Friday, July 31, 2009

Sharing is Baring (and goal #1)

Today I thought I'd get the momentum going by first explaining why it is that I hate sharing what I've written and why I don't even let my closest friends or family read most of it.

Well actually, this isn't true. If I write a stellar paper that causes my professor to gush ink all over it, yeah, I'm probably sharing that with whoever wants to see it. Academic papers and standardized essays (think SATs) have always been my strength. I have the ability to churn them out with little to no planning, outlining or revision (although for the first time in my career as a student I'm really seeing the point/beauty of revision) in record time and earn a nice little grade for them. This is something I've always been able to do, and something of which I always used to be proud. It's a constant joke among my friends...if it's the day before a 10 page paper on Bleak House (or, insert some other obscure and unnecessarily long novel here), most people are freaking out. If I try to freak out, I get laughs, along with, "Okay, Michelle, you'll have that done in two hours."

The sad thing is, I probably will. And I have.

But is this really something for which I should give myself a little gold star and a pat on the back? I'm rethinking that all the time. Sure, it's super helpful...only needing half a day in the library to produce a 25 page research paper that's worth most of the semester's grade has its merits. But there are a few negative repercussions to this:

1. Great! I've finished a huge paper during finals week...but wait...everyone else is still in the library, and now I'm lonely.

2. Usually, if it's the day before a paper is due and I've just begun, I'm not so shameless as to be able to call or email my professor if I have a question. The problem with this is that although the papers seem to be pleasing them, I know that if I needed clarification on a point, getting that could just give what I'm trying to say that much more credibility, or make the paper that much more engaging. (Note: I did once try to call a professor the day before a paper was due, to talk about, of all the unchangeable-at-the-last-minute things, my thesis. She said it was far-fetched and impossible to prove well, and ended the conversation. It sucked, but I will say the paper I turned in the next day was a damn good one as a result.)

I'd say the biggest problem stemmed in all this neurotic self-analysis is my observation that what I'm writing is lacking in creativity
. This has been a recurring problem since I arrived at Williams. I think it probably started when I became the Sports Editor of our college paper. Disclaimer: I love being Sports Editor for the Record. But that doesn't mean that sports journalism does to your mind what a film by Guillermo del Toro does to your mind.
And I've been doing it for so long that now I'm afraid there's no going back.

Here is a good place to insert one of my goals for the upcoming year, which will be appearing
periodically scattered throughout my blog.

Goal #1 For the Upcoming Year: Come up with really engaging, inspiring, invigorating, controversial, challenging, amusing, and touching sports features! As Campus Athletics Editor (that's different than Sports Editor. Really.), my main job is to develop, research and write human interest pieces on athletics at Williams. I think I've come up with some alright ones so far, but as one of my many history-references-to-come Oliver Cromwell once said, "He who stops being better stops being good."

I digress. Back to my point, if I was even ever making one.

So, since I've brought up the issue of creativity, I suppose I'll leave my ponderings on my academic work for now and sidestep into this next category of writing: my poetry and prose. Despite my growing dissatisfaction with the way in which I produce papers, at this point I think I can modestly say that I'm good at them, and therefore I don't really have a problem letting people see the finished result. The same doesn't really go for my fiction. I've never really known if I was a good writer or not. Which is unfortuante, since it's what I've known I wanted to do since I was tiny. As my confidence grows with my analytical and nonfiction writing, I've begun to leave my fiction behind. The last time I really wrote anything was in my high school creative writing class. And while the feedback I received there was positive, I do have to stress without sounding like an old pomp that it was high school, and I don't think my feedback here at Williams would be quite (read: at all) the same that it was back then. This has bothered me for the last two years (not coincidentally the length of time I've been in college), because I feel that as I grow as a person I should be able to let go of whatever restraints hold me back from my writing and just go for it, and it's frustrating to me that that isn't really happening yet. I did start writing something the end of last spring, and I was really excited about it for awhile, and then I did what I usually do which is I got too hard on myself, decided it wasn't good and stopped.

I'm not really sure why this recurring problem keeps happening to me. I'm certainly not an egotist, but that doesn't mean that I'm lacking in any self-confidence. I'm not even sure if, when I decide that these pieces aren't good enough, it's a result of projecting what I think others will think of it. It's really just self-inflicted. I'll write something and think it's okay, and then read something by Edith Wharton or Ayn Rand or Nancy Mitford and just scrap the whole thing. I guess I'm like Ariel in the Little Mermaid, and still in the process of finding my voice.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Deliberations of a Fledgling Blogger

Welcome to my thought process as I try to decide what this space means to me, and what I hope it eventually means to the people [person? let's hope not] that might happen to stumble across it while searching for, no doubt, if not something far better than at least something far different on the internet.

Well, what do I do when I'm on the internet? And do other people do what I do? And if those people do do what it is that I do, is there any way that their interests may relevantly lead them here? Let's see:

A typical online session (work day):

Well, on work days I do use more discretion in my surfing so as to alleviate some guilt...i.e., on a scale of carefree to flogging, how guilty do I feel about the fact that I'm getting paid for this? So here's how a typical work day surf session can go, as per my stream of consciousness:

~ 9:15 am
1. Log into my Williams College e-mail account, the account I use for most of my e-mail needs. What's this? Orbitz top ten deals of the week? I'm intrigued...

2. Log into Orbitz and begin my anywhere from bi-daily to once-weekly ritual of searching various flight combos from here
-ish (here being Williams, as I'm living on campus while I work nearby) to Los Angeles-ish (there being the location that my boyfriend has disappeared to for the summer, as he's with his parents in Santa Barbara). As usual, none of these tickets will fit my slightly unrealistic price range (you can sometimes find coast-to-coast tickets for under $200! Right?)

3. Anyways, from here my idealistic notions of would-be romantic airport rendezvous are crushed, at least until tomorrow morning, so I'll take some time and settle in and work really hard. Log-off time.

~1:30 pm

4. Ahh, I've had some lunch and done some work, and I'm feeling pretty good. Time to check my e-mail again and see what treasures have arrived in my absence. At this point my inbox probably contains a forwarded spam-esque email from my mum, and since I love her so much she's the only person I'll read them from rather than delete them immediately. Here's a sample gem, from July 28:

It was titled the Banana Test, and posed t
his little mindbender: "There is a very, very tall coconut tree and there are 4 animals, a Lion, a Chimpanzee, a Giraffe, and a Squirrel, who pass by. They decide to compete to see who is the fastest to get a banana off the tree. Who do you guess will win?" So apparently you're supposed to pick which animal you think will win. I picked the squirrel, since there are a lot of them on campus and, well, I've seen them in action. And whichever animal you choose is said to "reveal something about your personality." So anyways, I scroll down to see what the squirrel and the banana reveal about me... and am met with an answer key with all the possible animal choices and various insulting "you" statements immediately following (ex. If your answer is squirrel, you're hopeless, etc.) Offended and confused, I scroll down to the bold print: A COCONUT TREE DOESN'T HAVE BANANAS. As if the accusatory bold-face weren't humiliating enough, there's a lovely little animated chimp laughing at you. Perfect. My favorite was the little conclusory "wrap-up" statement at the end: "Obviously you're stressed and overworked. You should take some time off and relax!"

5. Well, that alluring prod is all I need to feel justified in going back to Orbitz and checking plane tickets again. And this continues, etc. etc.

A typical online session (non-work day):

Ahh, so now I have some real time to kill. Possibly it's a Saturday afternoon, or potentially it's that time between dinner and bed. Regardless, a whole new world [wide web] of possibilities opens in front of me:

Let's say the time is Sunday afternoon, the location, my bed.

~1:00 pm
1. My weakness. I log into Facebook, and I have 15 new notifications. Probably 13 of them are from quizzes notifying me various things about my various friends "5 of your friends took the 'Which Hugh Grant Movie Are You?' Quiz! See their results!" I can only smile at these though because, as opposed to so many irate status updates (John Smith hates quizzes and wishes his friends would stop taking them! Something that really doesn't affect him at all bothers him so much!) on my homepage, I actually enjoy taking a quiz or two every now and then. Usually these days there's not much else going on there, so I log off.

~1:15 pm
2. Bored and with time to kill, I'll probably next log into Hulu and watch an episode of the Office or maybe splurge and buy an episode of How I Met Your Mother on iTunes. Let's say, for interest factor, that I choose the latter. Great choice. I'm happy.

~1:45 pm
3. Watching Jason Segal has not only filled me with glee but made me yearn for more JS-induced laughs, so perhaps now I head over to YouTube and watch everything from I Love You Man trailer to the Dracula Song from Forgettting Sarah Marshall.

~2:00 pm
4. I log back into my Williams webmail account and, goldmine! J CREW final sale!! And FREE SHIPPING! Experience tells me, nay, shouts loudly at me while holding my debit card out of reach that free shipping is only valid on orders of $150 or more, but I click the link anyway and, yes, I'll have to shell out $150 I never intended to spend to save $8.99 I never intended to spend. I content myself with putting together shamelessly classy and expensive outfits and resolve to find their penny-pinching equivalents at TJ Maxx, Target, and Gap.

Some other various whims I may follow during this day off surfing sesh:

5. What's the latest with Brett Favre? What's going on in my team's (the Packers) pre-season? How much are tickets for a game to see the Pats in the nearby-ish Gillette Stadium?
6. Bed, Bath and Beyond. I have a thing for decorating imaginary rooms.
7. Will I finally be able to find T-Pain tickets for the general vicinity of my boyfriend's birthday?
8. I especially like the photo slideshows and the Health news.

The point of this extensive and revelational chronology of my daily online exploits? Well, let's see what subject matter that I, one person, have the potential to cover in one day:

Orbitz, travel sites, airplane ticket promotional offers, chain e-mails, google-mapping farmer's markets nearby (for fresh bananas, of course), any of the hundreds of ads on the Facebook sidebar that I have to say I'm guilty of clicking (they're SO good at targeting!), Hugh Grant, english romantic comedies, the Office, John Krasinski, How I Met Your Mother, Jason Segal, I Love You Man, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Judd Apatow movies in general, Dracula, Clothing and more clothing, J Crew, Gap, Target, the NFL, Brett Favre, Aaron Rogers, the Green Bay Packers, Tom Brady, Gillete Stadium, football tickets on Ticketmaster, concert tickets on Ticketmaster, T-Pain, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and countless of crazy and important things I could discover on Abcnews (current headlines as I write this: "The Audacity of Hops: White House Preps Beer Summit," "Meet the High-Paid Wives Club," "Family Reunites With Dog After 9 Years," and "K-Fat Leads Pack of Famous Flabby Fathers." Goldmine.

And I wouldn't even say I spend that much time [correction: that much MORE time] online each day than anyone else I know. So, if other people are covering as much and as varied subject matter as I am, then...

...yeah, I'm thinking a couple people might find this blog.

And that's why I don't want to limit myself to a cute theme. Don't get me wrong, themes sell, and are probably pretty tough to stick with. Just look at Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. To have to have THAT many bad dates just to keep your job? Before starting my blog, I'd seen blogs by penny-pinching mothers, to professional photographers, to green crafters, to racehorse enthusiasts...all trying to be noticed. And it worked, because I noticed them. But considering that I'm a well bubbling forth with very, very different ideas and interests, let's hope that scattered thoughts attract some observation, too.

Thanks for reading!