Challenge Journal #6: Women in “society”

This one carries a little bit of a heavier weight.

This struggle reflects one that I am having as I create a project for another class in which I am currently enrolled. Is that against the rules? Can “prior” assignment be one from last month? Can’t I just vent for a second? Is this going to affect my Comm grade?

In my Upper-Level Writing course for my fabulous major, I’m producing a work about gender barriers broken in the sports world. As I write about the way that the media has covered Becky Hammon—the first female assistant coach to be hired by the NBA—since her hiring in August of 2014, I try to find the best way to talk about her gender as a lens to explain how her hiring has been received and discussed.

 

For example:

While the fact that Hammon was hired at all suggests progress in closing the gender gap in a powerful role in this extremely masculine institution, unsettling responses to her hiring suggest that perhaps we are living in a world where much of the population is not yet ready to see a woman leading what has historically been a man’s game.

 

In both of these projects—one where the feminist implications are more explicit that the other—I’m having a hard time establishing my authority in contributing to the conversation. At what point am I overstating what these practices and reactions mean for women in society? Is the fact that I am using the word “society” at all a red flag?

Challenge Journal #5: Am I offending you?

I think one of my biggest fears about how my project might be received is that the project will actually offend some members of my audience.

One of the greatest components of my English 425 class in the Fall semester was the peer-editing portion. We had to write each other letters after reading each other’s work, and our professor insisted that we learn to frame our negative comments in a positive manner.

 

For example:

You use detail so beautifully in each of your anecdotes. As your reader, I can clearly imagine your young mother on a beautiful sunny day: I can see that emerald sparkle that lights up her shoes in the sunlight and the smile on her face that mirrors that sparkle; I can feel the rural small-town American charm in paragraph seventeen. I wish, however, that you would show us your personal reactions to these things and these moments. There are so many wonderfully developed characters in these stories, and I would love to see you further develop your own character as the protagonist.

 

Now, I am trying to find the best way to frame my more offensive comments—or, rather, the highly offensive practices that I must discuss. As I try to frame my negative comments in a positive (not really positive—it’s all relative) manner, I fear that I am tip-toeing around my own fears in a way that is masking what I am actually trying to say. How do I sugarcoat something that actually loses value upon being sugarcoated?

I guess I just don’t, but my brain is rejecting my own words as I write them down.

Challenge Journal #4: Who’s listening?

I know this isn’t the most original idea for a challenge, but I don’t think that makes it any less important or true or valuable for me to reflect upon. For some, writing about ourselves can be difficult. I constantly write about my life—I actually first fell in love with writing when I discovered the way that writing my thoughts down actually really allowed me to work through internal conflicts and figure out what’s going on inside of my own mind. For that reason, I suppose I have never been part of that “some,” and writing about myself and my life hasn’t been difficult for me.

But that’s because I had only ever done so when I was my one and only audience.

Freshman year, in an introductory sociology course, I found myself, for the first time, writing about people and things I was close to from the perspective of an outsider. I had to use sociological ideas that I had learned in order to conduct an interview with my mother. As I talked to my mother about her parents’ divorce, and I prepared to write about it through this sociological lens, I soon found that I would have to write from the perspective of a student rather than a daughter.

 

For example:

Jodi had a simple upbringing in a home of loving parents and two siblings, but this interview instead focuses on a sociologically dense time later in her life when she was preparing to leave for college as her family fell apart. Jodi shares a captivating story that serves as lens to reveal sociological principles of evolving gender roles and issues of family.

 

As I enter the editing phase of my final project, I am struggling to fix my language to match the different ways that I have been trying to tell my story. As in my sociology project, I am writing about events in my life to an audience that reaches beyond my own brain. Some pages do still sound like diary entries, and others sound like nothing I’ve ever written before. I can’t include too much personal emotion because this is a project that only demands emotion and reflection in some of its parts, but where, in my revelations, do I compromise revealing myself in order to best inform my audience in a way that achieves my project’s goals?

Challenge Journal #3: Get out of my way, Ally

It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time; it was that I didn’t use the time I had to my advantage.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have the guidance; it was that I didn’t ask her the right questions.

Yes– my greatest prior missed opportunity was my gateway project.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that I picked the wrong topic, but I’m going to say it anyway: I picked the wrong topic. Or, maybe, I just tried to address this topic at the wrong time in my life. The only thing on my brain as I began my gateway project at the beginning of junior year was, how is it possibly junior year already? It felt as though I had woken up one morning on the other end of a time machine, and it was the first time when I began to feel that I was trapped in a vortex as my life zoomed past me at rapid speed. Now, I am living in that vortex, and I have grown to just accept the inevitable pace at which my life is moving. I feel lucky to say that the cliche “time flies when you’re having fun” is working out for me and that it’s fine to just enjoy the ride as life hits fast-forward. As I made my gateway project, I realized quite early that my central question, How do I slow down time? has no real answer. Who the hell was I to try to solve one of the greatest mysteries of life?

For example:

It is all because I am twenty years-old. Curse the damned day that I turned twenty. The day I turned twenty is the day that I lost my mind. I woke up one morning with my entire life behind me: the decade when I learned to write and ride a bike and drive a car was all grouped together in a chapter called my teens. The next chapter was beginning, and I had no idea how to write the first page.

 

I had the time, and I had the guidance, but I could not seem to get out of my own way. I could have searched for a way early on to address this problem in a lighthearted manner that wasn’t so embarrassingly meaningless and boring, but I got inside my own head and just gave up and surrendered to producing a cliche work that I hope nobody outside of my gateway class has seen. I am having a similar problem now but in a different way: I am, again, psyching myself out of producing something great, but not because I have the wrong topic and because I am asking the wrong questions. This time, I know that I am up for the challenge, and I have discovered that as I have made progress week to week. This time, I am committed to writing and rewriting until I find the right voice, because this time I know that it is impossible for me to surrender to a cliche– my topic simply would not permit that.

This time, I won’t be embarrassed to share it. I just need to find the courage to share it.

Challenge Journal #2: Writer’s block

Yes, in case anyone is wondering, I am still stressed, and that stress is still rooted in my hesitation to generate content.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a relaxed person, but I am definitely experiencing stress regarding this project that I find to be unnatural for me. I can’t shake the feeling that there are stakes to producing this work that have the potential to affect both me and people in my community, despite Ray repeatedly telling me not to confuse these perceived “stakes” with feelings of personal guilt. I feel guilty about my role in the process that I am writing about, yet I also feel guilty to be revealing it and to be turning my back on an organization that is a significant part of why I have had such a positive experience at Michigan. In exposing this, I feel guilty, but in keeping it to myself, I feel even guiltier. I can’t win.

I think I just need some affirmation from my current audience: all of you. I think that in order for me to stop being so anxious about generating content, I need to know that you guys won’t criticize me for participating in the actions about which I am writing, and I need to feel confident that you will not discuss them with people outside of this class for the time being. I do think that I will make my project accessible to those outside of this class in time, but I do not feel ready to do that just yet.

And, again, I am probably being dramatic.

Challenge Journal #1: I’m probably being overdramatic

If you’ve spoken to me about my project even for a minute, you have a superb idea of just how stressed I am. I suppose we’re all stressed, and I am definitely whining to an understandably sympathetically unsympathetic audience. We writing students all have come to know just how daunting these early phases can be.

My primary issue in this particular early phase, however, differs from my familiar phase-one anxieties. My struggle lies not in how overwhelming this project seems or in my inability to visualize the final product (though, obviously, you can add those to the list), but, rather, in my fear of writing about and of publishing a detailed piece about the topic that I have chosen. I have been reassured by many that I do not need to take the vicious yet guilty approach that I wish to take, but I fear that if I try too hard to neglect that approach, I will disrupt my own premature vision of what I want this piece to be, and I will end up with a work that is so disconnected from what inspired my initial idea that it becomes something that even I wouldn’t want to read.

It’s a slippery slope, People.

So, I need to face my fears and go with my gut even though my gut, too, is ambivalent. The fact that I am being so sketchy about my topic in such an excited voice in this very blog post is reflective of just how eager I feel to produce this but how uncomfortable I feel in publishing it. I’m just going to have to trust myself to trust all of you.

If you’ve read this, you are probably now wondering, What in hell could this girl possibly be writing about? and you’ll probably ask me about it and I’ll probably tell you.

Because it’s probably not that big of a deal and I’m probably just being dramatic because I’m great at that.

Ah.

Welcome to my Mind, Also Known as my ePortfolio

Seeing all of the sample ePortfolios throughout the semester was interesting and inspiring, but I honestly did not really understand the importance of the ePortfolio until I created my own. I understood that the ePortfolios would all be different and customized to everyone’s completely unique and individualized pieces, purposes, and experiences, but I guess I did not really realize how special it could be, or what I would learn about myself during the process of creating it. I knew that at the end of the road, I would have a unique work that I could share with anyone I choose, but I cannot even believe what I have created; I have created a visual database of my mind. As I scroll through the pages, I have a real, tangible experience of moving through my brain, and finding clarity in my thoughts, my experiences, and my life. This makes sense, since all of my projects are centered around the idea of mindful practices and peace of mind, but it is crazy to look at all of these things and think, I created this. I have created something truly special, and no one else could have done it this way. This all came from within me.

This is what learning is supposed to be like in college; this is learning that exists not only inside the classroom, and not only outside the classroom, but also in your mind and your soul. Thank you, Sweetland Center for Writing, for this incredibly special experience, and for creating the next Buddha out of me. To be continued…

ePortfolio

Advice For the Future

We cannot control or predict everything; in fact, things often turn out to be the complete opposite of what we might think they will be at the beginning. I wish I had realized and accepted this earlier, because I think my biggest setback was that I was trying so hard to envision the final product, that I allowed that vision to dominate and control the direction of my projects, even when my writing was telling me something different. Throughout this denial or confusion or whatever you want to call it, I learned that it really is okay to panic. It is okay to be lost and confused and feel like you have no idea what you are trying to say or accomplish or who you are trying to be. Something I have always liked about myself is that I am a planner – I am always the first to step up to organize an event and make sure that every plan is executed smoothly and properly – and I have always thought about my writing as a place where my planning excels, and my collection of messy and clean outlines has rarely failed me. However, writing is also a place where you just need to go with the flow; sometimes, words on paper can say something completely different than whatever was happening in your mind when you first picked up the pen. Nothing is ever what you think it will be when you first begin to plan, and trying to fit your writing to your original plan instead of allowing your plan to change is the biggest mistake you can make. This semester, it was the biggest mistake I made. But, it’s not too late. It’s never too late to allow yourself to change.

Writer to Writer, to Writer

“The best writers reveal something about themselves that a smarter person would choose to hide.”

“Don’t wait to be inspired—work to be inspired.”

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Sitting beside the walls of the café in the Literati Bookstore felt like reading a book that I never wanted to put down. The walls are filled with quotes from professors and writers, and each and every quote spoke to the fears, questions, doubts, and hopes that I feel each time I sit before a blank piece of paper. In that quaint and intimate setting, looking over the streets of downtown Ann Arbor, in a room of so many smiling and curious people, I could not help but feel inspired.

Phil Deloria had me from the moment he told us that at first, he did not want to be a writer because his father was a writer. Right then, my ears perked up, and I was ready to listen to anything and everything he had to say. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to blaze my own trail: my parents grew up in Long Island, I grew up in Long Island; my parents went to Michigan, I go to Michigan; my dad studied abroad in Spain for a semester, I am studying abroad in Spain next semester; my parents went to law school; I am doing anything and everything to remind myself that I have no interesting in becoming a lawyer. But sometimes, while trying to convince myself that I am not a robot clone—living a life that has been lived before by my parents, uncles, and second cousins—I remind myself that it is not about blazing your own trail; it is about blazing your trail. Becoming a writer does not mean that Phil Deloria is following in his father’s footsteps; it only means that he is following his own desires, and that he is strong enough to put aside his pride and stubbornness, and his fear of becoming his father, and just be who he wants to be.

In my work for the minor so far, I have been drawn to the idea that we must make the most of each moment, and refuse to let a moment pass you by. It was almost like Deloria was speaking to me, when he said, “To get ideas, you need to move through the world with one-hundred-percent attention…Grab that little weird thing…the first step is to see stuff; the second is to not let it pass you by.” Everything he said about moments is everything I have been trying to say, and it is the reason why I write. I write to hold on to moments; I always try to grab those little weird things and tear them apart with thoughts and words alike, until there is nothing left to say. If you do not write it down, you could lose it forever.

My favorite thing that he talked about, however, was his idea about “the life” and the idea of life as a spa. He discussed how sometimes, in times of pure bliss and relaxation, like at a spa, you think to yourself “this is the life.” Deloria looked at the audience, and said, “drop the ‘the’; Just say, ‘this is life.’” This blissful, relaxing spa-like life should just be the life that we all strive to live every day. We need to take advantage of life’s small moments and simple pleasures. Make the life your life.

Why I Blog – Revisiting

Something has really changed for me since I began my journey as a writing minor. Writing has always been something I love; yet, I have always thought about writing as for someone else, rather than as for myself. The minor now means more to me than I ever thought it would, because it allows me to both write for someone else, and write for myself. I want to have my own place; I do not want to publish my works to the Odyssey Online grouped with my other, more superficial pieces that the editor insists that I share across my personal social media pages. I want a space for my own work. I want to write for me. I want to be able to write anything I feel like writing; I want to write because I want to write; I want to be able to choose to share it, or not share it, with whomever I want to.

 

I want to write without being asked. Without deadlines. Without topics. Without reservations. Without worrying about things that I should not say. I just want to write whenever I feel something or think something. When I have an assignment, I usually stare at a blank document for minutes, hours, and even days, trying to write about whatever I am being told to write about, and trying to make it sound eloquent enough for submission. As a minor, I have learned a completely different side of myself as a writer; I am capable of writing something that I am really proud of in just a few minutes, and in any moment. My work means something to me; it is not even work. It is an experience I have, or a feeling that I cannot shake.

 

Writing, to me, has become about experiences. It is about LIVE emotions. Sometimes the world just stops, and the only thing in that moment is me and my thoughts, and I need more than anything to stop and just write. Writing is a way for me to work out my thoughts and magnify them, and ensure that they do not go anywhere.

 

I write because of why Didion writes—to gain access to my own thoughts and work them out and make meaning out of everything going through my brain at that moment. I stop what I am doing, no matter where I am, and just write it down. In 10 minutes I have two pages of something more amazing than what is ordinarily a shitty a paragraph that takes me six hours to write.

 

Everything I write is a blog; it is a diary; I want to develop not only as a writing student; I want to develop as a writer.