Farvel!

(Author’s note: I’m officially 5% fluent in Danish, according to DuoLingo, so I’m trying to practice Danish every chance I get.)

With my project presented, pizza consumed, and a couple sad goodbyes now behind me, I can finally say, “Oh my god, it’s over.”

This semester has been a whirlwind. The first month or so was pretty slow, as I got into a routine. But then, as the leaves fell from the trees (taking my STRAT and ACC grades with them, tbh) everything got so much faster! I was reading my old posts (and also making sure I wrote enough of them because I solidly recall a point in November where I forgot that blogging existed and was a thing I was supposed to be doing) and some of them felt like they’d been written just yesterday!

Crazy how quickly life is moving.

I’m going to miss my class a lot. It was the smallest class I’ve ever had at U of M, so we were able to get really close. I’ll miss the workshops and I’ll miss T. I’ll miss grabbing falafel before class, and I’ll miss making the trek to East Quad from north campus.

The capstone course told me just how important collaboration and critiques are to the writing process. Before, I would usually just skim over my work and hope that everything was fine. Now, after realizing just how important it is to have many pairs of eyes look at your work, I’m more grateful than ever to have such amazing classmates. I know that, should I do any cool writing projects in the future (which I know I’ll have many in ENG 223 next semester) that my friends are some of my most valuable resources. To my classmates, thank you so much for everything. Thank you for laughing at my jokes, and thank you for telling me to fix my spacing and buttons. (I’m not the most design-conscious person.)

Catch y’all later!

Donut Dilemmas

I can’t believe we’re already decently into November. I was bored earlier and calculated that exactly one month from today is my final Concert Band concert and ACC 471 exam. Freaky.

This whole “Oh My God The End Of The Semester Is Near” stress-mess was triggered by the fact that my most fun, interactive part of my capstone project had to be pushed back a week. Long story short, I had family duties that outweighed my plan of posting up in the music school lounge, brandishing a big-ass box of Washtenaw Dairy donuts with a sign: “I’ll give you a donut if you tell me about the time you almost quit your instrument.”

I’d planned for two of these donut days, spaced about two weeks apart. The first day (a sort of pilot, if you will) is being transplanted from November 10th to November 16th…yikes. Which means that all the work that would’ve been done based on the interviews conducted on the 10th will begin almost a week late.

This creates two issues:

  1. OH MY GOD HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO CRAM BOTH THESE DAYS INTO A SINGLE WEEK OH MY GOD.
  2. What should I do instead of the donut-interviews between the 10th and the 16th? Obviously, I’m not about to make that entire week a write-off–it’s simply too late in the semester to think that’s even kind of a good idea. Instead, I think I’ll polish up the interviews with my horn professors that week, which actually creates a silver lining, now that I think of it: by polishing up their interviews earlier, I could think of even more important questions that would make the interviews even better–and I’d have more time to set up meetings with them.

Crisis averted…I guess?

One of my classmates suggested that I advertise the two donut days together, which I didn’t actually think about when they were both at their original dates. I think doing this would, as T said, create a frenzy around the interviews. Maybe people would want to be interviewed twice, or someone who went on the first day would tell their friends about the second day. Word of mouth, powered by donuts.

All in all, I guess I’m not too worried. On my last post, I said how I basically needed a good boot on the butt to get myself in gear. I’ve since created the website and have begun plugging the content in.

Who knows.

Maybe there’s hope yet.

Butt Kickings

Sometimes I’m absolutely shocked with how lazy I am. Seriously. On Saturday night, I told my friends on Central Campus that I got too drunk at a party on North Campus and couldn’t bus down; I told my friends on North Campus that I got too drunk at a party on Central Campus and couldn’t bus up. In reality, I’d ordered two pounds of boneless buffalo wings and vacuumed them into my face while watching “Stranger Things 2” stone-cold sober.

I’m just having trouble getting things down. I know–doesn’t that sound just kind of pathetic? I mean, I’m 21 years old, I’m applying for big girl jobs, and I’m unable to go to wix.com and start plugging my interviews into my template.

I need something to kick my butt about this, or it’s going to be nearly December and my head is going to be exploding because my project isn’t going the way I want it to go. So, in order to get better at holding myself accountable, I made a more date-oriented timeline. My old timeline was pretty much a giant checklist; this new timeline gives me bite-sized due dates for each part of my project. Having a teeny project eat week will make me a thousand times happier than having a giant deadline loom in December.

I think it’s also just getting to be that time in the semester. The time where sleeping in and wearing fuzzy socks sounds so much more enjoyable than heading to the library or to Espresso Royale, where I’ll staple myself to a chair and not let myself leave until the project is done. This past weekend, I made more of an effort to get more of my assignments done that were due in this week. Although I didn’t entirely enjoy spending Sunday up to my eyeballs in Facebook’s 10 K documents, I’m feeling a little bit more relaxed going into this week, and I think I’ll be able to get more done on the Capstone.

To hold myself accountable, I’m forcing myself to have chosen a template by this Wednesday, and to have it downloaded and edit-ready in my drive. If I can have a place to physically (virtually?) dump the documents I’ve curated, it’ll be a lot easier to see the project take physical shape, instead of just floating around in my brain. Having a place to upload my photos into is better than having a half-full folder in my phone. Having a place to start a “comments” section is better than explaining my Capstone project to my friends in between classes and hoping that they “get it”.

Quitterz

I ran a race last Saturday and I felt so miserable I genuinely wanted to quit. I wanted to pull off halfway through, collect my half marathon finisher’s medal, and head home. I didn’t–even though I really wanted to–but those last 13.1 miles of the race caused my already-tired mind to wander in funny directions. My thoughts shifted from the “now” (“Ugh, I really just want to quit this race!”) to the “then”–and by that, I mean thoughts of past “I quit!” moments.

I wrote my mom a letter when I was twelve years old about wanting to quit pop piano lessons. Long story short: she thought her classically trained kid would fare well in a popular music crash-course. Spoiler alert: I 100% did not fare well. So, in order to preserve whatever professionalism you’ve developed at twelve, I whipped out my best stationary and wrote her a note about why it would be best for me to quit. She took it well. However, that would be the last time I quit anything under her roof.

A couple of days ago, I asked if she had that note. She laughed and said, “Well, it’s probably somewhere around here…” And that was that.

Thoughts on quitting permeate nearly everyone’s minds. It’s human nature. When a human is put into a crappy, less-than-desirable situation, he or she will want to quit.

Thoughts on quitting were discussed Monday, during a quick conversation with one of my professors. He’s a marathon runner too and we both agreed that the Free Press Marathon was a complete suck-fest. I then asked him if he ever wanted to quit music and, to my surprise, he said that yes, he had. This was many years ago of course, but at the end of his sophomore year at Northwestern University, he wanted to stop being a music major.

This realization–the realization that many music majors have had moments where they’ve wanted to chuck their instruments into active volcanoes–sparked something in my mind. What if my capstone project was centered around those “I quit!” moments, but there was also a redemptive side: “I wanted to quit, but I didn’t!”

In typical Ellie-fashion, I torched my original plan. Now, in its place is a more collaborative work. I was thinking I could post up in the lobby of the music school armed with Washtenaw Dairy donuts and my polaroid camera. “I’ll give you a donut if you tell me about the time you almost quit your instrument,” I imagine myself saying about a hundred times.

Tell me what you guys think!

EVERYTHING IS FINE HERE

Everything went precisely to hell this semester.

I started out as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed little creature, flitting about North Campus like a coked-out baby deer. Fluffy, happy, ready to see each day as the beautiful gift that it was- this was me on September 8th, the first day of class.

And then it was September 9th and with that basically came the tidal wave of poop. Let me make a poop list. I’m not trying to have a ‘My Life is Busier than Yours!’ competition because no one likes the person who starts those, but let me just make a poop list. Poop list- 15 hours per week at a job; two hours of practicing a day; 18 credits; rehearsals; two hours a day of working out. So basically everything went to hell. I got my first D on an exam. Everything was seriously in hell. My boss yelled at me. Everything=in hell. I wasn’t performing as well as I hoped. Everything was getting roasted in hell. My pet rat started losing weight for no reasons, and everything was in hell.

This class- and my teacher Shelley- are two of the things that went to Home Depot, bought rope, filled a little basket with marshmallows and Moscato and everything else I like, and lowered it down to hell, thus luring my entire life back to earth.

I loved this class because it didn’t stress me out. Now, I know that sounds like a bullshit reason, but let me explain. My whole semester, I’ve been faced with the kind of stress that is centered around getting a final product. With horn, I was stressed because my playing wasn’t what I wanted it to be in the concert. With work, I was stressed because my boss would be mad at the end of the night if there was a complaint. There wasn’t a lot of room for wide-stretched growth, without running the risk of getting completely derailed because of short-term goals. With this class, I knew that the grades I got, I could make them better if I continued to work on the project. This was very comforting to me, because I knew that I could always keep improving and getting recognized for it. The short term deadlines were just that- deadlines. I had all the time in the semester to keep going back and making my work better, which was something I’d never felt in a class before. I never felt like my entire grade was resting on getting something done in the short term, because this class is so long-term based. This is not to say that I never felt the heat in this class. When I was scurrying to get my memoir done, I was really wigged out at the thought of not getting it finished in time. When I hit the submit button, I was excited because it was done, but I was scared that it wouldn’t be up to par. When I learned that I had more time to keep working on it before the ePortfolio deadline, I was thrilled!

Also, can we just take a moment to make a dope monument of Shelley Manis’ face and put it in the Diag? Like right next to the big M. People would avoid stepping on the M in pursuit of a good grade, people would avoid stepping on the Shelley monument in pursuit of a good life. I feel like this should be the university’s next sculptural idea.

So life went to shit this semester. But this class prevented me from sitting in a corner, quietly weeping and eating Thin Mints by the sleeve. And if that isn’t a positive experience, I don’t know what is.

I am going to be interesting and cool and hopefully have nice eyebrows until I am dead

I am going to be interesting and cool and hopefully have nice eyebrows until I am dead.

So let’s talk about egoism.

I liked Orwell’s explanation the best, and my favorite point he made was that all writers are egoists. We’re a little selfish, and a little full of ourselves. When I was a little child, my mom would get mad at me when I didn’t want to share my candy with my sister, and she’d say I was being selfish. What I wish tiny me would’ve said was, “Actually, mother, I’m developing key personality traits that will aid me in finding my voice and purpose as a writer, the writer I will grow into once I ascend and leave these Limited Too leggings behind me.”

I was a sanctimonious little shit, now that I’m looking back.

I guess, at the end of the day, I’m really scared of being remembered. I worry about a lot of things. Panicking is basically my second major. I worry that my boyfriend will leave me and I’ll get obese and I’ll die alone. I worry that I will literally fail my econ class. I worry about that freaky-weird mole on my leg and IT’S GETTING BIGGER OH MY GOD.

I write so I’ll be remembered, but also so I can remember. I hope I’m not getting weirdly personal here, but I’m scared of forgetting my life because Alzheimer’s runs in my family and I’m scared. And that’s where I’m going to tie in Sullivan’s works, his notions of creating a log, a written document to be read form the first page (the latest in the story) to the last page (where the story began). I even have a blog now! It’s really cool! I used a basic template to make it, and I’ve made like 26 cents from AdSense.

Killin’ it.

But, I like to go back and read my blog. I like to see how far I’ve come in a year as a person. I imagine going back to this Minor in Writing project and not only seeing how far I’ve come as a person, but how far I’ve come as a writer as well.

 

Everything is going to hopefully be OK

My pet rat is pooping in the hood of my sweatshirt.

If this isn’t a allusion to what this entire semester is turning into, I hope this image provided you with a little bit of joy. Enough joy, at least, for you to get through this blog post and maybe want to hold my little hand at the end of it, because nothing is going exactly according to plan. I didn’t plan on doing this particular medium for the remediation project; I didn’t plan on having rat poop in my hood.

But that is life.

I completely undervalued the concept of a rough cut with the first time around, and it was probably because my plan was to birth this massive memoir that would eat my life but be beautiful and inspiring. Instead, what happened, was I birthed a smallish memoir that was sort of funny and sort of whiny, but I mean whatever, it’s cool- but it ate my life nonetheless and my ‘rough cut’ turned more into basic editing. With this project, I’m already working on exactly how I’m going to do each take- literally, because Ted Talks and cinematography!- and how I’m going to go about organizing them. Let me first tell you, to get this out of the way and to do away with any judgments, that my rough cut it being done tomorrow evening.

With an iPhone.

Here’s how that conversation went, featuring Roommate Extraordinaire:

Me: “Hey, I’m going this project.”

RE: “Mmhm.”

Me: “Can you help with it?”

RE: “Do I have to actually exert effort?”

Me: “No, we’ll rent a camera from the library.”

RE: “Those take like three days to process.”

Me: “Then we’ll use an iPhone.”

RE: “You need to get it together.”

So, the rough cut of that is slowly coming along, but I’m actually feeling pretty good about it!

The thing that literally keeps me up at night is the ePortfolio. I suck at two things the most in life, and those two things are:

-Technology. I have the technological gifts of cavemen and the electronic social media presence of a five-year-old hyped up on candy corn and mountain dew. Any professional post I try to make oozes sarcasm, a little at least. And every coarsely-worded, actually sarcastic post makes someone cry, usually my ex-boyfriend’s mom. Leslie didn’t get the humor, apparently. Poor Leslie.

-Aesthetic. What are color schemes, how do you format things? How do you use text boxes? IS IT STILL OK TO USE WORDART, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY.

Creating this thing is going to be a lot of work. Getting people to like it is going to be even harder. As I read through this portion of the book, my eyes keep going back to the same thing, the concept of being ready and able to receive feedback, and this is the concept I’m most excited about. My memoir was personal, and, if I could go back and do it all again, there’s no way in hell I would ever write something like that for a public audience. I wish I’d done something else- anything else! I couldn’t done a cinquain. Or a haiku. Or something. I’m just so excited to be comfortable enough with this project to have people really dig into it, and, in turn, to use what they think as my motivation to improve it!

I’m still confused on one thing, and I’m hoping that you guys can help me/not judge me because this question seems overly basic: What’s a GOOD revision plan for this project? I have some ideas written down, some funny hooks and some camera things to keep the program chugging along, but how do I go about revising something that it semi-improvised, a little bit different each time around? Should I have a concrete revision plan for the things in my talk unrelated to the content, and a separate one relating to the spoken words? Or should I meld them together?

Let me guys know if you have ideas!!!

How to Make a Ted Talk that isn’t nauseating

Ted Talks were basically currency at my high school. If the class was good during a stressful time, a substitute teacher, a guest speaker: boom! You got to listen to a Ted Talk at the end of the week. You wanted a credible source that didn’t bore you to the point of tears: boom! Ted Talk. You want to appear cultured and educated in front of your peers while actually enjoying yourself: boom! Ted Talk.

I love me a good Ted Talk. I love the way it tickles my brain, I love how the stage is set up and there’s a spotlight on a person and there they are, talking about what makes them happy, about what they’ve discovered. About their little piece of the world they carved from the pie, and just how sweet it is.

That being said, my topic isn’t scientifically splendid, argumentatively ardent, nor tantalizingly truthful. I am not a scientist, a therapist, an explorer. I am a 19-year-old art-fart with a thing for French horns and alliterations.

I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.

The only thing out of every cool Ted Talk I’m pretty sure I’ve got in the bag is the hook. I can tell a story about an profound experience I’ve had with music and I can grab everyone’s attention. I can be snarky and fun, I can be myself and use my voice and hopefully most people won’t viscerally hate it.

The tagline of a Ted Talk is “a nonprofit for ideas worth spreading” but I’m not really sure which of my ideas are worth spreading, and which haven’t been gone over before. I’ve seen the Ted Talks on music education, and I think they’re awesome. They make me so happy! And I’ve seen a Ted Talk on an instrument made with fire and soundwaves, I’ve seen one done by a music therapist, I’ve seen one done by an orchestra director. All of these inspired me, they all made me want to crawl into a practice room and bash my horn into my head until what poured out of it sounded nice.

But what exactly are my ideas, I’m wondering. And what makes them worth spreading?

The technology-aspect, I’ve got. I’ve got a camera and a mic, I’ve got a cool stage I could use. I could write a speech pretty decently, I feel, if I was inspired and had time to edit it. Hell, I could even trundle down to Banana Republic and get myself a blazer. But the content of my talk, that’s the kicker.

I have no idea.

I’m Averaged and Privileged and Here’s my Memoir

I’m writing a memoir, and my parents literally have a white, picket fence. It stands outside my mother’s crab apple tree, and one time a douche-bag dear knocked one of its posts over, but it was ok because we had it repaired. I suppose I could even write about that, after all, aren’t I supposed to be writing about my life from a street-view, or from an areal perspective, or maybe even staring up from the bowels of Hell. I don’t know. I’m rambling. This is what writing only about yourself does to you- your brain picks itself inside out entirely, fishing for just the right details so you don’t look like a pretentious arse, but also so you don’t sound like a simpering bimbo.

I only include the bit about the picket fence to assure you that I don’t know suffering.

I don’t live in a war-stricken country, I don’t have abusive parents, I haven’t bounced through the foster care system, I haven’t been hit by a car, struck by a fist, or publically humiliated. I’ve lived a comfortable life. So comfortable, in fact, it leaves out all the elements that make dope memoirs, dope. I’m no Amy Poehler, Irene Vilar, or Tina Fey. I’m just Ellie.

I took this blog post I wrote a few months ago for a class, about why I was pursuing a career in music, and what exactly I wanted to come of it. I wrote that post in approximately seven minutes, and it was as sterile as a latex glove. It got me a A, probably because I listed off things I could do with my degree and vomited out words like ‘pedigogy’ and ‘resume.’ But it wasn’t interesting. It listed off what I wanted to do with my life.

My memoir is about what I’ve done, and less about where I’m going. I like fishing through old conversations for cool old dialogue I can use. I have words spoken to me when I was falling in love, crying about an audition, and sitting in my underpants eating chocolate Krave cereal. These conversations, although broken apart, disjunct, and probably butchered a fair bit, are what keeps me human, and I love them more than I could ever try to love a sterile, boring list.

Writing about yourself is uncomfortable. Because, for ever beautiful little moment that starred you and your own vivid cast of characters, there are a hundred more boring ones. There are days when I sat on my ass and played my horn for a little bit and went on the internet and went to sleep. There are more of these days than I can remember, and this becomes increasingly evident as I scan through old memories and realize there are entire months that are insignificant.

And then there are the worse moments- there are the ugly ones.

Jesus Chirst, I was an asshole about some things. I was really rotten to my mother, and I ran from my responsibilities and I shouted at my sister and I said that my French horn was the worst thing ever and I hated it with ever fiber of my being. The ugly moments suck the most because they remind me of precisely the person I don’t want to become. The ugly moments are the ones I don’t want to write about, but probably should anyways.

Research is actually tolerable (sometimes)

I’ve never really considered how my role of a writer shaped the roles of my readers, or just how integral research was to this whole process. I used to just sort of shuffle along, stringing words together to make sentences with about as much grace as a drunken water buffalo. Whenever research was needed to support a claim, I’d try to make something that wouldn’t get me slammed by the anti-plaigarism websites, yet still be interesting enough to get that sought-after A. After reading this article, I realized how important my own stance with this research is. I don’t mean whether or not I’m passionate about whichever issue I’m siding with, rather how interesting I find my work. I learned that, if I find what I’m learning to be really interesting, I can present it in a way that conveys my own enthusiasm, and that joy will be transmitted to the readers and aide their learning. ┬áBefore, I thought that if I’d gather some cool facts and squish dumb transition words in between them, my readers would hum to themselves, “That was ok, I guess,” and that would be that. But now, I realize that my enthusiasm can serve as a sort of glue, an adhesive that sticks the readers to my claims and reinforces them even more.

The author stresses that few people read research reports for fun, and this is wildly true unless you’re my roommate who occasionally reads entire Wikipedia works cited pages when they’re drunk. In order to make someone read our research WITHOUT the aid of alcohol, it’s super important that we gain their trust and create a fun and functional relationship with them. (Or else they’ll hit the bottle again and that’s how we know we’ve truly failed them.) I now recognize that I’ve never really been too great at forging this type of connection, especially from my research. I’d usually try to slap some cutesy little introduction or conclusion onto a paper and hope to get a collective “Awwwww!” from the audience. I didn’t realize how shared enthusiasm about the topic could accomplish this same feat, with a whole lot less obnoxious simpering.

Another thing I never really considered was that the author got to cast not only her own role, but the role of the readers. I always just assumed the readers came as they were and read whatever the writer provided for them. I never thought that the author could select, or even mold, her audience based on her own work. I guess I’ve seen this sort of thing happen many times before in my life- someone puts down a book or a research report simply because it doesn’t suit their style, and moves along to the next one. The author can craft her work in a way that will draw the audience she hopes to reach. I’m working on my memoir right now, and I’m struggling a fair bit with my voice. I’ve drawn on various sources, other memoirs, and online forums, to try to work with it a bit more. In my writing, I’m planning on using mechanics to draw the kind of audience I want- except I’m not really sure what kind of audience I want, or how I’m going to lure them in. I really need to work on this :/