Challenge Journal – Was I wrong?

Looking back at my Why I Write for Gateway, I notice a lot of things. I had a lot to say, and it’s evident in the writing.

But one of my favorite parts of my pieces was the following chunk:

“Once I start finding associations, I run into more. It’s the chase. It’s a web that never ends. I could do this thinking in my brain, but how could I keep track of it? The web is infinite, so jumping from once place to another without at least keeping an eye on the initial or ending place or any of the stops in between is dangerous. It’s like those conversations you have with your best friend that result in questions about how you got on the subject in the first place, leaving you both confused and disappointed by your inability to backtrack and recover any of the beautiful ideas that were elicited mid-conversation.”

Well, I at least like the idea of it. As Ray mentioned a few weeks ago in our class, writing helps us to think critically about things. It’s difficult to develop a deep understanding of something without writing it down. I think a lot of that has to do with the statement I made above. It helps you track your thoughts and keep your point A and point B in your head simultaneously.

However, I might have been wrong. Maybe I don’t do that as much as I should. Going back to my first challenge journal, I discuss how difficult it is for me to write poorly (once again, not because my work is always good but because I have trouble just getting thoughts out). So maybe this really is something to work on.

Due to the scale of this project, I believe I’ve progressed in this area. There were many nights I needed to generate pages worth of content, but I knew I didn’t have time to fuss over the wording of every sentence, so I just wrote. This is a habit I hope to get into when I’m not pressed for time. Allowing myself to write poorly just to get the thoughts out there.

So maybe the idea I had of why I write from before was kind of wrong. I do love writing for its exploratory nature, but I need to utilize that more for sure. And the first step is writing poorly (put simply). Yay!

Challenge Journal – Only in my head

Hello, everyone!

I’ve realized throughout this semester that I assume too much. I come up with these elaborate ideas and map them out for myself in an outline, but when it comes to writing them, I act like the reader is in my head. I under-explain.

This was brought to my attention first when I received the following comment from my GSI:

“Your explanation might have explored in more detail the ways in which rendering the J and P Gods in this way illuminated certain aspects of the text, or dealt with the implications of doing so.”

The piece was for my “The Bible as Literature” course. I wrote a dialogue between the J and P Gods, which are both the God in the Bible, but, according to Bible scholars, written by different sources. Each source seemed to give God a different personality and tendency, so I created a conversation between the two.

Clearly, my ideas for how the conversation between the Gods illuminated particular parts of the text could have been better. But I guess I just assumed the people reading my paper were knowledgable about the Bible and would pick up on the interpretations I was making without me having to say them.

So I could try to be a bit more explicit about the implications of my claims. I guess I just get worried that I will over-explain things and will both make the piece boring and the reader feel underestimated.

Plus, it always brings me a small sense of accomplishment when I understand what the author is getting at when they don’t delineate everything. But maybe I just need to get better at doing that. Or maybe a bit of clarity isn’t such a bad thing.

Challenge Journal – What comes in the end?

“The conclusion should offer more than a summary of what has been said. Options here include some reasonable speculation/broader inferences from your argument, the implication on society at large (frame this carefully), or possible directions for future research”

 

Above is some feedback from my Comm 362 course on a paper I wrote about making meaning of the iMessage app.

 

I’ve always struggled with this. Luckily, in this project, I don’t have to do a broad summary of what I’ve said as a part of my conclusion, but what’s the appropriate way to end? I always want to leave the reader thinking, and it would be nice to have a gripping “call to action,” but what if my topic just isn’t like that? As my GSI commented in this, implications for society at large are an option, but where is the line between placing your work in the greater context and making unfounded philosophical speculations? Similarly, asking more questions and pointing out that there’s more to be uncovered is good, but is that really a good ending to anything but a research paper (which this ((kinda)) was)? Maybe? When I think about endings that I’ve really enjoyed, they’ve been memorable and intriguing but not cliché. I’m very afraid of the cliché. So when my topic (defining the “classic” in classic American style/fashion) is one that involves thought and contemplation but not necessarily a tangible action, what to do? I kind of like the idea of tying it back around to reference what I spoke about in the beginning of my paper, but is that too English 125? I’m not sure. Sometimes without distance (which is not something we can have from our projects with the speed of the semester) it’s hard to tell the difference between a genuinely good idea and one that’s actually a subpar repetition of something you’ve seen somewhere. Any good frames for thinking about this?

Challenge Journal – I’m Too Vague

Hello, everyone!

Looking back at one of my assignments for English 225, my rhetorical analysis, I wrote about rhetorical strategies of Mark Hemingway, a reputable conservative journalist. Some of the lines I wrote include:

“After establishing this polarizing mindset in his audience, Hemingway again uses emotional appeals to establish commonalities between himself and his audience and suggest that his argument for freedom of speech is pertinent to their collective understanding of the purpose of life from a Christian perspective. Because of this, Hemingway’s use of emotional appeals is effective because it creates a consensus of anger and a feeling of purpose in the audience of students.”

While these sentences are certainly a rhetorical analysis, I wonder if they’re too vague? And I also often wonder if what I’m writing is insultingly simple for readers or going over their heads. It’s sometimes difficult to know when all your ideas have been cemented in your mind for awhile.

This reminds me of when Ray asked us to make our mentions of “society” etc. less vague and more targeted. But is there ever an appropriate time for being fairly broad? I’m not sure..

Huge Missed Opportunity

I didn’t even think of this topic as a big deal when I was taking Spanish 231 my first semester sophomore year, but one journal topic we could choose to write 1-2 pages on was “Pros and cons of living in the United States.” In retrospect, this is a vast and incredibly sensitive/heavy question. On one hand, the average American (and, particularly, Americans I’ve been surrounded by) has a much greater quality of life (in terms of available resources primarily) than the average citizen of many other countries, so there’s a high degree of fortune there. On the other hand, there are many costs of living in this country. I think that, for the most part, people who grow up in other countries experience many more formative life experiences than many kids growing up here do. It’s more difficult to travel outside of the country because it’s so vast. Not to mention we don’t really learn the history or even current affairs of other countries; We’re really obsessed with ourselves. This prompt is something that, once again, in retrospect, I wish I had been able to take advantage of. Since taking this class my sophomore year, I have met, befriended, and dated a greater number of people who were not citizens of this country than I had even met before this point.

While I was fortunate enough to have a grandmother who prioritized travel and seeing the world (taking me with her on a few trips), I did not have near this perspective at that time (and am sure I don’t have/will never fully attain a perfect perspective on this either). I think one thing, in addition to doing a deep dive into the real costs/benefits of living here, that would have been helpful is navigating such a sensitive topic. As I mentioned above, this issue could get contentious. To balance the acknowledgement of privilege while simultaneously bearing in mind the real cons of the politics, government, values, etc of the country would be difficult at best. How do you talk about that without feeling like you’re offending an incredible number of people? And while still expressing your own genuine thoughts?

I would like to see this as a 12+ pg assignment rather than a 1-2 page reflection.

Most Extreme Consequences/ Implications

Hi, everyone! After thinking a bit about what Ray asked us on Monday, I’ve come up with a few extreme consequences/implications of the project I’m working on.

One thing I brought up to Ray a couple weeks ago is that I was nervous that people might think I am writing to divulge the nefarious nature of fashion. Though many components of the classic American style are derived from some form of narcissism or pride, I am not arguing that it is bad. This is a difficult and important balance to strike. Similarly, I do not want my readers to think that it is bad themselves.

My other concern is that I do not want my audience to assume that I’m implying that particular values are inherent in all Americans. I suppose between these two concerns, I am worried about a generality problem. This will hopefully be avoided if I get my phrasing right, but I also do not want to do too much qualifying, as I don’t want to take away from the perceived validity of the work.

Challenge Journal – I need to know everything

Hello all,

I hope you’re all having a wonderful spring break!

On another note, I’m currently reflecting on the writing challenge I’m facing now: I feel like I need to know everything. I get in this habit of thinking about how I am going to make the points I want to make in my paper, and I lose sight of my topic completely. I do this by contemplating the points I’m making and then doubting that my research combined with my own analytical abilities will give me anything substantial to work with. I do this because when I lose sight of my topic, I assume that my job as a writer is to inform everyone in the entire world of the exact answers to all the world’s questions around my topic. With this mindset, I feel unprepared and inadequate.

In order to stop overestimating my role, I am attempting to focus on how interesting I find my own research. Because we are generally writing for people of equal intelligence and with comparable knowledge of our topics, it’s easier to see how my contributions can be valuable to others when I think about how they are valuable to me. I don’t need to scavenge through thousands of entire books and synthesize them to solve the world’s questions in order to be compelling and insightful.

As Ray reminded me in our last class, sometimes you just have to pause and ask the basic questions. In my case, that is, “Why are they wearing that?,” which is interesting enough to me.

Challenge Journal – I can’t write trash

I don’t mean to say that none of my work is bad because (surprise) I have authored some very poorly executed pieces. My problem is that I take an incredibly long time to write because I want it to sound good as soon as I articulate it. To clarify, I can create an outline with general points I want to make, but I struggle to create real content that is not overly contemplated before being written.

I suppose some part of me is worried that I will come back to revise it and say, “Wow, this is a terrible point; I should just eliminate it” because I don’t see the idea’s potential due to the poor wording. I’m also worried that it will just take too long to go back and reword everything I’ve put down. However, my inability to write without thinking it through is inhibiting my ability to get all my ideas down before they leave my memory. I would also assume it prevents me from coming up with more ideas because I’m so focused on articulating it well that my brain doesn’t have the freedom to wander to other related ideas that could be beneficial to include.

This really shouldn’t be an issue because I end up rewording a lot of the things I put time into, and I have certainly turned in assignments of which I was not proud.

I’m not entirely sure how to fix this other than being aware of it and just writing. It has seemed to help me a bit to keep multiple documents so I can separate my contemplated content from my first draft content. That way, I feel less stressed about generating first draft content because it’s kept separate from my “good” content.

I’m not sure if this says that I’m an overthinker or daunted by the idea of writing things more than once. Probably both.

Challenge Journal – Bogged Down

Hi, everyone!

To kick off this entry, I want to say that I really appreciate reading everyone’s posts regarding their struggles. I can’t comment on everyone’s, but it’s been incredibly encouraging to see that I’m not alone in my writing struggles 🙂

That being said, I will confess that I get incredibly bogged down by research. I feel I have a talent for seeing many perspectives of the same situation, information, etc., but I feel that can be a detriment to me with research. Though I’m incredibly interested and invested in my project topic, the more I research, the more overwhelmed I get. This shouldn’t be the case, but I suppose it’s a “the more I see, the less I know” kind of deal.

This leads me to confusion about where I fit in the narrative. How could I possibly know about all of the works that are out there? (I realize I’m not expected to really know this, but I can easily convince myself that I am.) Because of this concern, I begin to fret about what new information I’m giving, how seriously I can be taken elaborating on it, and even the general argument of my paper.

I can see this in almost every large writing assignment I’ve done through the stress at the research process versus stress after I’ve gathered most of my research. However, given the enormity of this project, I can see how the consistent collection of research will be a challenge for me. This is why I know the production plan and our regular peer critiques will be very helpful to ensure I’m staying on track with it.

To be honest, I can’t really say how to fix this overwhelmed feeling that researching gives me. I think I can work on forcing myself to write even if I don’t feel prepared in the research stage because, as we discussed in class, we will end up pitching quite a bit… Does anyone else relate?

Is this a dead end?

Hi everyone,

Maybe you can all help me to see how my own interests can be better translated into a substantial argument that is appealing to the largest audience I could get to meet me halfway.

I’m considering (among other things) writing about sub-cultures/lifestyle branding. This is a broad way to phrase it, but what I mean is that the phenomena of multiple categories of seemingly trivial, preference-based life choices, such as decisions of food and clothing, have been lumped together to form sub-cultures in society. For example, the American brand, Tory Burch, includes a list of restaurant recommendations on the official website. When I looked at this while trying to “make the familiar strange,” it was intriguing to me. However, I am worried that this may just be an argument that people who enjoy one thing are likely to enjoy another.

I am particularly interested in the classic American (preppy, as many name it) style and lifestyle, but I’m not sure how to write about this with more novelty. Maybe I can incorporate talk of lifestyle branding? What would that look like?

How can I take this topic beyond the stage of observing what a lot of people have in common?

Thanks for your help!