Content Draft 1 -> Content Draft 2

I’ve decided I’m actually pleasantly surprised with where I’m heading with my project. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still losing my mind. But I think the actual process of writing has reminded me why I chose the topic I did in the first place. I’m hugely grateful that these early drafts aren’t graded separately, as I’ve often found that my writing is at its highest quality when I’m able to sit and write non-stop for a while, and only reflect back on what I wrote a day or two later.

After finishing the first (very incomplete) draft of my project, I realized that I might have been limiting myself in terms of content generation. I was so focused on achieving the writing style that I wanted that I neglected the most important part of my project – the content. I think this is an interesting issue, though; when should content be sacrificed for style, and when should style be sacrificed for content? Which is worse – beautiful writing that lacks depth, or interesting writing that lacks style? Is there a perfect mix of the two?

By no means am I planning to concede to either extreme. As of now, I think I’m doing an alright job of writing well and creating decent content, but this combination comes at the expense of the volume. Maybe I just need to get into a better groove.

Capstone Worries and Not So Worries

I’ll start off by talking about what I’m worried about in terms of my capstone project. First, I’m worried that I’m not going to have enough time. I’m not really a procrastinator, but I’m quite easily distracted. I’m also worried that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. My project is going to require a lot of research – research on a subject that isn’t exactly widely examined.

Maybe somewhat conversely, I’m worried that my original ideas for this project were so big that this version won’t be equivalent to my vision. We were asked to think in class about where we would take this project given far more time and an entire faculty behind us to complete what we could not. I would travel to each of the lighthouses. I would sketch drawings of them, and then I would build tiny to-scale models  using historically accurate tools and materials. I would write a chapter of a book on each keeper in each lighthouse, and another book entirely on the stories they could tell me. I would publish those books using historically accurate printing methods, papers, and ink, and using historically accurate language.

Pardon me while I drag you in a circle by your ears here: if I think about it a little differently, maybe I’m not all that worried about disappointing myself. Because in the end, equivalence is relative, isn’t it? If I did have a full faculty and five years to answer this question, the project would be one thing. But I don’t have either. I have myself, and I have a few months more, and so I will do the best I can to justify this weird thing I’ve got going on in my head. And if I feel I’ve accomplished that, I’ll be good.

Project Idea Evolution

When I was thinking up ideas for my capstone project, I knew I had to steer away from a direction related to my major. I think Economics is interesting, but I’m fairly certain that few other people outside of the major (or even inside, to be frank) would agree with me. Initially, I tried to get as far away from the discipline as possible. Not only did I want to avoid topics in economics, I wanted to avoid the way I had been taught to think as an Econ major.

Since then, I have realized that that would be impossible. I have also realized that the way I’ve been taught to think could be an asset to my project. That being said, my first idea was overambitious. What I planned on doing would require a year of research, if not longer. I wanted to write six letters from the perspective of six people, each chosen based on the time period in which they lived. After my proposal/idea meeting, I understood how impossible that idea would be to carry out; my time is far too limited for that type of research, and even if I had endless time, the standard for that sort of writing is beyond my level.

Since then, I have developed an idea that I think combines the best aspects of my original idea and allows me to use the analytical skills that I’ve gained through my major. To be perfectly honest, both with myself and with my instructors, the form is still a tiny bit unclear. I think it’s going to have to develop as I begin writing. But I’m confident I’ll make it work.

Writer to Writer

nativespeakers

Having just listened to Maria Cotera speak in the Word 2 Word podcast, I am realizing that a) I’ve been missing out on a truly inspirational and informative genre and b) even professional writers struggle to define what writing is – both to them personally and as a broader explanation as well. I want to touch on several things she said.

I’ve never specifically sought out writing done by women (or men) of color. Not because I was actively avoiding the genre, but because I never even thought to consider it. I’ve mostly just read what’s in front of me – not paying special concern to one particular type of genre. I peruse bestseller lists, yes, but oftentimes there is little to no variation between those books. Listening to Maria Cotera speak made me realize that even though I may not be a woman writer of color, the opportunity to learn from this disparate perspective is one I cannot pass up.

Additionally, I found it particularly inspiring to me personally when she talked about even writers having trouble defining the term writer. She herself had to change the way she thought about writing. She stated that, for a long time, she thought of writing as sitting down every morning writing for five hours “upstairs in your tweed jacket with elbow patches.” She couldn’t let go of her formal and rigid definition of a writer as someone who writes with a focus on being prolific rather than poetic. As she grew as a writer, however, she realized that writing comes in all forms. She stated that she even considers Twitter to be writing, calling it “critically and theoretically informed.” I’ve been talking this entire semester about the struggle I’ve felt in trying to define the word writer and what it means to me – perhaps I need to quit forcing my definition and instead let it come to me as I grow, like Cotera did.

She opened by telling a story of the first time she remembers witnessing writing. Her mother had brought her to a McDonald’s so that she could work on a book while Maria played in the playscape. She talked about her mother writing in longhand a book that she eventually self-published, and brought up a Virginia Wolfe quote about each woman writer needing a room of her own. I can see the truth in this – in both a literal and figurative sense. Literally, yes, each woman needs a space away from her everyday life in order to write peacefully and without distraction. Analyzing this quote figuratively, however, brings to mind the meaning that I think Wolfe wanted to convey – that each woman writer needs a space of her own in the broader field of writing. I interpreted this as each woman needing to carve out a space for herself in the world, a space that allows her to feel safe with what she is writing, to be confident in it, and to avoid the worry that may come from putting such personal testimony out into the public sphere.

All in all, I thought Maria Cotera was a unique, hilarious, and absolutely intriguing voice – and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to listen to her speak, even if it was through the headphones on my computer.

 

Writing to Not Write

Lately, more than usual, I’ve been missing having time to read for pleasure. My room at home is stacked from floor to ceiling with books. There are some in boxes under my bed, some on the shelves, and others literally piled all over the floor. Being a reader has never been less a part of me than in college. That is not to say that I don’t read – I read every day. Pages and pages of Econ textbooks, history narrations, and online articles all occupy my time. What I mean by a “reader” is someone who does it by choice. Someone who sits down with the intent to read something for no other reason besides simply wanting to discover what’s inside the book. I know that I’ll go back to my old habits during summer; I always do. I wonder what about college it is; for some reason, every time I have a moment to spare, my first thoughts are usually “nap,” “friends,” or “TV” in that order. I guess it’s because I never needed a brain break as badly in high school as I do sometimes in college. And while I wholeheartedly believe that reading (especially for pleasure) is an excellent way to allow your brain to relax, sometimes it’s just easier to go for something more mindless.

Having said this, I have discovered lately that writing is, surprisingly, an excellent brain break. Lately, when I feel stressed out, I’ve been opening up a word document and typing exactly what pops into my head as it shows up. Stream of consciousness is a highly effective way of relaxing and getting your mind off of everything you have to do. Even if I’m writing about my current problems or about all of the stuff I have to do, it still calms and reassures me. For some reason, getting it all down on paper helps me organize my thoughts and make a plan for how I’m going to accomplish all of it. I turn on music (just a side note, if you’re looking for the BEST spotify study playlist of all time, look up “Celia loves to score – AY” – it’s one of my good friends’ and it’s amazing) and sit for a while and type away at my computer. I never save my work – I’ll go back and read it once or twice, but after that I don’t give it a second look.

I’m not sure if this method of relaxation is a product of the way I write or if it’s just the way I, specifically, handle stress, but for some reason it’s very effective. I’ve tried so many other methods – yoga, breathing techniques, going for a walk, you name it – and nothing works as well as sitting on my bed and writing out my thoughts.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue to do this after I’m done with the bulk of my schoolwork. Maybe when I get home, I’ll start reading for pleasure again, or maybe I’ll continue to do this. Either way, it’s a useful tool.

 

streamofconsciousness

This is a Title

Sometime during last summer, I decided to sign myself up for Goodreads Quotes of the Day. I had previously been spending hours reading through the quotes listed on that website, looking for ones I like, and figured that the Quote of the Day was an excellent way to curb the time I was spending but to accomplish the same end – reading a quote that I liked. April 11th’s quote was from Great Gatsby – “Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.” I love the book, so I read the background information on the quote that was listed underneath in the email. It read as follows “The Great Gatsby was published to mixed reviews and poor sales. Other titles that F. Scott Fitzgerald considered: Trimalchio in West Egg, Gold-Hatted Gatsby, and The High-Bouncing Lover. I mulled over each of these titles in my head, trying to picture the book under one of those names. I found myself rejecting every one of the alternative titles, preferring instead the actual. This got me thinking – what is the true purpose of titles?

I want to say that titles are unimportant. I want to say that if you’re going to read something you’re going to read something, regardless of whether or not you’re hooked by its name. I want to say that titles are stupid, of exaggerated importance, and completely unnecessary to the actual content. I want to say these things because I hate writing titles. I absolutely believe that they are all of those things. I’ve wasted too much time staring at my computer or looking up quotes for title ideas to be at all encouraged or inspired by the thought of creating or selecting a title.

Even though I want to deplore titles completely and swear off writing them for the rest of my life, I know that nothing good could come of that. A title is, in fact, a name – and is as important to the piece of writing as our names are to us. What would I be without my name? I would be an idea – someone who loves to write, plays piano, has two younger siblings, brown hair, and green eyes. I would be all of these things and, true, without my name these things would be no less important, but the summing nature of a name makes everything seem more complete.

A title is like packaging on a present. You note the size and shape of the box, and then tear it open to see what’s inside, with an idea already formed in your mind with regards to what you’ll find.

Certainly, titles of essays are less important to the nature of an essay than names are to the nature of a person. But would I be the same if my name were Lindsay, or Sarah, or Samantha? I say no – but perhaps this is only because I have never known myself as any other name but Bailey. Either way, the wrongness of any other name for Great Gatsby besides Great Gatsby gave me a new consideration for the importance of titles, and I’ll try to complain less when I’ve got to think of them.

Today’s Goodreads Quote of the Day:

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes_of_the_day

The Actual Way I Write

For me, the way I record thoughts has always been dependent on how I judged those thoughts. If I’m writing a sloppy draft of a story that’s been bouncing around my head, or a school assignment (definitely don’t like most of those), or something else quick and unrefined, I will type it on the computer. There is nothing personal about a computer (ironic because that’s exactly what laptops are – personal computers); you cannot see the author’s handwriting, the force with which they pushed the pencil to the paper, or the doodle marks in the corners where he or she lost attention. So I have no problem writing things that mean little to me on my computer.
 I think this has a lot to do with why I’m not a huge fan of blogs or blogging – I can never really get myself to connect as well as I know I could if I was physically writing out my thoughts. For thoughts I’m slightly more interested in, I’ll dig up my notebook. A plain, spiral bound notebook – the same one in which I record my class notes. I doodle a lot there, and write out short passages of things that I have been writing in my head for a while. I’ve found myself on more than one occasion bored in class and doodling out song titles or lyrics on a blank page. 
Next, I have several pretty notebooks that I’ve acquired over the years. One from Kate Spade, one from India, and one beaded from an art fair that, despite being in my possession since the second grade, remains mostly blank. Most of the writing in those books is not my own; I love quotes, and will record my favorites here. I find these quotes all different places.
 Finally, if I feel what I am or someone else has written is beautiful, transcendental, perfectly sad, or some other level of unconventional and unique, I will record it on my typewriter. I received this 100-year-old relic for my 17th birthday. It is in perfect condition and is one of my most treasured possessions. I love the way the words look, slightly tilted and old-fashioned, and I will save only what I love the most to be recorded thusly. I store what I write here in a purple-handled box, covered in magazine clippings of flowers that I made when I was eight. typewriter

Coffee Bean Family

I’ve been looking through my high school writing lately. I’m not sure why – perhaps I’m feeling nostalgic, or perhaps my subconscious is in need of a little inspiration. Either way, I’m highly amused by what I’ve found.

I want to point out one particular piece that I wrote as a sophomore in Honors American Literature (I think that was the name of the class; regardless, I will NEVER enjoy Grapes of Wrath). We had just finished Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, and the assignment was to write a vignette in her style. I remember being stuck as to where to begin; I was never a poet and the airy, lilting style seemed difficult to mimic.

Reading it now, I am impressed with my sophomore self. I think I did an excellent job of emulating but not exactly copying Cisneros’ style. I titled it “Coffee Bean Family” and wrote about the dark, almost black hair of everyone in my immediate family. Here’s the original:

Everybody in my family has hair like coffee beans.  My brother’s is the darkest and it is soft like the fur of my puppy. My mom’s is the longest and the prettiest. My dad’s is short and slowly going away. My sister’s is the lightest shade of coffee bean and is always messy because she likes to play outside. But mine is different. Different than everybody’s. Mine is the color of a bruised banana or wood or the clock on my shelf. It is thin and straight like the leaves on a willow tree.  When I was younger it was the color of the sun. Now it’s dark like the muddy bottom of a river. But my mom says Bailey I love your hair. I wish my hair was that color. And I say Mom you are crazy. I can’t wait for summer when my hair turns the color of the sun again. My mom is one smart lady. When I was little I used to think that I was adopted because of my sun hair. But now when I look in the mirror I see my dad’s eyes and my mom’s chin and I know I am one of them. I see my nose on my little sister and my ears on my little brother and I know that they are just like me.

I don’t exactly understand the point, audience, tone, etc. of this vignette – but I don’t think that’s important to this particular style. Were I to be given this assignment now, as a sophomore in college in the Minor in Writing, I think I would write the exact same thing. True, I’ve grown up some, gained some substantial life experiences, and even evolved my writing style – but this paragraph reads true to the way I have always thought of myself. I recognize my insecurities  – and I think these younger self-doubts, though mostly evaporated, translated then in the same way that my current set of insecurities would now.

I like this sample of younger Bailey’s writing. I have come across several that I am far from proud of – namely the four research papers I wrote on the Titanic, being, as I was, lazy – but most everything has made me feel a quick surge of affection for my younger self and a desire to once again be like that person.