Emotion in Motion in Writing

At an early age, writers are instructed to show, not tell.  Exercises help writers improve their ability to transport readers to any place imaginable, and depict all five senses through words.  From the moment I began work on my Capstone Project, which focuses on a trip I took to Japan 8 months ago, I knew that showing my writer the places I visited through writing would be key to completing a well-rounded piece.  I tried, and have succeeded, in painting vivid images through words.  Yet one area of my project that has been a serious challenge has been the portrayal of my emotions during my trip through writing.

One of the difficulties in writing about emotion stems from experience: different people experience emotions different ways.  Identifying the proper metaphors or descriptions to portray emotions can be challenging.  One helpful tip I received was to use physical descriptions as a conduit for emotions.  For instance, describing beads of sweat forming above an eyebrow is a nice and easy way to portray nervousness or fear.

Another difficulty is striking the balance between over-encumbering a reader with emotional descriptions, and leaving too much up to the reader’s imagination.  We always strive to force our readers to do some work as they process our writing and imagine our descriptions.  Yet leaving readers with too much work to do, or creating descriptions that are not tight enough, can damage the lens and message that a piece is attempting to deliver.

I’m curious to hear if other writers on the Minor in Writing blog have struggled with depicting emotion in their writing. What methods or tips can you share for crafting emotional and thought-process descriptions that are both accessible and deep enough for readers?

End of the Line

It’s pretty wild to think that this semester is coming to an end.  I’m especially bummed that this class is over; I can genuinely say that my writing skills have improved.  I think this gateway class was a fantastic taste to what’s in store for the Minor in Writing program.  Anyways, here is my portfolio:


I really think it does a great job of showing off my work, and I can’t wait for people to check it out!

My Portfolio


I suppose I’ll start by introducing myself:  my name is David Hermanoff, and I’m a sophomore here at Michigan.  I’m from a suburb of Milwaukee, and my favorite hobby is skiing.   Anyways, I’ve had a fair amount of experience with WordPress, so I’m lucky in that I know what makes a successful site versus one that doesn’t run too smoothly.  I want my portfolio to be simple, streamlined and easily accessible.  I want to lay all of my cards out on the table for my readers; I don’t want to have my writing hidden away in little sub-areas on the blog.  Right now the overarching “theme” of my blog is access.  All of my writing gives reader “access” to behind-the-scenes things.  I shadowed the ROTC program for one piece, discussed the pros and cons to the GI Bill for college students, and talked about why I write.  So my blog really centers around granting access to my experiences and thoughts.  I’m really excited to show off some of the multimedia work I’ve done for this class in my portfolio.  I have at least two videos that I made that I’m planning on embedding.  This adds an interactive element to my blog that I’m really excited to unveil.  As far as what I’m struggling with, I think it’s mostly related to organizational issues: finding the right balance between “simplified” and “unorganized.”  I think it’s a thin line, and one that I need to be careful about.

The Skier


Yesterday, when my roommates, along with the entire student body, were whining about the first snowfall, I became extremely excited.  You see, I was born in Denver, and ever since I was two years old, I’ve skied every single winter.  While this seemingly has nothing to do with my writing, the fact is that when I’m skiing, I do some of my most creative thinking.  My college Common App essay was the brainchild of an April ski trip my Junior year of high school.  This brings me to my next point: putting personality and voice in writing.   There’s no way you would have known that I like to ski in any of my MIW work unless I told you outright.  But, I think that 90% of a writer’s personality and voice can be channeled through writing.  This is particually evident in my Why I Write piece as well as my Repurposing Project.  I feel that with these two pieces, I really did a great job of incorporating my voice and personality into the work.  Of course, I’m not perfect at it, but the one thing I feel that I’ve really learned to do in this class is properly conducting one’s voice through writing.

WordPress To The Extreme

I love WordPress.  That’s really the only thing I can say about the website.  Last year, I used WordPress for the two classes I took through LHSP, and really mastered the service (or at least that’s what I like to think).  Anyways, I played around with WordPress a lot, and learned that there’s another service that WordPress offers called WordPress VIP.  WordPress VIP is pretty much WordPress on steroids.  WordPress VIP takes elements of WordPress and adds full website capabilities.  One of the best examples of this is allthingsd.com. All Things D covers digital and technology news, and they do a pretty good job at it.  One of the coolest features they have are video summaries on most of their articles.  Obviously I won’t be making video summaries about the new iPhone on my blog, but putting in video summaries of my writing pieces would be pretty neat, and probably feasible.   All Things D has way more manpower than I do, and access to the VIP service, but there’s no doubt that a lot of their features could be replicated in my project.

Hyperlinking Away

My remediation project is coming along swimmingly, and I managed to learn YouTube’s hyperlink feature in a  matter of hours.  YouTube actually has an entire tutorial on the feature, which can be found in the help section of the website.  Going through all the available content takes around 30 minutes, but I spent a lot of time playing around with the feature on my own.   The cool thing about the technology is that it really adds a third dimension to watching YouTube videos, and changes the whole viewer, producer interaction.  While we’re all used to watching videos on YouTube, lot’s of times after a few minutes, viewers get bored and switch to something else.  Interactive videos do a pretty good job of ending this;  they are able to captivate and hold viewers’ attention for longer time periods.  My project looks pretty good so far; hopefully everything comes together well!

Interactive YouTube

One of the coolest applications of YouTube has been around for a few years, and somehow it remains (relatively) anonymous.  YouTube has a feature that allows users to post videos and include clickable hyperlink buttons within the video itself.  This feature was originally intended to be used for users to include in-frame previews of other videos and allow the viewer to directly access those.  However, some YouTube users have found ingenious ways to use this feature and turn their videos into fully interactive mediums.  A good example of this is Howard Glitch.  I don’t want to spoil anything (you should check it out), but Howard Glitch is basically a “choose your own adventure” game inside a YouTube video.  It’s super cool, and really changes the way that we interact with YouTube dramatically.  My goal is to use this same technology with my remediation project.  I have experience editing videos, but making an interactive “timeline” (which is what I want to do with my project on soldiers with bachelor’s degrees) is a feasible technology to learn in a week.  I really can’t wait to get this project started!

My Writing Strategy

Before this blog post, I’ve never really thought in depth about my writing strategy.  This might be difficult to believe, but for me it’s true.  I suppose that over the last few years, my writing strategy has become something of habit, but I will attempt to lay out the strategy that I find myself using most often.  What usually happens is a combination of free writing and outlines.  For example, when we received the Repurposing Project, I used my writing strategy which in a way  is similar to the “Shitty First Draft” method.  What I typically do is free write, much like the “Shitty First Draft” method calls for.  The length of this free write varies; sometimes I write for a paragraph, and sometimes for five pages.  Yet I always know when to stop, which is when I identify the direction in which I want my essay to go.  In other words, my free write stops when I have identified the “argument” I want to make.  Once I’ve located my argument, I tend to turn to outline form.  From there, I write an outline that lays out the direction in which the rest of my essay will go.  So, more often than not, my writing strategy will produce an introduction paragraph, my second paragraph, and then outlines for the rest of my essay.  I have found this combination to work very well for me, since it sets the proper tone for my essay while giving me a step-by-step procedure for the rest of my piece.

Repurposing the ROTC


Last year, I was a participant in the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program.  One of the requirements was taking a special English course, LHSP 125.  My instructor was Professor Tim Hedges.  Professor Hedges completely changed my view of writing and his projects were very immersive.  One of the more interesting writing assignments was the Experience Essay.  Professor Hedges challenged us to put ourselves into a situation that we would not be comfortable in, and write about it.  The goal of course, was to not only select something interesting, but to pick something that would be a revelation to us.   It was difficult to decide on an experience, but eventually I decided that I would shadow the campus ROTC program for a week.  The campus ROTC program has a relatively strict policy on visitors, so I had to lie to the US government, and tell them that I was a prospective member, and not just a student writing a paper.  The paper ended up being a 10 page essay, one that described my personal journey though what was basically a week of ROTC training.  I’m really proud of my work, and I’m pretty sure that it’s the best piece of writing I’ve produced.  But the story isn’t quite there.  The essay lacks an ending, and really doesn’t feel complete.  I want to turn my essay into a publication-worthy piece, morph it into a short story.  For example, I write, “I started thinking about what Mr. Stevenson said earlier in the lesson, about soldiers being a family.  Maybe the teamwork and bond that I saw in Army commercials and movies wasn’t a myth.  But my doubts remained; after all, this was just one over-eccentric former Sergeant.”  The ROTC instructor, Mr. Stevenson, would consistently refer to this bond, and more sensitive subjects like PTSD, but I was never able to do research on either of these subjects.  In my repurposing project, I’m planning on conducting more interviews, delving more into the aspect of PTSD and college educated ROTC members.  I’m also hoping to construct a more complete ending to the piece. Basically my question is: how does PTSD affect people who went through the ROTC program?



Why I Write

The universe is a capricious place.  It seems at any minute anything can happen.  A car could slam into you while crossing the street, or you could drop dead from an aneurism.   Now, the odds of any of these things happening are just that, odds.  Yet these tragedies remain a possibility.  God forbid any of these things happen, what would be your legacy?  I, like most of the people reading this blog, am a college student who has no kids.  I’ve got no children, and I won’t be in any history book.  So if something happened to me, how would I be remembered?  My friends and family would remember me, but my legacy wouldn’t be great.  The breadcrumbs that I have left are through bloodline, but through words.  My trail is a paper trail.  When I was in third grade, a friend of mine passed away.   I’m planning on going deeper into this story in my essay, but a series of events changed the way that I think about writing.  I kept a logbook, where my friends and I wrote about our daily experiences and the crazy things we got into.  Two years later, I wrote an autobiography.  I’ve kept blogs and made videos, expanding my trail to the web.  I suppose that the practice has become a therapy, a sort of relaxer for me.  My thoughts are pretty jumbled right now, but I’m really excited to expand on this topic.