Escribiendo en español

After finishing my foreign language requirement, I realized that I was actually going to miss it. In the last two weeks of SPANISH 232, I actually started to enjoy the class and the language. My grandmother is from Bolivia and her and I converse in Spanish as best as I am able to when we see each-other. At the beginning of the summer I decided that I didn’t want everything that I had learned to go to waste. So I bought a moleskin notebook which became mi diario español.

For seven weeks straight I wrote in that journal every night about the things that had happened to me that day and my thoughts and feeling and commentary on things going on in the news or in society. And all in Spanish. I intended for it to be something that I continued on with forever, which obviously didn’t end up happening.

I found that there was something weirdly therapeutic about writing your thoughts in another language in a journal/diary format. I definitely was not fluent, so the sentences we’re probably more what you’d expect from an 11 or 12 year old native Spanish speaker (though some of the content wold definitely was not).

This was something that we were required to do for the Spanish class, but as I brought up in my “Audience” post, you get a lot more out of something when you’re intrinsically motivated to do it. Learning became a lot easier and more fun, and I began to find my Spanish writing voice. It’s hard to compare it to my english writing voice which I’ve has for well over a decade, but it was obvious that it was different in a lot of ways. I wish I could elaborate more on that but my last entry is from 22 junio 2019 (June 22, 2019). Do any bilingual people here find that your voice changes depending on which language you are writing in?

How to Keep Writing?

Next semester I’m gonna have to work 40 hours a week minimum, so I’ve opted to only enrolling in 6 credits. PSYCH 336 Psychopharmacology and STATS 449 Biostatistics, both of which are science heavy and most likely will involve no papers or opportunities to write. So I’m going to have to decide how to stay in the frame of mind of a writer.

I’ve thought about journaling and occasionally writing essays on topics that I like. Or possibly even taking some of my past work from my introductory writing class or ENGLISH 325 and improving upon them. I even have a piece from high school that I’d like to revisit. I think I’ll create a couple new tabs in my site to link these works within.

But another important part of being a writer is to read… a lot. Because of the way my work and class schedules are set up, I’ll have a few days a week with 4-5 hour open blocks that I could spend reading.

So my goal for this upcoming semester is to journal every day and produce 2-3 essays from that, to take three of my past works and improve upon them, and to read and annotate one book every week and note stylistic and thematic choices that resonate with me as a reader.

Ray, if you have any books/articles/journals in mind that you think I may enjoy I’d love any recommendations, same goes for anyone else reading this. I have plenty of books covering a wide range of topics and genres that I’d be more than willing to share with you guys. Thank you.

Audience

So as I was working on my project last night I noticed something interesting. The information and analysis portion was for the most part done, so I found myself editing the site in a way that included a sort of commentary on the project its self. It had turned into something much different from what I intended it to be so it became necessary to sort of meta-analyze the direction the project went in in order to make it flow more clearly.

Although we we’re supposed to have a clear concept of who our intended audience throughout the entire thing, I realize looking back that that’s a mindset that doesn’t come easy (especially for people like us who Ray points out are used writing for an artificial audience for more than 15 years). However when I found myself working on the meta-analysis portion, every word/sentence was written to be geared towards a specific audience, people looking at the project. I was much more satisfied with the writing that I produced while having a clear audience in mind. And now I find myself wanting to go through the entire project again and semi-regularly injecting these commentary sections in order to streamline the entire thing.

There are studies that look at the difference in work at is intrinsically motivated (motivated by a desire to produce something that satisfies you) and work that is extrinsically motivated (motivated by the potential loss or gain that producing or not producing the project in question). In my case at least, I uncovered a whole world of intrinsic motivating factors once I had a clear audience in mind. For the past five weeks my project had mostly been extrinsically motivated by points, grades, credits and strengthening myself as a writer. So I will without a doubt be editing the project for a few more weeks at least, in my free time, not because it will boost my grade but because I know that doing so will make the project as best as it can be.

So there’s a lesson to take away from my little anecdote; notice when and in what circumstances you find yourself being intrinsically motivated to produce something, because its been confirmed by studies that those are the times an circumstance in which you will produce your best work.

DISCLAIMER: Being driven mostly by extrinsic motivation does not necessary dictate that you aren’t interested in the content, just that you probably wouldn’t find it worth the effort to maximize its potential

Revised Preface/Reflection of My Project

My project initially began as an investigation into the neuroscience of dreaming, well technically the neuroscience of abnormal dreams. However, early on during my research I started asking questions relating to subjectivity vs objectivity. Eventually, before I even realized it, I found myself at a mind numbing intersection between science and philosophy. But by that point, there was no turning back.

​I had inadvertently produced something which dealt with a topic I always steered clear from. The mind-body problem. Mind vs matter. I never felt like dealing with all the profound questions that can’t be tested or confirmed.

​This entire process, more than anything else, taught me about what I don’t know. There’s no answer in the end, only a better formed idea of what the question is. It’s actually a bit poetic in the sense that that’s essentially what science is. Questions that reveal bigger questions.

Panicking

Sort of having a crisis right now realizing everything that I have to have done by tomorrow night and how far I am from that. The project it’s about 95% complete except for the conclusion… which I’ve probably spent like four hours on by itself and still hated everything that I ended up with. I have this awful feeling that I’m going to end up with something I hate on the site just to get it done. Also the speed at which the Wix builder lets you edit and replace images is about to give me an aneurism so there’s still a lot of cosmetic work to be done.

Not only that but my physics final exam is tomorrow and I’ve got nothing done in that department. Also I need to complete four blog posts today and four tomorrow to get to fifteen so you’ll probably be seeing me here a lot.

It wouldn’t be so bad if i had both days but I have to work tonight starting at 4. Working 30 hours a week and going to school is so horrible I would not wish this on anybody. Sorry if this kind of felt like a rant, I just didn’t wake up with and fresh new blog post ideas. Maybe I’ll come up with a good one at some point before work this afternoon. I’ll also post an update once my site is 100% complete.

People Over 40 Don’t Know How to Text

I think its very funny/interesting how people over a certain age (especially parents) never really caught on to the subtitles of passive aggressive texting. For some reason, when millennials started texting everyone just somehow seemed to come to the consensus that ending a one word text with a period signals passive aggressiveness. Especially if the word it “ok.” or “K.”

I was texting my dad today and he was asking me when I was planning on doing something that I had to get done to which I responded “after finals”

“K.” he replied back.

I felt a slight ping of anxiety before realizing he was being 100% genuine and that he wasn’t trying to let me know he was disappointed.

I thought about it for a minute and realized that parents and older people in general see texting primarily as a tool for communicating logistics. On the other hand, people like us, who grew up texting, are so familiar with it that we know how to convey emotions and express what we’re feeling in the most subtle way.

What Are My Strengths as a Writer?

The more and more I contemplate my future, the less and less I believe I’m well suited to be a psychiatrist (which requires an MD) or an engineer (seeing as I’m failing physics), and the more and more I believe my future career is going to revolve around being a writer.

The problem is I want to be every variation of a writer. A scientific writer who does research and publishes journal articles. A medical writer used as an outsource by other professionals (doctors, scientists in other realms). A journalist who travels around and writes stories about politics, science, culture and so on. An author who writes non-fiction books about events and people famous and non famous in society. A non-fiction author who writes books about the brain and technology. An author of fiction who publishes full length novels. A blogger who writes about whatever he wants.

If all of these aren’t possible I think I need to narrow down what I’m best at. What type of write must I be to produce the very best work I am capable of? And how does one define “best”. Will my “best work” sell the most books? Have the most citations? Have the greatest cultural impact? Introduce original ideas? Or just be what I am the most proud of?

No matter what I’m infinitely fascinated by every possible thing and want to use writing as a tool to explore the world and immortalize my own thoughts and place within it.

Discipline Burnout?

So for the past two years I’ve essentially been reading nothing but brain/neuroscience related material. My reading habits outside of assigned material have been almost non existent, but even when I would choose to read a book, I would chose “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” by Robert Sapolsky or “Hallucinations” by Oliver Sacks. I even have a 1,500 page cognitive neuroscience textbook that I read in my free time.

A few days ago I tried to get through a chapter of “Hallucinations” and found that I physically could not do it. I diagnosed myself as having burnout from consuming nothing but science and brain related media for so long.

So I picked up a book I ordered maybe a year ago thinking “yeah one day I’ll get to that” and Saturday was that day. The book is title “Red Land Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt” by Barbara Mertz. The breezed through the first 40 pages without even taking a break. I can can’t stress enough how refreshing it felt to switch thins up for the first time in so long.

Good “About the Project” or Prelude to Project? Would You Read?

In the summer of 2018 I preparing to start my first semester at The University of Michigan to study Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience, an area of study I was passionate about. It was during this time that I had a peculiar dream, if it could even call a dream. 

I woke up in my apartment in the dead of night in a cold sweat and abruptly threw my sheets off to stand up. An inexplicable sense of fear gripped by entire being, I knew I had to leave the room, that it was not safe. One, two, three, four strides I took before the door handle was an arms length away. Extending my hand forward to turn the handle, the air suddenly escaped my entire body. The door grew further away from me as an invisible force levitated me off the floor and pulled me back hindering my escape. 

But then I woke up again and this time I made it to the door. And down the stairs. In circle my three roommates sat playing some card game. They ask me what I’m doing. I ask them what that sound was, referring to the scream I let out a few moments before. The question was genuine as I did not recognize the scream as coming from myself or did not want to admit it. They tell me there was no sound, and that they urgently must finish their game. 

Then I was up again, in the same room. I’m too afraid to leave my bed this time and listen for any commotion from downstairs. Giggles and the shuffling of cards alerted me that they are indeed still down there playing their game. So again I make my way downstairs determined to get some answers from them. I tell them I’m afraid because I thought our previous conversation was a dream. They hardly seem to notice me this time. One of them looks up at me, smirks and asks me if I’m dreaming.

For the fourth time I wake up in my bed in the same room. I reach for my phone to check the time but one the screen I notice something deeply unsettling. No home screen, but instead what looks like a camera feed… of my room. A security camera in the corner of my room transmitting live feed of my own to my phone in my hand as I sit in my room. In the feed I see myself and the sense of terror crescendos as I noticed a dark figure standing beside my bed. 

For the last time I wake up and immediately spring out of bed and look at myself in the mirror. My eyes are white, my skin is burned black like charcoal and my teeth have fangs. I begin to growl at my own reflection and at myself as I smash my head into the mirror repeatedly.

Then I woke up in the same place as the previous five times only this time it’s real. I didn’t go to sleep again that night.

Although this is not my first experience I had involving REM sleep going awry, it was by far the more terrifying and memorable. After this experience, I began to read into the neuroscience of dreams. I discovered that this particular experience is what’s known as a false awakening and that I have experienced other forms of abnormal dreaming by various other names. 

This experience sparked by interest in the under researched topic of REM sleep pathologies, a topic I’ve been dedicated to since. Though my research gave a name to some of the things I’ve been through, it ultimately raised more questions than answers. Neuroscience is never clear cut or easy, the complexity of the human mind is too vast and we are all unique as it is. More questions than answers. But I’ve come to believe that research exists for the purpose of showing us what questions there are to be asked, not to answer every question we have.

That is my goal with this assignment concerning abnormal dreaming. Sharing my research, experience and promoting a search for new and better questions to ask. 

Clichés and Metaphysics…

So cliches, as we all know, are detrimental to the impact of any and all forms of art/publications etc. And yet they can be difficult to avoid entirely, ESPECIALLY to new writers or to writers who are working on a piece where the message is not well developed. I’ve been in the position of reading old work that I wrote months or years later and cringing because of how cliche some of my choices were. The point I’m trying to make is that writers are less likely to detect their cliche choices as opposed to readers who notice almost immediately. As nauseating as it might be, I think it would be helpful for people to read their old work to spot instances where you fell into the trap of being cliche. Doing this will make you more self aware of your cliche tendencies and more likely to spot cliches as you write going forward and perhaps even stopping it before it happens.

To me personally, cliches aren’t just a symptom of weaker writing, they cause me to have a physiological stress response (I’m probably being a little dramatic). But I HATE cliches so much that even one can ruin an entire movie/book/essay or whatever to me. So yeah I have a huge problem with cliches which is especially unnerving considering the fact that the subject matter of my final project is very… “cliche prone”.

Ultimately the underlying question underneath all my factual information about dream pathology relates to how the brain constructs perceptions and what the difference is between perceptions with a physical stimulus and perceptions completely generated by our brains (hallucinations, dreams etc.). The last thing I want is for my project to resemble a “fake deep” essay on metaphysics that looks like it was made by freshman philosophy student. As much as I don’t want to admit it, my discourse of my piece is ultimately concerned with “the fundamental nature of reality” (cringe) which is essentially metaphysics. Although I love Joe Rogan, he is is a great example of someone who asks profound metaphysical questions that lack substantive depth.

I plan on including a lot lot lot of data and factual information, although this will be research intensive and time consuming, its challenges pale in comparison to the challenge of crafting a though provoking take on metaphysics that at no point way triggers an eye roll in the reader.

I think the fact that we’re writing minors relieves a lot of the ‘assignmentness’ of our writing. Hopefully this leads to less cliches and more new and authentic perspectives. To me it all comes down to authenticity, “am I truly writing my authentic novel thoughts” is a question we should all be asking going forward.