The Magic of Football

A bird floats down and gently lights on a branch, whistling sweetly to all of his bird friends.  Well, actually a frat star across the street decides to blast ear-splitting music while playing terrible drinking games with terrible beer.  But still, the air is chilly and crisp, but not uncomfortable.  The sun is shining, yet offering only slight warmth.  Trees are colored with bursts of red and orange.  Classes are briefly suspended; homework is unnecessary.  The stress that college so generously offers is missing, even if it is only for today.  Yet today offers more than just beautiful brisk weather and an absence of classes.  Today offers football.  It’s a fall Saturday.

Days like this are the ones I live for.  I’ve been trekking to Michigan Stadium with 100,000 of my very best friends (for a day) since I was six years old.  And every time I enter that tunnel to see the vastness of that oversized bowl, the magic of football is overwhelming.

This Saturday was no different.  Walking into the stadium, I was filled with anticipation and anxiety, ready for football to finally kick off.  And the next four hours were hardly disappointing: a whirlwind of emotions culminating in one final triumphant moment.  It was everything football is meant to be, and it was an example of why I love the sport.

So…I’m a Senior

Well, this is it: senior year.  In seven (!) short months, I’ll be finished with this “school” thing that has plagued me since I was a little tot who couldn’t tie his own shoes.  My entire schooling career, I’ve been focused on the end—the end of homework, the end of exams, the end of papers.  And yet here I am, almost at the end, and I just wish I had one more year.

Maybe it’s the great time I’ve had at Michigan—the friends I’ve made and the memories I’ve created are second to none.  Or maybe it’s this University—it just feels like home.  Maybe it’s the Big House or Crisler or Yost that I’ll miss.  Maybe it’s all those fun and exciting classes I’ve ta—okay, maybe not that.  Whatever it is, I know this: I’ve changed.  I don’t want to be done.  I want to stay in this fantasy world where all my friends live within a mile of my house, I work only 30 hours a week, and I can stay at home and sleep whenever I want.  The real world of jobs and responsibilities and taxes and wives and children and suits and ties (although I do kind of like ties) and mortgages and teenagers and stress and monotony is a scary world.  I don’t want to do all that.

Can’t I just skip to retirement?

Reflecting on Writing

From the beginning of this course, Professor Manis has made it clear that we need to write about things that make us excited.  Good writing never stems from a topic that is uninteresting to the writer.  In all my previous English classes, I’ve felt as if I had to write on a specific topic, creating something catered towards my professor’s idea of a perfect essay.  I’ve really enjoyed the remediation projects because they’ve allowed me to focus my time and writing on a topic that I enjoy: football.

He's so fast. Image Credit: NY Daily News

In creating my remediation pieces, I’ve enjoyed broadcasting my ideas in different mediums.  My piece detailing why college football is superior to the NFL started off as a boring research paper.  The ideas behind the piece were meant for a free-flowing opinion piece you might find in the editorial section of the magazine.  However, the strict confines of my English 125 class forced me to write a stiff, factual piece that, honestly, proved nothing.  Sure there were facts in the essay, but my intended audience (sports fans) don’t want to read about random ticket price figures or stadium sizes.  They want to identify with the experience behind the game.

In re-purposing my research paper to be a more informal journal article found in an online magazine, I created something that my intended audience might actually read.  And that’s the most exciting part of the whole re-purposing thing.  Until this point, all my papers for every other class have just taken in facts and then spit them out with pretty wording.  No one would ever want to read the piece (besides my professors, and maybe my parents).  Now?  I have an article that’s not just factual, but also interesting.  And that’s exciting.

Thoughts on John U. Bacon’s Talk

First of all, let me say this: I loved listening to John U. Bacon talk about why he writes last week.  I’ve always enjoyed his books and writing style, but hearing about what drives him as a writer was a great experience.

His stories about waking up early in the morning and writing in a freezing cold building or coming home late from a party and cranking out a ten page story were inspiring anecdotes that showed me what “following your passion” really means.  It’s a phrase we hear a lot, especially looking forward to our future jobs.  The question, “I don’t know what to do!” is almost always answered with another question, “Well, what do you love to do?”  While this never actually helps me out (I don’t know what to do because I’m not sure what I love to do), it’s still an important topic to think about.  John U. Bacon was inspiring because he knew what he loved to do, and he followed it.

But here’s the thing: Bacon didn’t inspire me to write more.  In fact, he made me realize that I’m NOT a writer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I realized that I don’t have that need to write that Bacon advocated for.  Sure, I enjoy writing, and I think it’s interesting what I can create with words, but really, I typically write for an agenda.  I write to influence people or to have some kind of impact.  I’m not destined to be a writer.

Still, he inspired me to look for what I do love to do.  What do I NEED to do?  What makes me as satisfied as writing makes Bacon?  I’m not sure yet, but I’m excited to search for it.

Aspiring to be great

Professional writers impress me.  In any discipline, you need to have others to aspire to be, and as far as writing goes, the best writers are just too good.  They know exactly how to place their words and phrases to get the most meaning out of their writing.  Every time I write, I try to write as a professional (Bill Simmons is really the guy I look up to), but my words never seem right.  I can’t describe things the way I want to.  My metaphors just aren’t up to par.

In order to be a good writer, I need to become more creative.  This falls in line with improving my metaphors.  Describing my ideas appropriately takes creativity, and I feel like I lack it.  I don’t know if I have what it takes to be the quality of writer Bill Simmons, but I guess I can try.

Why do I really write?

Why do I keep writing?  I’ve already written an entire essay about it, and through that process found that I write to influence others and write to have a lasting impact past simple conversation.  Those things are both true, and create the focus for most of my personal writing.  I really do desire to influence others and have a lasting impact, but that still doesn’t explain why I keep writing.

I don’t even really know what I expect out of all this writing I’m doing.  As of now, I’ve taken multiple writing classes (English 125, 225, 325 and now Writing 200), but I still don’t really know why.  I hide behind the pretenses of wanting to improve my writing skills and of wanting to become a more attractive potential employee.  I’ve found myself claiming that “writing is applicable in any field” way too often.  I know I write for these reasons, but writing only to look good for potential employers?  It seems so empty, lacking any real meaning.

What will my writing look like after graduation?  My undergraduate career has always involved at least one writing class, so my reasons for writing were pretty self-explanatory.  After graduation, I’ll lack that constant direction teachers give me, and so I have no idea if I will continue to write.  Will I write for fun?  Will I search for online publications to write for in my spare time?  Will my writing continue to improve?  I have no idea, but I’m excited to find out.

Bill Simmons as an Inspiration

Writing is a tough skill to master.  After hearing Bill Simmons interview with the Huffington Post, I came to realize that excellence really only comes through practice.

I played baseball my entire childhood, and the common phrase (it’s common in any sport) was “practice makes perfect.”  Well, I was a lazy little kid, so I never really did much of that “practicing” thing, yet I still expected perfection.  Time and time again I would fail, either in the field or at the plate, but after each failure I realized that I could only really blame myself.  I hadn’t put in enough time to expect excellence.  And so it never came.

Writing is no different.  With each sentence, each phrase, I expect excellence.  I haven’t found it yet.  But the more I write, the more I realize that I can only find that excellence through constant writing.  Simmons mentions that writing every day is the best thing a writer can do for their career.  I have to agree.  I want to improve my writing, so I need to practice.  And practice again.  Write, and blog, and write, and blog.  Then maybe I’ll see my writing start to resemble something I can be proud of.

Simmons inspired me to write every day, but he also showed me how to write.  While I was listening to his interview, I just felt like I was reading one of his posts.  His column personality is the same as his actual personality.  This is a quality I shoot for in most of my writing: the ability to fully express my ideas and communicate with my audience in a conversational tone.  When someone is reading my writing, I want them to feel like I’m in the room with them, just having a simple conversation.  I want my writing to be influential, but not overbearingly so.  I want my writing to be easy to read and easy to relate to.  As I write more, I realize how hard it is to effectively communicate my ideas.  The only way to do this is to write.  And read.  And write.

Thoughts on Blogging

Stumbling through the desert of blogging.

I’ve always seen blogging as the ugly little sister of writing.  During my time in middle and high school, we were always told to never trust anything online, especially blogs.  A site where anyone could post anything they want?  There was no way that could foster any type of learning or growth.  Encyclopedia Britannica, New York Times, and Time Magazine were the only sources we could truly trust.  Blogs were the evil part of the internet.  The part parents protected their children from.  The reason why children had to ask their parents before “surfing” the web (remember when that was a thing?).  Blogs were the desert of the internet: dry, and without any useful information.  Anyone who ventured onto a blog would surely perish.

I’m new to blogging, but I’ve found that those reasons that blogging was (and is) frowned upon are actually the same things that make blogging worthwhile in the first place.  Anyone can write whatever they want.  Blogging is a free form of writing, absent of the word counts, specified content, and editors that are omnipresent in printed work.  It is a way for writers to truly express themselves, speaking to an audience that is willing to listen and engage, offering their own ideas in contrast to the author’s.  Blogging is where writers grow.  They learn about their flaws.  They learn how their ideas may need tweaking.  They learn how to connect with an audience that is ever-present.  Blogging frees writing from the shackles placed on it by professionalism.

I’m learning to like blogging.  I can experiment with different styles of writing without a constricting prompt or the pressure to receive a good grade.  Instead, I write freely, expressing my ideas with the understanding that they may be challenged, attacked, and spit back at me.  But that’s what learning is all about.  Sitting in the bubble of printed writing is no way to grow as a writer, or even as a person.  Blogging puts me on display for the world to see.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I have no idea what I’m doing

There are a lot of things I don’t know how to do: I have no idea how to surf, I can’t draw people (although my stick figures are delightful), and I can’t snap my fingers (don’t laugh).   But I know that I’m bad at those things.  I’ve had a lifetime—well, 20 years of one—to get past it.  I only draw stick figures, and I move my fingers in a snappy-like motion if I ever need to be involved in a group snap ritual.

Now I have to create an e-portfolio.  I’ve never created my own website, blog, or anything like it.  I have no idea what I’m doing, and yet this project will put me on display for the world to see (okay…maybe like twenty people).  That’s the scariest part…I don’t have a clue how to make this e-portfolio, and if it sucks there’s no turning back.

Exactly.

Still, the fact that this project is so unknown is exciting.  I can do anything I want with my e-portfolio.  As I saw in examples from the fall cohort, their portfolios were a representation of the things they are passionate about.  Many of them had essays on topics related to their major, while others contained topics it seemed like the authors loved.  As I’ve seen through the Writing 200 class so far, writing is an open exercise.  Writing prompts that are too strict often lead to misguided writing, as the authors are not able to fully express their ideas.  I look forward to having the freedom to create an e-portfolio that is entirely my own, full of things that I’m passionate about.

Writing only crosses into the territory of “good writing” when the author is writing about something they actually care about.  This is the kind of writing I want in my e-portfolio.