Well Here It Is

It’s funny how fast things can sneak up on you, and I feel like there are fewer areas in my life than school where things have seemed to fly by.  It hasn’t come close to sinking in yet that I’m done with my junior year in college, and just like the  first two years of my college career, this past year has flown by.

I remember sitting in class the first day thinking about how much work the e-portfolio seemed like, but once I got going on it, it was one of those assignments that seemed to fly by, much like this past semester.  Not saying it wasn’t a lot of work, but looking back on it it was entirely worth it all, both the class and the eportfolio.

One of the biggest takeaways, and also what I’m most nervous about having the project live and public now, is that it’s public.  I’ve never been one that has had that many people read my work, but over the course of this class I’ve learned about the importance of being aware for the audience you’re trying to reach through your work and your writing.  By having this project live, it’s a little comforting knowing that people are reading the works I’ve worked hard on, but at the same time it’s a  little daunting knowing that all these pieces are out there.

Regardless, this class helped me grow in more ways than one, and without further adieu, here is my portfolio.

http://mzwolan.wix.com/eport

My Top Five Favorite Books That I’ve Recently Read

As the semester has been coming to and end, recently I’ve been scrapping the bottom of the barrel in terms of what to blog about, and a popular one I have seen floating around recently has been everyone’s top ten favorite books, and while I tried to think about the top ten books in my life, I had trouble narrowing it down to ten, so I decided to go with the last 5 books I’ve read, as listed below.

Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson

Aside from the sports aspect, specifically basketball, this book relates a lot of the basketball experiences from Jackson’s playing and coaching career to the struggles and experiences he’s had in life.  Known as the ‘Zen Master’ in the basketball world, Jackson takes a deeper, spiritual look at both basketball and life, and it makes for an easy read.

Bo’s Lasting Lessons: The Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership by Bo Schembechler and John U. Bacon

I might be a little biased putting this book in here, having grown up a Michigan fan my entire life, but reading this book has helped me really appreciate being  a part of athletics here at the University of Michigan, as well as made me even more fortunate for the opportunities I’ve had.  Aside from the Michigan aspect of it all, the lessons have all had real life applicability, while the stories that Bo shares about his life are entertaining as well.  Definitely worth the read, especially if you’re a fan of Michigan, or just sports in general.

Detroit City is the Place to Be by Mark Binelli

I’ve always been a fan of Detroit since I was young, my mom grew up in a hotel on Lafayette Street, and my dad grew up in a suburb just a short drive from Detroit City proper.  After going to school in Detroit for a year and a half to start college, I fell in love with the city, and this is one of the few books that has been able to capture a lot of the sentiments I have about the city itself.  I have some great memories from visits and trips to the city, and it’s great to see the city coming back, and having a book like this painting the positives and negatives that the city faces in such  hopeful light is always nice to see.

1984 by George Orwell

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the books that everyone considers ‘classics’ are typically worth of being called that. I remember first reading 1984 in high school for a British literature course I took, and trying to get through 1984 as fast as possible because who didn’t hate their assigned readings while they were in high school?  I’ve since reread it and realized that I probably should have read it the first time around because it ended up being one I really enjoyed, for as much as one can enjoy 1984 without sounding like they’re too out of left field.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

While technically I’m not done with this book yet, and a busy second semester hasn’t exactly helped me get through this book any faster, especially considering its length, it’s a great book about a lot of life principles.  The way that Hemingway can connect so much of his personal life to his writing, and then further extrapolate the motives and emotions of something as formative and heart wrenching as war is pretty unique.  I like his straight forward writing style as well, and it’s hard to deny Hemingway, for all he is vast romanticized in modern society, must have been a pretty interesting dude.  Hopefully once school finishes up I’ll be able to knock this one out as well.

 

 

 

Writer’s Block, Lack of Attention, Whatever You Want To Call It

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In a class that requires so much writing, over the course of the semester it’s only natural that I’ve come to my fair share of ‘forks in the road’ accompanied by the dreaded writer’s block.  Actually, the inspiration for this post came to me in the midst of writing another blog post when I was unsure of what to write, and figured it would make for an applicable topic for another post.  But anyways, if you’re like me, and typically leave all your assignments to the last minute, this writer’s block is typically unwanted and can be confusing as to why it happens.  Depending on how focused or ‘in the zone’ I am, sometimes I can crank right through this lull, but sometimes it can be pretty bad.  Also, sometimes the assignment is just  one of the last things I want to do, so I can get distracted pretty easily by whatever or whoever is around me.

I think a good portion of me, especially when I’m not really bought into the idea of doing an assignment or am really dreading something, is when I typically experience writer’s block.  I’ll be drudging along with an assignment or paper or whatever, and suddenly I’ll find absolutely no motivation or inspiration to keep writing.  When this happens, I typically have a hard time getting back on task, often times going off on remotely related tangents with my work, eventually coming back to my piece with even less motivation or excitement about the piece than what I began with.  However, sometimes when I take a short break like this and take a little bit of time away from the piece, I can come back with a clearer mind and more open approach to the assignment, and given the fact that this usually happens during the earlier periods of my writing, I generally need to get as much written down as possible (Special thanks to “Shitty First Drafts” for letting me know that sometimes having something down is what’s really important to get going).  Only problem is, sometimes I’ll come back from this writer’s block or start to focus up again and the majority of what I say comes out in rambling, long sentences, probably just like the last one I wrote will read after I go back and look this blog over again.

I don’t know the last time I had genuine writer’s block however, as in I had no idea what to write and came to an absolute standstill.  I think that instead I’ll either ramble and look for “filler” or fluff to add to my work that in the end serves me as well as not writing anything would have.  I don’t know if this could be considered writer’s block of just a further continuation of my shitty first draft work, but sometimes once I flush out a lot of what I originally wrote and get it closer to what I want to say, it isn’t half bad.  I feel like the best real life example I can give of it is that it’s similar to awkward silence in a conversation and there’s that one person that feels the need to speak up, even though whatever they’re saying isn’t exactly worth listening to, except this time around, it’s a paper, and the gist of what I’m writrint gets said, but in the end, it takes a lot of editing and revising to actually help other people get the message that I’m trying to relay as a writer.

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All in all, I think this post goes to show that my writer’s block, lack of focus, impulsive typing, etc.. can sometimes lead to productive work, or on the other hand, it can lead to a cluster of information that in the end gets the message across, but not in as nearly a conniving or appealing manner.

The Inspiration Behind My Remediation Project

While approaching my finished remediation project, I wanted to give some background about why I decided to model mine after a 1950s radio broadcast.  Coming into this year, I don’t know if I had ever listened to, let alone even heard of, Pat Novak, Johnny Dollar, the Bickersons, or any of the other characters that were on American radio stations from the 1930s to the late 1960s, but for some reason, after taking my English 290 class, titled American Sounds: 1930-1962, I’ve suddenly found a very different, unique interest of mine.

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The point of the class is to familiarize everyone with the radio genres and the formats of the shows themselves, and while at times, some of the shows have been extremely dated, cheesy, or just plain hard to listen to, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the class and the various shows that we’ve listened to.  Part of the assignment was to write our own script in the style of one of the Golden Age radio shows, and after plugging away for 29 pages of dialogue, sound effects, and stage directions, it became something I started to enjoy.  When trying to think of a unique, but effective way to approach my project then, after having only recently finished my script for my English 290 class, I decided that recording my own 15 minute show in the style of one of the shows from the 1950s would be a great chance to give a different genre another shot.

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I drew the most inspiration for the show from the show the “Tales of the Texas Rangers,” which in many ways set the precedent for modern day crime shows, taking facts and situations that actually happened and adapting them for these shows.  Since the story I was talking about, the anti-communist, subversive group from the 1950s and 60s called the Minutemen had plenty of FBI paperwork detailing just what they had been up to, I figured “Tales of the Texas Rangers” provided a great example of how to put together a show that used factual events and was able to put together an entertaining story.  I wanted to make sure that my piece’s argument (to show why individuals joined such a group as the Minutemen or looked to join one) was also present in the show, and these shows in the 1950s almost always had some kind of moral that was presented throughout the story, so it seemed like a great chance to do a little bit more with a slowly growing interest I was developing.

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While people made say having an interest in shows that are almost 60 years old or older is a little different, these shows have a ton to offer, both as entertainment, but also the stories behind the shows themselves are fascinating.  When coupled with the prominence that these shows had in their heyday, it goes to show just how impactful some of these shows really were, and that there was a reason they were so popular among so many people.  Plus, if we’re still offering a class on the scripts and shows that were being written from the 30s-60s, there must have been some pretty damn good writers on these shows as well, so hopefully I can learn a thing or two from them as well.

Incase there is any interest in them, the site we get the recordings from is linked below:

 

https://archive.org/details/oldtimeradio

Don’t I Write Enough For This Class?

One of the great things about the writing minor is the extremely diverse and different backgrounds, types of people, and academic concentration the program attracts.  While some major may require less writing than others, I have typically found that as a history major, I’m both expected and required to do a lot of writing, and the same goes for the writing minor as well (hence the name), but recently I’ve started to keep a journal tracking  my day to day thoughts, which may only seem like an added amount unnecessary writing, but it’s actually proven to be quite the opposite.

One of my favorite aspects about writing is having the ability to look back on past work, and while typically I rarely look back at past academic writing, except to see why I might have received a certain grade on it, with my journal, it has been an interesting and thought provoking experience to look back on what I might have been doing a couple weeks back, what was on my mind, or whatever else I might have written down for that day.  Some of the stuff I’ve gone back over has been pretty funny to read, some of it has been kind of heavy, but regales, I’m glad that they are all things that I took the time to put the words on to paper.

An average entry for me is right around a page typically, but if I really have a lot on my mind, or maybe if it had been a while since my last entry, I’ll write a little bit more.  I feel like this has done a lot for my writing as well, I’ve continually taken a more personal, conversational tone that I want to try and incorporate into my writing for school itself, and it’s a tone that I’ve only very briefly used for my writing before.  At the same time, I’ve also had a way to express myself in a more concrete way, something that requires more time and effort than simply thinking about whatever may be going on in my life or in my mind during a particular day.

Despite the large amounts of writing I have to do for my other classes, keeping this journal has been worth it from start to finish, and while it can be an extra dose of writing and another chunk of time spent writing during a typically busy day, it’s forced me to take the time to sit down and take the time to think about  my day and my life in a manner that I didn’t really take the time to do before doing starting this journal.

Writing is typically perceived to be a conversation between the writer and the reader, and when you’re writing for something that is only going to be read by yourself, it makes for a pretty interesting exchange.  For anyone that is interested in starting to write in their own journal, I think it goes without saying that I would definitely recommend it.

An Assignment, and an Audience, Unlike Any Before

One of the most daunting tasks with the e-portfolio assignment, besides the actual work of the assignment itself, is that fact that theoretically it’ll be the largest, widest spanning audience I’ve had to write for, especially given the way in which it is presented as a whole.  After talking in class today however, I thought the biggest takeaway I had was helping me develop a better idea of the kind of audience I want to focus this blog towards.  I thought the most effective ones were the kinds that kept a more formal voice and tone that, that was able to appeal to a more peer-based audience.  Typically I’ve really catered to my audience when writing, but that audience has never been my peers.  I’ve always taken a more formal approach to writing, and when writing my papers I’ve always focused on how the professor or GSI or whoever was grading the assignment would take it, and I want to take this opportunity to really make an attempt to make an e-portfolio that has more of an appeal to my peers.  I think finding a healthy medium of a formal voice that can appeal to a wider audience, but still one that is able to keep my peers specifically focused and interested in on my work, will be the main focus of mine when considering what kind of audience I want to approach and attempt to write for.

I think a big part of this appeal and how I hope to gain it will be done through the visual aspect of the portfolio.  I noticed how quickly I could gain and or lose interest in a portfolio.  There was a fine line between ones that were overwhelming in terms of visual appeal, and some that

 

 

 

 

Repurposing for a Purpose

If there’s one thing I’ve stressed most throughout the course of this class, it has been the continual feeling of constraint I’ve felt with my prior writing assignments, and how I’ve always felt like there have been very limited ways for me to approach and interact with my actual writing.  When I first read the prompt for the repurposing assignment however, I was most excited about the chance to force myself to break out of my comfort zone, which up until now has been overwhelmingly constrained to a five paragraph argumentative essay format these past few years.  At first I wasn’t really sure at all of what paper I was going to rewrite, but then I remembered a short story I wrote my freshman year.  While my interests have drastically changed over the past few years, I have always been fan of westerns, and during my freshman year’s creative writing course I was given the task of writing a short story and ended up with a unfinished western story a little over 10 pages long.  While this is not only a great chance to revisit a piece I haven’t even looked at since turning it in, it’s also one that never really had a purpose in the first place.

Going into this project, the biggest difference in the piece will be the reason for writing it.  The first time around when I wrote the piece, it was literally solely for the purpose of getting the over the required 10 pages, with something I figured was halfway decent and could get me a satisfactory grade.  No thought was given to character or plot development, there was never any kind of underlying message in the piece, and in the end, it made for a very unremarkable and very forgettable piece.  I want to use this project to totally rethink the piece, and in the end, make it as enjoyable as I had intended in the first place.

Talking to my classmates helped me realize the wide range of reasons for writing a piece like this, and while I’m still trying to narrow down a meaning, message, or purpose for the piece other than being hopefully an entertaining and enjoyable read.  I think the one thing that helped me most with the idea of repurposing was that I’m very much the kind of person that would prefer to discuss their ideas and receive instant feedback on something, as opposed to written responses or anything.  Not that I don’t appreciate or enjoy peer editing, I just prefer face-to-face interactions.  Also, I’ve found that personal interaction helps me generate ideas that I might not necessarily think of while sitting down trying to write, since a lot of the time the best ideas I’ve had have been spur of the moment, almost a right place, right time, kind of thing.  The biggest thing I currently need help with moving forward is finding a specific audience and a specific reason to write.  This is a favorite genre of mine (Westerns) and I’m excited to finally be forced out of my comfort zone again with a piece unlike others I’ve had to write in the past.  While finding a message to try and relay might be a little hard at first, I think that given the nature of the assignment and the piece, once I get a message or reason for writing, I’m sure that it’ll end up being a fulfilling assignment, both from a writing perspective, but also to be able to look back and reread the piece later on in life.

Applicability to Spare

Despite the relatively easy going, optimistic nature that I consider myself to maintain in life, I have learned through a variety of experiences to really value the ways and opportunities to help improve myself and my various skills in whatever way possible.  While I might seek out help directly, have no choice but to improve a certain skill in order to get a better grade or pass a specific test, I’ve never given any amount of thought to how to get better as a reader.  Up until now, I’ve assumed that in terms of reading for school, I knew how to get through the material with relative ease, but never really scrutinized the way that I approached the material.  However, after completing the reading for this past week, one of the biggest takeaways I had was in terms of how I can start to approach my various reading assignments in more thoughtful and analytic way, as opposed to being overly concerned with trying to get the reading done, solely for the purpose of trying to finish said assignment as quickly and efficiently as possible.

 

One of the more interesting responses I’ve had to a piece of writing this semester was during the part where Haas and Flower discuss the various aspects of what really qualifies as ‘good’ reading.  Interestingly enough, I found myself trying to get through another reading assignment as quickly as possible while absorbing as much information as possible, but once I got to this part of the reading, I had to actually stop because I quickly came to the realization that I was doing a lot of the negative aspects of ‘bad’ reading that went against exactly what the authors were saying.  the idea that reading should be done as a “constructive process” is one that is entirely new to me, but this makes a lot of sense when I think about it, because it comes back to the idea of engaging with the work, as opposed to just kind of going through the motions with it, getting it done for the sake of having it done.  This also ties into the idea of what “good reading” is, and after reading through that, there are plenty of takeaways from it, and it definitely shows the value in taking the time and effort to do more than simply glaze over the text that I find myself doing so often.

 

One of the real benefits of the Minor in Writing program however is its wide range of applications outside of just the program itself, which is a thought that I feel accurately sums up the biggest takeaway from the readings, and is encapsulated most by the comparison of red pills in The Matrix in relation to the act of writing.  Much of what I know or currently do in terms of writing or reading is simply something that I’ve grown accustomed to throughout my life, and have never really given it any thought on how to improve it or alter it in any way.  However, after reading about the various different ways of reading, especially in the specific comparisons of the two students and how they read to communicate information in their own writing, it accurately and convincingly showed me that there are many different ways to interact and read a piece.  This doesn’t purely apply to my academic reading either, just as the skills and tools I can learn and improve on in terms of writing through the course of this program will not be limited only to academic writing.  I’ve continually hinted at and mentioned the sense of obligation I have to an old-school, almost traditionalist approach to writing I’ve had throughout my academic career, the class 5 paragraph essay approach that I’ve constantly worked with in the past, but seeing the different ways to approach reading and writing, for their benefits within the academic realm, but also for their applicability outside of it, will be the biggest takeaway I have from this course, and the various mentions of how to approach work with a newer mindset and mentality from these readings is the one thing I’ll continue to come back to with these readings as well.

Reading vs. Writing: The Choice is Clear

After reading the assortment of pieces for this past week, the biggest take away I had was evaluating the way I approach both my reading and writing, and also the reasons I approach the two of them, both for academic and personal reasons.  For me, the point that Brandt raised about the position of writing in today’s society was an interesting one, especially in that there is some amount of exclusivity in being a writing minor at the University of Michigan, and given the competitive and selective nature of the minor, it’s almost something to hang your hat on, having this ability to write that has been deemed good enough to further pursue in a more specialized way.  However, with Brandt’s notion that writing, and specifically the skills behind writing are becoming increasingly important, but also popular and widespread within both the job market and the in American society in general, it takes away from some of this exclusivity that goes along with being a writer.  While being different was never my sole motivation or reasoning for writing, in an increasingly competitive job market and academic atmosphere, it’s always nice to have as many skills to set you apart as possible.  However, at the same time, having a identified strength, such as in the form of a minor, could help just as much.

 

Brandt’s biggest point for me however was the perceived moral difference between writing and reading.  Being a history major, I thought that it was most interesting to start with the gradual shift in the role both reading and writing have played within society.  Typically reading was seen as a necessity, especially within many religious circles (both for personal and logistical practices), and writing was seen in many regards as a secondary skill.  I think that the emphasis of these skills has changed dramatically over time however, and that while reading is still a necessity in every day life, writing is starting to take precedent in terms of lifestyle applicability, especially in the work place.  In the majority of today’s jobs and academic curriculums, reading is a base line skill, while your ability to write is a often times a very viable and useful tool to help with upward mobility.  Not only does the ability to write well translate into a variety of uses and applications, very similar to Brandt’s comments about reading being a wider held skill than writing, the aforementioned exclusivity of writing itself, when coupled with a higher skill in writing, can prove much more beneficial than an equally strong reading capability.  If given the choice between being  an average writer and a great reader, or being an average reader and a great writer, I would pick the latter ever time.  I have found that there are too many areas in my current life where the ability to coherently write and prepare my thoughts has greatly outweighed the importance of reading well.

 

This isn’t to take anything away from reading, and while reading for leisure is one of my favorite hobbies, and there are a lot of things I would rather do than write a research paper, I still value my ability and personal comfort level with writing an immense amount, and it is because of that value, comfort level, but also aspiration to improve my writing ability that I first took interest in the Minor in Writing program.

From Required to Rewarding: Why I’ve Written, Why I’ll Continue To

The act and experience of change can be one of a wide and diverse array of emotions and reactions, and my relationship with both the act of writing, as well as my written work, has gone through a variety of changes over time.  I’ve always felt comfortable writing, but at the beginning of my academic career, writing was always done purely out of requirement.  I don’t remember taking any specific interest in writing outside of school, which was the main reason that I found George Orwell’s “Why I Write” piece to be particularly interesting.  Not only did it help shed light on the fact that great writers can develop their interest in writing over time, I found it especially interesting to see what shaped his changing disposition towards the act of writing over time.  While my reasons for initially beginning to enjoy writing don’t exactly overlap with Orwell’s, Sullivan’s, or Didion’s, the way I’ve changed the way I see writing does have some similarities with all three of the pieces that I read.

I’ve always used my writing as a way to reflect various parts of me, and while I’ve never had quite the outlet as Orwell to relay a political message, or written for any of the deeper purposes that Didion touches on, writing has definitely become a much more personal act over the course of my life, which I think is the result of the realization that writing is both a vital and overwhelmingly useful skill and tool to have as I grow older, but also the realization that writing is something I’ll have to continue to do for the rest of my life, and that if I’m going to spend as much time as I do, and will continue to do, writing, it’s something that I should really take the time to invest in and learn to enjoy.  It’s not the intention for this to sound like a bleak realization, but by embracing writing, and seeing it outside of a kind of choir or dreaded assignment, I’ve come to see it in a new way, which has only helped me grow as a writer.

In Didion’s piece she states “in many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me,” and this is a mindset and way of looking at writing that I’ve really never fully embraced.  Typically, I’ve only written for very specific audiences, such as a professor, GSI, potential employer, etc…  But this way of thinking ties hand in hand about coming to enjoy writing and making it a more personal experience and practice than having it be simply something for class.  I had always been very aware of the audience that I was writing for, and in many ways I was never fully aware or cognizant of the fact that while I was arguing my thesis, I was simultaneously giving a personal representation of myself, and that often times this could reach far beyond a simple letter grade.  Orwell’s claim that many writers write out of “sheer egoism” really struck a chord with me as well, and I’ll be the first person to tell you that I can be overly vain, this acceptance that you’re writing will always say more than simply what is written on the paper has continued to shift my writing habits, style, and preparation.

Over the course of my life I’ve written primarily for academic purposes, and while my time devoted to historical research papers has typically been the overwhelming majority of any writing I do, the writing I’ve had to do for various outlets, such as controlling a club’s twitter page, writing press releases for a pep rally, or simply writing in a personal journal, have only helped me with embrace the deeply personal aspect and function of writing.  Being able to see similarities between well established and respected authors has not only given me the hope that I can continue to develop my interest in writing, but it has also helped show me that there are other successful individuals who didn’t necessarily always embrace writing, but eventually came to thoroughly enjoy it.