The Fight with Words.

In full disclosure, my relationship with words is in the struggle lane right now. Words and I are at odds. We’re fighting – think Rocky and Apollo Creed – and neither side is giving in.

So much of life feels like a service to others. I work tirelessly in my job serving others. I love those closest to me by serving them – being fully present in their lives. That’s the way it should be, right? Someone once told me that a key to life was simply “showing up.” Showing up for relationships, showing up for intellect, showing up for growth. But what if I’m tired? What if I continually show up and no one/nothing is there to greet me?

I’m in Salt Lake City, on my way to Oregon, and then on my way to California shortly thereafter. I’m here in the airport with our team and rest of the human race (many of the latter are decked out in camouflage).  On the whole, my purpose on the road (and at home, for that matter) is the serve this team, for lack of a better framing. What has my life come to?

At this moment, I’m discouraged by words. I’m frustrated in language. Frankly, I’m just tired and lack creative thought. It’s as if I’ve come to a fork in the road: to serve the person next to me or to serve my own self-exploration through writing. I need Sylvester Stallone to inspire me. I need him to tell me how to beat Apollo Creed and become his best friend at the same time.

Where are you, Rocky?

Storyboard: “His Name is Neil.”

(I’ve once again put my writing self out there and experimented with a foreign form of pre-writing: storyboarding. Because of the nature of my argument, I would not necessarily benefit from mapping out my re-mediation frame-by-frame. I’ve instead tried to use the exercise to write out my vision and purpose for the project in words, hoping to find some sort of clarity (and frankly confidence) as we move to our rough cuts. Hold your judgments… I’m a storyboardin’ rookie.)

Author’s Note (Re-Mediation Storyboard: “His Name is Neil”)

I believe that I have changed my medium six or so times for this re-mediation project of the course. I just feel like I’m continually unhappy with my ideas or find myself not to being able to execute the argument in the way that I want. Frustration is an understatement. After tirelessly trying (and failing) to get in contact with the actual man that I am profiling, I think I’ve decided to display my same argument to my same audience of relatively affluent, influential, middle-aged, motivated citizens of London. I envision this visual display published by Telegraph Media Group to be placed in the Westfield London Shopping Center – Europe’s largest urban shopping mall with international brands, a fresh food court, etc. I think that I can show the person and unsung hero that is Neil in the London borough that he works to improve every day. My concerns moving forward revolve around the effectiveness of the argument in this form and whether or not it is consistent with my overarching purpose.

Saving the Runt.

As a child rests his head on his mother’s shoulder, images of a fire-breathing dragon guarding an abandoned castle illuminate the imagination visible deep within his eyes. As a little girl sits upon her father’s lap, a handsome prince defeats the dragon and saves her, for she is the maiden princess. These stories and so many others are everywhere, hiding around every corner of childhood and tucked beneath every blanket before bed. The stories we tell often vary in moral, in character, and in design.  Do these stories matter? Coming to life at bedsides around the world, our stories have immense power. They determine what we hold dear, they shape who we are, and they mold us into who we will become. The power of stories is not one-dimensional, only having influence on a particular facet of life, but rather multi-dimensional, shaping listeners and, ultimately, changing their lives.

I have my own little girls. We go on fairy hunts, draw faraway lands with neon sidewalk chalk and eat Washtenaw Dairy ice cream like it’s a dietary necessity. Per tradition, we read a minimum of three books before bed. I love when a narrative starring a protagonist female captures their attention. I silently say to myself, “Be bold, be strong like her, little ones.” After book number four or five, I’m often met with incessant pleas: “Emmy, can we please just read one more? Please…”

And so as they fall asleep, I realize that these tales are not simply tales, but arguments. They are rigorous and complex (for the innocent mind). They are scholarly because they are helping to shape tomorrow’s academics. They are peer reviewed by every child asking to read just one more book before they rest their heads.

And sometimes, saving the runt of the litter is the most admirable thing a girl could do.

How I Write: “Never take what you do too seriously.”

As I sat and listened to the story of Shelia Murphy, Associate Professor of Screen Arts & Cultures (Tuesday, October 23), I had an epiphany of sorts. From a child writing a letter on Manila paper (hate that stuff) with his favorite Crayola or an academic scholar in new media publishing a book putting societal performance in a dialogue with television, writers are just humans. They have flaws and shortcomings. They sometimes can’t do it all and have complete and utter meltdowns in the face of adversity. Sometimes the writer doesn’t feel like the heroine of her story. And that’s okay.

Professor Murphy’s candid portrayal of her journey as a writer was so real. It was filled with tremendous highs and devastating lows. As a student with no prior history with her at U-M, I truly appreciated Professor Murphy’s honesty and genuine thoughts during her brief talk. Although I don’t know her, it just felt like she was being herself for the entire hour – nobody more, nobody less. I feel like this correlates perfectly with her message of being inquisitive in life because YOU want to know why. She reflected on times when she needed encouraging words from friends to keep writing, or to even start to put sentences on a page. She said, verbatim, “Writing can be lonely if you let it be.” So often I’ve felt this way and just thought my emotions were my demises (which is often the case – If I’m not sitting between a 4 and a 6 on the scale of emotions, I’m crying).

My favorite piece of Professor Murphy’s talk came at the very end. She left us with some ordinary advice that, for one reason or another, felt kind of extraordinary on this night. “Never take what you do too seriously.” I may just be in a phase of life where I’m constantly frustrated with coworkers, expectations, relationships, my production, the ideas I try to express every day, but I needed to hear this simple line. I needed to be reminded that I’m human and can’t always be Superman’s Lois Lane: I can just be Emily.

Be Emily.

Writing for Alison.

Writing’s a funny thing. It’s expression and insight and emotion and fulfillment and hurt and LIFE. Through the course of writing for this class — of exposing the root of purpose behind language — I am able to articulate my thoughts and feelings more effectively in everyday conversation. You want to talk meta? Let’s talk meta. You want to know my opinion? I’ll give you my opinion with substantive reasoning and support. You want to say that a tweet isn’t an argument put forth by the tweet-er? Lies, I’ll show you.

The blog prompt for this upcoming week comes with perfect personal timing: “Post about something writing-related on your mind.”  Alison is on my mind. It’s been ten years since we lost her, but she gave us 16 years of beautiful memories. The 20th of October is always a hard day. This year, a decade later, I tweeted about Al. I read the many Facebook posts by friends and family members about her kind heart. I liked the photo on her Mom’s wall.

We’re changing and evolving, but the dialogue continues. Writing adapts and transforms with us. Writing helps us remember.

My life has been blessed by YOU my little freind,

Your faith and understanding, never seeming to bend.

Your years in numbers are that of a teen, 

Your reliance on God, far deeper than I’ve ever seen.

Your courage astounding, an example to us all,

For whatever God’s ask, you’ve answered His call.

Your strength a reminder of what God can provide,

By your willingness to share, and not run and hide.

You’ve reminded us all that this, a temporary place,

Is just a glimpse of God’s amazing grace.

Through prayer and petition, you’ve done your part,

Sharing with friends, weighing heavy on your heart.

You’ve fought the battle, a brave little soul,

Never doubting at all, your Heavenly goal.

My hero and inspiration, a priceless gift from above,

Your heart overflowing, with His power and love.

Our freindship unique, between young and old,

And secrets forever, never again to be told.

You’ve etched in my mind, your beautiful smile,

Completing my days, making them more worthwhile.

Thank you dear friend, for the joy you’ve given me,

A special place in my heart, forever you’ll be.

Sketch Draft: “His Name is Neil.”

(In case anyone is curious about this thing we call “sketch” drafting, I thought I’d post my novice attempt for all of cyberspace to take a gander at. Hold your judgments.)

Author’s Note (Re-Purpose Sketch: “His Name is Neil”)

First and foremost, I love the clear perspective that this sketch draft has given me for our re-purposing project. I originally sat down to draw my vision out when my mother, my most honest editor and writing pusher, questioned some of my initial thoughts on audience and the way I strategized to reach that audience. “All the dots just aren’t connecting, Em,” she claimed. I decided that before I did anything, I should sit down and map it all out, really “flesh out” my thoughts. Through this process, I found it hard to keep myself on a lone trail/centered around a common idea. I loved experience so much that I found myself wanting to pull in a number of different directions. Ultimately, the sketch draft helped me to see my flow of ideas and how I need to better connect those ideas to come up with a cohesive and purposeful piece. My only hesitation moving forward in the drafting process is my overall structure of the article. I’m working to model it after the structure of similar sketches by the Daily Telegraph. However, I do want mine to portray Neil as a human being sacrificing who he is for who he will become/what his cause will become.

Bloggin’ Girl.

Moment of honesty: blogging is still a process for this girl. While I blogged for my study abroad experience this past spring (separately for my program requirements and for my job), I still am not an effortless blogger. Sometimes I feel Andrew Sullivan must just spit rhymes in the form of blogs with such ease. After perusing some of your blog posts for this week, Joe’s three-prong blog characterization really struck me. His first prong reads, “Blogging is instant.” Yes and no, Joe. Yes and no.

In “Why I Blog,” Sullivan goes to great lengths to explain the immediacy of the blog form – that words can be disseminated across the world in the span of seconds. But it is seconds… not a second. It’s an almost-instant… not an instant. I feel like my evolution of blogging is like jumping from rock to rock in a fast-moving creek. (Hold on to your seats because this may get deep.) It’s like the water is opinion, judgement and, ultimately, the eyes that skim my work. The rocks are moments of writing clarity, where I feel like I’m expressing what I want to say in the way I want to say it, and at the moment I want to make it known. Isn’t that what all this is about? Making your thoughts known, yourself heard?

Blogging is not an instant act for me. It involves vocally organizing my words, forming a unique thread or theme to weave through each post, using sentences to communicate that theme and tying up loose ends or underdeveloped ideas to finally post it in cyberspace. This is far from instantaneous. My creative juices need to stretch and get warmed up before the World Wide Web is going to have the freedom (and right, quite frankly) to judge my words.

Moving forward with the re-purposing and re-mediating projects, I know this will still be a process. I know that I need to allow for time to rip my apart work and put it back together.

I know I have to give myself the opportunity to land on as many rocks as I possibly can.

Garnet Canyon – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

One of the purest places on Earth.

 

ePortfolio Woes.

ePortfolio.

Does that funny, little word scare you? Not even a little bit?  I like to not capitalize the “e” so it seems less daunting. The thought of constructing an artifact to represent me – as a student, a writer, a human being – seems like trying to climb the Great Wall of Expectations. So much of our lives are a performance: we only use social media photos and witty profile descriptions that portray us in a favorable light; we often extend a hand to introduce ourselves, only to be greeted by a knuckle-crunching handshake and a little voice inside your head reminding you of advice your mother gave you for your first job interview at the town ice cream parlor, “Make a good first impression, hunny.”

Question: Why does building an ePorfolio feel so overwhelming? And how do I determine a meaningful way to “present myself as a writer” in this format?

Answer: (Nada. Zip. Zilch.)

All I know is this: I want to present myself as a human being first, a writer second. I want my audience (whoever that may be) to see that I fail, and sometimes fail with guns blazing. I want to show that the act of writing is so much more to me than putting together language to form lines. I want to build a roadmap of my writing adventure, including detours and dead ends. I want to create something to be proud of, something that my mother – my life’s secret weapon – will be proud of. I want to ENJOY the process.

Pressure much?

He thinks so too.

Say What You Mean. Mean What You Say.

 

“So, what are you trying to say?”

This phase has been uttered far too many times in the history of phase uttering. Why can’t everyone just understand what everyone else means? (Do you understand?) What’s wrong with a little clarity in our lives? And besides, mystery is SO overrated.

But what if all the misunderstanding is due to our reading inadequacies? Christina Haas and Linda Flower make a case for the weight of “rhetorical reading” and, in turn, meaning construction (“Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning,” 1988).  The piece addresses rhetoric from the lens of the reader, the person whose eyes stream across the page picking up language and turning it into meaning. The authors argue that the way in which readers read varies across experience levels as they employ techniques to make that meaning. They also claim that a reader must read for purpose, motivation, intended audience and a foundation of deeper understanding as opposed for “merely an information exchange.”

We’ve been drilled through grade school, almost as if our hands write and our eyes read like puppets on the end of an instructor’s string. What’s really interesting is that our minds are the true pieces of value, according to the authors. It’s what we believe and interpret that’s important, not simply what we see and regurgitate.

Frankly, I’ve never been so meta with my own meaning making before. I would never think twice when constructing my thoughts on a Boxcar Children chapter book, TIME column, E:60 short documentary, etc. Was I thinking original thoughts or thoughts that the author intended me to think? Was it me they were targeting or was I a new sector of audience intruding with interpretation? I don’t have any answers, but I do have a new perspective from which to view.

So, do you get what I’m trying to say?

Josiah’s Time.

As we reflect on why we write and move forward selecting some pieces for the re-purposing project, I wanted to share one of my favorite stories. It’s the story of Josiah and the full life he lives. More than the visual images of him playing baseball, listen to the words journalist Tom Rinaldi chooses. Rinaldi doesn’t use words decoratively. He doesn’t dress something up with an unnecessary adjective. He writes (and narrates) purposefully and intentionally.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ll find ourselves using language for purpose and with intention.

E:60 Josiah’s Time