The End is Near

It feels hard to believe that I’m almost done with my capstone project, the minor in writing, and my undergraduate experience here. It doesn’t even feel real. My capstone has been such a positive experience compared to how I usually feel about writing for classes. I think it’s because I decided to write about something I already knew about and had a passion for – both things were crucial for me to truly enjoy investing my time in this project over the entire semester. But, I also shouldn’t get too reflective on it as if it’s a finished product – it definitely isn’t yet! I have a lot of writing, editing, and creating left to do before I’m satisfied with my website. I know that when I’m done with it, I will feel proud because of how passionate I am about the writing I’m doing.

To be honest, in my entire time here at U of M, I’ve felt my writing get worse and worse and worse. Maybe it’s because I literally procrastinate everything until it’s almost turned in late. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned so much about how to write that I’ve felt like a beginner starting from square one compared to my classmates. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t totally passionate about my writing topics. I feel that with this project, I’ve learned how to start the writing process. You start by thinking of what you are passionate about, and then let the ideas snowball and take shape and form into what feels like a temporary final product (because who knows, you may want to revisit it, and, dare I say, repurpose or remediate it?) So, I’m just really happy that I finally see myself growing in my writing. I’m starting to write about what I’m passionate about and already know about, even if the ease of it always felt wrong. It’s okay if it feels easy, I think it’s supposed to.

Getting Down to Business

While it feels like everyone else is wrapping up their projects, I feel like I still have so much to do. I’ve been lucky to have a clear idea of my project since its conception, of course with some reworking of the details, but I think having it come so easily has made me push off finishing major components, such as writing final drafts of each section of my project. Instead, I’ve been spending more time working on the design of my website. This stemmed from how disappointed I was in the creation of my gateway website, and having something look so uninspiring to me made me not want to put my hardest work into it.

Now, though, with my website skills looking a little better (I hope), I am excited to get working on the final draft of my project.

Something that was brought up in a workshop of my website recently is that I need to look at the site from the reader’s perspective and cater it to what best fits their needs. Since my project is very research-based (lolol in more than one way), I will need to make each page digestible and engaging to anyone who happens upon them. I will focus on making each page a lot more visual — this will kind of “fix” something I’ve changed about my project, which is to no longer include an infographic. Instead, I hope that each page of the site is infographic-based, with pop out boxes giving more info as well as images. Though this feels like a lot of work right now (and I still plan on making quizzes too!) I know that it’ll be exciting to work on, which is what matters most for me.

 

Challenge Journal #2

Currently, I’m struggling with the idea of genre and how big and important that feels in comparison to the content I’m writing about. For my project, I’m writing about the lack of generalizability/replicability/representation in psychology research, which calls into question the credibility of it all. Coming up with a genre, then, feels like a very weighty part of my project, in large part because I want to be perceived as a really credible source so that people trust what I’m saying. It’s also hard because I am coming from within the field, but right now I think I sound like I’m attacking psychology, which isn’t the case at all.

Another part of my project will be about how the general population can consume psych research in a more realistic way. I recently decided that this means I will perhaps tackle two genres in my project. Or, rather, I will tackle one, and add an infographic or multimedia piece of some sort.

At the moment, this all feels very daunting. Not only do I have grand plans to write a full-blown research-laden journalism expose, but I also plan on somehow making a hashtag relatable infographic that takes my main points from the essay and spits them out into a digestible piece for readers with little to no background knowledge. Although I’m approaching this as if it’s some huge mountain to climb, I realized that this will be somewhat similar to the process of my gateway repurposing and remediating. For my repurposing, I wrote a comparative analysis. For my remediation, I created three different posters with a similar comparative perspective using Photoshop. I just realized this recently, and it makes me feel a lot more confident about making another multimedia piece for this capstone project. I’m hoping that I can translate this positive energy into my project once I actually start creating it.

Challenge Journal #1: My Rituals, or Lack Thereof

When we were asked in class to think about our writing ritual(s), past and present, I was grasping for ideas. At the time, I didn’t fully understand the definition of a ritual in that context. After some class discussion, I gained some clarity. The term ritual is not just reserved for religious or spiritual experiences, as I earlier thought. A ritual is all about intentionality, purpose, and the motivation behind the act or situation. So, what is a writing ritual for me?

My first thought is that before I sit down to write a paper, I need to brainstorm ideas. I don’t want to go into writing a new piece without any idea of what’s going to come of it. But then, I remember that in certain scenarios, particularly when a deadline creeps up seemingly out of nowhere, I prefer writing without thinking about what I’m writing. This is something that was emphasized and encouraged in the Gateway course. Those are two separate ways of starting the writing process, so neither really feels like a ritual.

Uhh, do I like writing in a certain place or atmosphere? Yes! I do. I think I’ve finally found a ritual: I usually write a paper at the kitchen table with a harsh light beating down on me. No, wait, I also like writing when I’m sitting in bed, like I’m doing right now, with low lighting and a snack.

The longer I think about it, the more I believe that I don’t have any rituals when I write, and I’m okay with that. It doesn’t mean I’m writing the wrong way, or the right way. It’s just my way.

The End of the Beginning

It feels so good to say I have finished and published my ePortfolio, finally!!! You can see it here if you so choose. After a semester of reflection and hard work, it feels good to have a place that showcases all of that work. While it may seem anticlimactic, I have felt the most growth just now, at the end of the semester. Maybe it’s because designing my ePortfolio required that I looked back on the steps I took to get to my final drafts. While I know that I grew throughout the semester (after all, how else would I have completed all of the projects without a little internal motivation?), I noticed my growth most at the end.

I feel I have grown in becoming a reflective writer. In this class, I had to reflect not on others’ writing so much as my own, which felt different from prior English classes. It gave me the opportunity to think more after I write, which is just as important as thinking (or not thinking) before I write. I thought after writing by re-purposing and re-mediating an original, older writing. Doing these projects allowed me to figure out this whole reflective writing thing we’ve talked so much about in class, from learning why famous authors write to why I write.

I will work more on introducing my voice into my rough drafts, and not falling back on academic language to carry me through a first draft. I noticed that a lot of people in class used the projects to bring out their voice, which is something I would love to do more of in the capstone course.

Overall, I feel like we all accomplished a lot as people and writers in Writing 220. I’m thankful that, in just my first course in the minor, I got to learn so much about myself and about writing, and where the two meet.

Letter to Future Gateway Students

Future Minor in Writing gateway students,

I hope you enjoy the learning that comes with the gateway course. Learning about others, yourself, and your writing process. Every writing class has felt impactful to me, but this one feels especially so, considering the type of work that was done in this class. All projects required some reflections, because they were either products of previous works or an essay about why I write. Without this class, I would not know as much about my own writing as I do now.

My biggest takeaway from the course has been using multiple modes to exercise my creativity and convey my arguments. I am used to writing in a word document and shaping my essay around a prompt. However, in this class I was able to write about anything I wanted that stemmed from a previous piece of writing. This gave me a lot of liberty in choosing what would inspire me to think in different modes as well as what just plain interests me.

The most challenging part of the class is juggling all of the different projects, especially at the end of the semester. Due dates aren’t really a thing, unless you make your own.

Because I failed to make my own due dates, I am now sitting here on the last day of class feeling that “oh shit” feeling because I have to somehow revise all my projects and put them on my ePortfolio, which is at a rough stage to say the most. If I could do this class over again, I would tell myself to make due dates a priority.

What surprised me the most is how easy it was to create my re-mediation and also the website for my ePortfolio. I initially thought that these two projects would be my biggest struggle, but they have turned out to be the most enjoyable ones.

Some practical advice I would give? Use your peers and teacher for feedback, help, etc. Everyone is there to become better writers, which means both learning and teaching. They are invaluable resources!

Finally, I think the most important advice for going into this class is to trust that everything will fall into place, whether you’re stressed about picking a topic that you have to cover the whole semester or you are burnt out over all the assignments. They all have their purpose, and that is to help you realize/explain/think about your purpose for writing.

Re-visiting “Why I Blog”

I feel like I have developed into a more thoughtful writer since the start of this semester when we first read “Why I Blog” by Andrew Sullivan. Now, I find myself writing and asking “Who is my audience? Where will this piece end up? What is the point of my argument and who cares??” The last question is not meant to be self-defeating, but rather to invoke more meaningful thought behind my purpose for writing and creating. I strive to improve as a writer and as a person through multiple forms. I feel like one way to do this is to just read. Reading good or bad writing can improve a person’s writing and analytical skills in writing, but reading good writing is especially inspiring.

Getting to read why George Orwell and Joan Didion write gave me a little bit of that inspiration. It is fascinating to learn that Orwell was not born as an all-knowing author. First, he spent time practicing. He practiced by writing mundane, meticulous, descriptive details that he observed. Then, he says he discovered the joy of words. It showed me how writing is a learning process for many writers. Didion expressed her need to write as a way to realize her thoughts in a clearer way. For her, writing was not so much a choice activity as a necessity in her life. To me, this expresses the passion that writing fosters in many people’s lives. While I do not find myself writing as a necessity to provoke thought in everyday life, it certainly helps make muddier thoughts more clear if I take the time to stop thinking and just let my fingers type on a keyboard or scribble on a page.tumblr_m9010sxdqf1qdhag9o1_500

This brings me to Sullivan, who proclaims that blogging is accident-prone, free form, and informal. He calls it writing out loud. This feels very comparable to Didion’s way of writing as thinking. While Orwell and Didion don’t seem as interested in immediate criticism of their work, and are rather more interested in the writing process, Sullivan explains that blogging allows for comments and shares to be used to have a conversation with the writer. This can be a very valuable way to share ideas and thoughts in a way that seems new and so easily available to many. I find a lot of reward in peer-review workshops and conversations about one’s own writing with another writer, because it is a way to think about your writing from a different point of view while also allowing constructive criticism to play a part in the revision process.

Orwell, Didion and Sullivan all have reasons for writing and for writing the way that they do. What inspires me about them altogether is that each has a different argument and purpose for writing. There is no one way to write. It makes me think about how I might evolve my purpose for writing throughout the minor, and how I already have.

Drafting and Revising My Project

In terms of my ePortfolio, it’s interesting to think of it as its own entity, separate from my Re-Purposing and Re-Mediation projects. While we have mostly focused on these two projects so far in class, I think it is good to step away from them and focus on a greater objective of the class: creating an ePortfolio. I have never created an online website to showcase my writing, and it was nice to read through the “Drafting and Revising Your Project” chapter of Writer/Designer to ease my mind a bit about the drafting process of my website. For instance, I should focus on getting an outline of my content into my ePortfolio before I worry about specific aspects such as fonts, navigation, and images. While the ePortfolio feels like the last assignment for this class, I know that the skills I will gain in the Re-Purposing and Re-Mediation will definitely help me handle the multimodal aspects of a website.

A point from the chapter that stuck out to me was being conscious of the purpose that my ePortfolio conveys through its organizational and navigational features. While the layout of a website doesn’t always feel relevant to the content, I think it should be in mine. If there is another multimodal way to show my purpose for writing, I would love to practice using it. I hope that through some drafting and revising, my ePortfolio will come to be a portrayal of my writing style and purpose.

Blogging My Process

After reading some of my classmates’ blog posts for this assignment, I feel a bit behind in my planning and outlining for this re-purposing project. However, I feel like now that I have really found a topic I am interested in and find to be a compelling argument, I can dive into the research and multimodal resources that will help me in my writing.

Before writing my research proposal, I met with my teacher to get my ideas out verbally and to get a second opinion on them, so that I could have a little more clarity when writing my proposal. Talking with her definitely helped me, but the topics I had come to her with still weren’t sparking a passion in me that would keep me from dreading the drafting process for this assignment. My original piece that I am re-purposing has to do with my time working at a Migrant Education Program. In my re-purposing, I originally thought of talking about migrant farm work in general, in order to educate more people on the topic since I feel it is relatively unknown that migrant farm work occurs in Michigan and deeply affects the lives of the workers and their children. However, I didn’t see what my argument was in this approach. I thought, am I just doing an informational research paper? That sounds really boring, to read and to write.

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Later, when I sat down to write my annotated bibliography rough draft and pick some genre sources, I knew I had to really decide what I was gonna do for my topic. Something that has interested me in the past is nomadic living in general, in part because my dad lived like this for a few years of his life and I love hearing his stories about it. After some brainstorming, I decided that it would be interesting to compare the modern nomadic lifestyle to migrant farm workers’ lives and to address the privileges held by those who choose the lifestyle of constant traveling, while migrant farm workers are not given the opportunities to choose another life. To me, this gives my paper a clear direction and argument, and excites me to think that I can learn more about nomadic living in general while still connecting it to something I have grown passionate about through my summer job.

Now, it’s time for me to start writing my shitty first draft. Since I have decided on a comparative analysis type paper, I feel like it’ll require that I do a lot of research. In the past when I have done a comparative analysis, it turned into a nine page paper, and I don’t think I want this one to be that long, especially when I consider where I want my piece to end up — which is something I still haven’t figured out. That will be my next decision in the process of writing this re-purposing assignment.

 

Planning Project One

An essay I read for English 325 that has been the most engaging essay I’ve ever read is “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion. It is an example of New Journalism at a time when it was just developing. Didion went to a popular area of hippiedom in the sixties called the Haight, in San Francisco, California. There, she followed and interviewed several different hippies, who were the main characters in her story. Not only that, she also created a character out of the Haight itself, as it was an essay that focused on place and setting.

Most of the essay is very descriptive with lots of dialogue intermingled. Didion doesn’t need to show much of her argument, because the evidence from her time there speaks for itself. She describes several of the young people she meets.

“Max sees his life as a triumph over “don’ts.” Among the don’ts he had done before he was twenty-one were peyote, alcohol, mescaline, and Methedrine. …Max dropped in and out of most of the schools and fashionable clinics in the eastern half of America, his standard technique for dealing with boredom being to leave. Example: Max was in a hospital in New York and “the night nurse was a groovy spade, and in the afternoon for therapy there was a chick from Israel who was interesting, but there was nothing much to do in the morning, so I left” (Didion 8).

In this description, Didion leaves her comments and queries out of the passage completely, because they are not meant to be the focal point. The reader can make their own assumptions as they read, and at the end, Didion finally states her argument.

“We were seeing the attempt of a handful of pathetically unequipped children to create a community in a social vacuum. …This was not a traditional generational rebellion. At some point between 1945 and 1967 we had somehow neglected to tell these children the rules of the game we happened to be playing. …These were children who grew up cut loose from the web of cousins and great-aunts and family doctors and lifelong neighbors who had traditionally suggested and enforced the society’s values” (Didion, 31)

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https://knoji.com/haightashbury-and-the-summer-of-love

Her message is at once clear and heartbreaking. Clear, because of all of the evidence she gave us in the 30 pages before she stepped in with the first-person argument. It was heartbreaking because of her evidence as well. All of the people she met in the Haight are teenagers, not even over 20 years old. To these hippies, she was seen as an old person at the age of 33. She goes on to say, “They are less in rebellion against the society than ignorant of it, able only to feed back certain of its most publicized self-doubts, Vietnam, Saran-Wrap, diet pills, the Bomb.” She says this to explain that although these kids think they have a worldly view on life, that they are the ones living freely, they actually have no clue what they are talking about. They simply name-drop different people and brands, thinking that they sound smart.

Her argument is that these kids fell through the cracks, that they were raised without parents who cared to educate them or help them mature into productive adults. Instead, these hippies were starving to death, desperately in need of someone to step in and take control.

Didion’s piece is so eye-opening to me, because she uses direct scene and observations to convey her message before finally giving us her insight and nailing it right on the head. I hope to emulate this passion and commitment to a topic as I continue writing in this class and the Minor.