Wait, When Did I Become a Writer?

When I first read the prompt for this week, I was kind of taken back by having to verbalize how I feel I’ve grown as a writer. I guess I haven’t given much thought to the growth that I’ve had–though I know it exists–because I’ve been so caught up in the checklist of projects we have to accomplish. This happens often for me, where I forget the big picture and get lost in the details. Of course, this class has been no exception.

Spongebob Writing

Taking a step back, as this blog post has caused me to do, made me think about George Orwell’s four motives for writing, which he mentions in his piece, “Why I Write.” I would say that my strongest motive is “aesthetic enthusiasm” because I just love words. As a Latin buff, I’ve always been enthralled with the construction of words and where they come from. I love the way that a string of words can produce such a palpable and beautiful image, in the same way that lyrics make up a song.

Given both Orwell and Didion’s points, I still can’t figure out who I am as a writer, and I think that’s okay. I’m only 20 years old and I haven’t even written very much yet that I actually enjoyed writing, which I think is kind of sad. It’s a testament to the way the education system works in the U.S. though. As students, we are forced to read books and write papers about books. We are encouraged to “be creative” but within the strict confines of a three-pronged thesis and five-paragraph essay. I’m not saying that education should be a free for all, because I do think that there would be a significant number of people who would never write if they didn’t have to. However, I do think that time should be made to write freely about what you want to write about, not what you should write about.

One thing I do think would help me figure out myself as a writer is time dedicated in class to just write freely on a piece of paper and then discussing with the entire class what everyone wrote about. Not only do I think this would bring us closer together as a class by getting to know everyone’s style and preferred subjects to write about, it would get the creative juices flowing before we delve deeper into our projects. Oftentimes, I feel like I walk into class with big ideas about life. For example, just last week I had received an email from my aunt whom I rarely talk to and an hour later, received a $5 Starbucks gift card from one of my friends on a whim. Both of these events made me feel so special and all I wanted to do was write about it. Of course, I could have waited to journal like I do every night before bed, but writing during class, surrounded by my peers is a totally different experience.

Theo James Thumbs Up

Lights, Camera, Action!

It struck me while writing my proposal for my remediation project, which initially was going to be doing a TED Talk-style piece, that I miss my camera. I dabbled in photography a little bit in high school but since coming to college, I haven’t taken any real pictures–unless Game Day pictures or embarrassing pictures of my roommate on my iPhone 5 count. This remediation project seemed like the perfect way to get back into photography and push my creative limits.

Girl Behind Camera

My goal is to take photographs of students on the Michigan campus, in all black and white, and create a website around the photos. It’s sort of like Humans of New York meets art gallery meets blog. As you can see, I’m having a difficult time actually categorizing my project, since it is such a hodgepodge of so many different forms.

What I do know is that I will need to become very familiar with operating my new camera (shout out to my mom for letting me use hers!) as well as Photoshop and Squarespace (the platform I will be using to create my website). I know how to handle a Canon camera on a pretty basic level, so the hardware of actually operating the camera and creating photographs that are up to my perfectionist standards may pose the largest problem throughout this process. I also have very limited knowledge of how to use Squarespace from my job and absolutely no knowledge of how to use Photoshop except for the one time I attempted for a high school project and absolutely failed. However, over the last few days I’ve been spending a lot of time tinkering with photos I’ve taken previously just to see how they turn out. So far, I’m liking the direction that I’m taking but I have a feeling that it is going to get a lot harder when I actually start taking the photos and compiling them in a meaningful way.

Speaking of difficulty, creating my website for this project is something that I am looking forward to the most but am most afraid to begin the process of creating it. Even as I have begun to do my mock-up, there are so many templates to choose from and adjust to fit my needs that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I guess it’s better to have too many options than not enough? Also, I’m starting to discover certain things about websites, like getting a domain name and inserting alt code, which are things that I am not familiar with but will become more familiar as I work with the platform *she said with unwavering hope*.

If you can’t already tell by my rambling and delirious organization of this blog post, I’m both terrified and thrilled with the prospect of creating a collage/gallery/website/blog/thingy for my remediation project. Stay tuned for an update on my mental state as I attempt to edit yet another photo on Photoshop (this one is of my dog…yes, I’ve hit a new low).

Jimmy Fallon Puppy

reMEDIAting

This remediating proposal really snuck up on me. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do for it while I was still in the middle of my repurposing.

“A podcast,” I thought. “That’ll be perfect.”

Drake Hotline Bling

My brain has been very chatty this semester and I think it’s in large part due to this course. I find myself constantly thinking about my topic on stress and success at elite universities and pretty much changing my mind every single day on how I feel about it. This has posed a huge problem in deciding what I want to do for my remediation project.

Now that I’m digging deep into the nuts and bolts of the remediating project, I’m starting to realize that given my topic and the audience I want to go after, perhaps a podcast isn’t the appropriate medium for communicating my ideas. From what I discovered from the repurposing project, my remediation will likely be evolving from the day I turn in my proposal to the final class of the semester (maybe even beyond that!). Along those lines, I’m starting to become okay with not knowing exactly how my project is going to end up. I guess the mystery is part of the excitement of writing.

With all of that ambiguity being said, I am leaning towards doing a TED talk-esque project. I want to be able to present my project myself with my voice and my image. The two models for my source come from TED Talks that I have previously seen both during college and in my job.

The first model is How to find work you love presented by Scott Dinsmore. This topic coincides with mine to some degree, and includes a CTA (call to action) for the audience to get out there and do what they love. I want to include this same sort of emotional appeal in my remediation project because I feel that appealing to emotion is what separates a great TED talk from a mediocre one.

The second model is Your body language shapes who you are presented by Amy Cuddy. This is my favorite TED talk of all time because Amy incorporates personal experience so seamlessly with the science behind communicating power through body language. An aspect I chose not to include in my repurposing project was my own personal experience, and I definitely want to include this aspect in my remediation project. My main goal will be to have the reader see me as a human they can relate to in 21 minutes, just as Amy does, despite the fact they will be looking at me through a computer screen.

Through writing this blog post I feel way better about my remediation process than I did yesterday. I think my main challenge will be to get my ideas down on paper for the proposal and then I’ll just take the rest of the process day by day. This will definitely be the most exciting and challenging project yet, so I’m looking forward to taking you all on this journey with me!

Jimmy Fallon Mind Blown

How Tos & Digital Rhetoric

I have a midterm today on the communication revolutions–from the telegraph to the telephone, radio to the Internet so it seems only fitting that today’s blog post would be on digital rhetoric. As communicative technologies evolve, so does digital rhetoric. The Internet, though we think of it as indistinguishable from digital rhetoric, may also become antiquated like other forms of digital rhetoric. As a communicative technology, though, the Internet has completely changed the way we think about digital rhetoric and has opened the playing field for a variety of examples.

The form of digital rhetoric I’ve been most interested in lately are “How-To” videos by vloggers on YouTube. The one below is a “Working From Home” video, featuring tips on how to stay organized and motivated when you’re in a familiar/comfortable space such as your home.

The majority of the video features Ingrid Nilsen walking through a typical day working from home. She offers insight into how she stays focused–taking naps, keeping unnecessary technology out of reach, and creating to-do lists. The video is quite long at nearly eight minutes, but Ingrid incorporates aural, visual, spatial, linguistic, and gestural modes to keep the viewer engaged. This multimodality is also effective for viewers who prefer to learn visually or orally because, instead of having to choose between the two and missing out on content, Ingrid speaks and shows exactly what she is doing at the same time.

Throughout the video, a pleasant jingle plays while Ingrid is shown cleaning her apartment and typing on her computer. Even while Ingrid explains her day, the music continues. I’ve found that the music makes me stay focused on what she is saying. Though I do not have trouble focusing or doing work at home, I am always interested in hearing how other people organize their time and take small breaks during the day. Many viewers in the comments section state how helpful the video is, and even put out requests for future videos. Thus, the Internet and digital rhetoric have allowed Ingrid to remain in direct contact with her fans.

While it is not present in this video, most vloggers include a CTA (call-to-action) at the end of their videos. It can range from “liking” their video or posting a similar DIY on Instagram and tagging their accounts. While I prefer not to actively engage with How-To videos or post content from videos, many viewers actually do, which shows the pervasiveness of digital rhetoric in Ingrid’s videos.

Making such a basic topic appealing and engaging is difficult, and I think that’s what makes how-to videos successful examples of digital rhetoric.

 

The Result of Too Much Cold Brew

Whenever I’ve had too much cold brew or overslept after a long night of binge-watching Scandal, I get in the habit of asking really irrelevant–but extremely provocative–questions. Lucky for my parents, they’ve been my involuntary audience this weekend.

Crostini from Fig and OliveWhile sipping rosé and dining on three crostini at our favorite restaurant, Fig & Olive, I asked my parents one of my classic questions: knowing what they know now, where would they have gone to college?

For a little background, both my mother and my father went to super small schools. I’m talking all-girls (mom) in the middle of nowhere, Minnesota. My dad’s, in Texas, was so small that he could name every person in his graduating class. Obviously, they didn’t have the typical college experience that a lot of my friends’ parents had.

When I was first applying to schools, I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to go. I knew it had to be big and it had to have good college football (my dad’s brainwashing when I was a kid, I’m sure), but other than that, every school seemed like a place I could be happy.

I actually applied to Michigan on a whim after seeing this picture of me in a Michigan cheerleading uniform. I asked my mom why I had it, given that no one I knew went to Michigan or even liked it. Her response, in my mom’s typical surprised-yet-totally-not-surprised tone, “I got it on sale.”

Michigan Cheerleader

A sale. That’s all it took to get me here. Well, not exactly…

My dad is the type of guy who gets overly excited about everything. As soon as I said I was applying, he fast forwarded to football season and bought himself Michigan shirts, hats, gloves, and even a foam finger for when he made his first appearance in the Big House. I found out that I got in just in time for him to order me the classic maize and blue overalls for Christmas. He had decided: I was going to Michigan.

I think I needed someone to make that decision for me. It’s not like I didn’t have a say in coming to school here, but I think that I was so indifferent about the entire college process that I would still have been deciding once the deadline came around. Since coming here, I’ve definitely gotten better at making decisions, but I’m glad my dad took the liberty of buying me all the gear to push me to come here.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that my dad answered the question I posed at dinner with, “Michigan, of course!” Even though I have two older brothers and they both went to good schools, I think I’m living the kind of experience that my dad always wanted. It would probably freak some of my friends out to know that their parents wanted to live vicariously through them, but for me it’s a huge compliment and even more incentive to do well in school.

My parents have never been the type to ask me about my grades or how I’m balancing school, work, and my personal life. They always joke that I came out of the womb with a briefcase, and I think it’s sort of true. With all of the trust they put in me, it has allowed me to become independent, and to realize that my dad’s dream of coming to a school like Michigan is something that he isn’t jealous of me for. It’s something that he hopes take full advantage of. And I definitely intend to with the years I have left.

Oh, and my mom’s answer…”I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Aw, how cute…

Puppy Steve Carrell

Adding Humor When You’re Not Funny

Like most of my peers, I went into this project with a little too much confidence. The New Yorker, I thought. It’ll be easy, I thought.

Real Housewives

Wrong. Soooooooo wrong.

Not only do the staff writers for The New Yorker have an insane personal dictionary, they’re also funny. Prior to beginning this project, I wasn’t anticipating having to include humor in my repurposing project. This aspect of the new genre in a new style is both enjoyable and extremely challenging for me. In my opinion, adding comedy (in my case, attempting to add comedy) to a written piece heightens the vulnerability of the writer. Since humor varies from individual to individual, it is increasingly difficult for a writer to ensure that their joke is understood–even more so that it is understood in the way it was intended. What I have noticed as I wrote my draft is that I might think a certain phrase is funny because I tend to have a more sarcastic tone. However, sarcasm is tough to detect in the written form because it requires a certain understanding of context and an awareness of the reader’s background or experience.

The articles themselves are more like short essays. These essays have forced me to adjust my sentence style to a more compound-complex structure. From the articles I have looked as a model, personal experience as well as whimsy are critical to crafting a memorable argument. Each author, while having a unique voice, allows readers to daydream and draw out themes that challenge and excite them.

Each piece also exudes an air of coolness that has been difficult for me to emulate. The diction and sentence structure of each piece appears so effortlessly composed, as if they sat in a coffee shop and cranked out the piece in 30 minutes with minimal error. While I know this probably is not the case, and I definitely won’t be doing that for my final draft, it makes me think about how important it is for a piece to be appear sophisticated and put together even if it was created without a strict plan put in place. A way in which I hope to improve my piece will be through refining my sentence structures and adding words that both reveal my love of language and surprise my readers. However, I do not want my piece to appear as if I spent an hour looking through my thesaurus, picking out difficult sounding words, and then sprinkling them into my project. Each word, like the words used in The New Yorker, must serve an explicit purpose. A balance will need to be struck between making my article chic but not to the point where my reader cannot understand my argument.

Clueless

My goals moving forward will be to get my entire argument and all of my ideas on the page before going in and adding new words. I want to make sure that my argument is solid before I go in and make finishing touches because I think, at the end of the day, a piece is only as successful as the argument it makes. The revision process won’t be easy, but I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can push myself.

Picking a Topic was Hard, Starting Research is Harder

As soon as I chose my topic of goal-setting I knew I was going to come across a few roadblocks while researching. Since my topic is pretty intangible, I was immediately overwhelmed (see GIF below for reenactment) with the amount of information I would have to sift through in order to make my argument and establish my credibility. Did I want to start with online articles? Or maybe head to the library and ask a librarian? Perhaps I’ll check out the Netflix documentaries and see if there’s one that matches up. As you can see, I was struggling. Struggling big time.

Jon Stewart GIF

Initially, I thought the only type of research I would have to do revolved around the psychology of goal-setting. However, I’m starting to discovery that the history of goal-setting and why American culture in particular places such a strong emphasis on goals is more important for my argument. This shift is helping me to narrow my focus on certain aspects of goal-setting as opposed to attacking the entire subject.

Furthermore, my research will come from a combination of “traditional” academic research from scholarly journals and books in addition to more “popular” forms such as online magazines and websites. In particular, Forbes Magazine articles seem to have the most information on my topic that both agrees and disagrees with my argument. It seems like every time I scroll through Forbes.com, I find another article that I can use for my project. This is both a blessing and a curse because I feel like before I know it, I’ll have over 100 articles and no other sources. I will be making a conscious effort to diversify my sources to strengthen my argument.

Example Forbes Article

Finally, I’m most excited to learn about how other people view goals during my interviews. I haven’t decided exactly who I will be interviewing, what type of questions I will ask, or how I will conduct the interviews, but I am looking forward to diving into this. I think I am most excited for this part because I’m a people-person and love to share experiences with others. I believe experiential learning is the most valuable type of learning available. Thus, I want to use other’s experiences as a main point in my Repurposing Project, especially since goal-setting is an entirely human, and person-by-person, choice.

Some other things that might be helpful to know are that my topic is rather personal to me because I’ve always had an interest in the ways that goal-setting has inhibited me in my own life. However, I want to make my repurposing project relatable for all kinds of 20-somethings. Bridging that gap between too personal and too broad will be something I will discuss more in upcoming blog posts, so keep an eye out! If you have any questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments below. All of your suggestions have been extremely helpful!

Puppy GIF

My Two Year Plan [Repurposed]

After much deliberation (and countless hours spent searching the depths of my MacBook documents), I’ve decided to repurpose a two-year plan essay from a mini-course I took freshman year. The topic I am focused on is goal setting and the ways in which goals motivate people while simultaneously restricting them. When I first wrote my two-year plan, back when I was a naive and inexperienced freshman, I anticipated going into the fashion industry and even traveling throughout Europe after sophomore year. Now, as a junior, I’ve realized that fashion is more of a hobby and that I would much rather travel to Australia. I plan on repurposing this essay into an article for The Huffington Post. The following three pieces are all from different websites and discuss the concept of goal setting in different ways.

man on top of mountain

  1. “Consider Not Setting Goals in 2013” by Peter Bregman is an article published in the Harvard Business Review in 2012. Bregman argues that goals aren’t necessarily bad, but they can have lasting side effects such as a rise in unethical behavior. The article is written for the business-minded reader, but is written in such a way that even those not interested in business can enjoy and benefit from the information. Furthermore, Bregman begins the article with an anecdote about his children, which draws the reader in and appeals to their emotions. This is one aspect of Bregman’s piece that I hope to incorporate into my own. Bregman’s suggestion that individuals should focus on the task, not the outcome is intriguing for me and something that I am going to think more about while writing my own article.
  2. “The Importance of Setting Goals” by Ohad Frankfurt is a blog post published on Medium, which is a blogging platform similar to WordPress. Frankfurt discusses what goals are and how to ensure that individuals’ reach their goals. Since Frankfurt is the CEO of a startup company, the post is geared towards entrepreneurs and individuals looking for inspiration. Since it is a blog post, Frankfurt employs colloquial language and personal stories. While this type of writing works for a blog post, I want mine to adopt a more professional tone. Along the same lines, Frankfurt does not provide any evidence and focuses solely on his own experiences. In order to establish my credibility, I will be providing both traditional evidence and qualitative evidence (i.e. interviews) to support my argument.
  3. “The 3 Things That Stop Most People From Achieving Their Goals” by Chris Winfield is an article published in The Huffington Post and most closely mimics the voice I hope to achieve in my repurposing project. In the article, Winfield provides quotes from famous scholars and condenses his argument into three separate bullet points. The post appears in the “Small Business” section of The Huffington Post, which suggests that Winfield’s audience is small business owners. However, as he mentions, “I’ve never met one person who hasn’t had thoughts just like these. From CEOs to someone starting their first job out of college, we all have fears.” Thus, anyone interested in business would enjoy his article. While I don’t wish to employ bullet points or provide hypothetical situations for my reader, Winfield’s argument that there are specific obstacles preventing people from achieving their goals is something I would like to touch on in my repurposing project.

road block

The exercise of going through and mapping the rhetorical situation of the pieces above has opened my eyes to the amount of detail that will go into the creation of my article for the repurposing project. Furthermore, I have realized that my argument, much like the arguments made in these pieces, needs to be crystal clear to the reader. I look forward to continuing to work on my repurposing project and learning more about the topic of goal setting along the way!

Harper and Harley, The Greatest Fashion Blog You’ve Never Heard Of

If you’ve ever glanced over my shoulder before class, you probably saw me scrolling through Instagram. You may have even noticed that at least every other post comes from someone I’ve never met and probably will never meet in my lifetime. These people are fashion bloggers.

Tea time via @harperandharleyThey live a life I can only dream of living. One where having high tea at Burberry sums up a typical Sunday afternoon (see left) and sitting front row at Versace during New York Fashion Week is no big deal.

While most fashion bloggers post similar items, I’ve found that my favorite blog to follow is Harper and Harley, created by Sara Donaldson. Sara is an Australian blogger focused on providing readers with inspiration using her black, white, and grey philosophy. Essentially, Sara believes that color–to a certain extent–should be removed from one’s wardrobe and true style can be achieved using only neutrals.

I found her fashion blog while reading an article on refinery29.com titled, “The Crazy Response Fashion Bloggers Get When They Take A Break”. In response to fans that can sometimes get upset when bloggers have not been posting as regularly, Sara notes, “Sometimes, it’s just a simple fact that you would rather not be on your phone and instead, live your life in the present.” I was immediately intrigued by Sara’s response, mostly because of her emphasis on living in the present, and decided to check out her blog.

Sara Donaldson via @harperandharley

Compared to other fashion bloggers, Sara’s emphasis on playing with essential pieces of one’s wardrobe (think: jeans, black t-shirts, nude heels) is relatable for many people. I often struggle to add color to my wardrobe because I prefer wearing neutrals, like black or white. It used to bother me that I couldn’t buy something of color until I found Sara’s blog. Her unique perspective on style without color allowed me to feel more comfortable with my own personal style and experiment with different textures and accessories.

While Sara’s blog is directed mainly towards women in their 20s, her blog, according to her “About” page, is for “inspiration on how to wear these key pieces, but also as a guide for those who wish to follow suit and eliminate colour from their wardrobes.” Thus, both men and women, if they identify with her style and aesthetic, can appreciate and enjoy her posts. Personally, I believe that fashion is an art form and that, like other types of art, can be appreciated by anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, etc. All it takes is a willingness to try things you’ve never tried before.

Blog Post on harperandharley.comSpeaking of posts, Sara writes about everything from wearing double denim to why you should workout outdoors. Similarly, she travels so often (and gets paid just to show up at fashion shows!) that her Instagram and blog are filled to the brim with photos of London, Milan, and Paris. With such a wide variety of content to choose from, Sara remains one of my favorite fashion bloggers and hopefully she’ll become one of yours, too!

Writing and Rewriting

All writing is rewriting.

My professional writing professor last semester drilled this idea into my head and, at first, I didn’t see the connection between that statement and the question of “what counts as writing?” that we discussed during class.

However, after the readings by both Ong and Brandt as well as the gallery composed by our class, I’ve found the multifaceted and totally ambiguous answer. What counts as writing is constantly in revision, which is why it is so difficult–I’d even argue, impossible–to narrow down what “counts” as writing.

Writing, to me, has always been a form of communication. The physical act of putting pen to paper or writing code on a computer is in an effort to relay a message. When I write, I have some sort of audience in mind, whether it’s myself when I’m writing in my five-year diary or my boss when I’m crafting a blog post for work. What distinguishes writing, for me, from other forms of communication is the physical nature of creation, which Ong iterates. “There is no way to write naturally.” Ong explains, “…writing is completely artificial” (81). Whereas oral speech can come about organically, writing requires agency and action. The gallery showcases this “action” in the form of videos, Google Maps, and recipes–things I wouldn’t usually think of as writing–and supports the artificiality and physical nature of writing Ong presents.

Another aspect of both Ong’s and Brandt’s readings that challenged me had to do with the idea of trust that the reader instills in a writer. Academic institutions constantly reinforce how unethical plagiarism is and the consequences of carrying out such an act. Still, plenty of students copy and paste sentences from papers they find on the Internet or even take another student’s paper and submit it as their own. Clearly, this paragraph mention in the syllabus isn’t working. However, as Brandt points out, “Plagiarism is a form of material theft but what makes it so morally egregious is that it betrays the trust fundamental to the act of reading; it interrupts the moral transfer of the good from the writer to the reader” (143). This idea of trust and lack thereof places writing on a moral pedestal and requires us, as writers, to think of our obligation to the reader, which is something that I have never considered over the 15+ years I’ve been writing.

When I write, I am telling my reader that I can be trusted. I am telling my reader that my words and thoughts are my own and that, even if they don’t agree with me, they come from a genuine place of communicating.

What I look forward to most about this course is being challenged. I believe that it’s easy to get into the habit of agreeing with others because the potential for failure exists and being vulnerable is unnatural. I feel that the minor will challenge me to take my preconceived notions, my vulnerability, and my passion and create work that provokes others to push themselves out of their comfort zones.