Confused Wanderings of the Portfolio

Today, I spent hours tweaking Wix every which way to design my portfolio. Because, you see, I have this vision in my minds. But somehow, it’s not translating quite the way I want it too. I envision a simple, minimalist compilation of the works I’ve been proud to create during my college career, and specifically, during this Minor. But topics overlap, works don’t fall neatly into categories, and it’s getting much more cluttered than I had anticipated.

I also loved the portfolio I had created for Writing 220. It was a little cheesy, but I liked the way it looked and the message it showed. The message for this portfolio is still very much the same: the importance of valuing time and living in the present. So as I develop this new portfolio, I want it to have the same feel as the original, giving people the same sense about its creator. From talking with our groups today, there were two great ideas on organization that I hope to adopt soon.

1. Segment by genre of writing and have it not be as tailored to Minor in Writing specific work vs. external work.

2. Segment by purpose: Minor in Writing, Academic Writing, Miscellaneous extra

The format that I ultimately choose also depends on how ubiquitous I want this portfolio to be. Having put in so much time, ideally, I would like it to be outward facing as well. But if that’s the case, I need to make it easily understandable for someone who’s not familiar with all our requirements and our jargon. On the flip side, if I make it very externally accessible, I’m worried that the evaluators will have trouble identifying the pieces specific to the Minor.

So you see, it’s been quite a dilemma, and hopefully, I’ll resolve it soon. But at the end of all this I still know what my vision is. Simple. Minimalist. A showcase.

Pitch Letter and Sample

Dear Mr. Paul Barron:

 

When you look back on college, do you feel the same panic of the end of those four years? Do you remember what people told you? Did you ever give their experiences credit or do you now only realize it after trying to give this same advice to some other kid grappling with the real world?

I’d like to explore this from the perspective of someone who is living it right now. And as a consequence of all this hurried preparation for who knows what, I’m starting to realize the importance of these admonitions from older, wiser people. But I can’t reconcile them. I understand the truth and reality of perspective, but I am very much a prisoner of my present worries. Here at the University of Michigan, I’d say I am part of 500 students who feel this pressure the most. In the business school, we’ve been training for this moment since freshmen year and the final result is all about the job that we land. It’s all consuming. Some say to prioritize it over academics. In the long run, I’d say that’s probably hardly true.

I will only be in this current time, in this current position once, and I’d like to capture it for other people like me. There’s a reason why we have peer coaches. We sometimes believe people who are going through the same thing at the same time more than those who have years of experience. Call it misery loves company or bonding based on age, it’s a connection that we have right now and why I think others will pick up, read, and listen to the message in these stories.

So I’d like to take all the pressures I’m feeling and tell you my side of it. But then, I’d like to write the other side of it that I’ve heard consistently and that I know deep down, but can’t act on. I’d like to write a narrative from 30 years later on what life looks like in comparison to this life at 20.  I’d like to try my hand at a college student playing a mature character commenting on the immature lookout of a college student.

Written for the 20 year olds of today and tomorrow, I want to have a series of short stories with all these conflicting views. But the short story process is foreign to many students, it seems, and I’d like to document my progress and my inspirations on an online website for those who are interested in the backstage effects.

In terms of my final project, I have always been captivated by this idea of time flying by too quickly. My portfolio is based on this theme of running through life and neglecting all the little pieces, that when put together, really matter the most over any material title or societal definition of success. As a final portfolio, I want these two websites to tie together, showing how my thoughts have changed over the years and how, together, we really should take a step back from the nitty-gritty of our lives once in a while and give credit where credit is due.

If you would be interested in helping me craft this work, I would love and value your advice. The area of short story writing is very much outside my norm, but I think that I have the topic that will allow me to succeed. This is something that occupies my thoughts all day, everyday, and I would like to capture it to share with those who may have similar anxieties and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to let go just a little bit.

 

 

 

 

Sincerely,

Beixi

 

Sample:

 

Everything is go go go.

Head pounding and out of breath, I run, adjust my suit, and stroll casually into the room. My pad folio fills up a little more with the passing hour and I can distinctly feel the makeup on my face, which only gets this makeover when companies come to town.

The colorfully attired entourage at the front of the room closes out with, “Thank you for your time.”

 

I have 100 unread emails and 30 unread texts. People want lunch, and they want to hear what I’ve been up to, but honestly, I don’t have the time. My little wants to talk about her roommate troubles. My friend from high school wants to go out. My roommate freshmen year wants to grab dinner. Somewhere I feel vaguely guilty, but mostly I feel irritated. Meanwhile, the unread messages pile up.

 

Making Another Writer’s Decisions

The brainstorming session yesterday was a great way to get some ideas flowing and to start looking into some new areas of writing I hadn’t considered before.

One topic that I’ve explored throughout my writing, even in the Gateway class, is the concept of being so busy with our lives that we forget to live the day to day and to enjoy the present. I mentioned to Elizabeth that historically my writing has been very memoir based, from my own perspective, and that I was looking into ways to expand this perspective. She came up with the great idea of perhaps interviewing or bringing in other people and their perspectives, which led us to an idea of creating stories based on people that I know really well. For example, I can anticipate the feelings and perspectives of my parents because I am so close with them, and using them as the main characters in a story could be a great way to break out of my own voice.

Another idea we touched on at the very end is the concept of being an only child. We both happen to be only children, and we realized that there are so many differences growing up as an only child versus having siblings, and many times, the opposite is hard to imagine. A (hopefully) witty, humorous way to show the perspective of an only child may be a nice way to spin personal experience into a different format.

Elizabeth was also great at bringing up the potential for different mediums in this project. Whether it’s film or a website, there are so many different forms of expression that this project really could go in many different directions. I haven’t quite decided on whether I will use these for this project in particular, but these are ideas that I hope to expand on going forward.

Walking away from our session, I’m drifting more towards the idea of writing a short fictional piece, using someone close to me as the protagonist to hopefully imagine a world from someone else’s eyes. The details of what I want to include are still in the making, but I am very determined to push my writing into this grey area where I’ve never been. Maybe I’ll even throw a little caveat “only child” piece at the very end, like an author introduction.

One More Thought

As I was reading through some of the blog posts by people for a last time before the semester closes out, I’ve been piecing together something that I want to explore a just little more before we all leave.

People always say children are the most creative, and that we lose this creativity as we get older.

I used to agree and say, what a pity, and sometimes, actually feel rushed to produce creative results because I felt like I was running out of time.

Now, looking at all the final eportfolios of people in the class, even though I wasn’t able to attend the showcase, I’m going to throw a hypothesis out there and say we don’t lose our creativity. Rather, I think the jewel of creativity is still there for every person, every profession, and every age. It is never warped or changed or corroded, it is merely forgotten, only in our minds, by the constraints of our environment and our time.

Given the circumstances to exercise and uncover it, we are just as creative as we were when we were 5. Just looking at all these portfolios, each one is so unique, so individual, and so creative. There’s something to be said about how we can brainstorm and create when we’re given open prompts, like in this class, and when we’re given the time to develop our own jewel of creativity and wow, would you look at the results.

So maybe that’ll be another theme to grow my portfolio on. Don’t ever be fooled into thinking our creativity is lost because it’s something that can’t disappear, it can only be remembered.

Thank you all for an amazing semester, it’s probably one of the most reflective ones I’ve had, and an eye opening experience all around.

Final Portfolio

3 months after I first started my portfolio, it’s done. http://beixili.wix.com/livelaughloveshare

Looking back, it’s crazy to see how it’s changed. I remember looking through countless templates and trying to figure out which one could possibly represent me. Then I discovered the beauty of completely reinventing a page, of adding my own touch, but above all, of keeping it simple so that a certain tone and message could really be felt throughout the entire portfolio.

As I worked on it, adding artifacts, changing layouts, I found myself including more and more pieces of my life onto this online platform. It started off as writing from school, moving on to include blogs we’ve done for class, and eventually even my  travel pictures from this summer snuck into it. Before I knew it, my internal menu for categorizing my pages was exploding and there were subpages within subpages within pages.

Experimenting with the different technology also became more and more complex. I had buttons linking forwards and backwards, to other parts of the portfolio, and all over the place besides. Checking to make sure all these links worked was an hour long process in itself. But more importantly, it was incredible to see how I could change my writing on the online platform. From changing the layout to mimic a book, to incorporating visuals and collages to tell a story, there were so many possibilities, and for the first time, I was writing with something other than just words.

Although a lot of work, I’ve really enjoyed every step of the way and remember working on my portfolio just to procrastinate on my other homework. Seeing the finished product is very satisfying, and I can’t stop thinking about how I’m going to grow and change it, so that it can continue to capture how I view the world.

Blogging

I’ve never really taken the time to work on a blog for a long period of time, and this semester has been a great introduction into what it’s like to track progress and post constantly on it. I really like how we had a structure to follow and how it paralleled the work we were doing so that looking back, it’s almost like a diary.

In fact, I’ve always regretted not keeping an ongoing diary of places I’ve been and experiences I’ve had. This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to so many places and meet so many people, but I kept putting it off until there were too many memories to try and go back and capture. Part of it, I think, is the daunting nature of writing a diary entry, it seems we have to catalogue everything that happened in a day, and we have to make it artistic, unique, and reflective.

I think the strength of blogging, as we’ve learned this semester, is the ability to have short spurts of inspiration, to catalogue briefly, but constantly. It could be the shortest blurb or even just a picture, but when taken together, it represents a complete package. It’s also one of the most direct and easily bridged links into the digital medium. Writing our thoughts, after all, isn’t much different between paper and webpage. But what I’ve realized, is that once I’ve started experimenting, there are so many different mediums to use when we’re on the internet that we can link to virtually anything, post anything.

One of the hardest parts of blogging for me throughout this class has been remembering to do it every week. This is another habit that I think can be developed. Gradually, I think I’ve gotten better at it (minus this post since finals week caught up a little with me). What’s really inspiring is that I’m incredibly proud of remembering, and when I look back at all my posts, it’s satisfying and very interesting to see my progress throughout the semester.

And that’s my main takeaway from blogging for this class. Having recorded my progression, I can now view it backwards and see how I’ve changed, and figure out what I really improved and what I still need to work on. So if there was ever a reason to blog, it’s because it’s not just for people who would potentially like to read it, it’s for us. For us to see how we change and how we can use that change to build our futures.

Revision

Revisions have been traditionally pretty hard for me, I always struggle with what to cut and what to change when trying to preserve a message or even to elaborate on it. The repurposing project this semester has really pushed me past those boundaries and each draft I’ve created has been drastically different from previous ones. Instead of the confusion I was expecting, it’s actually quite refreshing. Looking at how my pieces have transformed over the course of the project and creating a paper and now digital trail of the progress that I have made, gives me a path to look back on. From my experience this semester, I think there are three things I would like to keep in mind when doing revisions in the future.

1. Keep the Big Picture in Mind: Any number of changes are fine as long as the underlying message, the big idea is consistent and easily understandable. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in all the details, make all the changes, and then realize that it’s changed, but not in the way that you wanted it to.

2. Get Peer Insight: When writing and revising and editing and writing, we become so familiar with our own stories, our own words, that we forget our readers are reading it for the first time. They won’t have pondered over it endlessly or may not see exactly why that one sentence links to another idea. Especially in areas with memoirs, I have so many context clues in how to interpret the story because it’s my own experience, but an audience won’t have those or even the same reactions. If those contextual points are really important, then they need to be built in and the way to judge which areas are lacking or are too much, is to get direct peer feedback on the pieces. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of asking, “Does this make sense?”

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Big Changes: Keeping in mind big picture and audience needs, don’t be hesitant about changing the piece entirely. Sometimes a new look will force myself to read it in a new light and will bring out inconsistencies and haziness even for me. More often than not, the new draft is better, or explores a new angle, and when combined with the old, really takes it to another level. If worried about the second draft not being as good as the first, I always save the multiple drafts so I can always go back to a previous version if needed, and it provides me with somewhat of a safety net feeling.

As I take these key learnings into my revision for Why I Write, I’m struggling with a lot of the same areas. What can I afford to cut and what is necessary? It’s often a difficult choice because we become so attached to our own writing and would do anything rather than change it, but overcoming this status quo can lead to writing that is clearer, better, and more articulate.

Intro to Eportfolio

The theme of my portfolio is really focused on slowing down time, living in the present, being aware of all the incredible day to day things that are happening all around us. I’ve always had people tell me that college passes like no other and I’ve never really stopped to give it much thought because I’ve been too busy rushing by. When I stop to look back there are so many moments I can’t remember clearly or times I wish I had enjoyed more. All my pieces and work emphasize this bit and really try to make readers see the world in a new way and to understand from different perspectives. My goal is to get people to stop in their tracks when they’re running to that next class, that next meeting, and to really take time for the world.

I am really excited by the way I can design and mold this website to my message. I want it to be visually stimulating and I want people to feel like there’s a mystery to search for. I want it to be a calm, reflective tone, giving people the time to absorb and think about how it is similar to or different from their own experiences. My layout is centered on simplicity. No extra bells or whistles, just visuals and prose to bring a message to life. This new way of web writing has really intrigued me. It is so different from the way I normally write that I am challenged to find ways to mold my personal style to the new medium–and it is so exciting. There are now so many ways to pair communication and I find myself spending countless hours on tweaking out the best ways to combine writing, listening, and watching to get viewers to see the point I’m trying to make.

Given this new medium, it has also been a challenge to find new ways to present my thoughts. I’m a traditional writer who sits down and does reflections, but who isn’t necessarily so good at twitter or quick bursts of information. Through this process, I’ve been testing myself to see how varied I can make my pieces and how creative I can be in my presentations. Everything that I’m posting relates to my central theme of stopping and looking around, enjoying. But the eportfolio also calls for a reflection on each of the artifacts to explain why we wrote the pieces that we did. My eportfolio tone tends to be more subtle, and one of the obstacles I’m trying to jump is figuring out how to tie this reflection into my layout. I think I may end up doing a side link that offers this information for those who are interested in looking into my thought process for each of the artifacts, and for those who aren’t interested, they can just enjoy what I have presented to them on the surface level.

 

If you’d like to take a look, my eportfolio can be found at http://beixili.wix.com/livelaughloveshare

Teching up the Eportfolio

As I was trying to figure out how to present information in different ways through digital means, I kept stumbling on more and more types of expression. My Eportfolio has expanded quite a lot in the last few days. It’s also begun to include information I hadn’t at first intended to incorporate.

One of the things I wish I had done more this summer was keep an ongoing journal, documenting places, people, memories so I wouldn’t forget the amazing experiences I had traveling Europe. Before I forgot, I decided to make it a part of my Eportflio, under the section “Watch”, to get people and myself, to see again my summer as dominated by pictures.

Spain is captured in a slideshow, France is portrayed by speech bubbles and pictures, Portugal is presented as a collage. As I was experimenting with how to describe these places and how to illustrate the memories, sometimes, I realize, a picture really is the most powerful thing. I can talk about a place for hours, but the picture will show it in seconds. Whether it was walking through Spanish streets on the way to class at 9am or walking Parisian streets at midnight, the picture really is worth a thousand words.

So as I develop this portfolio further, I’m using my travels as the basis for visual and digital expression, supported by brief and highlighting words. My stories will capture the mood of the picture, or the background of the location, but the picture will speak for itself on the beauty, the architecture, and the experience. This actually fits in so well with the theme of my portfolio too. The message is all about slowing down, appreciating the time we have, and really valuing our experiences. Looking back, my summer passed so quickly, and was so amazing, that I wish I had taken the time to sit down and capture it as it happened. One of my cameras actually broke on the trip and I lost a good deal of my pictures. There really is no better place to store experiences than our memories, and so developing these memories is the best form of record taking that I can think of. As I put these pictures up, I’m reminding myself again how important it is to value the moment because days, months, years later, it could have been one of the best moments in memory.

The link to my portfolio, if anyone is interested: http://beixili.wix.com/livelaughloveshare

Wix Slideshow

I’m trying to experiment more with different types of web communication. Lately, I’ve also been nostalgic for my month in Spain and can’t help looking at all the amazing pictures that I have from my brief time there. I’m determined to capture my memories in them before it’s too late.

So why not make a slideshow? But then I started running into problems. Which pictures should I choose? What would people actually be interested in looking at? What should I caption them? Being web based, I’m really trying to make things more visual. I want my photos to be the center of attention but I want readers to understand how magical those times really were. How again do I make words on a screen come alive and show the moments as they happened?

I actually find it really helpful to listen to music that sets me in the mood for a certain type of writing. So as I’m drafting this webpage, selecting layouts, pictures, and words, I’m on Pandora, setting the mood for how I want this to look. I want a slideshow that people can look at and visualize and live vicariously through my photos. Hopefully it’s not just a memory project for myself. Hopefully it’s a memory builder for others.

And as I’m finishing this blog, the song that had blasted through our nighttime ventures hits the radio station, and I’m taken back to the cobblestone streets, the tapas, and the long nights. Maybe this is what web writing is all about. It’s about sharing the moment as it happens, not waiting for your editor to change and approve, change and approve. It’s about experiencing these moments and being able to display to others our memories as they appear in our heads. Now, what else can I do with my memories?