This is the end

It is crazy that my time here at Michigan is coming to an end. It is absolutely bittersweet. Growing up, I all always heard people speaking highly about their time in college. The all too common, it was the best years of their lives saying had me very excited to attend. And I immediately loved college.

I know for some people there is an adjustment period or a time where there are some second thoughts about if you chose the right school, but I didn’t experience either of those.  I felt like I loved college from the start. I went to a small high school, and I was so excited to meet a bunch of new people each and every day. The last four years were exceptional, so I am sad to see it coming to an end. But graduating college, a good college, also feels incredible.

I think at this age, or in this past year, the job hunt and thinking about my future at times has had me thinking I haven’t accomplished enough yet. When I didn’t hear back from I job I would think to myself, I haven’t done enough. I don’t think I am going to be thinking that very often after this weekend. Graduating from a good school like Michigan is a tremendous accomplishment. I think we can agree on that and have that with us moving forward. So pretty sappy, but that is what I have been thinking about that.

While this is the end of my time at Michigan, it is also the end of the semester I spent working on my capstone. This has been a really fun experience for me. I came into the class nervous, with no idea what topic I could spend an entire semester researching and writing about. But now, in the end, I am kind of sad to be done with my capstone. I ended up getting really invested in my topic, just like Ray said we all would, and even now I feel like I want to change something to make my site better because I am proud of it.

So I am going to miss this class, and this University, but I am looking forward to the next big group of people I am going to meet, and the next place I live where the rent will hopefully be cheaper than Zaragon please.

Being impressed, but also anxious about my peers work:

I have felt myself feeling this in the past during peer reviews, and I have felt it at times this semester. In all the classes I have taken for the Minor, there has been some element of peer review. I think this is great, as I enjoy reading my peers work and getting their feedback on mine. But sometimes, sometimes I find myself uneasy in the classes where we give each other feedback.

What it stems from is the fact that in almost all of the peer reviews I have done, there is usually at least one, if not more, students who’s work kind of blows me away. I read his or her essay, and one of the first thoughts I have after is, wow, this makes mine look like shit.  This thought is coming purely from a place of jealousy, wishing I would have thought of that or I could write a scene like that. But, it still sometimes leaves me thinking my work might not hold up. Like this better writer who finds all the flaws in my essay might shred me in peer review. But then the peer review actually starts.

I usually (never) volunteer to go first in those awkward moments where no one really wants to volunteer to go first. The confident writer usually ends up going first, but this where things get better. I give them some praise with my comments, but then I make some suggestions and ask too many questions because they got me genuinely interested in what they wrote about. Damn them. But once I see they are receptive to my suggestions, like I make one and they immediately scribble it down, or we get talking about one the questions I asked, I start to feel a little better.

But then I am up, and I approach that moment, with a, alright, let’s see what happens here, attitude. I could see this going so many ways. However, any anxieties I might be feeling are quickly washed away when my group tells me things they liked about my piece. Especially the one I think is a dope writer. Because then I’m thinking in my head, wow, and they know how to write. And they like this shit. Well, it must be pretty fucking good then. 

I will acknowledge, having anxiety over this is pretty ridiculous. Because any time I have gone into a peer review anxious, the same thing has happened and any anxiety quickly dissipated and was replaced with blind confidence. In my time in the Minor, I have only had good experiences doing peer reviews. My peers offered the mild praise I guess I sometimes needed, and their critiques and questions always helped me create a better product in the end.

So this a blog about a weird thing to be anxious about, and a testament to the members of the minor for helping each other become better writers.

Challenge Journal: What I wish I spent more time on

One piece of writing I would have liked to spend more time working on was an essay I wrote on the television show, Bojack Horseman, sophomore year. While I was satisfied with what I produced, I really enjoyed writing about the greater meaning of a tv show. I argued Bojack Horseman was different than other animated shows as it had the ability to make its audience both laugh and cry. I wrote that while it looks like one thing on the outside, it is really something different.

“At first sight, BoJack Horseman seems to be a goofy satire of Hollywood and the entertainment industry, but the viewer quickly notices that it is much more. What is at the core of the story is a character study of a very depressed horseman. While BoJack’s life may be outlandish and unbelievable, his insecurities are common. His character development, or lack thereof, turns another surreal thirty-minute animated comedic television show, into one of the most powerful tragicomedies on television.”

The main reason I want to spend more time working on this piece, or another similar one, is because it shows me the power of good writing. As a writer, if I want to tell a story, or teach a lesson, and that is my purgative, Bojack Horseman showed me that I can go about doing that in many ways. I don’t have to be straightforward or traditional for my readers (or viewers) to understand the underlying and universal problems I can explore in my writing. This allows a writer to teach its audience something they might not have signed up for in the first place. Most people who start watching Bojack Horseman likely just want to have a few laughs and relax. Luckily the show is funny, so a viewer gets to have those laughs, but before they know it, the show can take a dark and profound turn. A viewer that signed up to watch something funny soon finds themselves watching something meaningful that will stay with them after the episode ends. To me, this is true artistry.  The ability to be subtle with your point but also impactful with that point is something I want to strive for.

So I would have enjoyed to spend more time on this essay and to create more like it examining different shows or pieces of art. When I peeled back the layers of Bojack Horseman, I really took a liking to what I found. I can only imagine what artistry lies within the writing of other popular shows with deeper meaning than it seems on the surface like The Adventures of Rick and Morty.

Challenge Journal 1: Anxiety

At this point, I am eager to start writing and creating content for my project. Whenever I am just staring at a blank page, it is easy for me to get anxious about what my final product will look like. I feel like the decisions we are all making at this time in our proposals, and production plans are very important because they will influence what we spend the rest of the semester writing on. So it is easy to get stressed out when making them. Once I start writing and creating content I know I will feel more confident about my project and my idea, but for now, I am still second guessing myself sometimes.

Something that has me a little worried about my topic in making sure I bring in my own voice and don’t sound like I am repeating what others have already said. For my Capstone, I am writing about voting laws and how we make it difficult for different groups to vote in this country. While I have found many article, essays, and studies into the myth of voter fraud, which is something I plan on discussing, there did not seem to be much writing on the effects of this problem. I hope by diving into how this problem manifests in real life political outcomes and looking into who is implementing these laws will offer my piece a more comprehensive look at the issue. When writing about things others have written on extensively, it is a balancing act to include the important contributions to the conversation they have made and to incorporate your own ideas and unique perspective. I have navigated this challenge in the past and look forward navigating it again with this assignment. Mostly I just can’t wait to start writing and stop fixating on the blank page that is currently my capstone project.

Finally

It is over, it is really over. Today feels like it has been one of the longest days of my life. It has been full of last minute editing, making sure I have met every requirement and making sure the E-Portfolio looks and functions successfully. I should also mention I got my wisdom teeth out today. Terrible scheduling aside, getting them out was a nice break from stressing over my E-Portfolio. So as I write this I am lying in bed, intermittenly replacing the bloody gauze in my mouth and fighting the urge to take a pain killer like I was instructed because I am afraid it may compromise my ability finish this project the entire semester has been leading towards. So I will continue to fight through the pain, mainly because of how proud I am of the product I just created. The portfolio I made and am turning in now blows away all the expectations I had in the begining of the semester. Wix and I had our battles, some which I did not win, if you can find where it says “I am busy working on my blog posts, watch this space” you win a prize. Another battle I lost was not finding a way to include my teacher feedback when I was breaking down my piece by piece process for my repurposing essat. I could not find a way to transfer the feedback from Canvas to Wix in a way that was at all intuative or reader friendly, so ufortunatly I was not able to figure out how to achieve that requirement.

But that does not mean I am any less proud about the E-Portfolio I am now sharing with the world. I am incredibly excited to have a living website that represents me online. I eagerly await the chance to show it to friends and family. One thing I will really take away from this class is considering my audience more when I write. When I am talking to someone in person, I am always letting what I think and know about the other person influence what I say and the arguments I make. I do not know why I never tried to take this same mindset to writing, and this is something I hope to continue to improve on as continue with my minor in writing.

So without further ado, here it is: http://grantberkshire.wixsite.com/mysite

Read, think, enjoy and feel encouraged to leave comments or ask questions on my site.

It was a tremendous semester, and good luck to everyone in our class as we continue through the minor!

 

Letter to Future Gateway Students

First welcome, and congratulations on getting the chance to be a part of one of the more unique porgrams at Michigan. I started my journey with the gateway course during the fall 2016 semester and would like to tell you a little about my experience in the class.

One of my biggest takeaways was the importance of getting words on the page. This class stresses the importance of shitty first drafts and now I understand why. This mindset makes writing infinitely less daugnting becuase once I have words on the page I feel like I can go anywhere from there.

I was suprised by the freedom this class gave me and every other writer. I love sports, they are so important to me, but I never get to write about them for any of my clases. But in this class I was not only given the opportunity to write about sports, but was also encouraged to do so. So another quick piece of advice is to write about what you want, because in this class you can.

What has been the most challening, but also very interesting was playing around with different mediums for the remidiation project and created the website for the E-Portfolio. I made a podcast for my remediating and I was suprised with how much work doing a podcast was. I had to learn how to create an entire podcast from nothing, and that wasn’t easy or quick.

A piece of advice I have to all of you is to stay on top of your work. This class in different because there are not really set in stone deadline throughtout the year, but instead one big deadline at the end of the semester. This makes it easy to fall behind, so I emplore you to stay on top of your work and meet with Shelley whenever you can. I always found meeting with Shelley very helpful for my projects, and very claming for myself about anxietes about the class.

I think if I was going to do one thing differently I would have tried to get to know my peers better. Blog groups were great, they were the people you could lean on and look to, but besides them I didn’t branch out as much as I would have liked to. I say this not only because the people in the minor are all fantastic and incredibly smart, but also because they are the same writers I will be having classes with for the rest of my time at Michigan.

You guys are smart people, you’re going to do great in the minor, you don’t need anymore practical advice so I will leave you with this. All the problems in your life stem from you not drinking enough water.

-Good Luck Fam

Re-visiting “Why I Blog”

Re-reading “Why I Blog” was very different this time from when we read it a month ago. While the first time I felt like the article dragged on and repeated itself, this time I four myself fully emerssed throughout. I think reading this essay and comparing it to essays on the same topic, but from a different time was incredible. The entire time I was reading “Why I blog” I found myself wondering what did I think Orwell would have thought about blogging? Would he have been a blogger if he lived 100 years later? Would Didion find this an easier method to figuring out what the pictures in her head meant? I think I found myself asking these questions because I could see not only the similarities, but also the differences between the ideas and arguements of the three articles.

One similarity I saw throughout every essay was the emphasis of the personal motivation to write. Orwell couldn’t deny the fact that personal egoism was one of his motivators. Didion was always clearly on her own personal quest to figure out something for her gain when she wrote. The wording of that last sentence may make Didion’s motives sound very sellfish, but that is not my intention, I just find it hard describing the unique way she is motivated to write. And lastly Sullivan talks about how naturally bloggers end up writing about themselves because they are one of the few constants. While what Sullivan i blogging about may change, he will always have his own personal experiences or feelings to talk about in his blog. While the way “I” worked itself into each writing process may be a little different, it was consistantly a motivator for each writers work.

The main difference I saw was how each writer viewed the process of writing. Orwell especially, and Didion sometimes seemed to not really enjoy the writing process, while Sullivan loves it. Orwell consistantly talks about how writing a book is excruciating, but then Sullivan says writing his blog is thrill. I think this speaks to why blogging is so popular. I know these individuals lived at very different times, having dramatically different ways of getting their writing to their readers, but I think this still says something about blogging. I think the great thing about blogging is that the stakes are not too high. If Sullivan writes a bad blog post today, it doesn’t really matter because he can write a good blog post tommorow. On the other hand, if Orwell writes an unpopular book, he may not write another one for 10 years. I think the freedom, easieness and closeness to your writing that blogging gives bloggers are things Orwell was missing from the writing process. Because of this, I think Sullivan’s motives seem the post pure, while Orwell’s seem double eged, and Didion’s still confuse me. What is the signifigance of the pictures in her head that make them the ones she gets fixated on and writes novels to explain?

Quickly I just want to talk about something in “Why I Blog” that got me excited to start me E-Portfolio. Sullivan says something he loves about his blog is how he can look back and see what he was doing and how he was feeling at certain times. I don’t think I really have anything like this in my life right now. But I think my E-portfolio will give me a chance to have something like it. I think it will be really cool to get to go back on my E-Portfolio a year from now, 5 years from now, and see exactly what I was feeling, what was interesting me, and what was motivating me right now.

Drafting and Revising Blog

So far in this project, I have really only focused on my repurposing and remediating pieces and haven’t taken the time to really think about what my e-portfolio will look like. I have spent my time writing, re-writing, changing the idea and direction of my piece, so there hasn’t been a lot of mind space for the eportfolio just yet. After reading this chapter, I realized that I need to start the process now because there are multiple stages to be completed. I am not just going to record my podcast in 20 minutes, and it will be ready to go. I will need to edit and improve to go from my original rough cut to my polished final product.

One specific idea or strategy I got from this chapter that I will use when making my podcast is to record a lot more materiel then you need. This is because you can always edit down, but you can’t add more after the fact. I wouldn’t want to throw away my shot by not recording longer than I think I need and ending up with not enough content. This way I can see what works, what doesn’t, and only include what is successful in my final cut.

Another idea this chapter had me thinking about was making sure my eportfolio as a whole works together and is cohesive. So far I have been thinking about each piece as a separate entity, structured around its own rhetorical situation, but now I need to think about them working together on the rhetorical situation of my eportfolio. My portfolio will be its own complete composition, with each individual piece hopefully adding something to the site as a whole.

The last topic I found really helpful that the chapter discussed was the revision process. Usually, I am a fan of the very quick revision process, rough draft due, feedback, a few days pass then final draft due and on to the next assignment. But after reading this chapter, I realized there are multiple dimensions to it. It is an ongoing process, and embracing that, or having the patience for it, will let me create a final product that is stronger and more effective than my first draft ever could have been.

Blogging Your Process

This project has been eye-opening for me to this point. After day 2 when we were learning about the project I was pretty nervous, but I had no freaking idea what we were even supposed to do. But over time, and probably thanks to good pacing in class, we have learned about each different aspect of the project, tried our hand at a few, and ultimately saw how they will fuse into the final project. This combined with looking at strong examples and friends past E-portfolios has helped me to understand what I need to do. I guess this was eye opening to me because I thought, as I have experienced with almost all previous classes, we would be told exactly what to do with a very detailed project sheet. Instead, we were shown and taught what an E-portfolio is and what goes into it, and then given a chance to really go anywhere from there. So I certainly enjoyed this because it allows me to talk about sports. Something so important to who I am, but I almost never get to explore through writing in school.

So far my project has gone well. It was a little daunting picking the piece of writing I am going to use for the entire semester, but I think I made a good choice. So far, I have begun writing or outlining my piece. Right now what I think I need most is just some time dedicated to just writing and getting all my crazy and scrambled thoughts on paper soon I can soon start to craft the shitiest first draft. This is one of my favorite parts of writing, especially compared to later stages of the process where I feel sometimes I am cutting more than I am adding. So far I have luckily not encountered any roadblocks, but I am sure there are many to come. I kind of like roadblocks actually because I feel like they are what make your paper. I think it plays on the idea that writing is an ongoing process where the views you have when you start writing can change and evolve.

The one concern I do have is writing in a genre I have never written before. Sports journalism usually consists of short segments (not sure if this is the right word) instead of paragraphs. Some can be as short as a single sentence. While this makes for great flow within the piece, I am a little worried because I feel like I have only ever written in paragraphs for class. You know, topic sentence, introduce the evidence, evidence, analysis and all that jazz. I also have been known in the past to write longish paragraphs which will not work for this genre. Because of that, this is the genre convention, and part of the project that I am most worried about.

Planning Project One

Bill Simmons: The Consequences of Caring 

I have always loved everything about sports, ever since I can remember. I loved learning all the player’s names and stats of everyone on my teams. I loved watching the games, constantly getting yelled at by a parent for standing too close to the TV when the Bears were on. Unfortunately for me, I don’t root for the best teams. I was born in Chicago and lived there until I was ten. Then we moved to sunny California, but I was already cursed with being a crazed Chicago sports fan. Chicago is proudly the home of the Lovable Losers (the Cubs), and many other historically bad sports franchises. Whether it is a blessing, or most likely a curse, I can’t not care. When the Bulls lose I am sad, and there is nothing I can do about it. Thank god I’m not 12 anymore and loses are met with short-term sadness instead of deep depression until the next game. What I experience, along with every other sports fan, and what Bill Simmons discusses in his article is the consequences of caring. This is an article that I believe is both well written and incredibly insightful.

Bill Simmons is a sports writer that has written for Espn and now works for HBO. In this article he describes his young daughter’s quick descent into fandom of the Los Angeles Kings, a hockey team. He talks about the highs of an improbable playoff run, to the lows of the team coming short of winning a championship on his young daughter. It is the first team she has become a fan of and her emotions are volatile. She is so happy when they win, but can’t stop crying when they lose. Simmons details how he knew exactly what emotions she was going to feel because they are the same as any fan has. He talks about the stupid superstitions we have that make no difference in the outcome of the game, but we must follow if they were written in stone. But what he does here that I believe makes this an extraordinary essay is he so eloquently and poignantly connects it to the real world.

“Everything is black and white on the surface. You win, you lose, you laugh, you cry, you cheer, you boo, and most of all, you care. Lurking underneath that surface, that’s where all the good stuff is — the memories, the connections, the love, the fans, the layers that make sports what they are.” Simmons is very powerful here because he is a sports writer saying this. To him, everything should be about the sport, yet he is admitting what is really important as a fan and as a person. He has spent the whole article talking about how important this game was going to be for his daughter, someone who might not remember the in between stuff, but that is not what really matters. She just got to live through her first true love and first heartbreak. I also think this is a very effective way to communicate this information to someone with a sports filled mind. Simmons and I can communicate with purely a sports language, just as two people into photography or performing arts. These communities create a common language from shared experience. That language helps us communicate better to our audience. Hearing this message from Bill, someone whose experience as a fan I trust, it is communicated much more effectively. I know exactly the pained emotions he was talking about with his daughter, but I know the same great memories and connections I have made with fellow fans, friends, and family watching sports. Just as much as the game itself, I cherish those memories, and this piece was great at helping me realize they are just as important.

“Only 12 hours later, I flew cross-country to watch the Celtics play Miami in Boston. My wife couldn’t believe it. We were committed to a party in Los Angeles the following night. Who flies cross-country and back in 24 hours? ‘I don’t understand,” she said. “Why can’t you just watch it from home?'” Simmons also does a very good job at mixing quick stories into his larger points that help show who he is as a person. Here he is proving to his reader how crazed of a fan he really is, which helps the reader connect with him. I know why he can not watch it from home. It is that desire, or need to be there, and luckily for him he has that ability. At that point, when you’re there in the stadium, you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, and that is truly an amazing feeling.

What I love is while I’m reading this I can enjoy it for the story, but at the end it makes me think, and it stays with me. It is very impressive to me that you can talk about something people might not think matters that much, but still find a way to be insightful and moving. It is a remarkable balance that I want to strive for in this project and the minor as a whole.