Picking a Topic was Hard, Starting Research is Harder

As soon as I chose my topic of goal-setting I knew I was going to come across a few roadblocks while researching. Since my topic is pretty intangible, I was immediately overwhelmed (see GIF below for reenactment) with the amount of information I would have to sift through in order to make my argument and establish my credibility. Did I want to start with online articles? Or maybe head to the library and ask a librarian? Perhaps I’ll check out the Netflix documentaries and see if there’s one that matches up. As you can see, I was struggling. Struggling big time.

Jon Stewart GIF

Initially, I thought the only type of research I would have to do revolved around the psychology of goal-setting. However, I’m starting to discovery that the history of goal-setting and why American culture in particular places such a strong emphasis on goals is more important for my argument. This shift is helping me to narrow my focus on certain aspects of goal-setting as opposed to attacking the entire subject.

Furthermore, my research will come from a combination of “traditional” academic research from scholarly journals and books in addition to more “popular” forms such as online magazines and websites. In particular, Forbes Magazine articles seem to have the most information on my topic that both agrees and disagrees with my argument. It seems like every time I scroll through Forbes.com, I find another article that I can use for my project. This is both a blessing and a curse because I feel like before I know it, I’ll have over 100 articles and no other sources. I will be making a conscious effort to diversify my sources to strengthen my argument.

Example Forbes Article

Finally, I’m most excited to learn about how other people view goals during my interviews. I haven’t decided exactly who I will be interviewing, what type of questions I will ask, or how I will conduct the interviews, but I am looking forward to diving into this. I think I am most excited for this part because I’m a people-person and love to share experiences with others. I believe experiential learning is the most valuable type of learning available. Thus, I want to use other’s experiences as a main point in my Repurposing Project, especially since goal-setting is an entirely human, and person-by-person, choice.

Some other things that might be helpful to know are that my topic is rather personal to me because I’ve always had an interest in the ways that goal-setting has inhibited me in my own life. However, I want to make my repurposing project relatable for all kinds of 20-somethings. Bridging that gap between too personal and too broad will be something I will discuss more in upcoming blog posts, so keep an eye out! If you have any questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments below. All of your suggestions have been extremely helpful!

Puppy GIF

My Two Year Plan [Repurposed]

After much deliberation (and countless hours spent searching the depths of my MacBook documents), I’ve decided to repurpose a two-year plan essay from a mini-course I took freshman year. The topic I am focused on is goal setting and the ways in which goals motivate people while simultaneously restricting them. When I first wrote my two-year plan, back when I was a naive and inexperienced freshman, I anticipated going into the fashion industry and even traveling throughout Europe after sophomore year. Now, as a junior, I’ve realized that fashion is more of a hobby and that I would much rather travel to Australia. I plan on repurposing this essay into an article for The Huffington Post. The following three pieces are all from different websites and discuss the concept of goal setting in different ways.

man on top of mountain

  1. “Consider Not Setting Goals in 2013” by Peter Bregman is an article published in the Harvard Business Review in 2012. Bregman argues that goals aren’t necessarily bad, but they can have lasting side effects such as a rise in unethical behavior. The article is written for the business-minded reader, but is written in such a way that even those not interested in business can enjoy and benefit from the information. Furthermore, Bregman begins the article with an anecdote about his children, which draws the reader in and appeals to their emotions. This is one aspect of Bregman’s piece that I hope to incorporate into my own. Bregman’s suggestion that individuals should focus on the task, not the outcome is intriguing for me and something that I am going to think more about while writing my own article.
  2. “The Importance of Setting Goals” by Ohad Frankfurt is a blog post published on Medium, which is a blogging platform similar to WordPress. Frankfurt discusses what goals are and how to ensure that individuals’ reach their goals. Since Frankfurt is the CEO of a startup company, the post is geared towards entrepreneurs and individuals looking for inspiration. Since it is a blog post, Frankfurt employs colloquial language and personal stories. While this type of writing works for a blog post, I want mine to adopt a more professional tone. Along the same lines, Frankfurt does not provide any evidence and focuses solely on his own experiences. In order to establish my credibility, I will be providing both traditional evidence and qualitative evidence (i.e. interviews) to support my argument.
  3. “The 3 Things That Stop Most People From Achieving Their Goals” by Chris Winfield is an article published in The Huffington Post and most closely mimics the voice I hope to achieve in my repurposing project. In the article, Winfield provides quotes from famous scholars and condenses his argument into three separate bullet points. The post appears in the “Small Business” section of The Huffington Post, which suggests that Winfield’s audience is small business owners. However, as he mentions, “I’ve never met one person who hasn’t had thoughts just like these. From CEOs to someone starting their first job out of college, we all have fears.” Thus, anyone interested in business would enjoy his article. While I don’t wish to employ bullet points or provide hypothetical situations for my reader, Winfield’s argument that there are specific obstacles preventing people from achieving their goals is something I would like to touch on in my repurposing project.

road block

The exercise of going through and mapping the rhetorical situation of the pieces above has opened my eyes to the amount of detail that will go into the creation of my article for the repurposing project. Furthermore, I have realized that my argument, much like the arguments made in these pieces, needs to be crystal clear to the reader. I look forward to continuing to work on my repurposing project and learning more about the topic of goal setting along the way!

Being Full of It or, How I Feel About Charles Baxter

Here’s the thing: I kind of love Charles Baxter. I mean, how could I not? The dude’s a serious badass. Sure, he doesn’t pistol-whip his foes or go on high-speed car chases (as far as I know), but he writes beautiful, heart-breaking stories about the Midwest that have many a Midwesterner’s approval. This is no small feat. On that note, if you’re not familiar with his work, do your soul a favor and go get a copy of Feast of Love from your local library. They’ll have it; it won a National Book Award after all.

So it comes as no surprise, then, that when I had to pick a piece to respond to for the Minor in Writing blog, I went straight for Sir Baxter’s “Full of It,” expecting to find something that reads both cool and authentic, and leaves me with a head full of new and interesting thoughts.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed, but there were a few times where I found his portrayal of the “suffering artist,” wherein he likens creative work to an “affliction” borne by an artist, a little cliché. I’ve met enough artists to know that the drive they feel to make art is, in some ways, burdensome, and leads to as much trouble as it does good, but I think that it’s worth noting that they make a choice when they decide to act on their artistic impulses, and isn’t the ability to even have such choices a privilege in itself? I guess I just get tired of talented people complaining that being talented is both as much a blessing as it is a curse. I’d like to tell all of these talented people that it’s just a blessing, and that part you’re calling a “curse” is just what the rest of us call life. Sometimes it’s kind of hard.

But besides that one complaint, I’m pretty happy I read this piece. I, like so many other young 20-somethings preparing to leave college and enter the “real world,” am nothing if not a little lost, and to see a writer whom I admire say that “wisdom is simply somebody’s personal prejudice masquerading as truth,” and encourage me to “make my own mistakes the way that I made mine,” is pretty reassuring.  What’s more, I like that Baxter is all about encouraging people to figure their own stuff out, and makes a point to emphasize the value in working through your mistakes because I am just all about making mistakes lately. I also like that he points out that all writers have to be “good noticers,” because I’ve always felt that way about myself. For example, I can tell you that I remember the time I fought back tears while my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. V., yelled at me for talking in class, I remember feeling the corners of my mouth pull themselves sideways while my throat tightened up, and that I saw the moment Mrs. V. started to re-think her choice to shame me in front of everyone in the way her brows pulled apart.

Point is, to hear a writer whom look up to say, in his own words, “Hey Brooke, you’re on the right track to be a pretty decent writer!” is pretty comforting. What’s less comforting, of course, is him following with, “You know those flaws you have? They’re intimately connected to your talent as a writer.” I think I always knew as much, that my love of gossip, tendency to daydream, and unrelenting insecurities were all what drove me to write with the voice I have, and what created that “relatable” quality in my work. Of course, I am not an aspiring fiction writer; at least, not in the same way I think Charles Baxter was at my age. When I think about my future career in writing, I usually think about pitching a T.V. show to HBO, publishing collections of personal essays about my own misadventures, and composing screen plays based on my favorite books. For whatever reason, I’d like to think that this path, the Brooke Gabriel path, will be different from the Charles Baxter path. That in choosing a writing career that involves different media than the short story or novel, I can simply take the good bits that come with this “affliction” or “condition” Baxter and I both suffer from and avoid all the bad parts that come with it.

But of course, I, like Baxter, am full of it.