Challenge Journal: too many questions?

So as I approach the end of this project it dawned on me that I am asking my reader a ton of questions, like maybe too many question which is good I suppose. A reader should be pushed to think about things that they rarely think about. One of my worries is that, as my reader sifts through my project, that reader will get burnt out and feel overwhelmed by all of the questions. For instance, this is the beginning of one of my sections:

“Homeless. What do we think of when we throw that word around? Do we think baggy clothes, ungroomed appearance? Disheveled, dirty, filthy, disgusting way of life? Does our mind go straight to cigarette in hand, begging for a light? Or maybe we think undeserving, lazy, writing a sign and spelling the words wrong. Do we imagine someone using the sidewalk as their mattress, the moldy rain as their blanket, the nearby alley as their bathroom? Do we feel empathetic or apathetic? Do we think of men? Old men? Does the way we think about homeless people alter how we treat those that appear to be homeless? Whoa, that was a lot of questions. Let’s take it from the top. What is homelessness?”

And that’s just the beginning of one section, one page among 10 or so. Does this feel like too much? Do you see this as a huge issue? Or do you feel like it’s a thoughtful and engaging way to guide the reader through my project? Do you like that I agrees all of the questions? Do you think people will become fed up with not knowing answers? Do you feel like a solid solution is to provide more statistics or facts about homelessness? (lol, sorry for again asking so many damn questions. Maybe it’s just a me-thing).

As I have so many times, I want to again return to my gateway project, one where I use the first person and delve into a number of questions. Perhaps, I have to narrow in on the types of questions I am asking. For example in my “Why I Write” essay for gateway (where I write about my identity as a Jewish writer), I say:

“I write to conjoin the traditional standards and values of Judaism with contemporary progressivism. I write with a Jewish head on my shoulders, but refuse to do so with outdated values, tools, and ideas. I write to understand the conflicts I encounter as a Jew and as a human being living in 2017. How do I maintain my Jewish identity in a secular world? How do I experience the fullness of society as a committed Jew? I write to find out. I write to explore my unplanned, indecisive, never-ending thoughts.”

Here, I am asking a set of questions, but they feel different. I am asking questions that begin with “how,” implying that I am seeking a certain way of accomplishing a certain thing. “How do you” questions feel different than a “do you” or a “what do you” question. They feel broader, more expansive, and have more room for discussion and debate. I also provide a brief answer after my series of questions. Does this framework of “how” questions followed by my personal thoughts feel like a better framework with which to approach my capstone project? Does this feel like something you’d like to see as you’re reading. If not, do you have other suggestions with which to approach it?

Challenge Journal: Coming in for a landing

So I’ve (well really we’ve) been at this all semester. I’ve written a lot of content, done research, thought about my project in new ways, done some reflection, and now it’s time to come in for a landing. I’m currently struggling with this: how do I wrap up my project in a way that feels satisfying, motivating, and NOT cliche? In my project, I’m dissecting the issue of homelessness, why people don’t help and how people often think negatively about those who hold homeless stereotypes. In exploring this topic, I’ve looked at social psychology, religion, and even broken down the different definitions of homelessness. How do I bring it all together? Do I bring up all of those different topics in my “conclusion?”

One thought is to have a call to action, which is also the way I set up my gateway project. In my gateway e-portfolio I wrote,

“Get involved in organizations or clubs on your college campus. Write. Discover what you truly care about. Volunteer. Get involved in you local community. Fundraise. Do not simply complain about America, politics, inequality. Take the first step. I’m right behind you.”

While most of this sounds very cliche, the main message that I think I may be able to use in my capstone project is “Take the first step. I’m right behind you.” For my capstone project, I want to ask people to take the first step in fighting the realities and stereotypes of homelessness, but I also want people to keep going. I want them to see that homelessness is not just an issue for the homeless, but for everyone AND it is connected to everything in our lives. How we choose to spend our money, whether we take public transportation or an Uber, whether we send our kids to private or public school, whether we volunteer in our free time or go to an amusement park, whether we choose to live in an urban area or the suburbs—it’s all connected; it all has an effect in how we think about homelessness, how much exposure we get to homelessness, and ultimately how we act towards homeless people.

My call to action may be to recognize this IN OUR OWN LIVES and then ask readers to make smaller changes in to benefit the homeless community/broader society. One reservation is that it is a lot to ask and that it also may be a big jump from talking about homelessness to then asking people to change their lives. I’d of course mention that this is something we’d be doing together. I am pledging to take this on and so should you. Does this sound unique? Does this sound compelling? Does it feel like I’m trying to put a bow on my project?

 

Challenge Journal: What if…?

When I think about the biggest opportunity for potential (if given as much time and help as my capstone project), a piece of writing that first comes is my college essay, except that I did have someone (my nosy mother) checking in, giving me ideas, holding me to a time table. Eye roll. I know.

 

I probably would choose an essay that I spent the most time on, one that was looked at by 19 of my peers and by my professor, talked about, revised, then again, and again. It was an essay in my English 325 class. I was a sophomore in a class full of seniors and was saving this topic for my full class workshop. It wasn’t a topic so blatantly personal like mental health, my family, or a past romantic relationship. It was something that was personal in a whole new realm. Religion. I carry my religious identity with me everywhere I go and found that to be changing, and challenging, in college. What better of an opportunity to write about it?

 

While it was amazing to be given the artistic autonomy to write so freely and to have my peers, all of whom I had never met before taking the class, look over it and give suggestions, I was inherently limited. I would have challenged myself to go outside of my first-person voice, to take more risks and write with perhaps a more colloquial tone while also maintaining intellectual authority and thoughtful prose. For example, in my essay I said

“In preparing to take my first leap outside of the Jewish bubble, I thought: How do I maintain such a holy part of my life when I am no longer surrounded by its presence? How will college impact how I think about and practice Judaism? ”

Here, I speak about myself and mostly focus on my experience in the present moment. I speak from the first person and try to unpack the questions that were on my mind at the time. It would have been amazing to talk about other religions or religious identity or theology and how that fits into the life of a 19-year-old college student, but I focused on my experience, my perspective, my vulnerabilities. I ended up being proud of the essay but always felt like I could have done more with it, like I could have played around with the style, formatting, and presentation.

 

I also had to share this essay with two other essays for the semester. This one ended up being 16 pages, seven pages over the initial limit, but I think it could have been more of a personal statement, or search for the meaning of theology, or personal manifesto for others to read. Instead, I ended up writing it to be graded by my professor and kept it to myself. After all, it was super personal, but a part of me wishes I could have had more resources, more guidance, more time to make it into something bigger, something to perhaps publish or cherish in a more unique way.

Worst-Case Scenario

In class, when thinking about the the implications or consequences, in very extreme language, of what I’m discussing in my project, a few things come to mind. The first is that homelessness continues to increase, ultimately causing more poverty, more deaths, more noticeable homelessness on the street, which then causes people to get irritated that there are more people infringing on their lives, which is also inherently related to gentrification.

Another way to approach this thought is to think about the lack of love in the world. There will just be no genuine, good-hearted love that allows one stranger to help another, that allows one stranger to help their local community. In extreme language, all non-homeless human beings will think of homeless people like bugs, striving to poison, kill, and avoid them instead of helping, understanding, or engaging with them.

Perhaps by addressing those fears and those possible worst-case-scenario implications, I may get through to readers. Perhaps not. When it comes to the end of my project, I anticipate it being difficult to say to the reader, “so… here’s what you should do differently.” Nobody wants to be preached to but nobody wants to reach the conclusion of a big project and say, “now what…?” It may be useful to think about this exercise when pondering the “what next” question.

Challenge Journal # 1

In approaching this project and starting the writing process, one of the, if not the, biggest challenges that I am facing is how to write in a first person, personal narrative style that isn’t all about me. I don’t want to write a first person piece that is important to me but that most people can’t relate or don’t care about. Instead, I strive to use personal anecdotes in order to address the topic of homelessness and uncover the nuances and moral complexities behind homelessness. I suppose the main challenge is: How do I expand my scope and appeal to a general audience by writing about myself in a first person voice?

As I encounter this issue, I return to the only other piece that I’ve really made “public” and sent out to the world: my gateway project. After reading through my “repurposing” piece, I’ve come to see a few possibilities. First, in my repurposing, I jump right into myself. The first word is “I” and I then proceed to talk about my background, childhood, and environments. Perhaps it may be a better solution to instead start this project by discussing the general topic of homelessness. Why is it such a huge issue? Why do people care about it? And then, after introducing this broad topic and connecting it to a general audience, I can delve into why I also care and why I am choosing to write about this. Similarly, in the second part of my repurposing, I do the same thing. I jump into a highly personal scene, which while it may captivate the reader, it may also be advantageous to begin sections that more people can relate to. Do you agree? If not, what are some other ways you would tackle this problem? Even if you do agree, I would still love to hear other solutions to this issue.

Looking at the last part of my repurposing, I found something that may be helpful. I begin that last section by saying,

“As a white, hetero-sexual, male on a college campus, I strive to find a balance: a balance that, on the one hand, acknowledges and accepts these aspects of my identity that are the essence my privilege. On the other hand, this balance also pushes back against the stereotypes that often place me in a narrow box.”

In this part, I begin in a way that talks about myself, but also can appeal to a specific audience. By talking about facets of my identity, perhaps it opens the door for people that share those same, or one of those, identity markers. Perhaps when approaching my capstone project, I could also open, or generally write throughout my paper, by talking about the lens in which I see and interact with homelessness. Perhaps that will bring more people in. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Form Modification: Josh Flink

A form that I would like to modify are research articles, particularly Psychology research articles. While I understand that every Psychology research paper needs to fit the same model (abstract, intro, method…), I think the ways in which researchers begin and end their articles is full of wasted potential. The introductions and conclusions are often connected to the real world and giving this issue some significance, but they are bogged down in boring, clunky language. Instead, I propose that in the conclusion or introduction, the researcher adds some ethos and talk about why this topic is important to them, why they are taking the time to write this paper, and what personal significance this article holds. Make the beginning and the end of the articles fun, readable, interesting, and personal. By doing so, the reader will be able to take the research-y part of the article and be able to find more meaning in it.

Form Modification: Josh Flink

A form that I would like to modify are research articles, particularly Psychology research articles. While I understand that every Psychology research paper needs to fit the same model (abstract, intro, method…), I think the ways in which researchers begin and end their articles is full of wasted potential. The introductions and conclusions are often connected to the real world and giving this issue some significance, but they are bogged down in boring, clunky language. Instead, I propose that in the conclusion or introduction, the researcher adds some ethos and talk about why this topic is important to them, why they are taking the time to write this paper, and what personal significance this article holds. Make the beginning and the end of the articles fun, readable, interesting, and personal. By doing so, the reader will be able to take the research-y part of the article and be able to find more meaning in it.

Writing Categories: Josh Flink

Ranking from strongest to weakest:

  1. Voice
  2. Prose
  3. Idea/Concept
  4. Composition/environment

I’m confident and happy that my strongest aspect is my voice. I think that in my portfolio, because it is so personal, the voice has to be strong. While my “Why I write” has different content than my repurposing, I am working on maintaining a consistent voice. I think that my process notes will help bridge the voices together, conveying to the viewer what my voice is like when I’m not writing a piece. I placed composition and environment at the bottom because it is the least developed of them all. I still need to do a lot of work on the site itself, which will help the prose and the voice be more developed. In terms of prose, I still have editing to do and changes to make on all of my pieces, but I think they are all in good places. I think the prose is pretty consistent with the voice for my repurposing, but I’m worried that I cant say the same for the “Why I write.” The main thing that will make my prose clearer is time. With time, as the remediation comes into place and the environment of the portfolio strengths, so will the prose and the voice.

 

So yes, each element depends on another, which puts some pressure on me to get the site together. I suppose the main stressor right now is the process notes. I have rough drafts of them, but once I feel solid about them, I feel like they will act as the glue to the entire portfolio. I suppose I’m worried about the voice not being consistent. Because my “Why I write” is a more serious piece, how do I maintain a consistent voice throughout the process notes, which will be lighter? Do I need to change the tone of my “Why I write?” I suppose, in my process notes, I need to find a balance between a more serious tone and lighter tone. Perhaps that just sounds easier said then done.

 

Thanks for listening.

Reading Leads to Writing

When I read The Hunger Games, I felt judged and talked down to. When I write, I strive to make the reader feel what I am saying. I do not wish to write to make others feel judged; rather, I write to cause others to see themselves or the world in a new way. At the end of the day, I can do as much as possible to help my reader, but I cannot control what they think. I try my best not to assume or not to assume certain things about my reader.

When I write, I try to simply write from the heart and write for myself because when you try and write for others, that leads to judgement.

The Hunger Games: a love-hate relationship

In high school, I bought into the hype and started reading The Hunger Games. As I read these books, I became engrossed in the content and the story, but also questioned the writing style and the general way it was written. It seemed comically dramatic and I couldn’t help but think that this was written for a younger audience. Nevertheless, I was sucked into the unique concept of the actual hunger games and Katniss’ struggle. Then the next chapter would come around and I would roll my eyes at the romantic dynamic between her and Peeta, but couldn’t help but keep reading to find out how the book would finish.

When thinking about the relationship between this love-hate aspect of the Hunger Games, I think that the relationship is deterministic; I loved the story line and was compelled by the alternate society, which is dependent on the over-the-top dramatic and simple writing style