The Last Step: Project Introduction

I’m running down the home stretch. With a majority of my “writing” done for my capstone project, I am faced with perfecting my “engaging project introduction.” Since my project is a blog that has the potential to be continued after the capstone course ends, I want to create a project introduction that truly introduces my site and its purpose rather than rambling on about how this is something I did for a class grade. I plan to share this blog about women and their experiences working in sports with my Twitter circle that includes women across the industry as well as with friends and family. I want my project to tell these important stories about women in sports so well that others, even people I do not know, choose to contribute to my site through my “Your Story” page.

In order to introduce this site as a project for my writing minor, for the time being, I have a pop-up that shows up on my website when someone visits that explains the context of the creation of this project. I haven’t decided if I will choose to keep this feature permanently or not.

Currently, I am just struggling with sounding credible in my project introduction. Current feedback I’ve received suggests that I not only explain that this is a blog for women in sports, but also why one needed to be created — the “problem” that my site aims to offer a solution for, if you will. I think adding this extra context will be helpful for site visitors. I am also struggling with how much of a first person approach I want to take in the description. After looking at a model and inspiration I have used for my site, Sparkles and Sports (which was founded by one of my interviewees), I am torn between making the intro more personal to myself like Katie and Olivia did or keeping it a little more applicable to everyone. In other words, do I want to be using phrases like “I/Ashley created Sport’s Superheroes because…” or “Sport’s Superheroes was created to…”

See the difference? Anyway, I hope to figure it out soon.

Making My Interviews Count

I want to start this journal off by saying that I am certain I ended up choosing the right capstone project topic. For those who don’t know, I am creating a blog about women in sports. I, personally, work in sports and wanted to share my experiences as well as other women’s. After interviewing five women, acquiring over three hours worth of audio and transcribing over 12,500 words (yes, it took forever), I am so excited to share the stories of these incredible women who not only work in the sports field but have all influenced me personally in my own endeavors.

So, what’s my “problem” here? I don’t know how to put everything together perfectly so that these women can be understood as being as awesome as they are. How do you help everyone else understand why your role model is your role model or why your hero is your hero?

I originally wanted my blog to focus more on my own experiences with the interviews being supplemental in their own tab, but now I know I want their stories to shine. How do I make sure they do? I have experience transcribing and editing interviews from my internship. I have learned to edit things out and occasionally rearrange a phrase so that it makes more sense to the reader. This past experience will help me, but I still worry that I will have trouble choosing what to keep and what to edit out. With each interview averaging about 40 minutes, I need to cut parts of it out to avoid a lengthy, perhaps not engaging piece. I need to decide what aspects of each interview will tell each person’s story the best.

To help me tell their story, I think I will include a paragraph at the top of each interview that summarizes and gives context for the interview. I have seen other Q&A-formatted pieces online that use this technique. I think this will be helpful to set the reader up with what they need to know about the person before they continue reading.

Challenge Journal: Passion and Why I Write

As I began brainstorming ideas for my capstone project, I had trouble locating a topic that I wanted to write about. I’ve spent a lot of time writing about Michigan and sports in the past and figured that in order to challenge myself, I would need to write about something I’ve never written about. I examined the important things in my life and identified which topic I had never written about: relationships and love. Great idea, Ashley, you’re challenging yourself and trying something new.

Well, not exactly. The more I narrowed my genre for relationships/love and explained the idea to my professor and peers, the less enthused I felt. I certainly wasn’t married to the idea of writing about it (yes, that was an intended pun). So, I sat at my computer and did what I always do in times of desperation: I stalked every capstone website and searched for clues as to what I should be writing about. I found some great pieces that sparked my interest, but what spoke to me the most was my “Why I Write” piece from the gateway.

I write because of a football coach. I write because the first sentence of the first book I picked up by Bo Schembechler read, “let’s start with first things first: passion…you need to find something you really love to do, because otherwise you’re going to hate it.” As simple as it sounds, passion is what was lacking in my original idea. Looking back to my essay, I realized that I needed to choose something I was passionate about.

So I chose sports. But Ashley, you’ve already written about sports many times. I know, I know. But writing about sports and my experiences with them gets me excited to write — it’s my passion. So, I set out to find a way to write about sports that I haven’t conquered before: a blog about women in the sports industry. I plan to have this blog encompass my experiences as well as experiences from other women whom I look up to in the sports world.

I’ll admit that I’m nervous and not entirely sure what the final product is going to look like. I am worried that I won’t have enough time to make this into what I want it to be. But, if I’m writing about something I’m truly passionate about, I know that it will be something great in the end.

Challenge Journal One: The ‘Getting Started’ Blues

For me, the most difficult part of writing is getting started. Whether it’s an academic research paper or a personal essay, getting those first words on the page is always the most daunting task. A few techniques I’ve found most helpful are brainstorming, making an outline and, sometimes, just spewing words onto the page in hopes that it will spark some further thought. Once the writing process has begun, I always write in single-spaced format and haphazardly adjust my computer screen brightness as I type. The latter is quite a strange ritual — sometimes the dimmest setting feels too bright and other times the brightest setting feels too dim. I am always changing the brightness of my screen while I write.

For this semester, I’d like to start a new ritual to help me combat the “getting started” blues when I have to write. In order to do so, I am going to do an unrelated mini-writing exercise before I begin a school writing assignment. I have two journal-like books that have a number or writing prompts to get thoughts flowing and I will use one of those prompts to do a quick 5-10-minute hand written exercise.

In the past, answering writing prompts and just using something to get thoughts flowing into written form has been helpful in sparking ideas for other writing assignments. I think using the writing prompts in my books to help give me “practice” writing has the potential to positively impact my writing in other areas while also generating thought-provoking topics.

Advice to the gateway students: A bright future is ahead!

Hello new MiWs!

I’m glad you’ve joined our cult. I think you’re really going to enjoy the gateway course. It has honestly been my favorite class at Michigan and I wish every student got the opportunity to experience it. I guess what makes it so great is that everyone who is in the class wants to be in it — they applied for it! No one thinks they’re ~too cool~ for writing and advice from their peers. I hope you put as much as you can into your time in the gateway course — you will get a good return on your investment. Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you find yourself in the Minor in Writing community your first semester:

  1. Be you! It is definitely intimidating being in a class full of writers, at first. It’s easy to assume that everyone else is probably better and more experienced at writing than you are — don’t. Like I said, you’re going to be in a class full of writers…don’t forget that you, too, are a writer. You’ll soon learn that the best way to grow as a writer is to take down the security wall you have up about what others will think of you and your writing.
  2. Manage your time. This class may require three projects (or at least did when I took it), but do not be fooled — there is much work to be done! You will be tasked with reflecting on your writing processes and given many short, engaging writing assignments. Putting things off until the last minute won’t help you develop as a writer so be strong and push through the want to procrastinate! Also, consider starting the practice of saving multiple drafts of an essay on your computer as you go along (i.e., create a new document every time you revisit and revise the draft) — it is an excellent way to observe how you progress through the revision process and helpful to include in reflective essays about “the making of” your projects!
  3. Use your resources. You are part of the Sweetland Writing community now! That’s an exciting title, but what does it mean? Not only do you have access to one-on-one faculty or peer writing support like all non-minors, you get additional time and a special sign-up schedule for making these appointments. You also get a community of writers who are in the same boat as you: your MiW cohort! I’m sure every group of people is different and group dynamics are always varying, but I cannot stress enough trying to build a bond and connection with your gateway class. I was lucky enough to part of a great group of peers and it made me love writing so much more. We currently have a GroupMe to commiserate in stress about assignments as well as cheer each other on and stay connected — 10/10 would recommend.
  4. Learn to L-O-V-E peer review. I’ll be honest, I was not a fan of peer review in some of my other English classes. Writing a one-page single-spaced letter to three peers at a time for one workshop day x 2-3 workshop days per project seemed daunting. If you feel that way now, it’s ok! Keep your mind open to change because I learned to love it. Peer review is such a great way to a) gather insight on your own writing by reading others’ and being forced to reflect on what worked and didn’t and b) help point your peers in the right direction. Don’t be afraid of being workshopped and don’t be annoyed to write letters — both will help you grow as a writer more than you imagined if you keep an open mind.

Thanks for sticking with me this long and making it to the end. You’re going to have a great semester in the gateway and a great college experience in the minor. Here’s a cute gif to reward you for reading my advice:

Writing 220: DMC Tour Reflection

Today I ventured to North Campus for the first time ever (ok, engineering and arts students, get the eye rolls over with) and it was such a great experience! To start the journey, my classmates planned to all meet up together at the CCTC to make the bus ride together. #adults #teamwork

As we went through the tour of the Digital Media Commons at the Duderstadt center, I was amazed at all of the awesome tools available to students and then simultaneously upset that I hadn’t found this out until the end of my junior year. I mean, I’m sure I was told about it at an orientation or in one of the 234,597 emails the University sends, but I never knew the extent of my options. Seeing all there was to work with made me excited for project III, but also still worried because I don’t consider myself very “digitally creative”.

I’m still really unsure of what to do for my remediation project. I’m finally starting to feel like I might have a solid draft of project II ready to turn in, but I don’t know what would be the most effective way to remediate it. I really like the technology available in the personal studios in the DMC, so I might try to come up with something fun I can utilize in there.

~Stay tuned.~

 

Writing 220: Comfortable places

As I sat on my cushy brown couch, I looked beside me to see my golden retriever – border collie mix curled up, resting her head on my lap — her freshly groomed fur nearly a perfect match to the sherpa blanket I was draped in. Seeing her eyelids gently closed, completely vulnerable and content, my heart grew a little warmer. I began to ponder all the times I saw dogs on campus and immediately thought of and wanted nothing more than to be at home with my own. I wrapped my arms around her and gave her a squeeze. It’s good to be home.

Kate enjoying the snow!

How Real Writers Write

 

I don’t feel I have a particular “method” or superstitious habit that I walk through before beginning an essay or writing piece. I suppose my most common start to writing is making an outline — a practice I dreaded in high school. What’s the point of an outline? Just write what you’re going to say. Well, young Ashley, eventually you’ll have to write 10-15 page papers that require a little prior thought and organization that you perhaps didn’t have to tackle in writing your long 2-3 page essays. But, I digress.

I think that half of my planning and organizing processes before beginning to write involves me asking ‘how would a real writer plan this out?’ Unsure of where I could find such a real writer, I go back to my thoughts and attempt to gather them on paper. After a good twenty minutes of hard thinking and essay-planning, it’s time for a Facebook break. Or sports. Whichever feels most pressing at the moment.

After planning out the essay, I devise a plan on when to work on the essay. For example, last semester I had a 10-page essay I was feeling stressed about completing so I broke it up into about a week worth of time, outlining exactly what parts I’d complete on which days and how many pages it would be. On Wednesday, I’d have pages 4-6 complete on the history of race in sports and the introduction of Colin Kaepernick.

My least favorite part about this method is that without fail, my estimates as to how many pages each idea would take up were always more than reality. You know those people who say they went over the page limit because they just couldn’t quit writing? The normal writer-like problem to have? Yeah, Ashley doesn’t have that problem. As much as giving myself goals and structure to aid in completing a piece of writing is helpful, I think parts of the process are also detrimental to the quality of work. Part of me wants to say that x part of the essay should take up x pages so that I can physically see myself progressing through the essay but part of me feels that giving expectations and/or limits to the writing can make it a little less genuine.

My professor last semester told us that often we might find our true thesis, our true angle to the story, after already having written five or six pages. I laughed internally at this as I thought, ‘well, if you plan it out right the first time, the first five or six pages don’t have to be a waste.’ I ate my words after writing eight pages of the third class essay and realized that what I was writing was not the actual argument I wanted to make. It took eight pages of agony to figure this out. I struggled — hard — to get those eight pages there, and once I finally realized I wanted to talk about patriotism and not whether or not Kaepernick’s anthem protests were effective, I seamlessly rearranged and reordered the essay, recreating my argument. This is similar to what Anne Lamott mentions in her first chapter of “Bird by Bird.” Sometimes there really is no way to know, or realize, your angle until you type a bunch of nonsense. And that’s okay.

Perhaps I do have a method to the way in which I write. And maybe I’m just as real as any writer.