Challenge Journal: Reflection

Pursuing a corporate career, I often ask myself: “Why Writing?” The business world is moving away from writing as a valuable skill. Even in professions that do value writing, appreciation comes few and far between. Why in the world did I dedicate countless hours to a Minor in Writing? To the Michigan Daily?

As my journey isn’t finished, I can’t say I have an answer for it. But I am getting closer, and excuse the cliches when I share my possible answers.

I furthered my understanding of what constitutes a community. through writing I felt something strangely tribal at the MiW showcase as I listened to fellow classmates share their projects after students from others. I felt proud of what we accomplished even when there was no overlap between what any of us did.

Similarly, the minor showed me that writing can build relationships. I think people better understood who I was after my workshop in the class. I certainly felt the passion that others had when I saw pieces of their work. Finding a voice and looking to be unique is what drove me on the Daily and in the class, and I am grateful the opportunity to further figure out what that means for my writing.

Finally, my time spent writing showed me my potential when I work on something that I am passionate about. When will I get the freedom on an assignment like I did with the gateway and capstone? When I am working, will I have to put passion projects to the wayside? I’ve certainly gained an appreciation for the variety of projects I saw and the fun I had making mine.

So why writing? There isn’t one good way I can put it. I may always wonder if the good I gained from it really would make a difference later on. But maybe it doesn’t have to. I can appreciate that there was something good to be had at all.

Challenge Journal: AHHHHH!!!

The world may as well be ending at this point. Life beyond college? Forget about it. I might as well be 80 years old. What’s my purpose in life?

Alright now that that’s over, it’s time to be rational again. The semester is pretty much done, with the capstone project being the last, huge, important assignment left for me to do. I have been thinking about the capstone a lot, and not just because of the upcoming project submission, but for what it represents as a transition into the next chapter of life post-graduation.

I want to go out proud as I enter the unknown “real” world. I want to prove that I can still create things for others to enjoy, even if I don’t get that creative opportunity at a desk job or in graduate school. In other words, I can’t say for certain that my project is good, but it means a lot for me that I am finding comfort in the work I produce.

After seeing everyone’s trailers and pieces from the workshops, I hope that you guys feel the same way too. I observed some truly incredible work, and I was jealous of the creativity and passion I saw in class.

So yea, I am freaking out about graduation. But we are going to graduate in style. Life isn’t over after 21 years, somehow. I will continue to work hard and find my passion. And I know that I am in good company. Good luck in this final week!

Challenge Journal 4: Being frustrated at the little things (and why that is good)

As the clock is ticking down, I have made significant strides in the creation of my entire project (content, web page, emotional well-being about the state of my project and my entire future). I imagine many of you inherently feel the same way. But like Zeno’s Paradox, this kind of progress has been a Russian nesting doll for other problems.

I write a piece for the website. Great! Where does it fit? Do I have to reorganize how the links are being displayed? Now I have placed it and I continue to look at my website. Should I have made another tab? Do I even like the color scheme that I used? If you work like I do, you can make these annoying changes whenever a free time opportunity comes up. A few changes here and there and then off to class, rinse and repeat.

Some times these small changes pose unnecessary introspective questions like if I should have picked another topic to start with or a different medium or if I should have simplified or gotten even more complex.

But I argue that these thoughts are good. Thoughts about where to add a new piece on my website is good. It forces you to notice and perfect everything. There may never be a true conclusion to the project since it will be submitted no matter what whether you are completely satisfied or not. In this instance, where you may never feel at ease, you can practice coping with that realization. And beyond all that, these nuanced questions can make you appreciate all of the progress you have made. I had an idea, and I wrote words and made a website. And I am worried about color and a button size? That’s awesome!

The near completion of my website, in reality, doesn’t totally alter how stressed I can be to actually finish it. But I am more comfortable that I have something to show. I can smile at the thousands of words in my google drive. I can smile at my Wix page that somewhat resembles a nice website.

Good luck and work hard in these next few weeks!

Challenge Journal 3: Home stretch to the home stretch

Something about this time of year is more painful than the actual scrambling done at the very end of the semester. You know the work will hit like a brick wall sooner than you can react to it. I even know in advance that I don’t want to stress myself out unnecessarily, that I should prepare and work methodically to get my work done quickly and with quality. But it’s the home stretch to the home stretch — there is an indescribable attribute about it that makes that kind of preparation impossible. And as I upsettingly stare at my cap and gown in my room as graduation looms, the pain of this homework/project/any responsibility purgatory is exacerbated.

Unfortunately, Writing 420 is not an exception to this feeling. I am steadily completing different aspects of my project, but I still feel as if I am running on a treadmill. There is progress in some capacity — I have been keeping up with my schedule for writing actual content — but I am not truly moving forward. Ideas pop into my head about what the site will look like, edits I will make to my current work, and the prospects of the future writing I will do. Yet, in this awkward part of the semester, those thoughts remain stagnant.

I wouldn’t characterize this time period as a rut necessarily, especially since there is some work being done. I just consider it to be a universal condition that other students are experiencing (but let me know if I am way off base with that). Anyway, I am not too sure if there is a quick fix to inspire just a bit more motivation. With what we have done in class, I feel like I have done the prep that I can. I also think that combining the short, random moments of focus I have will somehow result in the finalization of my project rather than a methodical approach.

Any and all words of encouragement are encouraged(!) here, and I hope you all can get through the home stretch to the home stretch and especially the actual home stretch without a hitch (say that 10 times fast).

Challenge Journal 2: I am going to try coffee

I guess I just never really cared to try it after all of these years. I made it through college without a morning cup of joe (only a non-coffee drinker would say that, right?), I won’t let a 9-to-5 change that.

I know trying it for the first time should not be a momentous occasion, but that’s exactly what it is for me. I have friends and family that predicate their entire existence off of coffee. Not having coffee goes against every cultural tenet that places coffee-drinking a rung below death and taxes. Faced with that notion, I knew trying coffee was invariably going to happen at some point in my life out of pure curiosity.

And now is that time.

Writing my project proposal is one of the most difficult writing assignments I have had in my college career. It is right there, sandwiched between 10- and 15-page essays. For the first time as a writing student, through the organized chaos and preparation that I typically approach every writing assignment with, I had no ideas of what to do. Through excruciating focus and chats with classmates and teachers, an idea met paper. But without a ritualistic upheaval, I know I will be stuck in writing purgatory for my capstone. Insert my first ever cup of hot java (I know I’m not doing this right).

What if I love it? God willing, I love that one cup of coffee and only that cup. Now, it is a risk (gastroenterologically, at least) that I am willing to take. To represent a breakthrough in my writing ritual. To maybe, in that very instance, give a caffeine boost as I write my next assignment. To transition into a writing style that dives in head first.

I have never encountered such a severe writer’s block for classwork. For better or worse, I am taking action that hopefully inspires a revitalized mindset.

Now I just need to figure out which coffee shop to go to.

Challenge Journal: Rituals (I really need some)

Three weeks ago, I sat in the beautiful, cavernous Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Here is where I would write my last game story for The Michigan Daily — one of over 200 in the past four years. And it sucked. I was writing an acerbic column about the football abomination that the Michigan football team displayed in the Peach Bowl, and the words weren’t coming to me. Had I learned nothing in college from this newspaper? I labored through cyclical writer’s blocks, thesaurus reading, and getting a comprehensible idea down on the page. When it was done, my editor said he loved it. But I still thought it sucked.

I can truly say that I don’t have trouble starting the writing process. Sure, I can experience the typical struggles every writer goes through, but at the end of the day I’m a punctual, detailed writer. I had never needed a routine: no specific location, drink of choice, or anything to get me moving. It just happens, and that thought process has given me a lot of comfort to get things done.

Despite the relative ease for me to put words down, my column writing experience from a few weeks ago is my norm. Even though the writing occurs, the process can be strenuous with little validation. And when I finish my work, I hardly feel overcome with joy or satisfaction. I call it being results-oriented, but even then I only submit work that feels good enough to me. This unfortunate realization sparked by this class has created a need for personal change. With a few added rituals, I hope to inspire confidence in my ability to rituals and become more process-oriented with my work. Hopefully then writing becomes a wholly delightful experience. Some rituals that I didn’t think I needed, but hope to implement include:

First, leave my house. I often get consumed by the convenience of my home: a bed, a bathroom, a TV, snacks, and friends are right there, so it’s where I work. But all of these factors ultimately distract from focusing on the writing process. With more frequent, smaller windows to type sentences, writing becomes more laborious. With a clearer, quieter mind, which can be found in a more remote work space, I can write within a stream of consciousness and examine my writing more completely.

Second, celebrate after a finished assignment. Nothing too fancy, but something to look forward to beyond closing computer tabs and my laptop like seeing a movie or buying a nice meal.

Yes, they are baby steps. But I think it’s a good start and I am open to any suggestions that others have to reward themselves for their writing.

Ethan Wolfe: Modifying Twitter political commentary

For better or worse, political commentary on Twitter has become a commonplace source for the average internet user to get their news. I, admittedly, receive a lot of my news from the site as well, but with character limitations and a fast-paced environment, the platform for news exchange must be reformed. Too often are users only following journalists that suit their agenda, and when two or more users engage in Twitter political “debate,” there is simply not enough room to give full context and that ends up as the detriment to both of the debaters. If it had to be changed for the better, it simply wouldn’t exist. But provided that that is not an option, it could only be enhanced by allowing for greater character limits as well as more users posting sources instead of hyperbolic anecdotes.

Ethan Wolfe: Who Can You Trust?

~Me~

What I chose to do for my repurposing — discussing the role of the benchwarmer in sports — dictated the entire theme of my portfolio and the actual content of my remediation and Why I Write essay. My repurposing welcomed me to write with a more personal, conversational tone. I didn’t have to do much research, I could be a little funny and add pictures, and I was able to demonstrate a more relatable tone. As a result, my remediation became people-centric as I attempted to interview and take pictures of others who could relate to my repurposing. For my Why I Write, I shared similar childhood anecdotes as I did in my repurposed draft, and felt compelled to convey a similar voice in order to maintain distinctiveness in my writing for my portfolio. Subsequently, all of these fallen dominos affected by process notes and certain images I posted on my site.

Had I not chosen to repurpose my feature article from The Michigan Daily, I would have repurposed a speech I wrote for the forensics team my junior year of high school. It was a heavily-researched piece about the ubiquity of sugar in our diets, and steps to mitigate some of its harmful effects. I can’t say for sure exactly what my repurposed topic would have been, but it would have centered around food. Undoubtedly, this would’ve made my portfolio perhaps more universally appealing provided what I would have done with my remediation and pictures on my website. Also, given the research I used in the original piece, the voice I would have used would be completely different, potentially emphasizing more professionalism in my portfolio.

So, Why do I trust myself in my assessment of Why I Write if I didn’t paint the whole picture? I have no reason not to trust my assessment, though. I’ve never interpreted writing as a skill that could just go unrealized. And I definitely believe that the process I took when wanting to emphasize my education in writing was an accumulation of other schoolwork and interests of mine. I also make the claim that I’ve never really thought of myself as a great writer, and that is perhaps a condition of me surrounding myself with excellent writers. The only reason I may have included some details that were influenced by my repurposing was to further detail the character I wanted to illustrate.

Ethan Wolfe: Portfolio Categories

Based on the way that I write and where I see my portfolio going, I would rank the four main categories for me (from strongest to weakest): Prose, Voice, Idea, Composition.

I know that I can intertwine these categories to benefit each other in my repurposing and remediation because my topic — the benchwarmer in sports — is a universally understood concept that, whether my argument is agreed upon or not, could incite meaningful discussion. This idea will be articulated well with comprehendible, quality prose and a unique voice that is also consistent with my “Why I Write” piece. If I can position this intriguing topic effectively under one cohesive voice, than it will inherently help the reader navigate my portfolio and understand my writing from start to finish. One aspect of my portfolio that I will have trouble addressing is a topical translation between my “Why I Write” and my other work. They are written similarly, but do not necessarily complement each other well. I will also have to figure out how to better express my process notes, because if I want the composition/environment to be encompassing than I will need more space and detail on my site to lay out my writing process.

Ethan Wolfe: Writer to Writer Sweetland Event

On Tuesday evening, I attended the Writer to Writer event at Literati hosted by Sweetland. The event featured a moderated discussion between Sweetland staff and dance historian Clare Croft, who also teaches at the University. The conversation included Croft reading passages from her previous and upcoming work, as well as how she came about approaching her writing and other scholarly advice. Initially, it was difficult for me to engage in the conversation because I was not particularly interested in the topic of dance and contemporary history, but some of her overarching messages proved to be universally relevant and beneficial. What stood out the most was when she remarked that “objectivity isn’t possible” — an idea that was debated in the gateway course. Croft continued this idea, stating that all writing, even for historical purpose, requires a deeper meaning that illustrates how the author thinks about presenting information, and any attempt at objectivity distorts the necessity of detail. On a similar chord, Croft noted that writing isn’t necessarily about communicating the truth, but rather a method of engagement. A final universal remark she shared was her feelings about the transition into online writing. While she believes written word will not become obsolete, the internet opened the floodgates to beautiful longform essays. The internet also became a platform for writers actually committed to their respective topics, as compensation isn’t as much and there is more competition. Overall, Croft offered a number of great tips for writing amidst her discussion of her work with dance history, and truly cemented the idea that combining external passions with writing will generate your best work.