No, seriously. You need to love your thoughts, and everything that comes along with them. They aren’t bad, they aren’t scary…just a little hectic at times.
I started out the Capstone thinking I wanted to talk about my OCD. And while I had spent endless hours in therapy talking it over, I didn’t think I was comfortable projecting that to a whole audience of people. I didn’t love the idea. And even though my classmates seemed to really enjoy it, after I mulled it over…I was exhausted. I didn’t want to make my OCD into a project for other people, because it was still a mental struggle for me every single day.
So I picked something a bit lighter, a bit funnier, and something that allowed me to shut my brain off for a while
A podcast. That required a bit more editing than I was expecting (thanks to my friends for wanting to talk to me for more than 15 minutes about high school and sex).
I found that through picking a project I actually cared about, a topic I actively thought about, the more I realized I loved what I was doing.
The more you overthink every little thing you possibly could do for your Capstone, the more likely your idea is going to turn into something that someone else wants, not what you want. My project centered around a thing I wished I had: advice from someone about love, and sex, when you’re 14 and wishing the world was just a little less annoying when it came to being in a relationship. And I ran with that. I thought long and hard about who that girl was, and how disappointed she was in herself for not “getting the guy” by the time she entered her first year of college.
She needed that advice I had for her now. I wanted her to have that. And I wanted that for other people, who maybe felt the same, or were struggling with similar issues. But it came from a place, one I knew and felt comfortable in. Because it was something I thought about a lot. Those are where you best projects come from: things you think about a lot. And even though I’m nervous about where this project will take me in the future, and the potential people who might listen to it…I can say that I’m proud that I chose this direction.
You’ve made it. If you’re reading this, planning for your capstone, you’re likely about to begin your very last semester of your time here at Michigan. Can’t you practically taste the rest of your life after this class comes to an end?
Well don’t give into that excitement and terror and uncertainty yet. This class is an important one. The capstone to the writing minor, like the gateway and probably many other classes you have taken in relation to your love of writing, is centered around you. What do you want to know? Who do you want to be? What do you want to create? Why is it important you put this creation into the world? That is why you are in this class. Not just to fulfill your requirement. Not to fill space in your academic schedule. To create. To find yourself through your creation.
As you begin this class, know that the chaos happening inside your head is completely normal. You’re probably thinking things like What the heck am I going to spend all semester doing? Is X project good enough? Do I really care about this topic? Will I have time to get everything done? Is it going to turn out like I hope it will? Breathe. There have been many before you, and many will follow you, who think these same questions and still finish the semester with an incredible piece of work. Somehow or another, with your dedication and passion for writing, you too will be a successful capstone student.
My advice to you as you begin the course, is to think with your heart. The project that you are about to create needs to represent something you love, something you are truly curious about, something you are willing to dedicate dozens of hours upon. Do not think with your brain. Don’t get wrapped up in how much work it may or may not be, who your consultant could possibly be, what grade you think you could get, etc. These logistics will come up eventually, but when choosing a project, the first priority must be your interest. And remember that a project can be basically anything. Maybe you just want to reflect on your time as a student here. Maybe you want to write a novel. Direct a movie. Make a twitter. The ideas are endless, so don’t limit yourself to something your brain tells you is a safe bet. This is a unique opportunity to explore the wide range of possibilities.
What’s more, remember that although this is your last class of the minor in your last semester of your last year here as an undergraduate student, it is not the end. It is the end of a chapter in a long book of your life. One that will have many more ups and downs, creative projects, social outings, challenges, and more. Do not wallow in the finality of your time here. Continue to be curious. Continue to learn. And most importantly, continue to write.
The Writing Minor Capstone is A LOT. A lot of work… and a lot of fun! In this process, you will learn so much about yourself and how you can stretch your own capabilities and continue to learn and grow, and you will also learn so much about the other people in your capstone.
Picking a project to do is scary. Like really scary. It feels like you’re committing a lot of time and effort to something you might not be completely sure about. And yes, it’s super intimidating when some of your classmates have deeply meaningful and personal projects. But I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be okay. You will find something you are willing to spend your time on. Something that you are excited to spend your time on! If it’s not there at the beginning, it may be something you find later in the process. It’s so important to make sure you end up with a subject/topic you care about- it’s going to be a lot of time and work and it won’t be a fun time or meaningful to you if you don’t care about it.
When trying to choose a project, don’t get caught up in the “writing” in Minor in Writing. From capstone, we learned that everything is multimedia. If writing is something you want to do for your project- great! Just remember that it doesn’t all have to be writing- it really shouldn’t all be just writing. There will be writing involved, don’t doubt it, but you can make something that isn’t primarily based in writing. That might even make your project more exciting to you!
Don’t be afraid to pivot and change your project. Your project will grow and evolve throughout the semester- welcome this change! Things happen and you might lose material or not be able to do what you set out to do and that’s okay! Whatever you make will be wonderful and I have faith that you will put your full effort into making it the best that it can be.
While it’s important to be adaptable and open to change, definitely try to set a plan for yourself as soon as possible to make sure you can get this all done in a non-overwhelming manner. Time management is key for this project. You’re going to have a lot to do and if you leave it all for the end, it will be a miserable last few weeks as you’re scrambling. You need to pace yourself, but also save room for change.
When you’re workshopping, don’t feel like you have to accept everyone’s suggestions. It’s great to get feedback from others, especially in areas you’re unsure about. However, it’s important to stay true to yourself, your vision, your goals for this project. Don’t lose sight of that while you’re trying to please others. This is your capstone. Make it your own. Take the suggestions your agree with and maybe try to address the problems people bring up in a different way if you don’t like the suggestions they have.
You’re going to be overwhelmed but you’re going to be okay. You can do this! It’s going to be a wild and fun ride.
After conducting seven interviews in three weeks and taking far more photos than I’ll need to complete my project, you’d think I’d be feeling okay, right? A little ahead? Maybe give myself some room to relax?
I’m way in my head about things! I know exactly what I need to do next, but I’m so worried. What if I start writing up these case studies and discover that I have nothing to say? What if I accidentally mischaracterize someone’s experience? What if I spend all my time worrying and won’t have enough time to create my book by the showcase deadline?
The solution is, of course, to just do something. A big roadblock for me has been transcription: I was hoping to do all of it before beginning to write the case studies, but have since remembered that I am horrific at both listening and typing. Luckily, I recently discovered Descript, a free desktop program that transcribes and cuts audio for you! I’ve been messing around with it all weekend and should have the interviews I want to feature (including my own, which will be conducted tomorrow) transcribed very soon.
Next, I need to crank out these case studies. I want them to read like narrative articles, so I’ve got my first one outlined and have begun doing targeted research for it. I’m surprised by both how many specific resources are out there for me to explore, and how many resources I planned on using have now been rendered irrelevant. Still, I guess I’ll have the rest of my life to explore theories pertaining to adolescent female psychology, right?
For my first case study, I plan on focusing on my interview subject’s escape into the world of comics, struggles with body image both inside and outside her school’s theatre department, and how her newfound internal confidence after adolescence manifests in how she expresses herself through clothing. So far, I’ve been researching fat stigma in theatre and how graphic novels can positively affect teens. I’m nervous about not having enough to say, but I’m writing anyway. What else can I do?
I think it’s the nature of a Communications major, one that’s heavily interested in media research, to always be researching. I feel like there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not thinking about an old study I really loved, or listening to my boyfriend talk about their favorite research, or my roommate discussing the racism in Artificial Intelligence. Or I’m talking about what I want to research, about Black History, about Black Media, about things that mean a lot to me.
And that’s what a lot of my research so far has involved. Black identity, femininity, things that impact my outward appearance (although for some people it’s a guessing game when it comes to my identity, something I could write a whole other blog post about).
What I’m coming to realize with this project, how little research, like hard research I know about the LGBTQ community, and trans individuals. As someone who is bisexual, and has been involved with trans rights (wow, does that sound self-indulgent? like hahaha “i have a black friend”-y?”). But I guess it’s one of those subjects that…I didn’t really research. Someone in a class has smacked down a reading, or a study, about being a trans-cyborg, and I didn’t understand it, so I just shrugged my shoulder and moved on. Was it the writing? Do I not care (I definitely care, I’m just constantly full of that good-ole self-doubt)? Was I just not paying attention?
I think it’s important to know how other’s identities can intersect with our own. My project is focusing on such an organic, human experience: love. And sex. But some individuals don’t have sex. Some individuals don’t love in the same ways that I do; that requires research, in areas that I’m scared to go. I know anytime I’ve read research on bisexuality, it’s always hit a little too close to home. “Many people believe bisexuality is a myth; that you’ll eventually be straight or be gay.”
My next podcast episode is about sexuality and gender identity. I don’t know if it’s right to combine the two together, but Olliver is such a strong-willed, opinionated individual that I couldn’t resist trying to ask him about all of it. But I also don’t expect him to know everything, to want to spill all the beans, to do all the work for us. Because we shouldn’t be relying on those outside our own identities to have to do all the work to inform us, to tell us how their lives are different from ours, and how they intersect. We gotta meet them halfway, know our shit, and ask questions that aren’t demeaning or blatantly intrusive. But my project relies on strong voices, relies on these experiences, to provide a sense of authority on these lived-experiences.
I think there is a fine line in research, to fetishize groups we don’t know about. I don’t want to do that. I need to be reading from those who have these experiences, not those who are interested in these experiences.
So, I just looked up trans writers and their nonfictional narratives. Because their stories matter more to this part of my podcast than my own narrative.
It definitely will inform me of how to formulate questions that are engaging, but also inclusive and respectful of everyone’s transitions, not one type.
At the beginning of this project, I had multiple nervous breakdowns about how I would not be able to finish it and how scheduling interviews with people would be super difficult and how I didn’t know how to use film equipment or how to do anything. Looking at how far I’ve come from sitting in a nervous mess in T’s office, I feel confident in moving forward. I am relieved that this week I am wrapping up all my interviews and then I will be editing and filming additional scenes to break up some of the monotony of looking at faces in the film.
While I am making good progress, I still have many concerns about my project. A decision I made early on has made the creation of my project site very difficult- I decided that I would draw upon the responses that I got from my interviews in order to build and add resources to my site. However, I feel like there are few opportunities for this and thus I am worried about the future of my project site. I wish I could shake people and make them tell me what I want to hear. But to be honest, I don’t even know what I want to hear. And I want everything to be ~organic~ and ~authentic~. I still have 3 more interviews to conduct so I’m hoping that I’m able to link different topics to the responses I get from those.
I feel like I probably have more than I think I do in terms of connections to positive practices and mental health. Editing and going back through the footage next week will definitely help me in figuring out my connections. Talking to my mentors in Positive Organizational Scholarship and Wolverine Support Network will also help guide me in my process and steer me in the right direction for research and resources. Part of me wants to turn to them- TELL ME WHAT TO DO. GUIDE ME. TAKE OVER THIS SHIP- but I know I need to steer on my own.
Going forward, I feel like I’m diving into a second phase of research after my initial phase that shaped my project. This second phase of research will be focused on “how to edit a documentary”, “documentaries for dummies”, “what in the heck do I do in iMovie to make my video do this”. This second wave will also focus on topics that my interviewees have mentioned such as: mindfulness, hygge, and journaling. I feel like I’m learning so much about happiness and I’m also learning about filmmaking floundering in this unfamiliar territory.
I am absolutely terrified that my end product will be boring. I’m so scared that no one will be interested in sitting through my 45 minute – (however long I actually end up making my documentary) minute film. I’m definitely focusing on the content of the interviews rather than the cinematography but that certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t care how the end product looks.
The task of cutting through 3 hours of 15 interviews is also daunting to me- how will I ever decide what to cut out?? How will I make everything flow together?? What if the audios sound different and what about the coloring changes based on lighting??
But at the same time I am so excited.
I am excited by the responses that my interviewees have given me.
I am excited by the prospect of sharing people’s stories with others.
I am excited for people to hopefully learn and gain something from watching my documentary- even if it’s just a smile on their faces.
This grand idea that I had planned in my head is slowly becoming a disaster , causing me to rethink my entire project. That was my biggest fear. Nothing is going right, which usually is the case when you have to rely on other people. After much thought I figured that my story in itself should be something to focus on rather than a collection of interviews and stories from others. As disappointing as it sounds (because having other people involved and not just myself would be cool) I think it’s important to note that my story is worth telling. Although I dont think its “cool” I think it’s important to tell, and eliminates the need to rely on others.
That being said I am not giving up on my original vision and will try the best I can within the next two weeks to get interviews from different coaches. There is no reason for me to completely give up on the project but I am bringing myself to the reality that IF I cannot get the interviews I wanted it is okay to revolve the project around my story. With the research I’ve done with Athletes connected ,I realized there’s a better way to have the athlete discuss their injury without feeling ostracized. The research I’ve done also makes the athlete feel …like there not a person or that there’s something wrong with them. Its less personal and filled with actors and feels like a poorly scripted tornado drill video that I used to have to watch in elementary school.
The collective interview was supposed to alleviate this issue and bring a more community feel to athletes who felt ostracized. And although I am not quitting on that just yet, the feedback that I got in class today was very helpful. Briana mentioned how I could have the project be about me while including other people’s thoughts and stories but without having to rely on them with scheduling interviews. My research will have to switch gears and I will have to go deeper into storytelling and figuring out how people story tell and how biographies and autobiographies are approached.
Okay, I’m being a little bit dramatic. But, rightfully so.
As of 5 days ago, all of my work from the past 8 weeks came crashing down. The project that I intended to complete for the capstone course is no longer possible. It’s frustrating to realize that I spent so many hours of work on something that will no longer come to fruition any time soon.
Good news? It’s nothing I can’t handle. Honestly, I do my best work under pressure. AND…I’m actually falling in love with the new idea for my project as I spend more time developing it.
I am terrible at asking for help. I hate admitting that I can’t do something on my own. Learning to accept the help of others is something I am really trying to work on this year. On Monday, I realized that a seemingly small conversation can turn into something amazing. There is something about T that makes you feel like you can do anything. My favorite brainstorming sessions have been when I am sitting in a seat opposite her and her creative mind. Then, taking the conversation even further with my classmates led me to discover interests that I had never realized existed in my mind.
During our draft workshop on Monday, I had walked into class with a vague description of my new project. I felt so behind as I listened to everyone updating the class on how far along they were. But, by the end of class I felt confident. Confident in my idea, confident in my ability to execute it, and confident that I’m surrounded by some of the coolest, most creative minds ever.
I would compare my experience on Monday to making a snowball. You grab a chunk of snow, plop some more on top of it to make it full enough, and then you round it out into its final shape before you’re officially ready to launch it. I started with a basic description of what I wanted to do. Amy helped me add more depth to the project by giving me a ton of ideas that built it out even further. Then, Brianna dug deeper, asked some meaningful questions, and helped me make the necessary connections to visualize a solid form for the project. Now, I have somewhere to launch from, and I am ready to go. Not only am I ready, but I am excited.
Memory. A faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information. Something remembered from the past. A recollection. Thank you, dictionary.com.
My new project will focus on the theme of memory. What is the drive behind documenting, recording, and collecting memories? What purpose does this serve in our lives presently and in the future? Why do some people collect and record memories but others don’t? When do we reach a point where our brain can’t hold all of the memories that we want it to, so we are left with no other choice but to write them down?
My senior year of high school, I was struggling. A lot. I felt broken, damaged, like I was going to be perpetually sad. I spent a lot of time wallowing in these feelings. One day, I decided to start keeping track of the good things that happened. Maybe, just maybe, I would realize that even though it wasn’t obvious or happening in abundance, there were still good things happening around me. Thus, my “jar of happy things” was born. I bought a jar and a package of sticky notes, and I went on my way. I would fill out a sticky note, include the date, fold it up, and place it in the jar. On New Years Eve, I would open all of the notes from the previous year to celebrate all of the good things in my life. After looking at them all, I put them in an envelope with the year written on the outside, toss them into my box of important things, and start the new year with a fresh jar. My first ever entry? I made it through a day of school without crying. Not your idea of a typical “happy” memory, but baby steps I guess.
To date, I have sticky notes from 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. While working on this project, I am really excited to go through all of my happy memories again. I’ll get to see how my life and my values have changed over the past few years. Who used to be mentioned in my jar a lot that I don’t keep in touch with much anymore? Who has come into my life and made a significant impact? What was my favorite memory from 2017? Well, I’m about to find out. I am really excited to be focusing on the positive, happy aspects of my life.
While I’ve been building out this new project, I had an inkling that I had written about my need to document memories before. Then, it hit me.
“Our relationships with others help define who we are and how we live our lives. Are we compassionate? Are we envious? Are we lovable? Are we lonely? Family or friend. Platonic or romantic. Long or short. There are countless combinations of the types of relationships that we can have in our lives.
I write to maintain mine.
Sending a birthday card to my aunt who lives in the Dominican Republic, writing a letter to my mom&dad when I’m at summer camp, or writing a text message to my sister who moved to North Carolina. I can communicate with those who matter most even though they are 1,559 miles away.
It’s not enough to make these connections. What’s the point if we cannot remember the intimate details of our encounters with those we love?
I write to remember them.
The girl who paid for my coffee as a random act of kindness. Celebrating my birthday. Going on vacation with my family. Having a movie night with my best friends. The first time my boyfriend told me he loved me. Getting a puppy. My first job. Getting my license. The last thing I said to my grandpa before he took his final breath. My first kiss. The day I moved away to college. The taste of a home-cooked meal. The events that led me to find my passion in life. Millions of memories, big and small, that I never want to forget, but my brain does not have the capacity to hold on to. When I’m 40 years old and have kids of my own I want to be able to tell them what I was doing on January 14th, 2018.”
I wrote that two years ago in my “Why I Write” piece when I was a student in the gateway course. My desire to journal and keep sticky notes stems from wanting to remember the intimate details of my encounters with loved ones. But, where does that desire come from? I am going to ask myself this over and over until I find a deeper meaning behind this habit of mine.
My current worry for the project is that I am 8 weeks behind. That’s never a good feeling. I don’t want to feel rushed to get things done and sacrifice quality. To mitigate these feelings, I plan to dedicate all day Sunday and Tuesday to catching up on this project: new proposal, research list, production plan, rubric, and of course drafting content.
I’m slowly, but surely building up my research list right now. I’m looking into scholarly journals about the functions of our memory, articles about the rise of degenerative diseases leading to an increase in the desire to document our lives for when we can no longer remember them, and I’m looking into my own personal items such as old journals. I truly think that the capabilities of our brain are fascinating, and I am enjoying learning more about it. The most interesting piece of research that I have found so far is a Ted Talk called “One Second Every Day”. I find this piece to be so interesting because the man has a very similar desire to mine, which is to document important moments in life so that I don’t forget them, but he does it in a very different way. It opened my eyes up to all of the different ways that people achieve the same goal. Yet, that underlying goal is still the same. They don’t want to forget. But, what is it about forgetting that is so scary? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.
That’s enough out of me. I’ll be journaling if you need me.
Until this week, I had only a vague concept of my project’s final form. That can be expected when you decide to center your whole project around case studies, and you want to leave room for the interviews to go in a variety of directions. It’s difficult to express the scope of your project when you need your subjects to define that for themselves. I don’t want to speak for my subjects; the goal of my project is to learn from them.
I got very lucky in that each of my three case studies represents a distinct aspect of librarianship. I’ve interviewed an archivist, a librarian, and a curator. The themes of their work and their most prevalent concerns regarding ethics in the field as a whole are both separate and intertwined. The interviews were highly informative and just so exciting for someone pursuing a graduate degree in the same field that these people have been so successful in. The scary part of this is now having to draft narratives around their experiences in a way that does these individuals justice and is contained within the bounds of my research. I know a fraction of what they know, but I have to somehow become familiar with a lot of it in the next few weeks.
What do I know about donor consent for archival materials? Archiving activism in the digital age? Systematic inequality within librarianship? The problem of the MLS degree? Digitizing material that wasn’t originally meant to be public? Undergraduates access to archives for research in a time when everything else is online? The answer is: very little. But my incredible case studies have taught me a lot and pointed me in the directions of notable primary and secondary sources for people who want to learn about these issues. I have a lot to learn before I can write successfully about where I see myself in this field.
My biggest fear with this project is not producing something that reflects my passion for librarianship and that does not adequately convey the respect I have for my case studies and their work. I’m worried the narrative won’t be clear, the project site won’t match the content, and that my case studies might be disappointed. At the same time, these interviews have been so exciting, and I’m feeling incredibly motivated in my pursuit of this career. That was the whole purpose of doing this project now, in my last semester of undergrad as I prepare for grad school. One of my case studies even offered to stay in contact for when I finish my degree and begin looking for a job. In that sense, it’s already a huge success. Fingers crossed all other big hopes for the project work out.
A blog post as captured by gifs from my favorite tv show (Schitt’s creek. Highly recommend)
Is it bad to still be feeling sort of lost? I have written a lot. I have created a lot. I almost feel ahead of the game. And yet, the whole project is still so nebulous. I’m in a weird place. I’m used to staying about four days ahead of my assignments. I have an “if you’re on time your late” mindset that has complete control over me, and therefore I have to be doing things early. With this, I’m always a day or two behind my projected goal. This stresses. me. out. I’ve planned important pieces every single day up until the deadline, so it’s nerve wracking to feel like I’m not working at the right pace. And despite having begun a website draft, blog posts, and even research-article drafts, the project feels like something that won’t ever be done. Or if it is, won’t be a unified thing. Or if it is done and unified, won’t be interesting or important.
Kind of a downer of a paragraph, and as boring as it seems, I know my solution moving forward is to just keep going. Keep chugging way. I need to write enough, create enough that this project becomes tangible enough for me to make the changes that will unify its parts and turn it into an important piece of work. I know it will be. I also need to just keep writing because I really do need to stay on top of my calendar. That might just be the stressed out, chronically early, perfectionist in me saying that, but I’ve planned out my days so that I can turn this sucker in, and I plan to do that on time. Maybe one day early. Tbd.
As I move forward, there are a few things that I’m a bit concerned about, or that are at least weighing heavy on my mind.
Taking pictures. I really don’t know what I want the pictures on my site to be, which is an issue because it’s one of the most important parts. How boring would it be to just be pictures of me?! How can I find inspiration for pictures regarding movement and health? I’ve considered taking pictures in yoga classes, but I’m not allowed to do this because I’m currently a teacher in training and it is unethical. I’ve got some thinking to do. And a photoshoot.
My shadowing date with my D/mt consultant. I’m thrilled to be able to shadow her, but the date I was able to get to her is not the best, and I’m worried my three hour round trip will not lead to much inspiration or knowledge.
Again, I’m nervous that my project is not going to feel unified or important. I truly want this to be a good resource, but who am I to give out this information? Am I putting too much of myself into it? Will the information all make sense together?
Being pessimistic in nature, it was also a good exercise to think about what parts of the project I’m excited about.
My consultant Kaity really is the perfect match for this project. She truly wants to make it known that movement is powerful, and I’m really excited to meet her and see what she does. This has sort of been four years in the making, because when I was a senior I asked a bunch of d/mts if I could shadow them and never really got around to it. Now that I have a (different) career path, I can’t wait to see what it’s like to be a d/mt. My discovery of Kaity has been my biggest breakthrough for this project. I have high hopes that she will play an important role in the project. She has already given me a great interview and I think she will provide good feedback when it comes time for me to give her my work thus far. She seems like an incredibly genuine, knowledgeable person and I’m thrilled to be able to take advantage of that.
I’m really interested in the other resources that I’m finding to link on my website. I have found numerous podcasts, articles, and videos that focus on some aspect of my project. And when they’re all compiled together I think they will be really effective in demonstrating my purpose.
As I move forward, I want to ensure that I am still focusing on research. I can’t think that because I’ve started to write, I am done researching. That’s really never the case. Especially since I want to continue this blog portion after the class is done, I need to continually be learning and expanding my knowledge and passion. I have already found a TON of research on yoga. I have learned about the many many maaaaany benefits that researchers have associated with the practice of yoga. Too many to write here, or even on my site (what to do with this knowledge???). I want to learn more about how to create a yoga flow based on a “limitation” such as anxiety or autism. This will come with my yoga teacher training, as well as outside research. I also would love to expand my research articles with more information about different kinds of disabilities, the way disabilities connect to movement, more details on the neuroscience of movement, and more.