Category Archives: College

Make Good Art

I wanted to take a moment to write about Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech at the University of Arts, Philadelphia in 2012.

I’ve heard this speech before, probably when it first came out, or maybe in a classroom, but I didn’t really get it then. I mean, I understood what he was saying, but I didn’t fully grasp the concept that Gaiman was talking about.

As I listened to the speech again, I realized something: everything he said is true.

As someone who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in English Studies, my options for jobs in my field are limited. Many jobs, in many fields, require you to have previous experience before you can get experience, or they require something else of you before you can really start. It’s a tough world right now for certain degree majors, but it’s not impossible.

Gaiman’s speech was one to inspire, for sure, but it hit something within me that rings truest of all: Make. Good. Art.

It doesn’t matter if the work doesn’t get published or never leaves home, it doesn’t matter if you make money or not from what you do, but what does matter is that you make it and that you enjoy it.

Reflecting back on my college career I went through three majors before landing on English: biology, earth science, pre-major (no major), and then English. I was thinking of going into education to have a more solid foundation for which I could lay my work, but I didn’t want to be in school the rest of my life, so I went for the next best thing, something I knew I was really good at: English.

I love to write; I have since I was a child and since I started writing stories as part of classroom assignments or for fun. I once wrote over 100 pages on the computer when I was just eleven or twelve, something that many people may not even fathom to do when they’re twenty or thirty. I was immersed in story and I had such a vivid imagination that it always came naturally to me.

But I still wanted to be a veterinarian. I still wanted to study dinosaurs. Don’t get me wrong, those pursuits are amazing and if I had had the ambition and drive to continue my studies, I would have, but as someone who struggles majorly in math (minus a few select subjects), I couldn’t do it. I was constantly disappointed in myself, and I knew my parents were, too, even if they didn’t want to admit it.

When I started pursuing English Studies with a focus on Professional Writing, and then later adding Art as my minor, I knew that it should have been my first choice going into college. I had found the passion that had been dormant for so long in me spark once again, I found the will and drive to be creative again. When it came to my writing classes (not the ones that focused on literature) I told stories that moved, confused, astounded, and amazed my fellow peers and professors.

I had found where I belonged.

Now, as a graduate, that passion is dwindling yet again. I started writing my first novel, just two sections of it: the end and a middle-to-end section, but two sections nonetheless. I have ideas written down of several other novels and I realized something: I have so many passions, but I am so afraid of what might happen, or not happen, next.

I am worried about helping to support my fiance and I as we come closer to our marriage date and his return to school, I am worried about not being able to find a job in my field that I will enjoy, I am afraid of the future, of what’s to come. I am just afraid.

But listening to Neil Gaiman’s speech sparked something in me that I should have never let go of: just keep writing.

I have put this blog on the back burner because life keeps happening, and I don’t want to do that because I enjoy seeing people actually enjoying my voice and opinions. I have stopped writing because I am afraid and worried that I won’t get anything published eventually or, even more presently, unable to finish a single story. I have put what I love on hold because of “life.”

Well, life can suck it.

I love to write, I love to read, I love to be creative to the point where I am more passionate about it than anything in the world.

So why not just keep making good art?

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Critically Analyzing Literature

Sounds difficult, right? To critically analyze something you have to be able to break down to the core of it and take it apart piece by piece, putting it back together in a way that’s tangible and understandable while still making your point.

Complicated, I know.

But critically analyzing literature isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Of course you’ll stumble and fall at the beginning, but that isn’t to say you won’t improve as you advance in the ways in which you look at it.

Let’s take Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” for example. I had to critically analyze her book a couple of years ago, and I had no idea what that meant! From what I remember I understood that it wasn’t the monster’s fault for the positions he was put in because he sought out human companionship, but rather it was Frankenstein’s fault for bringing him to life in the first place – in fact, the monster blamed him for it!

When you critically analyze a piece of literature, don’t just look on the surface or what’s obvious about the piece; take the time to really dig down and find the hidden meanings behind the words.

If you look at, say, “Divergent” by Veronica Roth, you will find the hidden places where God, and some lessons learned in the Bible, are mentioned because she is a Christian, herself. Or if you look at “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen you might discover the lies behind the way some characters acted and portrayed themselves, as well as find that that was really how that certain section of society really acted. It’s all a matter of perspective, and you won’t necessarily be wrong about it.

There are several methods to analyzing literature, such as marking around certain areas that stand out and doing research in online scholarly journals on the same subject or line, or working with someone who knows more on the subject than you do, etc. There are countless ways to analyze, but you also have to have the mind for it, i.e. you have to be willing to look deeper into the story than just what’s at the surface.

But this also isn’t to say that you absolutely can’t get off with just writing down your own opinions, oh no. You have to do the research behind it. Who else wrote about the subject? Are they big names in reputable journals or are they just found on easy-access websites with no citations or anything of the like? It’s about knowing what you’re looking for, and oftentimes that can be a difficult thing to do.

Have you ever had to critically analyze a piece of literature? If so, what was it and how did you go about doing it? Let me know in the comments below!

Writing Classes: Pros and Cons

Last time I discussed literature classes and some of the pros and cons associated with them, so today I want to talk about writing classes and some of the various pros and cons regarding them.

Writing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had a knack for it and I always wanted to do something with writing (hence the blog), but when I took writing classes at my university I started to learn much more about writing and just why I chose it for my concentration.

Writing is a great way to open doors to new worlds, people, places, smells, and it is a great way to relieve stress if you’re having a rough time. Writing classes can be the same way, and to start off, let me state some of the writing classes I took at my university: Fiction Writing, Creative Non-fiction, Journalism, On-line Magazine, Writing for Business and Technology, and Creative Writing. Each of these classes had their own style of how we would write and different “tools” we could implement into our own writing.

Not every college will offer the same classes, and some will have completely different ones, but these are just a few I took during my time at my college.

So, with that being said, let’s start with some cons, shall we?

  1. If you don’t like writing, don’t take the classes. Kind of self explanatory, but it needs to be said. There’s a difference between being good at writing and not liking it, so make sure you know that difference because you can only improve if you’re not good at it.
  2. They’re writing intensive. Shocker, I know, but it’s true. Depending on the professor and the level of the course you will be writing a lot of material, and frankly, it can get confusing if you have multiple writing classes in one semester.
  3. Sometimes you’ll get reviews that “rip” your paper to shreds. Some professors, and even peers, can take that red pen to a page and find every little thing that’s wrong with it – don’t take it too heart, though, as it’s typically a way to help improve your work.
  4. There’s reading involved. Oh no. Reading really boring books on how to write can be torture, yes, but if you don’t read you won’t be able to improve your writing – keep that in mind!

Okay, now that I’m done with my sarcastic cons, let me move onto the pros (disclaimer: I’m biased):

  1. You learn techniques you might otherwise have never known. I never knew about the “show, don’t tell” technique to apply to writing, or that flash fiction existed. You can learn a great variety of tools and tricks of the trade, which is fantastic to grow in your craft.
  2. You gain a new appreciation for reading. Surprisingly writing is a great gateway into reading new and different works that you might otherwise not have read until further developing your style.
  3. You get to hear others’ styles of writing. It’s always fascinating and fun to hear other people’s stories because not everyone thinks the same, so not everyone is going to write the same.
  4. They help to build your portfolio if you’re planning on doing writing as a career. I know that the many classes I have taken have helped me to grow my own portfolio, which can be a great way to appeal to employers.

Now I’m sure I’m missing other pros and cons for the list, but these are some of the tops reasons why I prefer writing classes. They’re more engaging and enjoyable and they help to develop skills that I might otherwise not have learned. Of course literature classes can do the same thing, but I prefer writing, myself.

If you’re thinking about taking some writing classes, think about what your university might be offering. Though I’m graduating this Saturday, May 17th, I know that the Fall 2014 semester my university is hosting a whole ton of new types of writing classes, such as Environmental Writing, The Short Story, Experimental Writing Workshop, and Digital Journalism, just to name a few. Take the time to look at your university’s catalog and decide if what they’re offering will help you grow as a writer or if it piques your general interest.

 

Have you taken any writing courses? If so, how have they helped, or hindered, you in your own writing? Let me know in the comments!

Literature Classes: Pros and Cons

As I’m nearing the end of my undergraduate career, I figured that I would give my own view and take on how some types of classes are and how they can impact you if you’re thinking of becoming an English major, or are one. Let me first talk about literature classes and the pros and cons behind them.

Literature classes are a major art of being an English major, even if you’re concentration is in Professional Writing. The culture, the texts, and even the classroom discussion are integral parts of what it can mean to truly be an English major.

In my university there are two main types of literature classes available to students: British and American. The classes are broken up into time frame, because there are typically a lot of pieces of literature in a given class, and so to be able to break up the amount of time that has to be covered is actually very useful.

There are other types of literature classes, such as African-American, Women’s, World, Children’s, Jewish American, Caribbean, and, of course, Shakespeare. These are just courses offered at my university, but there’s many different types of literature that can be studied if it fits your fancy.

When taking a literature course know that it’s going to be reading intensive. You often won’t find a literature course, no matter the level, that only has one or two books/stories to read. Typically you may only have to get one textbook, but there are many, many stories that have to be read and interpreted and talked about in the classroom. It’s not an easy task, mind you, it’s actually quite difficult.

So, with that in mind, let me list some of the cons of literature classes first.

  1. They’re reading intensive. If you don’t like reading, then don’t take a literature class. If it’s required by your college/university, then suck it up. You may just find that you actually like what you read.
  2. The texts are often very complicated to understand. Many of the novels and stories picked for literature courses were written before 1900, so the language, syntax, grammar, even spelling can be different from what you’ve already grown to know.
  3. A lot of the texts will be boring. Depending on if you have a desire to learn more of the time period you’re studying and the stories made by authors of that time, you may find what you’re reading to be boring. It’s okay; a lot of students feel that way.

Those are just the top three cons of a literature class. If you’re not a big reader or aren’t into a certain time period, then make sure your university offers a diverse amount of literature classes.

But that’s not all literature classes are made of. There are some benefits to taking a literature class, such as:

  1. You learn about different cultures, subgroups, and how certain styles of writing were created. If you haven’t read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein then you most certainly will in some form of British literature. I learned that her novel was a turning point in how the “Gothic” themed literature came to be.
  2. You learn how to critically analyze and break down a text. This can be tricky, but as you further advance in different types of literature classes you will be able to better understand how to break down a sentence in a long paragraph or how to interpret what a certain scene represents within the history and context with which it was written.
  3. You gain a new appreciation for writers before our time. There are many, many rich and engaging stories that were written hundreds of years ago that we can still read and discuss and argue about today. There are still topics to discuss – and that’s major.

Those are the top three pros that I personally gained from taking many literature classes. Though most of my classes consist of writing, given my major, I have still taken several literature courses not only to fill requirements for my major, but also because I am purely fascinated by the text, language, and culture that can be learned about from literature.

It takes a lot of time and patience to be able to get through some works of literature, but if you’re able to make it through you will learn many things you might otherwise have not known, and that’s the point of learning, right?

The Pains (and Joys) of Being an English Major

Do you know how much of a struggle it can be to be an English major?

People expect a lot out of you: “can you proofread my paper?” “What’s the definition of ____?” “You’re an English major! I thought you were supposed to know how to do a, b, and c!” And the list goes on and on.

And it’s true. As an English major I feel compelled to correct other’s spelling and grammar mistakes, but even I get it wrong sometimes. And I don’t want to help constantly on every single paper my friends write because I have my own to worry about.

But in all honesty, I do enjoy it. I enjoy being able to say, “It should actually be this!” And to be able to share that knowledge with others and see their joy (or distaste) is rewarding enough.

Also, we’re expected to read everything under the sun, from the Bible, to Shakespeare, to Mary Shelley, to those of modern times. We’re expected to have read epic novels and short little fiction stories. It’s actually really annoying when I talk to fellow English majors and they say, “But haven’t you read ____?” Most of the time I haven’t. My focus is more on writing than literature, but that isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy it.

It can be a pain to be expected to do so much for such a broad major, but at the same time I do feel honored to know that my knowledge in the writing field can be useful to others who need the help.

If you’re thinking of becoming an English major, ask yourself these few questions:

  1. Do you enjoy reading and writing in your spare time? You’ll be doing a lot of this, so make sure you’re prepared to lose your life to writing and literature.
  2. Are you able to write pages of research or creative pieces without much effort? Yes, research is a process and can often be a struggle, but once you get the hang of it it’s actually fairly enjoyable. You will be writing research papers, there’s no avoiding it.
  3. Do you feel this urge to correct people on their spelling and grammar on social media sites or text messages? For some reason, this seems to be a big thing for a lot of the English majors I know. I personally can’t stand text speak or when people use the wrong version of “there,” “their,” or “they’re.” It drives me up a wall.
  4. Do you have an idea of what you want to do once you graduate? Even if you’re starting out as an English major, having an idea of what you want to do once you’ve graduated can be a big thing in order to help lead you in the path you want to go. I’m unsure of what I want to do – and I’m graduating May 17th! You’ll save yourself some stress if you have a general idea of what you want to do.

Now you may be wondering, “what kinds of things can an English major do outside of teaching?” Or “what kinds of concentrations can you focus on within an English major?”

There aren’t a large variety of jobs, as far as I know, but there is a wide range in which many corporations, such as AmeriCorps, look specifically for English majors? Why? As English majors we have use of critical thinking skills, how to use spelling and grammar and punctuation properly (or close to it), we’re literate, and more. We have qualifications that other majors may or may not help to develop.

As far as concentrations go, I know my university offers professional writing, literature, teaching, and drama. Other colleges and universities may offer different ones, but this way you have a broader look into what interests you rather than just English.

My concentration, specifically, is Professional Writing. I have taken a lot of creative writing courses including fiction, non-fiction, and creative writing courses. I have also taken classes in journalism, writing for the web, online magazine, and lots of literature classes. I’ve also had to take a speech class, so don’t think you’re free from public speaking!

Since it’s my concentration I can look for jobs in being a lobbyist, a secretary, author/writer, freelance writer, librarian (with a masters), etc.

It can be scary to think of what might be entailed in being an English major, but it’s a really rewarding major. I have learned to critically think about and analyze literature, I have learned to better my creative writing by showing, not telling, I have learned that there are possibilities at doing what I love and not have to be a teacher for it.

Of course the pains of being an English major can sometimes outweigh the joys, but looking at the bright side of it all is really rewarding, for sure.

Think about what you enjoy doing and if you think this would be an ideal major for you. It’s a hard path, but definitely fun if you allow it to be!

Making an Impact

schoolAs the semester has begun, I have already become stressed. Now this is not to say that I’m ready to throw in the towel by any means (it is my last semester, after all), but I am already finding myself to feel as though I have bit off more than I can chew.

That aside, let me talk about the classes that I believe will have a huge impact on me: On-line Magazine and Writing for Business and Technology.

Even though I’ve had one class so far in On-line Magazine, I can already tell I’m going to enjoy this class. Why? I’ll be able to publish more pieces of my work to be able to have a stronger presence not only online, but also when it comes time to apply for a job. The professor wants us to learn the importance of this small fact of publishing, and so she wants us not only to branch out into a blog atmosphere like this, but to also send stories to various companies, including the university’s online alternative magazine, Detour.

It’s a great feeling to think that more of my works will be published, and therefore I will be able to, hopefully, grasp the attention of potential employers in the upcoming months.

That is also why she wanted us to create a portfolio on a site like WordPress. I’ve added some of my better works to my current portfolio page, as was a requirement of the assignment, but also to say, “Hey, I can do this type of work, too!”

As for Writing for Business and Technology, the professor doesn’t want to focus on just learning how to write resumes, but rather she wants to be able to help the students to reach further and beyond just the entry level job. And so we get the task of rewriting the course description to better fit the needs of what it means to actually write for a business or technology.

Sounds pretty cool, right?

So far I’m enjoying the class and have learned about six literacies that are fundamental to not only the classroom, but also the workplace: basic, rhetorical, ethical, social, technological, and critical. Though each can be taught individually, it is more important to teach them in a much more collaborative sense as each is of equal importance.

These two classes in particular, I believe, will help to drive me into my future. I hope that whatever may come of it, I will be impacted by it in the best possible way.

A Reason to Start

There are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there. What’s so special about them? Does it bring pride to the person who wrote it? Does it make others feel accomplished or “warm and fuzzy inside?” What is it about blogging that makes others want to explore this virtual pixel world?

For me, personally, I’m here to write.

As a Professional Writing college student, I have experience in writing. I’ve written my own blog for a class before (though I’ve stopped writing for it since the class ended). I also have a more personal blog for my religious discovery.

So why create a new blog on a new site for a new purpose?

Well… Why the hell not?

As an upcoming writer, there are many, many platforms for which to feed my hunger to learn and grow in the profession that I want to take part in. Not only are there publishing companies and newspaper companies that I could potentially be part of, but there’s this wide, wonderful world of blogging that I can explore.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been exploring various writing blogs and have decided that I wanted to start my own.

Is it a risky move? Maybe. Will I benefit from it? Possibly. Will others be interested in it and also benefit from it? I hope so.

So here’s where I start my new blog. I hope to talk about what it’s like to be a Professional Writing student, the classes I’ve taken and what I’ve gained from them, and possibly even give my own advice as to the writing process and how young and upcoming potential writers, such as myself, can find the muse and inspiration they need when the world seems to be crashing down all around them.

For now, I just want to get through this holiday season and jump into next year. And sleep. Sleep is good.