Lost in a Sea of Potentiality: Pikachu Edition

When faced with this project and the task of developing something to write about, I immediately felt like I was drowning. There are so many potential project ideas for me, but when I think about them, I’m only thinking surface level. I need some help fleshing out what I could do. I have many topics to think about, but I don’t know what angles to take with them. And for some basic background on me, I’m a history and political science major. In addition to classes I’m also an RA, a writer for the yearbook, a representative for CSG, and a comic book fan. So without further ado, I present my random thoughts:

-One idea I had was to write about the decline of bipartisanship in government in the last century. I think I could explore the carnal desire for power as well.

-Another idea was to look at the creation of memory throughout the world in the wake of World War II. I explored it in a few classes, but I don’t think I paid it the attention it deserves.

-I would love to write about comic books. If anyone has suggestions on how I could accomplish that, I’m all ears.

-I’ve taken a few classes on the role of social identities and how they have been seen throughout history/how they should be treated in modern society. Might be interesting to explore.

I’m legitimately open to suggestions and feedback of all kind. Be brutal.

 

Project proposal

Politics and policy have always been major interests of mine. I am fascinated by the factors and circumstances surrounding why a certain policy is formed and the impact those outcomes have. Intellectual curiosity aside, I am also drawn to this sort of work because I find it important to solve issues—especially ones that result in social, economic and political inequality.

With that in mind, I’d like to do a project that involves exploring a particular policy issue, the historical context in which it was formed, and (potential) ways to make effective change about the issue. This was the basic framework for my gateway project, where I used Prezi to explore the issues within our campaign finance system.

I’d like to take a similar approach for my Capstone project. I have a few topic ideas already, so I’ll just share all of them and see if the class has any advice on which one makes the most sense to purse:

  • One would be to 1) assess the evolution of marijuana legalization, 2) evaluate the policy of mandatory minimum jail sentences, and finally, 3) explore the history and current status of the private prison industry, all while conveying how the three are interconnected and how the progress of each may affect one another in the future. Each one of these could be a project on its own, but I like the idea of demonstrating how they are interconnected.
  • Since my gateway project covered the problems with our campaign finance/lobbying system, and since I did a project for a course last semester on the issues in U.S. industrial agriculture, I could sort of marry the two ideas and try to explore how lobbying and campaign finance has affected the type and quality of food Americans eat every day.
  • A third idea would be to investigate why professional sports teams always seek out and receive public funding to build new stadiums, when it seems they can afford to build them privately.

Any advice is appreciated!

Brainstorming

Hearing my classmates share their ideas for the Capstone project inspired me to think deeply about an area that intrigues me, while also pushing me out of my comfort zone.  Last semester, I took a course called Comm 440- Global Iconic Events. We spent the semester examining- just as the title suggests- global iconic events. These events ranged from the assassination of JFK to the Royal Wedding. For our final paper, we each could choose any event that interested us. I wanted to take a different approach to this assignment, and examine individual life events in a global sphere. In order to do this, I examined the “Real Humans of New York”. I am not sure if everyone is familiar with this, but it is essentially a collection of photographs of subjects all over the world who share pieces of their life stories. The pictures are then posted to Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media sites.

While researching for this paper, I was was shocked to find how other viewers were able to deeply connect with the people in the photos. The comments on the Facebook or Instagram pictures was incredibly supportive. For this project, I am interested in exploring how vulnerability can lead to empathy, shared connection, and understanding. I think it would be particularly interesting to explore this concept with an audience and area who are seemingly disconnected.  I would appreciate any feedback you all may have for me! Good luck brainstorming ideas!

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Deep in the Zone of Discomfort

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It sounds nicer than it feels. Still waiting for a capstone project topic to suddenly appear in my mind, I began my relationship with the UM Library Research Guides apprehensively. I’m eager to figure out what to do with this project, but my discomfort with not knowing unfortunately led to procrastination. When I finally pulled up the link to the UM Library page (which I, somewhat embarrassingly, have only used maybe three times in four years here), I attempted to branch out from my course of study (business) and comfort zone and clicked on International Studies, then Social Sciences. I searched through both, clicking deeper into the web of resources, but came up uninspired.

Back where I started, I sheepishly clicked on business only to find that the link to resources was notably empty compared to the pages I just came from. I took that as a sign to get out of there, and went back to Arts instead. Scrolling down the page, I found a link for ‘Detroit.’ As a Michigander and someone who grew up in the metro Detroit area, I was fascinated to find an astonishing amount of blogs, media sources, and general resources about various parts of the city. Of all of the pages that I visited during this rabbit hole search, the Detroit page was the most populated with vibrant information. I am surrounded by peers from various classes (native Detroiters and otherwise) who display an unwavering passion for the city and current revitalization efforts. Visiting this page reminded me of them, and made me curious about this evolving city. An idea to potentially keep in mind.

This rabbit hole search provided a glimpse into the sheer volume of resources at my disposal as I embark on my capstone project, but also overwhelmed me all over again with the seemingly enormous task of picking a topic. Now, I only hope I can narrow it down, find my idea, and climb out of this zone of discomfort.

Pivoting into the real world

Writing this last blog post feels a bit like a victory lap, and yet it also coincides with the final realization that I’ll be leaving Ann Arbor and the university, a place where I not only discovered myself but also found fulfillment. Just two days ago, I found out that I will be moving to New York City to write for Business Insider’s tech section as a reporter. It’s a big deal for me, for beyond the security of having a job when I graduate (which I never really expected), living in NYC has always been the goal, specifically for its creative environment. And yet, I don’t want to leave this little creative environment found in Ann Arbor. Who knows, maybe I’m crazy. I swear I’m not ungrateful, just afraid to leave a place that values and encourages writing to the extent that Michigan does.

I’ve done a good deal of creative writing in the past few months: I’ve written two short stories for my English 423 workshop and I’ve finally penned the first chapter to the novel that I’ve been working on for the capstone. Writing has always brought a deep and satisfying fulfillment, but I’ve found that even this creative pleasure has been tainted to some extent by the thought of leaving Ann Arbor. Stereotypical “I’ve-changed-so-much” college talk aside, I can wholeheartedly say that I am almost the opposite of the person that first moved into his UM dorm four years ago. I feel better off for it, but the transformation (both of character, writing ability, beliefs, and habits) was so condensed and drastic that it still leaves me wondering and worrying, for I’m still a bit unsure in my new skin. So much of my happiness seems to be tied to Ann Arbor, so much so that even with the promise of a similar culture and energy in Manhattan (or likely Brooklyn since I’ll be living on a budget), I’m still worried that I’ll fall out of love with writing, or even more worrisome, that I’ll let the sizable competition and disarray of the publishing industry scare me off from after a few rejection letters. This cannot be the case.

My writer’s evolution essay touched on how I’ve come to realize that professional writing and creative writing can both exist without one eliminating the other, but there’s nothing like the feeling that, “Well, it’s time to prove it.”

Don’t get me wrong, I spent the last summer in NYC and I absolutely loved it, but I always had the comforting thought that I could return to Ann Arbor in the fall and enjoy another year where I truly felt at home. At the end of the day, I know that I’m simply experiencing the growing pains that everyone gets when they make a big life transition, but I can’t help but realize that the last big transition (moving from high school to college), transformed me and fundamentally changed my personality as well as how I glean fulfillment from the world. I guess this could all be boiled down to say: I don’t know if I want to change anymore at this moment, and I’m afraid of what will be discarded after this next transition.

Thankfully, while I’m still thinking through such troubling questions, I also feel far more assured in myself than I did when I set out for UM. I also realize that many people grow into themselves through college, and much of the change happens during those four years, and perhaps a slower rate of change occurs in the years following graduation. Even though that I fear that I could somehow lose my drive to leave a creative imprint in some way, another part of me feels like that is a core desire that should follow me for the foreseeable future. Being prudent, I also have set out to figure out a way to make sure I don’t lose that drive. I started by looking at what structures were in place these last four years that will help me stay motivated and thinking/writing creatively.

Free time. So it’s no secret that as long as you’re not working a full-time job during college, you’re probably going to have a decent amount of free time on your hands. Discounting the hours of Netflix and wasted revelry, a lot of that free time allowed me to think through some of the bigger questions such as the path I wanted to take in life, the mark I wanted to leave, the people I wanted to surround myself with. My takeaway from this realization is that for creativity to be fostered, and especially for the imagination to be set free, human beings need downtime to let their minds wonder (and isn’t that when the good ideas hit?). Some of that is tied to some of my weirder habits, such as putting on some headphones and walking around at night, letting my mind wander as I think through different stories or characters or settings. Luckily, I did a good amount of that last summer in NYC, so I should be good there.

I also have come to realize that I, like many writers, much prefer thinking about writing rather than actually writing. It’s been my classes that have forced me to turn thought into story, and those deadlines are certainly a blessing in disguise. So, I’ll be in New York, and what deadlines creatively will I have? Sure, I’ll have work deadlines requiring a very different style of writing, but I won’t have a professor telling me when he needs my short story by. One way to combat this is by realizing that I’ll never have more time to write than I do now. I don’t have a family, I don’t have a girlfriend, my work hours aren’t that crazy, and there’s really no excuse.

Further mulling this problem over, I’ve also decided to stay in touch with one of my best friends here at Michigan, John, who has read every story I’ve written while here…and even more valuable, he gives me a no-nonsense, no-fluff critique of every work. I’ve always know this is valuable, but for anyone looking to pursue any sort of success in creative writing, I’ve found his bluntness so incredibly helpful that I’d encourage everyone to find a friend-editor with a similar honesty. Hopefully, by staying in contact with John, who will be pursuing his own writing in his remaining years here, I’ll be reminded to keep writing. If not, I know John, and he’ll nag me about it, which is just what I need.

Finally, I’ve also come to realize that creativity deserves the same sleep-deprived treatment we give to other things in life (such as enjoying ourselves and hitting the town or cramming to meet a deadline). Without a firm writing deadline for my fiction in place, I still plan on keeping the boldness of the college attitude towards late-nights and furious typing…if I’m feeling creative, the sleep can wait. There’s something special about those moments when the ideas are tumbling forth faster than you can keep track, and you take another drag of coffee or whatever else you consume to stay awake. That kind of lifestyle almost feels immature, but how many fun creative works were created in a boring, mature fashion? Looking back, those were the moments when the best stories came forth, and I don’t plan on letting some job get in the way of that—that’s what personal days are for, aren’t they?

I think that’s the answer to maintaining the creative spirit I discovered here in Ann Arbor: keep the same creative habits. Sure, there’s going to be many more distractions in New York, and I look forward to many of those distractions, but I think even planning ahead just a little for the drastic change that will likely take place will help me retain that drive and continue to grow creatively. It won’t hurt that I’ll probably see or hear about others pursuing their passions, and I plan to use any jealousy as further motivation. There also has to be some sort of fiction workshops that exist in the city, and I plan on hunting them down and finding some other like-minded people to keep me on my toes.

Things are changing, and at the close of this chapter, my main goal is to make sure that my love of writing is something that will not change, regardless of environment or commercial success. Otherwise, my transformation here will feel like it was for nothing, and I know that there’s no way that’s really the case. I guess it’s time to stop worrying and just go do something, and at the end of the day I’m excited about that.

Sadly #pivoting

As I’m sitting outside anxiously awaiting a phone call that will determine whether or not I have a job, frantically tallying up my points, and dreading my upcoming graduation from Michigan, I feel there is no better time than now to reflect upon not only my Minor in Writing experiences, but also on my time in undergrad.  I’ve wished for this time in my life to come as quickly as it possibly could, but now that it’s here, I almost wish it wasn’t, which is something I’ve noticed a lot about life.  I can’t imagine not waking up to go to my classes next week, or maybe ever again.  I pitied the people who have graduated already and tweet or post on Facebook how much they wish they were back in Ann Arbor, sleeping in, going out to the bars, or getting late night food at some hole in the wall pizza place.  I used to hope that by the time I graduated I would have gotten all of that out of my system.  Now I’m not so sure that I won’t be feeling those same exact things that they did after I graduate.  If it’s true about what they say that the “best years of my life haven’t even happened yet,” then there must be something I don’t quite understand yet about growing up, because I can’t imagine that my life, and the people that I share it with, could get much better than this.

Not to sound too cliché, but writing has taught me a lot about how to deal with these kinds of feelings – how to articulate them, understand them, and share them with others.  A really wonderful professor told me one day that he truly believes that he cannot think clearly about something until he writes it all down and has analyzed the numerous things that he would never have been able to before writing it.  I never would’ve thought that to be true until I completed my final portfolio project and my essay on Beyoncé’s feminism and my own feminism.  This project, and the Capstone class more specifically, taught me so much more about myself than I ever would have been able to grasp on my own.  I can honestly say that this last semester of my senior year was quite possibly the most life-changing times in my whole life.  Not just because it was the last semester of my senior year, but because of the things I was forced to study, analyze, and write about, most of which were my own personal choice – hardly any guidelines from academia, which as you know from my evolution essay, is something that I appreciate when I get the chance to write.  My own autonomy.

I have learned about so many different facets of my life throughout the classes that I have taken and the professors and peers who have helped me along the way.  For example, in my English 473 class, we studied Midwestern literature and all of the themes that go along with it.  Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t really pay much attention to the mindset or ideology or stereotype that is often inflicted upon us.  I was just a sweet Midwestern girl who often dreamed of one day moving on to bigger and better things somewhere on the East or West coasts.  Little did I know that this thought process is something that is often reflected in Midwestern literature, and can sometimes fuel incredibly long research papers about what it means to be from the Midwest, what it means to write about it, and what kinds of stereotypes do we reinforce when we play into the Midwestern mindset.  It wasn’t meant to be a sociology class, but it made me self-reflect on the ways in which I have allowed the place where I grew up, the Midwest, to shape me.  Now, I’m sure that’s fairly true anywhere you go in the United States, or perhaps even the world, but it was such a strange phenomenon to witness these different Midwestern writers perfectly encompass the sometimes underlying themes that people portray in the Midwest.

In Writing 400, I learned even more about myself than I was probably ready to learn.  Since finishing my final project on Beyoncé, I have noticed a very real transformation in the ways that I think about my own personal representation and my own feminism, along with feminist projects in general.  I was most surprised to learn so much about black communities and their experiences with feminism, and how it is totally not the same as what I’ve known to be “white feminism.”  I always had this picture in my mind of a large sisterhood of women who are all fighting together to demand equal rights and opportunities for women all over the United States, and the world.  What I didn’t realize was that women all over the world don’t all want the same things, which seems like an obvious things to accept.  Black women are fighting against the stereotype that they present an animal-like sexuality, while white women are trying to find more productive ways to embrace their own sexuality.  Marriage, also as an example, means different things among different communities of women.  And finally, I’ve become determined to explore the ways in which feminism isn’t just for females – in order to make positive and drastic changes in our culture, it must be a joint effort among all people in it.  These things that I’ve come to learn about Beyoncé, different feminist projects, and myself, would not have been possible without writing and analyzing it for this final Capstone project, and I’m so grateful that was given the option to write about this topic.

As for future plans, I am still awaiting the phone call from my potential employer.  In fact, I just got an email from her that said she was so busy today and won’t be able to give me a final answer until Monday – the waiting game continues.  I hope to move to Chicago and start a new adventure there.  The self-confidence in my education and myself would not have been possible without incredible peers, friends, professors, and family.  Thank you so much for anything, big or small, that you may have contributed toward my personal development as a writer, a person, and a Beyoncé lover.

 

Sami

My Top Ten Books List

I think I might be the kind of person that would give you a different answer or different list depending on the day you asked me, but here it goes. Like Andrew’s list, there is no particular order here, and I’d say these are the books that have impacted me significantly (though their purely literary merit may differ greatly…but that’s not everything, is it?)

1) Ender’s Game

2) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (and the entire series)

3) The Giver

4) The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

5) Xenocide (in the Ender’s Game series)

6) Redwall series

7) The Secret Garden

8) The Hobbit

9) My Side of the Mountain

10) The Mars Diaries (going back to elementary school, but hey…)

I suppose it’s time to #Pivot.

So, I guess the G-word is actually happening soon. I can’t imagine a summer without school at the other end; a morning commute that doesn’t involve walking through the Diag and being handed flyers for acapella concerts; a nine-to-five job that doesn’t involve analyzing literature. But – it’s coming.

And, despite my hesitance, I know that it is time to go.

My education at the University of Michigan has been challenging and exciting; I have had a truly liberal arts schooling. I know more about contemporary politics from Political Science 300, more about women’s studies from my Human Sexuality course, more about literature from all of my various English courses as an English major – and more about writing from all of those things put together and then some.

The Minor in Writing has helped me think reflectively on how all of those liberal arts pieces fit together – adding up into the summation of my education here. Everything I have ever studied required some form of writing – and the minor has given me a reason to curate that, make sense of it, and even draw some conclusions about my writing, why I write, and how I write.

When I first began the minor, I really didn’t know what it would be about. Writing, sure, but what about it? The gateway course was a ton of fun; I loved re-purposing and re-imagining a dry, matter-of-fact academic essay into a funny New Yorker Piece then a video. I learned to expand my concept of writing to beyond the straight text of an academic piece. Writing involves hyperlinks. Involves images. Involves videos. Involves charts. Involves presentations and print and web and mobile. People complain that they stop writing after they take their last English course – but I disagree. We are constantly writing (hello, email? Twitter?!) and thinking creatively…it just isn’t in the form we are used to. And that’s okay.

I also learned about the importance of concision. Less is more. Especially when writing for an online space, I learned how to accommodate for Internet readers. Short paragraphs, headlines, and media all help make a piece of writing more effective in a digital space – but also have high-impact but short sentences and phrases (rather than long ones) are key.

In English 325 and 425, I found out why I really love to write. Personal essay writing is so fun because the writer has such stake in the product. The story is yours to tell – so you want it to be told in the best way possible. It was during these two workshop-style classes that I really came to understand the importance of revision and of sharing my work with other readers.

Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Instead, it is a shared experience (both the writing and the sharing of the final product). People interpret things in different ways, and it is exciting to know that something I write can leave my brain and enter someone else’s and come to mean something different and unique to that reader based on the experiences they bring to their reading.

Even at a sentence level, people read things differently. In my essay titled “A Day at the Fair,” people in my workshop read the first line: “I am an imposter in a blazer from eighth grade” to mean I am an imposter from eighth grade in a blazer (rather than how I meant it – that I felt like an imposter at the career fair because I was wearing an old blazer from eighth grade that I have had for years). I never would have realized this other reading had it not been for workshop and for sharing this piece with so many other fresh pairs of eyes before revising.

I have also learned a ton from helping others with their revision. As an objective reader, I am able to catch grammar mistakes and logical errors that I would not have been able to see in my own work because I am too close to it. I am also able to pick up on style moves and writing techniques that others are trying out. Not to mention, I have been able to read some really moving personal essays that have allowed me to walk around in someone else’s skin, and shown me a little more about the human condition.

I love writing – I love stringing words together, making meaning from meaningless characters on a computer screen, and sharing with others. And for all of the collaborative efforts encouraged by the Minor in Writing, I am thankful. I have so enjoyed the minor in writing, and have learned a ton more about writing in general and writing in a digital space.

So what happens next?

For now, I am looking to take a break from the world of academia and get a job in the “Real World.” I would like to write professionally for a marketing agency and work specifically with the web. Whether it be a brand’s message for their new app or a company website, if there is a message to be said, I want to be the one to write it. To get creative. To be concise. To have an impact.

But that’s just for now.

For the future? Who knows. I would love to become a professor some day. To have an essay or two published in The New Yorker. Maybe even to write a novel. But one thing is for sure: I feel most fulfilled when I am writing and sharing my work with others. (AKA why I spent so much time on my portfolio – I love having an easy place to send people who want to read my work!)

Conclusions? There aren’t many. So much is left to the ambiguous unknown of my future. But I am excited about it – and thankful for my time as an undergraduate. I have loved every second.

Thanks to everyone (professors and peers and friends) who has helped me with my writing through this minor – I appreciate it more than you know.

Amy

#Pivot: Last Thoughts

In sum, my last thoughts for Writing 200 is: this was a rigorous course that concluded the Minor in Writing (MIW) and my college career in a thoughtful, pleasant way.

I entered college with no idea what I wanted to do and ended up pursuing the MIW as a resume builder. Little did I know that I would actually enjoy it and that it would change my perceptions of writing. I never thought about why or how I write; to me these things were not that important. I wasn’t pursuing a career in journalism and I never found a need to have the answers to these questions ready to go. But what I found is that I learned more about myself than my writing abilities in answering these questions. And through the course of the MIW, I realized that writing became a way for me to discover my beliefs and opinions on subjects that I otherwise didn’t think much about.

In the meantime, I was improving my writing skills too! I learned to write in different mediums, how to address separate audiences and how to really think about the reader as I composed my work. And today, whether I’m drafting an email or a 30 page research paper, I feel more equipped to explain my point and communicate effectively. I am very thankful for the skills I have attainted from the MIW.

The MIW was a process that didn’t come full circle until the final class, Writing 400. (But before I say anything about this class:Don’t be fooled! Points take FOREVER! So get started on them early!) Although the expectations are high, the workload seems unattainable and your are asked to give the most effort during a time when you have the least motivation (second semester senior year), you may find that it truly was worth it in the end. At least that is what I found. Writing 400 pushed me to view older pieces of writing from my college career in a light that I had never viewed them in before. Truthfully, I had never given many of the pieces much thought after I turned them in and only thought about the grade I was going to get on them. But writing the annotated bibliography caused me to analyze each piece and explore what I learned from it and how I could have made it better. Then I was pushed to write my evolutionary essay and connect all these pieces together into an argument. This was difficult. How was I supposed to connect every piece of writing I had composed in college into one, seamless argument. Oh, and then connect it to the capstone project. Well initially I just thought about how my writing had affected me. I realized that it was a way for me to converse with myself and discover my thoughts, feelings and emotions. My “thesis” (I guess if you want to call it that) was,

Writing is the how for me. It has been through the process of writing that I have been able to explore, discover and develop my own thoughts.

And then I had to think about this project. Something I cared about so much that I was going to be married to it for over half of the semester. And pour more thought and energy into than any other academic assignment… EVER. I thought, sure, I’ll skim by like I always do – I won’t really be married to it. Well, looking back, I had a ring on my finger, vows exchanged and was cohabiting with that capstone project. But the coolest part was that it was honestly by choice. I was given the autonomy to direct my own project. And write about essentially what ever I wanted. At first this made it almost impossible to choose a subject, but once I did, I fell in love with it. Absolutely head over heals.

Now I would like to say it was love at first sight, but it wasn’t. It was more like meeting someone at the bar and the next morning you remember that person being really attractive but you really have no idea. You’d like to think they are but you can’t remember what they look like. And then you start texting them and forming an image of what you think they like in your head, but again you have no idea. And then finally, you meet them for coffee and it all become clear. Boom: you’re in love.

My project was this fuzzy idea. And then I started talking about it with my classmates through workshops and open group discussion. I met in office hours with my professor Ray (who is great – you should definitely get in his class if you can) and you start to form an idea of what your capstone project will like like. And then you’re forced to write a proposal and make a plan with deadlines and then, basically start working. Once you get past the research faze it becomes clear and Boom: you’re in love.

So you write this project and you display it on a beautiful website platform and you are so, so proud of it. And then you’re asked to make the evolutionary essay a bridge between your portfolio and the capstone project, and then add a bunch of additional pieces to your portfolio. And you realize, they are all connected.

It is amazing but viewing my writing is like reflecting on my college journey. It’s silly, flawed and choppy yet enlightening and story-like.

The capstone project was a way for me to reflect on myself, my interests and all the knowledge I had gained from college. And it is really cool to see!

As for the rest of my life I really have no idea. I am one of those fortunate ones that has a plan for post college. I’m traveling through Europe for 3 weeks and then moving to Boston to do sales for an IT research and advisory firm called Gartner. It is all  very scary and exciting but to be honest, I have absolutely no idea if this is what I want to do with my life. But hey, it’s a start and an income. So I’ll take it.

Someday I want to find and do something fulfilling. I could see myself returning to school to get my masters in social work or education and pursuing completely different career but who really knows. And as for writing, I know that it will follow me wherever I go. I want to continue writing to make sure I don’t loose the skills I currently have. But the cool part is I think this won’t be too hard. I can write for personal interests of diary keeping and thought discovery or discernment. I can write about things I learn in the future or about books I read. In the professional sphere of my life I will write reports summaries and explanations.

I’m excited for what the future holds and I am certain the MIW has better equipped me for what the future holds. And I’m not just saying that! I learned more about myself and my takeaways from college.

So to you I say: stick with it, you won’t regret it. And…HAPPY WRITING!