A Personal Essay + Research Paper = Experiment #3

My experiment #3 may sound a little unconventional… but I want to combine two genres (is this allowed?). My Genre X for experiment 3 will look partially like a psychological research paper, but also including some personal experience. Since my origin piece was already a personal narrative, I don’t want to repeat what I’ve already done. Instead, I want to build on my own personal experience with complicated sibling relationships with some backup from the world of Psychology.

As a psych major, I’m already interested in everything about social relationships: how they develop, change, manifest in distinct personality types and distinct situations. So, I’d like to do a little psychoanalysis of my own relationship with my two brothers. I’ve noticed with my last two experiments that I have too many unanswered questions. With this next experiment, I want to actually begin answering the question: why are sibling relationships the way they are?

After experiment 2, it is clear that I can’t answer a question this extensive merely with my own personal stories, I need to do some real content research. I think by combining forces with psychology, I will be able to create a much more well-rounded piece, that will also perfectly combine my interests of psychology and writing.

As far as defining these two genres, I’ve discovered a few things. According to UW Madison’s writing center to begin content research for an essay I should:

Step 1: DISCOVERING, NARROWING, AND FOCUSING A RESEARCHABLE TOPIC

  • Try to find a topic that truly interests you
  • Try writing your way to a topic
  • Talk with your course instructor and classmates about your topic
  • Pose your topic as a question to be answered or a problem to be solved

Step 2: FINDING, SELECTING, AND READING SOURCES

You will need to look at the following types of sources:

  • library catalog, periodical indexes, bibliographies, suggestions from your instructor
  • primary vs. secondary sources
  • journals, books, other documents

Step 3: GROUPING, SEQUENCING, AND DOCUMENTING INFORMATION

The following systems will help keep you organized:

  • a system for noting sources on bibliography cards
  • a system for organizing material according to its relative importance
  • a system for taking notes

Well, step 1 is complete. I have the topic that interests me, but I will definitely be using these pointers to begin content research for my paper.

On the other hand, I looked at some characteristics of personal essays. According to ThoughtCo, there are 6 simple steps to writing the perfect personal essay…

  1. Find Inspiration and Ideas (CHECK!)
  2. Understand the composition of the essay (intro, body, conclusion… yeah, yeah tell me something I don’t know)
  3. Use appropriate voice of essay and verbs (I’m not sure I need a grammar lesson but voice will definitely be important..)
  4. Be consistent with point of view and tense (but how consistent???)
  5. Use your own vocabulary (that’s a given)
  6. Edit, Edit, Edit (yep!)

In order to combine these two different genres, I plan on maintaining my voice in the essay and incorporating personal anecdotes to establish why I’m writing this and why anyone should care. However, I will also be including some outside research, so that the reader can learn something from reading my piece. I can’t tell you why sibling relationships are the way they are, but me, myself, and a little help from psychology can certainly try.

Intro To The Photo Essay…

For my second experiment I want to try a photo essay. After my last genre X, I wanted to try something a little more abstract. I’ve yet to hear of anyone in my class interested in trying a photo essay, so I was drawn to doing something new and exciting. I’ve always loved photography. I may even be a little photo-obsessed considering I have almost 5,000 pictures on my phone at the moment. But, whether it’s capturing memories with family and friends, or beautiful landscapes and buildings of places I’ve travelled, I love taking photos.

What also sparked my interest in a photo essay was a piece I wrote last year in English 325. The paper took a very different approach to analyzing photography, arguing that society has become increasingly image-based and that we may be missing out on important moments, instead living behind the lens. I’m interested in transforming those ideas into almost a counterargument against my own argumentative essay. Looking back on it, I question whether or not I fully believed the points I made against the overuse of photography. I definitely do wonder if spending too much time taking photos is harmful, possibly taking away from real experiences. But, what about the special moments that can only be captured with a photo? With the genre of a photo essay, I want to not only demonstrate the amazing things photography can do, but also write with photos.

In terms of what the genre is- I did a little research. According to Wikipedia, (I know not a great source but I’m just trying to get some basic info here), “A photo-essay is a set or series of photographs that are made to create series of emotions in the viewer. A photo essay will often show pictures in deep emotional stages. Photo essays range from purely photographic works to photographs with captions or small comments to full text essays illustrated with photographs.”

So, from this I learned a photo essay can range in the amount of writing it chooses to include and sparking emotion is important. But then again, isn’t this the primary purpose of most writing? I’m interested in experimenting with the use of captions in my own piece.

Then, after reading a photography blog post called Collective Lens, I learned there are a few important elements in the photo essay genre:

  1. The story– Your essay should be able to stand alone, without a written article, and make logical sense to the viewer.
  2. A range of photos: A variety of photos (wide angle, detailed, portraits etc.) should be included. See the types of photos section discussed below.
  3. The order of the photos: It is important that the order of your photos effectively tell a story, in an interesting and logical sequence.
  4. Information and emotion: Your photos should include both informational and emotional photos. Those essays that effectively evoke emotion while providing information tend to convey their messages the best.
  5. Captions: In a photo essay, captions are your best opportunity to describe what is happening in words and ensure that the viewer understands. Include informational content in these captions if necessary.

The elements above actually didn’t strike me as too different from your average essay. They still demonstrate theme, emotion, require a topic or “story” to tell, and order matters. Yet, I love the freedom and ambiguity placed on how much/how little to include writing, and how much/how little information you should give the audience on what it actually is they’re viewing.

I’m excited to begin the process of my first photo essay!

Introduction to Poetry

My Genre X…

In my first experiment I will be writing a series of poems. How many exactly? I don’t know. But, I do know I’m interested in experimenting with poetry because I think it will totally transform my origin piece. Since my origin piece was a 6-8 page personal narrative, I was able to write many scenes about my relationship with my brother and the paper was much less condensed. With poetry, I will be forced to pick small, specific moments to focus on. Maybe as small as important dialogue and conversations.  

I’m also considering either writing these poems partially or completely from his perspective, or at least what my interpretation of his perspective is. I think a series of poems is especially fitting for my topic because part of what makes me want to write about my relationship with my brother is because it is pretty distant, and marked by few words and interactions. I don’t need pages and pages to write this story well, I can write in a series of sentences and stanzas. 

My relationship with my brother is dynamic and has changed a lot over the years. I’d like to integrate its dynamic nature into my piece by writing each poem in a different year or stage of our relationship. 

After doing some research on poetry, I’ve found that different sources actually have some similar takes on how to write this genre. According to this lovely little writing blog, it can all be broken down into 10 simple steps:

1. Know Your Goal

2. Avoid Clichés

3. Avoid Sentimentality

4. Use Images

5. Use Metaphor and Simile

6. Use Concrete Words Instead of Abstract Words

7. Communicate Theme

8. Subvert the Ordinary

9. Rhyme with Extreme Caution

10. Revise, Revise, Revise

For some reason, this brief ten step list made me more confused and lost where to start than before. It almost seems too easy. 

Unfortunately, on my next google search I came across another list, also 10 steps and also seemingly too simple:

  1. Understand the benefits of writing poetry
  2. Decide which type of poetry to write
  3. Have proper poem structure
  4. Include sharp imagery
  5. Focus on sound in poetry
  6. Define the poem’s meaning
  7. Have a goal
  8. Avoid clichés in your poems
  9. Opt for minimalistic poems
  10. Refine your poem to perfection

So far, the only thing I’m sure of is to definitely not use cliches. 

My next move was to look at samples of poetry, hoping it’d properly show me the ropes of the genre. After googling the “best poems of 2019” I came across a very diverse grouping of poems on the New Yorker:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/poems

Lately, remembering anything involves an ability

to forget something else. Watching the news,

I writhe and moan; my mind is not itself.

Lying next to a begonia from which black ants come and go,

I drink a vodka. Night falls. This seems a balm

for wounds that are not visible in the gaudy daylight.

Sometimes a friend cooks dinner; our lives commingle.

In loneliness, I fear me, but in society I’m like a soldier

kneeling on soft mats. Everything seems possible,

as when I hear birds that awaken at 4 a.m. or see

a veil upon a face. Beware, the heart is lean red meat.

The mind feeds on this. I carry on my shoulder

a bow and arrow for protection. I believe whatever

I do next will surpass what I have done.

In this poem by Henry Cole, which according to the NY Times is one of 2019’s best poems, I noticed a very unique writing style. The way he breaks his lines, even interrupting sentences midway really intrigued me. I love the emphasis this places on every last word of a line. Each word seems amazingly intentional. I think this is what makes poetry stand out from other genres. There is no room for filler or jargon, only the “real”. 

After reading a few poems I began to realize poetry offers a whole lot of freedom and very few “rules.” Since I’m one to like a lot of instruction and direction with my writing, it will definitely be a challenge to experiment with this genre, but I’m excited for it. 

Hello, Introductions

This preliminary blog post stressed me out from the start. Maybe because I’ve never liked introductions. Especially an introduction that is expected to accurately sum me up in 300-600 words, while also displaying my (hopefully) “good” writing skills to an audience of students who all already excel in writing themselves. That is why we’re here, right?

Or, maybe I was hesitant to do this assignment because I didn’t have the slightest clue where to start. Which, is usually the case with everything I’ve ever written. I’ve always found the introduction to be the hardest part. I think it’s a combination of wanting it to always be perfectly unique, yet perfectly connected to the entirety of the piece. I should probably stop setting the bar so high because I’m already deep into this piece and feel like I’ve yet to actually introduce myself. But, at this point I’m going with it.

I’ve still yet to decide if I’m more scared of this written introduction, or the iconic, awkward first day of class type of introduction. I think being asked to tell the class “a fun fact” is up there with my least favorite questions of all time. But, I’ve also never liked talking in front of a class. Or having other people read my writing. So, essentially the two most crucial parts of a writing class. I continue to take writing classes, though. Because despite how it may seem at the end of this pretty brutal introduction, I actually do love it.

It’s a love/hate relationship. Bear with me.