Same, but different

I (unintentionally) completed my gateway and my capstone on relatively similar topics. The progression from my gateway to my capstone is so visible, both content and design wise, that I wanted to write a blog post to reflect on it.

My gateway was funny (read: I tried to make it funny). It was framed to debunk common misconceptions that people had about Scotland from movies, books, TV shows, etc. It was niche – I know.

To give some context, my family is Scottish, and we immigrated to the United States when I was 6. All my life I knew about the funny components of being Scottish, because that’s how my parents raised me. My project was fun, it joked around, and didn’t take anything too seriously (even the Scottish referendum, which was actually very serious). My website reflected my tone, and there were light hearted pictures (many of which I took) and animated texts (why is that even a feature, Wix?)

Fast forward a few years. Michigan has opened my eyes to so many perspectives and taught me so much that I slowly learned to think of myself not only as someone from Scotland, but as a Scot who is also an immigrant in the United States. In this day and age, being an immigrant is no small thing.

My capstone project reflected that, as I worked to uncover media misrepresentations of immigrants, and ultimately remind everyone why America is known as the “nation of immigrants.” Much less niche.

The design of my website has changed so much too. From cheesy pictures to (what I like to think are) professional layouts and serious tones.

It has been so rewarding to see how my thoughts and ideas about myself and about how the world views immigration have changed over the last few years. It is especially cool to have both perspectives in an interactive website that I can show people!

My Editing Process

Confession time! For everyone except Ray because I’m pretty sure he’s figured it out by now. I HATE EDITING. Confession #2…I have actually turned in papers without re-reading them before…oops

Bring on the heat, writing community.

BUT, I assure you I took my sweet time editing my capstone project and while I won’t say it’s perfect grammatically, it better be pretty damn close.

In the past I have relied on others to help me with the editing process. Having another set of eyes on my work always reassured me that A) my work wasn’t terrible and B) they could catch mistakes that I wouldn’t. However, for this project, I have been fiercely possessive over my writing and haven’t let anyone else read it other than my workshop group members.

That means I edited alone, and for me, it actually took four days. Once I finished adding raw content, I went back through everything on my computer and added in words/phrases wherever necessary and fixed any glaring mistakes. Then, I printed out each web-page of my site and line edited my work with a pen. Finally, I ran everything through a grammar checking software, and have been reading and re-reading it all on my computer ever since (I can’t seem to stop, can anyone relate?)

For the amount of work I have put into this project, I wanted to make sure that those who read it, can read it coherently. It feels good to have a product that I’m happy with and that will (hopefully) look professional.

But, Ray, if you find any possessive apostrophes where there shouldn’t be…I’m sorry.

On writing about controversial topics

I read about my capstone topic in the news every single day. I had google alerts set up for different key words (this is a horrible stressor and I would not recommend it) and yet I still do not feel like an “expert” on the topic.

I am not sure I have ever written about anything that I was worried people might get angry about, accuse me of being wrong about, or simply disagree with me. Writing about immigration forced me to think about other perspectives and others’ opinions with everything that I wrote. This was an invaluable lesson!

I have often been told that I don’t write with a lot of confidence, and that’s probably true. The tough part about writing about controversial topics, however, is that no matter how confident I am in my thoughts and opinions, someone will most likely always disagree with me.

I do feel like the writing in my project has been fairly confident this time around (maybe even a little too “in your face” depending on who you ask). This may be due to my personal attachment to the topic, or it may be because I did a lot of research. Either way, I hope that if someone reads my work and has a completely different ideology and perspective, that my words and thoughts are clear and cohesive enough for them to at least understand it, maybe even acknowledge it, as a valid point or idea. I would also invite them to message me! As I mention in the conclusion of my project, in the conversation about immigration, collaboration is key.

Hindsight is 20/20 (and I like it that way)

I most likely am starting this challenge journal after classes have ended for the same reason I struggled with my capstone project – there are no guidelines! I have a hard time functioning without guidelines…

In terms of my project, that meant I often did not know when to stop, what tone to take, what content to focus on or what to skim over. It began to feel like it would never end.

However, as we approach the Showcase, I have thankfully seen the end, and am (also thankfully) very close to it. It is interesting looking back because I don’t feel as though there was ever a point where I thought “this is how my project will look.” Instead, I took an idea and ran with it and this is what I ended up with (something that I am very happy with if I do say so myself).

I’m not certain this is generally a good strategy for writing, but it is something I have often done in the past. It was beneficial for me in the sense that my project was able to be malleable to new content that I discovered and new avenues I wanted to explore.

Most of the content that I included, and that I liked the most, wasn’t known to me when I began. Therefore, I don’t think I ever could have thought up a project that looked like this before actually doing all of the writing.

This may also be a great excuse for procrastination and laziness. It also made the project very difficult to start. What do I write about first? What am I trying to say or argue? Having the first workshop content be an intro page was slightly more helpful in getting my ideas on paper, however getting started was definitely the most difficult part for me.

Either way, I think my strategy of more or less going in blind was beneficial to my project.

Reflections on Gateway

I think that the Gateway course to the MiW was one of the best classes I have taken this semester, and so far at Michigan. It was really challenging in a lot of ways; having no strict guidelines or prompts was frustrating at times. Yet, it was also an amazing experience to have the time and the guidance to work on a project that I was passionate about and had ideas for, in the way that I wanted to do it. I agree with what Jason said in an early blog post, that my favorite part about the class was actually answering the attendance questions at the beginning of every class. It made me think a lot about myself and learn a lot about everyone else. Overall, it was a great semester!

Tracking an Author: Conclusion?

When this prompt was given to us as an assignment, I was really excited about it! I love reading the news and I especially love reading the same news stories in lots of different venues to get better perspectives. I thought that this assignment would probably be fairly similar to that. I think, however, that the majority of people read their news online and what threw me off from the very beginning was picking an author from a print publication, one that is rather obscure as well. When I tried to track her, I found myself in the depths of British tabloid magazines like The Daily Mirror and The Daily Mail (help). This is definitely not where I wanted to be in order to find good, quality writers. Yet, even when I switched tracks and started to follow a publication that Jia Tolentino had once written in, I found myself in a somewhat similar situation, the writing I was coming across wasn’t what I was hoping for. Maybe I came at this assignment from a completely wrong angel, or maybe I just had the wrong expectations, but I really struggled with it.

I Can’t Stop

As the semester ends and we near the due date and showcase for our final projects (aka it’s tomorrow), I find I literally can’t stop working on my website. I finished writing the content, the pictures are all in place and I am happy with the layout in its entirety, however I keep fidgeting with it. Whether I am changing a sentence, phrase or word or moving a headline a little to the left because it’s not quite centered, I continue to work on it. As I sit in front of my computer for the umpteenth hour, I am wondering if it will ever feel “done” to me. When I write papers, I always hit a point where I am happy with it and that nothing more I do will change the content of it. Yet, with my website, for some reason I feel like changing that one word or moving that headline actually will make a difference. With this mindset, I figure I will be tweaking this site until 2:59 p.m. tomorrow.

Parallelism

As I was putting my website together I was partly anxious, but I think mainly overexcited. Due to this, my website currently looks like a ton of information was splattered across each page in absolutely no order whatsoever. I think that I have a lot of good information that flows well together, but figuring out how to organize it was a challenge. The most logical thing to do was make each page as parallel or a similar in structure as I could. This will cause the site to have a nice organization to it and hopefully even make the content more easily understood. For my site specifically, I am going to organize each page by placing more broad and explanatory content at the beginning and from there go into more specifics. At the end of each page, hopefully it will be clear to readers that each specific thing that I mention on each page is both individual and also connected to everything else within that page. That barely made sense to me; here goes nothing.

Building a Website

When it came to building my website, I had predetermined that I would use Wix to host my content (I didn’t even consider, until after, that I could have chosen from a number of sites). The main, and really only, reason why I chose to use this site was because I had seen a number of well thought out and visually appealing capstone projects completed on Wix. Even though I went into the site with the thought that this was the only one I could use, I really enjoyed it’s easy to use interface. I chose to use a blank template, which I simultaneously regret and applaud. Creating a website is difficult, and as I found out, especially difficult to do from scratch; I have many drafts for what the best layout for my content would be. At the same time, I am happy I chose this direction because it allowed me to have a lot of freedom and creativity in the way I shaped my web pages. In the end, they may not be as beautifully and seamlessly laid out as a lot of the templates that Wix gives you, but my site will allow my content to flow in the exact way I want it to, without having to cram anything into predetermined boxes.

Tone of Experiments

I attempted to make the tone of my three experiments as conversational as possible. For my first experiment I created a listicle, and knowing the type of audience that an article like that has, I recognized that the tone needed to be both lighthearted and funny. The tone for my second experiment, my Instagram page, I feel was also fairly light hearted, even just based on the color and composition of the pictures. For my final experiment, I looked away from the conversational tone more in order to write a piece that was a little more serious and informational. However, the more I wrote it, the more I realized that the topic would be much more well received and more easily read if the tone of it was a little more light hearted-so I tweaked it slightly to be less serious.

Each of my experiments had an underlying theme of debunking stereotypes. As I did each one, I wrote a lot about how many peoples beliefs are wrong or misguided. This was another reason that  I took a more lighthearted and conversational tone, because while I was telling people that they’re wrong, I needed to also not come from a position that seemed rude or uninviting.