on verbage

I was talking to a professor last week on writing and word choice, in particular when to use really dynamic verbs. “There are moments when those verbs are required,” he said, suggesting that there are moments when they are not.  How do we distinguish a non-moment from a moment?

This semester has been writing-heavy for me, which means I am always mildly displeased with my work; there are so many opportunities to fail. I have been thinking a lot of what constitutes good writing and good sentences. A question is this: What are practical things one can do throughout the writing process to write quality work?

Sometimes I will read a draft of my work and write a list of the verbs I used to see if there are ones on which I rely too frequently and to see what the general sense of action is. I also read works I like from other authors; how dynamic is their prose?

What techniques do you use when working on drafts of writing, especially if you feel stuck or uninspired?


thoughts from SLC

My best friend, Calypso, is an alum of both Michigan and the writing minor. She lives in Salt Lake City now. She came to visit me in September, and we had what we call “the critical moment” in a bathroom stall of Mash. The critical moment was serious and hilarious and this: I found myself encumbered, daunted by my course work but mostly by the capstone class. She writes essays like I do; it’s a long, monopolizing trudge, so she understands my apprehension.

What am I to do? And how am I to do it? Are we being set up for failure with the drafts and documents and multimodal requirements and the project?

Those were the questions.

Now I am in Salt Lake City. It is very still here, and I am thinking about a new set of questions:

What if we just complete the tasks assigned to us? What if we don’t allow them to encumber us? What if overthinking it wasn’t a part of the process? What if how we treat the writing process was a reflection of reality: A perfect clause will not save the world so it’s unwise to put pen to paper thinking that it will.


Longform Podcast

As the evolution essay requires us to reflect on our work and find something compelling to say about the pieces in the aggregate, I would like to share with you my favorite podcast; it is from longform.org, and it is called the Longform Podcast. Each Wednesday an interview with a longform writer is posted. I love many of the interviews because they shed light into how each writer works, what they love, what they hate, the trajectory of their career, etc. It is very interesting.

Contradictions and challenges – How to articulate an evolution

There are (at least) two moments of explicit contradiction in my evolution essay. The first is this: “I was simultaneously looking for and loathing purity.” I can’t find words to tease that out; it was what it was. I don’t feel compelled to dwell on that in this essay. Another moment is at the very end. I say something about knowing that I did it (undergrad) right. The next paragraph says that I am very bad at undergrad-ing. I think both are true…but mostly the latter (ha!).

Regarding challenges, I am finding it difficult to connect each section of the essay. But I am tempted to let that appear evident; I’m tempted to leave the space between the sections be choppy because anything else feels like an engineered attempt to smooth edges that weren’t smooth when I experienced them. Also, I fear that much of the essay (in particular, the beginning) is abstract.  In other words, I am wondering if the essay makes sense to anyone besides me.

“Inventing the university” and artful deviation

“The student has to appropriate (or be appropriated by) a specialized discourse, and he has to do this as though he were easily and comfortably one with his audience, as though he were a member of the academy or an historian or an anthropologist or an economist; he has to invent the university.” -David Bartholomae, “Inventing the University” (1986)

I read this in English 425, and I have been intrigued by this ever since, this notion that we must mimic a genre before we can master it. But what is genre, anyway? Before, I found the predetermined infrastructure of a genre limiting and trite, but I have since realized its utility. Genre tells us where to look for content and where to place our own. But it’s also a signal; adherence to conventions indicates insider status in a discipline.

I am thinking that the capstone project is some sort of test on this front, assessing our ability to see which conventions of our discipline(s) enhance the inquiry of our subject and which conventions only hinder this inquiry. In short, I think we will be assessed on our ability to deviate artfully.

Making Another Writer’s Decisions Assignment

Hi All,

I am wondering if anyone would be interested in pairing up with me to complete the “making another writer’s decisions” assigment together. In order to do this assignment, you need to pair up with another writer in the class and can do this up to 3 times. The questions for this assignment are really interesting and can help us to get to know each other as well as receive some advice on our projects. Please comment on this post if you would like to pair up, or send me an email to elisner@umich.edu.

Thank you all!

What Compels You To Comment on Social Media?

For my project, I am investigating the comments on various social media communities. As I have begun my research, I have noticed the connection shared through comments. In some cases, users will really open up in their comments and share what they are feeling. While I am an avid user of social media, I rarely feel compelled to comment on others posts. I may “like” a picture or status, or even re-tweet but a comment is rare for me. I was wondering- what makes you feel like commenting? Is it based on the content, or on the user? Comment and let me know! Oh the irony..

Your Favorite Writing

What has been your favorite piece of writing you’ve ever done and why?  Not necessarily in college and not necessarily for a class (though falling into either category is totally okay too)… just plain and simple, what and why?

For me, I think it was a writing piece I wrote about my siblings for my 325 class.  I wrote it over the most recent summer term and I think what makes it my favorite are, well, a few things.  The topic itself was fairly broad (something like “something in the past that happened over a long period of time”), which helped because I could pretty much pick anything.  I also chose a topic I felt very strongly about – not just in general, but in that specific moment in time.  Finally, I put a lot of work into the re-writing and felt the final product wasn’t unfinished in any way.

So, in short, it was a meaningful essay that meant a lot to me personally.

What’s interesting, however, is that my second-favorite essay I’ve written is likely my Biochem 352 research essay for basically reasons that are entirely opposite the ones above.  The short version is: it made me feel incredibly smart when I was finished, because I’d pulled off an assignment I thought I’d bomb.

So again, I’m curious, what is your favorite piece of writing and why?  Any writing, any reason.

A Two-Pronged Approach to Gamer Society

When we first discussed the Big Project for the course, my mind went in a couple directions.  I’ll be honest, most of the writing I’ve done for previous classes has focused on “sad” things.  And to me, that’s fine – I’ve actually (I think anyways) become quite good at pathos.  So my first instinct was to focus on death in some form or another – (I have my own personal reasons for this, but that would be a post in and of itself).

But when RayRay started talking about personal interests, and working around something we maybe haven’t been able to focus on as much as we’d have liked during undergrad, I started to shift focus a bit.  I’ll get it out right now: I’m a big, nerdy World of Warcraft gamer.  It’s not something the always comes up in conversation, but it’s a big part of my life.  To an “outsider” (if you want to call it that), saying a game is a big part of my life might sound incredibly weird.  And, admittedly, that’s an understandable reaction.  But that’s also part of where my mind began to head during our discussion of this project.  I wanted a way to somehow get across just how influential something as seemingly silly as an online game has been on my life.

There’s quite a bit more to it than I can easily get into here, but to give you an idea, I’ve been playing this game with the same group of people for years now.  People from all over the country, sometimes world, have been part of my online social experience.  I’ve been able to talk with people from Singapore, Bermuda, Australia, England, that weird country above us… the list goes on.  These people aren’t just “gamer friends,” they’re people I’ve been able to talk with over familial, social, school, and really any time of personal problem in my life.  They’re people I spend six or more hours a week with playing, shooting the shit, and getting drunk with.  I have friends in New York, Chicago, Florida, California, and elsewhere all willing to let me stay at their place if I ever decide to visit the area.

What I’m getting at is this: these are real people and real social experiences.  They happen from the comfort of my computer monitor, but – despite the insistence to the contrary by my parents during my teenage years – this is a real, personal group of friends and this experience, to me, holds just as much weight as any other social experience.

…So all that is one aspect of what I’m considering trying to tackle in this project.  I know for a fact it’s not singular to me – people have met through World of Warcraft and happily married! – but it will also be difficult to keep it unbiased.

Alllllllll that being said, there was a second approach I wanted to take, and since I’ve talked a lot already, I’ll try to keep it short.  This second approach came to my mind when Pikachu mentioned practicality.

It’s probably not known to many, but among the gaming community – (not necessarily World of Warcraft, but other games like League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Starcraft 2) – are all becoming part of a growing movement toward “eSports.”  eSports are exactly what you think they are.  Matches, events, etc. all rivaling athletic sports in fervor, dedication, and audience appeal, but instead played out online.  They’ve grown tremendously over the years and to give you an idea of the magnitude, I want to direct you to two figures:

1.) This picture of the League of Legends world championship over the past 4 years : http://i.imgur.com/KxjQWWi.jpg

and 2.) The fact that the most recent tournament drew 27 million viewers and surpassed Game 7 of the World Series in viewership.

Couple this growth with the fact that colleges are now offering scholarships to eSports teams AND the fact that the first ever Sports Visa was issued to a South Korean Starcraft 2 player in order that he might participate in a tournament in the States and you’ve got real monetary value behind these games.

Okay, so that’s where I’m at.  I talked a lot more than I thought, but I can’t decide if I want to do one or both of these as my primary focus.  I’m fascinated with the growth of eSports, but it also lacks the humanistic side to a story I’m more familiar with.  Hope you all learned at least a few fun facts from this post!