates!

So, what’s next?

In the coming weeks, I plan to continue my research, meet with my mentor(s), and undergo a workshop to get feedback. I will also be writing a lot more (hopefully creating complete rough drafts of each of the stories I plan to tell) and thinking a lot more about what I want to write and how I want to communicate my ideas. Furthermore, I will need to explore and challenge my own sense of self to hopefully push beyond any hesitancies in vulnerability to create a collection of writings that are as honest and powerful as possible.

If all goes well, I won’t have many blank pages for long, and that provides at least some relief.

Wish me luck, and stay tuned for my next post!

Roughcut reflection — emphasis on the “rough”

Sup friends.

Spring Break is awesome in about 100000 ways, but in this particular instance, I’m beginning to get a bit stressed about getting everything done for this project. I’m wondering if I’ve bit off more than I can chew.

Here’s where I am:

  • I’ve designed a survey about student voting to be blasted out to students of all kinds ASAP. Do I send before Spring Break of after? I’m leaning toward both.
  • I’ve written an introduction to be feature on my website, which I feel pretty good about.
  • I’ve had discussions with my roommate (shoutout Kev) about helping teach me about website design. He’s a design God #DesignGawd #BDK #KBNTNTEAKBN:OLR.
  • I’ve decided that instead of splitting my write-up of the survey results into two parts (results + proposal), I’m combining them into one. So instead of me explaining in dry, academic terms what the results of the survey was, I’ll be sharing those results and then explaining why I think they matter. The third component will be strictly visual (graphs and things).
  • I sat down with T today and we decided that I’d be going to different places on campus to actually *talk* to people for my photo essay instead of relying on passive submissions. This will require a good deal of time but is important to achieving the goals of this project.

So, yeah. If there’s any extremely minor (minuscule, even) downside to dipping for the Bahamas on Saturday, this is it. Yeah, I know, woe is me, right? It just means I’ll have to come back committed to completing this project and seeing out the vision I had for it (one which I think is extremely attainable!).

My biggest fear is that I’m not able to attract enough respondents from diverse enough groups of people to draw reasonable, fair conclusions. It’s also a huge fear that we have, like, two months tops to get this all done and presented and all. That is extremely not a large amount of time to pull all of this information together.

As for the rough cut in class the other day, I always find those sorts of casual conversations extremely beneficial to the trajectory of the project. We always have such good advice for each other, and, personally, it always leads me down a better path. Shoutout, y’all.

Otherwise, I’m doing well. I ordered my absentee ballot the other day, and it took me like a week to find a stamp and get to the post office, so I felt a little bit hypocritical. VOTE, PEOPLE! Anyway, Roll Tide. Go Blue. Have a wonderful break.

The temptation of proposing a solution

As a recap, I’m writing about the link between climate change and Judeochristian religions. Specifically, I want to figure out if any human-centric school of thought can truly align with an environmental mindset.

One of the first pieces I read on this topic is called “Environmental Theology – A Judeo-Christian Defense.” Written by scholar P.J Hill, this piece, like many others I’ve read, takes a strong stance and is solution-oriented. Hill argues that the anthropocentric (human-centric) nature of Judeochristian theology is in fact useful for tackling climate change. His main point is that climate change is a human problem, and thus demands a human solution; we need uniquely human voices to advocate for uniquely human policies that operate within our societal structures.

I appreciate Hill’s focus on practicality – i.e, if we want to make actual progress, here’s what we need to do – but it’s made me wonder how solution-oriented I want my piece to be. My original plan was to focus more on the fundamentals (what about the Old Testament/Torah is anthropocentric, and philosophically, what that means for environmental action). However, I’m realizing much of what informs religious people’s actions is not the text itself, but the personal biases and political beliefs that influence their textual interpretations. I’m not sure operating exclusively on a fundamental level will be useful; I need to think about how these mindsets can translate into climate action, and how religious people can “reconcile” their faith with their views on climate change. There’s something inherently solution-oriented about my project.

So, how far into the solution do I want to go? I’m not approaching this on the defensive, like Hill does; I’m more of an observer. But I do need to keep parts of my project very tangible and action-based because that’s the nature of the issue. I’m feeling very conflicted about how to approach this. My plan is to begin by comparing and contrasting different “calls to action” – like Hill’s. Perhaps by critiquing a few ideas, I’ll be able to ask of myself and readers, where do we go from here?

Screenplay rough cut reflection

Things are going pretty well for the screenplay.

As I talked about in my pitch, I’m going through my writing process right now. I’ve had some interesting things I am fleshing out more so now:

  • More and more research (this will never stop), especially now that I’ve moved the setting to start from 1945ish until 2013. So, lots of history to research.
  • Complete change in plot direction, as expected. My plot does not involve anything about a padded cell or mental institution of that sort (cliché and I was trying to avoid it since the start — it was more so of a starting point to have something).
  • Considering cinematographic directions to some degree (transitions, POV and shots, takes, etc.) as I am used to writing for the more static/flat imagery of plays than the dynamic motion picture.
  • Soundtrack/sound in general is something I’ve not considered much, and have to think about how I want sound to interact with the images on screen (diegesis or not).
No joke, I just sat down and read this entire dictionary like it was a novel. No regrets, it was very helpful.

Other than this, everything else is also going accordingly to plan, such as:

  • Typical processes of laying out 1) scene-by-scene treatments, 2) major cast of characters, their motivations, and changes throughout the story, 3) motifs, symbolism, metaphors, allegories, allusions/themes, etc., and 4) notes of potential ideas which need to be either fleshed out or discarded (everything’s tentative in the process, really).
  • Ideas are coming to me not instantaneously, but usually by just recalling things in my life, experiencing things in the now, or just when I’m doing something else (working out, showering, eating food, etc.).
  • I’ve got the first act laid out, and planning to flesh out act II and act III by the end of Spring Break (hopefully) to present on the first day of work-shopping.
  • The progression of the storytelling (it will start from the end and conclude at the beginning — a backwards story, so-to-speak, as we understand the characters’ development).

As always, everything is always tentative and in-progress (even after I’m done writing by the end of the semester). If anything, I’m hoping more things will change as I think those are the moments of greatest creativity, inspiration, and novel ideas.

Cheers!

Alex

Uncomfortable Conversation

I would like to to reach an audience that is not usually brought into the conversation nor abruptly enters, which means to do so means I will practice being the mediator between my field of study and the outside audience.

Everyone would like their writing to be good, if not excellent, but what is good writing? Is it good if enough people read it? Is it good if only a certain group are able to read it? What if writing was judged on what it represented, the ethic within the piece?

As I begin to interview people who I do not usually talk to, I am hesitant to do so because of the unpredictable outcome. Will this turn into good writing? Will my readers like it? But then I also consider the ethical questions, would this piece create more equality as it brings in more diverse voices?

As a writer, I am choosing to put the ethical question before others. Questioning, how would my piece impact the lives of others? This encouraged me to enter spaces and conversation that I am unfamiliar with, yet at the same time, my syntax and diction must be persuasive to the reader. So despite the question of ethics, the reader must be able to connect with the piece in order to be persuaded. A piece of good writing is not necessarily based on ethics, but who the readers are that are connecting to it, be it select audience or the mass.

Tackling Capstone from multiple disciplines

In launching my Capstone project, I’ve been reflecting on an essay I wrote last semester in English 325, titled “It’s Just a Girl Crush.” In this essay, I explored the pervasive idea of the “girl crush” (an attraction between presumably straight women) from many different lenses – biological, social, cultural – as well as in the context of my personal experience.

As I wrote “It’s Just a Girl Crush”, I ended up teasing out much of the nuance tied up in this topic, and even probed some of the ways in which female sexuality diverges from male sexuality. I think what allowed me to tap into the many layers of the girl crush was my emphasis on interdisciplinary research. For instance, I investigated the girl crush from a scientific perspective, finding that indeed, sexual attraction and romantic, crush-like feelings do not always go hand-in-hand. However, I also found from reading some academic theory that in fact, women’s sexuality is far more fluid than men’s, and influenced by different factors, so it’s possible for a woman who sees herself as predominantly straight to experience significant attraction to other women throughout her life. In addition, I found it helpful to look to pop culture and more sociological analyses, discovering that the girl crush is problematic in many ways – for instance, it glamorizes and “straightens out” same-sex attraction and contributes to bi-erasure. If I hadn’t used these many different lenses, I wouldn’t have been able to understand the complexity of the girl crush, a social construct that is rooted in both truth and stereotype.

I’m proud of the nuance I was able to achieve in this essay, and going into my Capstone project on the relationship between religion and climate change, I hope to achieve a similar level of multidisciplinary thought. The premise of my project is that many liberal houses of worship in the United States have proclaimed their commitment to environmentalism, and similarly, many religious scholars have pointed out ways in which religious texts and tenets support an environmentalist mindset. However, I want to dig into this idea of compatibility, to see if there is in fact some inherent disagreement being smoothed over. I hope to extend that critique to the environmental movement itself by illuminating the cognitive dissonance most people need to hold in order to reconcile their personal needs with their environmentalist beliefs.

To make this critique interdisciplinary, I plan on drawing from the perspective of religious environmentalists themselves, perhaps taking a more academic approach to presenting their analyses and arguments. I’d also like to rely heavily on personal observation, since I’m someone with both a Christian background and a strong interest in environmentalism. Hopefully, that personal experience can be bolstered by others’ sociological commentary. Perhaps working in scientific research on the timeline of climate change will also help me get my argument across. Overall, I think that using frameworks from different disciplines helps to enrich and complicate a piece of writing. I welcome any suggestions as to how I can achieve that effect in my project.

First Post! Reflective Draft

Last year in my Intro Class for the Sweetland Minor, I put together a zine based around the non-human, non-organic female characters featured in the 1960’s version of the Twilight Zone television show. The project grew out of an essay I had written in my Sexual Objects class examining a documentary about Real Doll Sex Dolls called “Guys and Dolls”. In the essay, I argued that the true appeal of these dolls were not just the customizable aesthetic features, but the ability for their (mostly male) owners to impress a kind of imagined autonomy on these dolls; that their ideal woman was the kind who could not have a life beyond the one their owners/partners created for them. I was interested in this idea of imagined autonomy being expanded from the idea of sex dolls to the idea of the robot/doll/mannequin/other non-human women that populated the original 1960’s run of The Twilight Zone: I wanted to pay tribute to these characters whose characters often hinged on the question of how real their own perceptions of their autonomy/humanity were. I also wanted to explore their characters and the implications of their lack of physical humanity in the worlds they inhabited beyond the confines of the (and I don’t think I’m being controversial here) sexist 1960’s television landscape. It was a good way for me to indulge in my love of white-knighting underrated/underwritten female characters, and it gave me a new way to think about the iconic characters and stories from a television show that I absolutely adored growing up.

For my project in my Capstone class, I want to return to the idea of the robot woman and how she exists in different capacities in other sci-fi stories/genres. I’m still figuring out how I want to engage with this subject in a different way, but I definitely know that the work I’ve done previously in exploring these character archetypes will lead the way in understanding how to unpack this subject in Capstone.

A Purpose for Descriptive Writing

In Art of the Essay, English 325, the main focus was on descriptive writing in order to make the reader believe that he or she is a part of the experience of the author. I took this course in the summer and at the time I was beginning to work on my senior thesis about Ancient Near Eastern galleries in university museums. It was in this class that I began to practice describing the designs of the galleries that I was visiting over the summer, practicing how to explain a display or object as if the reader was the visitor in place of myself. 

One of my essays explained, in ten pages or so, how the statue of the Lamassu Iraq was displayed in the Oriental Institute. I was able to bring the reader into a detailed analysis of it from describing its texture, shadowing, color, material, movement, posture, and then explained how these details might attribute to its original function and how its functioned has changed since being displayed at the Oriental Initiate. I then used this practice to incorporate a description about a wall relief into a conference paper that I recently presented to scholars in my field of study.            

 As my proposal for English 420 is about redesigning the Mesopotamian Gallery in the Kelsey Museum of Archeology, I will use what I learned from English 325 to incorporate detailed descriptions of my proposed design. The purpose will be to make the reader believe that he or she is standing in the gallery that I create, believing that it could exist