Takin it in Strides

Alright. So, I can confidently say that I have much more done now than the last time I posted on here, but I’m still struggling with nipping that procrastination in the bud. My biggest struggle I have run into that I didn’t really prepare for was remembering exactly what happened on the day of the accident. Don’t ask me why I thought that falling out of a tree and getting drugs shot through 4 inch needles into my body would make for me remembering this full and elaborately traumatic story, but apparently I had some over-confidence in myself when choosing this topic. I think what’s hard about writing a personal narrative like this, in a genre I have researched and narrowed down to as “recovery narrative,” is that at least personally, I don’t want this to be a sob story. I want to realistically and consciously be aware of what happened and how I was feeling and maybe what changed in me during that time. But, since I tend to incorporate humor when I’m slightly uncomfortable, I’m also trying to add a flare of sarcasm in there. So far, I have a good chunk of it done along with an extensive bulleted list of what happens thereafter. I’m trying to flesh all of that out tonight because I meet with my narrative mentor tomorrow!

As for the poem in the last week, I have made immense strides, which I am ecstatic about! I met with a poetry mentor on Friday at Sweetland. The half hour I spent with her was mostly dedicated to explaining the Capstone further, what being a mentor entails, and telling her the backstory behind my project. As I’m sure you can imagine, my mouth ran for approximately 27 of the 30 minutes just to get all of the information in. But, what I told her was that essentially I needed a push in the right direction, a place to start, a kick in the ass. I LOVE poetry, but let me tell you, when you try to just get up and write it, particularly when you’re really trying to give yourself that sort of prompt, it is HARD. What we came down to after discussing my story was that I felt a lot of frustration toward the limitedness of my body after the fall. We decided it might be cool to try to make a “how to” type of poem, where I describe how I was feeling in specific situations and how to deal with that when you haven’t ever before. My starting point has been to write down vivid images of when I was feeling most limited by body, and I have really felt inspired by this. I have gotten a plethora of images written down and feelings incorporated that I haven’t had the chance to recognize before, so I really appreciated the starting point she gave me. I plan to meet with her again later this week to review my progress!

As for my choreography, I talked with my poetry mentor about maybe using this as a starting point for the poem rather than using the poem as a starting point for the choreography. I have thought about it a little and we’ll see where that takes me this week. I plan on doing a sort of interview on choreography with my dance mentor this week as well as finalizing the dates for constructive criticism and filming of the dance later this month.

Overall, I am getting more and more excited (though stressed by the time crunch I got myself into) about the project and I can’t wait to see what other things inspire me to move on and find closure through this writing journey!

Donut Dilemmas

I can’t believe we’re already decently into November. I was bored earlier and calculated that exactly one month from today is my final Concert Band concert and ACC 471 exam. Freaky.

This whole “Oh My God The End Of The Semester Is Near” stress-mess was triggered by the fact that my most fun, interactive part of my capstone project had to be pushed back a week. Long story short, I had family duties that outweighed my plan of posting up in the music school lounge, brandishing a big-ass box of Washtenaw Dairy donuts with a sign: “I’ll give you a donut if you tell me about the time you almost quit your instrument.”

I’d planned for two of these donut days, spaced about two weeks apart. The first day (a sort of pilot, if you will) is being transplanted from November 10th to November 16th…yikes. Which means that all the work that would’ve been done based on the interviews conducted on the 10th will begin almost a week late.

This creates two issues:

  2. What should I do instead of the donut-interviews between the 10th and the 16th? Obviously, I’m not about to make that entire week a write-off–it’s simply too late in the semester to think that’s even kind of a good idea. Instead, I think I’ll polish up the interviews with my horn professors that week, which actually creates a silver lining, now that I think of it: by polishing up their interviews earlier, I could think of even more important questions that would make the interviews even better–and I’d have more time to set up meetings with them.

Crisis averted…I guess?

One of my classmates suggested that I advertise the two donut days together, which I didn’t actually think about when they were both at their original dates. I think doing this would, as T said, create a frenzy around the interviews. Maybe people would want to be interviewed twice, or someone who went on the first day would tell their friends about the second day. Word of mouth, powered by donuts.

All in all, I guess I’m not too worried. On my last post, I said how I basically needed a good boot on the butt to get myself in gear. I’ve since created the website and have begun plugging the content in.

Who knows.

Maybe there’s hope yet.

Current Challenges (not edited)

The following is an un-edited copy of my in-class writing from today, which discusses the challenges I am currently facing in the Capstone Course:

“I am just now starting to realize how much work I have left to complete in approximately six short weeks. At the beginning of the term, I was basing my perceived workload on the research paper component of my project, but failed to account for all the time that will be required to create the website and write the Introduction Essay. My meeting with T this past Friday, during which I clarified my plans for these additional components, was thus somewhat shocking.

With that said, I am still very excited about realizing the goals I have set for my project, which include potentially submitting my paper to a scientific journal for publication. The fact that I am not dreading this project has helped keep my stress levels down. It is now just a matter of finding time in my schedule to do the work. But, I have no travel plans in November so I should be able to make a lot of progress rather quickly.

More specifically, my plan is to complete the full draft of the research paper, and then focus on the project site itself as well as the Introduction Essay. I also need to work on my upcoming presentation slides for the University of Michigan Pediatric Research Symposium I am presenting at. I plan to include these slides and potentially an audio file of my talk on my project site as an additional resource for people to view.”

I usually spend time editing and re-wording my blog posts before publishing them, but I like the feeling of leaving this work as is.

Sleep Is Important.

Since August, I was working at a hospital and spending upwards of 24 NIGHT hours at work per week while also going to school and balancing two more jobs, some extracurricular clubs, and social activities. I slept in the crevices of my schedule, and for a while, it all seemed completely manageable.

Who needs continuous sleep? I thought. I did, as it turns out. After that initial month where I felt like superwoman and consequently also never sat down, the reality of my grueling schedule started to compound. Each hour of sleep that was lost was felt, felt in my perpetual sleepiness, felt in my sore feet, felt in my less than ideal grades. I didn’t really feel like I was engaged in the moment, and as a result, the quality of my contributions to my courses suffered, I believe. I wasn’t participating like I wanted to. I didn’t raise my hand or follow the lectures.

Me in class most days:

And the capstone project seemed to be at a standstill. It seemed so daunting, so insurmountable. I didn’t really know what I wanted the project to be, and I wasn’t sure if I could make it happen regardless. I resisted starting, planning, writing, reaching out to mentors – all because I wasn’t feeling engaged with it.

Then I quit my job. Only the 24 night hours/week one. And it made all the difference: after getting eight continuous (here this word means that the 8 hours were back to back instead of split up into chunks of 2 or 3 because those were the only intervals I had to catch up on rest for the past two months) hours of sleep, I felt like a new woman. Multiple people commented on the transformation (I had answered my EEB teacher’s questions a few times in lecture that day), even strangers. It was crazy, who knew sleep mattered? Just kidding, of course it does. But I underestimated just how much.

I remember pieces I’ve written while sleep-deprived in the past, notably a set of notes for class I’d read while falling asleep. It was nearly illegible. It’s kind of shocking how little we can function when we are not rested.

My perspective on the project has also done a 180. I feel more ready and confident about making it happen, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

Butt Kickings

Sometimes I’m absolutely shocked with how lazy I am. Seriously. On Saturday night, I told my friends on Central Campus that I got too drunk at a party on North Campus and couldn’t bus down; I told my friends on North Campus that I got too drunk at a party on Central Campus and couldn’t bus up. In reality, I’d ordered two pounds of boneless buffalo wings and vacuumed them into my face while watching “Stranger Things 2” stone-cold sober.

I’m just having trouble getting things down. I know–doesn’t that sound just kind of pathetic? I mean, I’m 21 years old, I’m applying for big girl jobs, and I’m unable to go to wix.com and start plugging my interviews into my template.

I need something to kick my butt about this, or it’s going to be nearly December and my head is going to be exploding because my project isn’t going the way I want it to go. So, in order to get better at holding myself accountable, I made a more date-oriented timeline. My old timeline was pretty much a giant checklist; this new timeline gives me bite-sized due dates for each part of my project. Having a teeny project eat week will make me a thousand times happier than having a giant deadline loom in December.

I think it’s also just getting to be that time in the semester. The time where sleeping in and wearing fuzzy socks sounds so much more enjoyable than heading to the library or to Espresso Royale, where I’ll staple myself to a chair and not let myself leave until the project is done. This past weekend, I made more of an effort to get more of my assignments done that were due in this week. Although I didn’t entirely enjoy spending Sunday up to my eyeballs in Facebook’s 10 K documents, I’m feeling a little bit more relaxed going into this week, and I think I’ll be able to get more done on the Capstone.

To hold myself accountable, I’m forcing myself to have chosen a template by this Wednesday, and to have it downloaded and edit-ready in my drive. If I can have a place to physically (virtually?) dump the documents I’ve curated, it’ll be a lot easier to see the project take physical shape, instead of just floating around in my brain. Having a place to upload my photos into is better than having a half-full folder in my phone. Having a place to start a “comments” section is better than explaining my Capstone project to my friends in between classes and hoping that they “get it”.

How Is November in Two Days……….

So, as I’m sure many of us are feeling at right about this time, I am overwhelmed. But, I do have to say it’s the kind of overwhelmed you feel when you have so much good work to do so you’re excited to proceed with it so you can have a great outcome, but you also know there’s just SO much to do. I have really progressed on my project so far (at least the planning and the pre-writing portion of it).

I have made a timeline I think (and hope) works for my schedule the rest of the semester and the load of work required for it. I have officially decided on 4 parts to my project: the “recovery narrative” essay, the poem, the choreography, and the video, all of which will be stored and displayed on a project site. I want this to be a transformative writing experience for me, so I look forward to really diving into the writing here soon. I have solidified a mentor for my narrative piece as well as my choreography, just to pick their brains and have them workshop both of those pieces before they are deemed complete. I have reached out to a few poetry mentors but have yet to have one respond. I meet with my narrative mentor with a solid draft this Thursday and I hope that he will be helpful in providing rich feedback in order to make this sort of story telling portion powerful for my project.

A challenge I have had is really finding a solid chunk of time to just sit down and write. I’m not sure it’s really a motivation issue at this point, I am excited to tell my story but for some reason should receive a gold star for procrastination right now. I can’t tell if I’m nervous or scared to write about the accident, but I know I need to, so I really do sort of need to give myself a kick in the ass. I have about a paragraph of it, mostly directly reflective of my original piece from the summer, so really I haven’t gotten a lot done in the actually writing portion of the project. Since I do have that meeting this week and would be embarrassed if my work was atrocious, I am going to make a time for myself to sit down and really write this week. I want to read a few recovery narrative pieces to gain inspiration and have models to look toward, but I also want to get started on my poem as well. I saw a video on Facebook recently that was a man really powerfully speaking this poem about racism and how it has progressed through today’s society. I found it so cool how he was talking about such a tragic thing but with such power in his voice. I want to make my poem just like that, so I better get started now. Another thing I’d like to just start on is my project site. I know that I could probably wait until the week it is due to really get anything done, but when is the right time to break your bad academic habits? Halfway through your senior year?

I’m extremely looking forward to where this project takes me as well as where everyone else’s project takes them!

Contacting Mentors, For Help with What?

Throughout my time here at the University of Michigan, I have had the opportunity to interact with and learn from several influential mentors. Most notably, Dr. Blackwood, a pediatrician at the C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital here on campus, has supported me through the process of developing and executing the research project I am writing about for my capstone project. In addition, Dr. Ranganathan, a University of Michigan plastic surgery resident, has been extremely helpful in maintaining the direction of the data collection process in the face of various obstacles encountered along the way. Despite the established relationship I have with these two individuals, I was initially hesitant to contact them about being my capstone mentors because I didn’t yet have a clear vision of my project in mind. I felt as though I was asking them to support me in a venture, but didn’t have specific things for them to assist me with.

I am curious whether other capstone students have experienced this same dilemma. Does the importance of contacting potential members early in the semester supersede the importance of having a well thought out project to pitch in the initial email or meeting? I personally decided to proceed with contacting my mentors before I had my production plan finalized, but I also had an established relationship with them. If I were contacting someone I didn’t previously know, I am not sure which decision I would have made. I am also not sure if there is a “correct” answer to this situation.

Inserting a Timeline in Microsoft Word

One of the challenges that any writer taking on a long-term project faces making the best use of their time in order to be able to complete the project before its deadline. In more structured environments, such as typical essays for college classes, this is less of an issue because the scale of the project is smaller, and the prompt creates more constraints on what should be written. The Capstone project gives us so much freedom for subject matter and such a long time to work that planning how to get the project done in time is crucial. This is especially important to me because of my experience in the Gateway course. For my project for the course, I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to add after writing the first draft, but ended up running out of time to add these ideas and to organize my essay in the way that I had envisioned. A useful strategy that we discussed in class to address this potential issue is to create a series of “pre-deadlines” before the actual deadline. This means breaking the project down into smaller parts, and setting dates before which these parts must be completed.

Over the weekend, I discovered a feature in Microsoft Word that has been useful in visualizing these dates. On the Insert tab, if you click SmartArt, and then Process, you can choose from several timeline templates to add to a document. I chose a timeline that has an arrow for each week remaining in the semester, and a textbox where I can write things that I want to do in that week. I’ve found that this timeline template has allowed me to visually display the work required for my project over time. I can place elements of the rubric from the production plan onto this timeline to see how the work for my project will be distributed. I thought that I would share this tool on the blog in the possibility that it might be useful to other Minor in Writing students in planning out their projects. Let me know what you think, and if you have discovered any other useful tools!

Here it is in all its majesty!


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Creating a Rubric for a Website You Haven’t Yet Created

This week in class, we were asked to create a rubric for our individual capstone projects, based off of rubrics we were given in previous classes. Luckily for me, many of my classes this semester are paper driven, so I have multiple rubric styles to draw on. Though my capstone project is not by any means a paper, the rubric I settled on from one of my current classes helped me create a solid format for my project to be graded off of. The rubric I created consisted of a grid style format, with six different categories to analyze for a grade. Each category (row) could be given an A, B, C or D/F grade (column) based on the quality of the work provided. The grid detailed what each category would look like in terms of the grade given. Each letter grade was then equated to a certain point value (0-4). In total, the website for my capstone project could earn a total of 24 points based off of my grading scale. Coming into class I felt confident that this would be a good format to use for the purpose of my capstone project.

After workshopping our rubrics and seeing what format my classmates chose to use for their individual capstone projects, I came across another rubric format that I think would work equally as well, if not better in assessing my website. Though I would still keep the same categories (rows) I have on my current rubric, the following two columns would list an explanation of that category and then a score. Within each explanation, I would use bullet points and would assign a point value to each point. The score would be a combination of the total number of points I would earn. The scores for each category would then add up to 100. By using this rubric format, I think I will better be able to break down the aspects of my website and how many points should be equated to those aspects. Because my project is still in the works, I struggle with assessing the number of points each bullet will have. For now, I will base the points off of the time commitment and level of commitment I am assuming each task will take. There is always room for revision if anything changes.

MiW Bloggers: What rubrics have worked best for you?

Confessions of an Imposter: on writing poetry but not calling yourself a poet

OR, a poetic rumination on not being able to poetically ruminate on the poetry that needs rumination


There are few things as intimidating as the blank page.

There’s that deadline, over there, in that tidy production schedule I made myself, in the sticky notes on my desk, in the folds of my planner—but there’s also that giddy-nagging-stubborn voice that, suddenly, requires color-coding and demands needless organization and just really loves resistance.

(The perfectionist in me would rather spend twenty five hours writing a paper than fifty minutes writing a blue book exam.)

And when I put pen to paper—and pause and think about finally taking out the trash or picking up the trombone or starting a blog or doing anything, everything that’s not writing poetry—I’m overwhelmed by Imposter Syndrome.  

Maybe it’s because there’s this expectation that poems flow naturally from fountain pens, in cursive that’s equal parts cryptic and legible, in tattered black leather notebooks, at three o’clock in the morning. Maybe it’s because every word matters more than it should; I expect precision, dislocation, metaphors so deep they’ll dig rivers and solve droughts and provide clean drinking water. Maybe it’s because this kind of self-pressure only begets cliche.

Or, maybe it’s because I’ve never had the guts to call myself a “poet.”

There are few things as intimidating as the blank page that should have poetry on it.

The last time I tried to write poetry on demand, I was sitting on a patch of lichen some three thousand feet above the highways of Maine, watching the counties unfold like board games below me. It was hard, but it was easier: poetry flows more readily on mountainsides, stripped of oxygen but full of adrenaline. Profundity increases with elevation gain; jaws drop farther with gravity.

But Michigan is flat. Mount Brighton is actually just a heap of trash masquerading as a snowboarding destination. The only mountain I see is my capstone project, jagged summit and hailstorm and all.

So this Imposter needs a Muse, I suppose, a place that compels poetry—a place at the intersection of discomfort and home, like tree roots or blinding sunshine or docks just dampened by rain.

Either that, or I need to remember what it is to live without a backspace. This journal is an exercise in re-training a (stream-of-)conscience, an ode to chicken scratch, a statement of lilty imperfection.

Because there are few things as exhilarating as mountains, as disguises, as the possibility of the blank page.