About The Process

-Or Visualizing the Writing Process-

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While reading through Toward A Composition Made Whole this week (it will never be finished. I will be blogging about this book until my dying day), I became enamored with the idea of visualizing my writing process. Perhaps it was because Shipka provides such an excellent example of a process map – done by a non English-y person, no less – or because it illustrated the idea that multiple things could impact your writing process, and that those things should be acknowledged, that I latched on to the idea.

So, here it is. Above is a scanned image of a hand drawn process map of my very own, tracking the vague writing process of a project I had in my Fiction class last semester. Now, to the explanations.

The project described here, a short story entitled ‘She Was,’ was one of the more difficult writing experiences I have ever put myself through. The drawing of my desk at home as the ‘production space’ was included because the idea was created there. I had been playing quite a bit of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and listening to the band Murder By Death at the time, so ghost stories and human augmentation were on the brain. I drafted a quick character study and left it up on my blog (warning: this post is an early draft and actually quite bad). Then, I forgot about it.

A month or so later, I started rearranging the character study and adding to it so that I could talk to my creative writing professor about it. He….was not impressed with my second draft. So I went back and, using his mark up, rewrote almost the entire piece in a night. Music was ever present, and tea was plentiful. The draft was finished at 4 a.m. on the due date.

The draft was read by my classmates. They critiqued it; later, I sat dow with a story that was too complicated and needed an extra 2000 words for my final portfolio, with critiques that were going to be of no help very rapidly. I put on a rap album on repeat and plowed through a fourth, and soon, a fifth draft. I rewrote that story from scratch about four different times over the course of the semester. I sat in plastic chairs and arm chairs, at desks and on the floor, and listened to rock, rap, and soundtracks over the course of 14 weeks, trying, desperately to get that story written. It makes me proud to see, visually, the conditions and places and things that helped me get through that particular project. It reminds me of how much work I put into that piece, and how much of myself is in it. It reminds me to be proud of it, even though (as I discovered today) it is riddled with typos.

Seeing a process is different than remembering it. I think it’s important to remind yourself of everything that goes into writing, and how not all of it is writing.

Why I Will Never Be a Vlogger

- Or I Am Terrible at Video Projects -

I am a very visual writer. Description is my forte. It is easy for me to site down and visualize a scene – however, it is difficult for me to think in feasible camera shoots and scenes. 

This is incredibly frustrating, because when I am tasked with creating a video for a class, or simply for fun, I begin to picture a really awesome idea. For example, for the video I was producing in Scripting Woes, I had pictured a video in which the narrative synced up with an interesting walk around campus. But when I sat down to think about what I could feasibly shoot, I realized that I was going to have to go much simpler.

I don’t have the editing capacity, or the camera skills, or a mind for cutting a film together.

 

When I have to downsize an idea, usually the first iteration or so of that project is not…great. At least in my eyes. But there is a difference in movie making – you don’t really get drafts. Sure, we had to turn in a rough cut a week before the final was due, but, at that point, you basically have the idea down and people simply suggest what shots you need to film or music you need to get. We didn’t have time to redo the entire thing.

I get overambitious and end up with something that I feel is subpar compared to the ideas floating around in my head, because I don’t get my safety net of ‘first drafts can suck,’ and I lack the skills to a) write a decent script and b) film anything more complex than simple establishing shots/action shots. And I have to spread this video around – this subpar, simplistic, not all that great video. I know my inner critic is worse than reality, but I have to side with it in this case. I am terrified of other people seeing this – not because of the subject matter, which is pretty personal, but because I am worried about the quality as compared to everyone else’s video projects.

Clearly, a job as a story editor is not in my future.

Scripting Woes

- Or Why I Have Never Taken To Script Writing -

Filming something is incredibly hard. Coming up with an idea and writing it out, complete with a visual component is possibly even worse.

I am a ‘visual’ writer by default – I thrive on description, which has a tendency to affect other aspects of my writing. My character development takes several drafts to get past the ‘shoddy’ phase, and my dialogue is…well, it’s getting better. So, one would think I would be an excellent script writer. I’m great with scenes! All the scenes, give ‘em here.

Except not. My scenes – at least the way I envision them – are a bit….grandiose and hard to film on a handheld sort of budget. So, when preparing to shoot a short, 2 to 4 minutes film, I ran into some trouble.

Okay, a lot of trouble. I still don’t know how to shoot some of the shots I need, and I think I am probably going to need to come up with alternatives pretty quickly so that I don’t burn out/lose film quality. My storyboards were super ambitious, so I may need to face the music and re-storyboard.  I have at least four more ‘scenes’ to film on my own and then I will just have to see what I have and if it fits the mood of my script.

I am a bit overambitious, I have found, with large creative projects. Perhaps this is why I am almost never happy with my output. I simply need to ‘keep it simple’ {stupid} and relax on the ‘do all the things’ drive. But it’s so hard. I want this to be good. Really good. I’m afraid I’m going to flounder and screw something up.

Perhaps it’s time to start re-storyboarding, because the due date approches.

Writing Priorities

- Or Yet Another Excuse for Procrastination -

I have been thinking recently about how ‘new technologies’ – computers, tablets, cell phones, etc. – have affected my writing. The conclusion I have come to is this; computers and the like have made it so much easier and so much harder to sit down and write, and the difficulty of the task is directly tied to how interested I am in what I am writing.

As an example, over the summer, I wrote a 2000+ word essay on a pair of episodes in the podcast Welcome to Night Vale (if you venture off to read that, be warned; it is long and also has Spoilers). I was not required to write this essay – I just felt like it. ‘Incoherent Babbling’ was composed in about 2 hours, possibly 3 due to locating quotes.

By contrast, in freshman year I had to write a 500 – 750 word essay on the Scientific Revolution. That particular essay took me 4 hours to write.

I’m not proud of that, but it’s a good example of how inspiration or drive affects my ability to procrastinate. In the first example, I utilized the internet in order to locate quotes and discuss the topic with a few friends of mine. By contrast, in the latter example, I spent much of those 4 hours on Facebook, Tumblr, and YouTube, doing anything I could to avoid writing an essay that, frankly, bored me.

The problem lies when I am uninspired, but still need to write, like when I am working on a novel or a short story, and get distracted by videos of cats for three hours. New technologies have made it so much easier to do research for more creative pursuits, but they have also created the perfect procrastination tool. “One more Reddit post” or “Just one more video” are phrases I frequently tell myself when procrastinating, until I run out of time and have to do a rush job on whatever I am working on.

It’s a habit, and a bad one. But I am working on it.

Technology

- Or Thinking About What Multimodal Writing Means -

We need to consider what is at stake – who and what it is we empower and discount – when we use the term [technology] to mean primarily, or worse yet, only the newest computer technologies and not light switches, typewriters, eyeglasses, handwriting, or floor tiles as well.

- Jody Shipka, Toward a Composition Made Whole

It’s hard, I think, to think about technologies in a manner more complex than the computers we’re accustomed to using. Growing up, I remember being taught about ‘new technologies,’ but somewhere along the way, that term was shortened to ‘technology.’ I distinctly remember and instance in high school when a teacher made the radical statement that a desk was technology.

“No, it’s not,” said some, “it’s just a desk.”

Our teacher said that, at one point, people didn’t have desks to write on, and that a desk would have been just as revolutionary as a computer is to us. (Thinking about it now, I would say that the very act of writing was at one point new and is, by this loose definition, a technology as well.)

I try to think about multimodal writing more complexly than just ‘digital’ or ‘audio-visual’ writing projects, but after reading the introduction to Jody Shipka’s book Toward a Composition Made Whole (and talking to Dr. Warnick, my Writing and Digital Media professor), I realized that I wasn’t. Not really. I’ve talked in the past about how writing in other genres (for I will contend that video games and movies are, in fact, genres) requires thinking more complexly about what it means to write, I have never really considered how technologies (pen and paper, computers, apps, mobile devices, desks) and environments (classrooms, the out doors, and the sights and smells and noises involved in each) affect my writing. Is it easier for me to blog on a computer, and write novels by hand? How does writing on a computer affect my sense of ‘writer’s block’? What about where I work?

These are questions I hadn’t considered before, but I believe they are essential to thinking about how you prefer to write, and what we consider multimodal. Because, as Shipka states in her exploration of the topic, multimodal writing is so much more than simply digitizing our words.

An Explanation

- Or Why Am I Here? -

Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I had a blog called “What do I do With a BA in English,” and it was glorious. Granted, I was required to blog for the Honors program, but I legitimately enjoyed it. More recently, however, that blog is being required to be something it wasn’t supposed to be — a glorified inbox for seminar assignments. I firmly believe that blogging as an assignment sort of defeats the overall purpose of running a blog, so, here I am.

New title.

New layout.

Old tricks.

I will be using this blog to talk about writing, composition, video games, movies, and everything and anything else that catches my eye, because that is what I enjoy talking about. It is likely that I will also be relating most of it to one of my college courses this semester (Writing and Digital Media), in part because I must, but mostly because that class is exciting and new and freaking awesome.

So, welcome. I have been at this blogging thing for a while now. If you want to see a sampling, I’ve relocated my favorite posts from the old blog here. Have fun, and I’ll see you on the flip side.