Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Journal "meme"

I saw this on New Kid on the Hallway's page and felt compelled to repost it, since I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between my journals and my blog. Specifically, I feel my blog lacks the clarity that I see in so many others; rather than tackling issues and coming up with solutions, it appears to be a series of rants and incoherent ruminations not unlike my private journal. But I digress. On to the "meme"
*warning--I think I'm fairly repetitive throughout these questions. I'm tired, and would rather go to sleep than revise.
1. When did you begin keeping a journal/diary?

Unofficially, when I was nine. There was a lot of fighting going on regarding some of my older brothers' choices, and I was trying not to suck my thumb anymore. Writing was a feasible distraction. Unfortunately, only a handful of entries remain from this journal--but they contain beautiful reflections about the hardships of recess (here's a "clip" of something I wrote ages ago regarding my journals)

Officially, November 24, 1994. I was eleven, and due to too much imagination plus too much WWII research (and a dash of Anne Frank), wanted to record my story in case the world ended--or the Germans invaded.

2. Do you journal regularly or sporadically?
There are years--I'd venture to guess about five or six years--in which I journaled religiously, every single day (what I'd do for that sort of discipline now...). If I didn't write every day, I was sure to backtrack and catch the record up regarding the menial details of my life.

As the purpose of my journal became more cathartic and less of some inexplicable urge to never forget anything, I was able to go a few days without an entry--this lapsed into weeks/months, particularly after I moved out of my parents' house and had to sustain a living. Then, the days of intense, dedicated journaling were replaced by stolen moments with Microsoft Word, or scribbling phrases on pages ripped out of a Gideon's bible (I worked at a hotel for several years). I still find these random entries shoved inbetween books on the bookshelf, or in old closets.
Lately, my numbers are back up. I journal at least biweekly, if not weekly. However, my intention is back to writing for the sake of remembering--going through a brand new experience and all.
3. Which, if any, of the following things do you use your journal for?: recording dreams, creative writing, arguing with particular individuals (your boss, your parents, your lover, etc.), listing books/movies, tracking your weight/diet/exercise, composing unsent/unsendable letters.

  • If I have a particularly memorable dream, I will certainly record it--especially lately, cos I've had some craaazy fucked up dreams.
  • When I was younger I'd include random bits of poetry, but it seems as though I've long abandoned any affinity for creative writing. I just write.
  • I don't know if I necessarily "argue" with anyone in my journal. Complain, yes.
  • I have a separate journal for exercise. I haven't really been good about recording anything in it, despite the fact that I exercise regularly (7 months pregnant and still doing Pilates pushups, yo!).
  • For a long time, I was fairly religious about cataloguing my favorite bands, songs, and best friends (surprisingly, I never rated my favorite books or movies). I grew out of it.
4. What other purpose(s) do you use your journal for?
Recording the events of my life so I will remember them later. This is a strange obsession. Often I have to remind myself not merely to record, but to reflect as well.
Dance notes.
Members of my family have encouraged me to compile and arrange these volumes for publication, but I'm not so sure. Midwestern girl, large family. Whoop-te-do. I guess its always our spin that makes it interesting though, right? Then again, my parents and siblings have always seen me as a creative writer, and I've never made that connection. I just write.

Catharsis. It takes a load off of the brain. I understood the concept of a "pensieve" long before J.K. Rowling included it in Harry Potter and whichever book has the pensieve in it. I appreciated the pensieve sequence because the memory scenes offer merely a point of view rather than an interpretation. A lot of my journaling is like this. I preserve a moment in time with my writing. It's meaning changes over time. If I do too much interpretation at the time of writing, it is harder to relate to later on.

5. What kind of material text do you use for a journal? (For example: leather bound hard-cover, cheap spiral notebook, etc.) Everything and anything. Notebooks, pages from Gideon's bible (see above), tiny journals that are 3" x 3", giant sketching journals 14" x 18", pretty ones people buy me, floppy disks...

6. Where do you keep your old journals?
In an under-the-bed bin that I keep in my closet.

7. How often, if ever, have you read through your old journals?
Never made it all the way through. Right before grad school I was trying to transcribe them, though this task was tedious and well, painful for all sorts of reasons. The younger years (11-13) are fairly interesting, particularly from a "hindsight" perspective. I can never quite make it through the high school years, and I'll tell you why: 1.) I had horrible taste in men, and this is often the topic; 2.) I was freaking oblivious, nonsensical; 3.) and effin whiny. It gets interesting again when I use my journal to describe high school/early college experimentation, socially and chemically.

8. Have you ever allowed anyone else to read your journals?
Here and there, certain people.
I often wonder if and when members of my family read my journal. If so, whatever they found in there was punishment enough.

9. How has your journal keeping changed since you began blogging?
Sometimes a blog entry surfaces out of a journal rant; sometimes I cut and paste a blog entry into my journal. I find that I attempt to make my journal entries more objective and argumentative but this frustrates me, as it grinds against the journal habits I've created for myself in the last fifteen yeras. Sometimes, a girl just needs to ruminate.
I worry that I blog too much like I journal and so, rather than having pointed, subjective and focused entries, I have a string of essentially unrelated observations.
10. Upload a picture of your journals (or as many as you can).

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Graduate Presentation Pointers

and so I thought I'd warm up with a blog:)

In three years of graduate school, I've taken twenty classes and had ten different professors. Presentations have been part of the final grade In nearly two thirds of those classes (indeed, sometimes they take up the bulk of the semester's classtime). Very often I've learned from my preparation and, despite fretting and moaning before its my turn, in the end that I enjoyed my few minutes in the limelight.

I'm not always so sure my classmatesthe audience learns as much as the presenters, however. I think we spend our time in the audience either politely trying not to cringe or trying not to look overbored. I will admit that I certainly don't look at my peers as experts on their topic, and essentially perk up towards the end when the professor adds the necessary pertinent comments to make sense of the conglomerate of information that was just tossed at us haphazardly.

I have a few pointers-not that I am super amazing and give the best presentations ever (in fact I just gave a doozy of a flop recently!), but that I would appreciate someone giving their advice to me in this matter, because so few professors ever give feedback (out of the twenty classes and ten professors, two presentations have ever gotten feedback, and that feedback was invaluable to me. Otherwise, the presentation took up about 10-30% of my final grade without any explanation or commentary).

--stick to your topic.

While sometimes it is helpful to give some historic background or set the scene a bit, do so as quickly and efficiently as possible. An example of what is not necessary: if you are presenting on a particular work, do not spend time talking about where the author went to college, or what awards they won as a writer. Unless biographical information is germane to the information you're presenting about the work, leave it out--at least don't spend more than a sentence or two on it.

--(related to the first) be as specific as possible.

If you are expected to present on how a particular theorist contributed to a new theory, do so. It is not necessary to refer to the individual's other work (again, unless it is germane to the information you're presenting). Talk more about their theoretical contributions and less about their expulsion from X university.

--if you've been asked to present on an article or set of ideas, be sure to state the main argument first and foremost in your presentation and on your handout, if you've provided one.

--if you're going to use a handout, use it wisely.

Make it easy to follow. Posting a few various pictures or quotes on there does not impart information. Your audience should be able to use the handout to follow along; don't make them question where you are in terms of the handout (i.e. your presentation should work with the handout). I personally prefer a brief outline which, on your (the presenter's) version, has the more fleshed out script included. In my opinion, you should not provide a handout that is essentially a copy of your paper, and read straight from it. Cite your sources on your handout and in your presentation, so your audience is clear what parts are your thoughts and what parts are paraphrases or quotes.

--stay within your alloted timeframe.

This is important, particularly if you think of classroom presentations as preparation for conference panels. Anyone can blather on about a topic. Be succinct, get your point across, and get out of there. In the end, it is more impressive to make your argument clear in a short amount of time, rather than filling up the entire class period with miscellaneous tidbits about some topic. *This also means practice your presentation before you begin.

--make sure you can pronounce all the words you are using. Please. Practice beforehand and if you've got any 4-5 syllable doozies in there, make sure you can say them correctly. If you do find yourself stuttering or slipping over a word in the heat of the moment, don't respond by getting frustrating and saying "bleah, I can't talk today" (this is always a pet peeve of mine). Pause, get yourself together, and move on.

--don't apologize through the duration of your presentation for being unclear, or taking too much time.

The more flustered you get, the more awkward it is for your audience. Put your game face on and pummel through. Of course, if you'd practiced beforehand you'd know how long your presentation was, and if you were more prepared you'd be less unclear. But things happen. If you feel unclear about your topic, visit your professor beforehand and attempt to gain clarification. The more specific your questions are, the more helpful this session will be. Do not repeatedly refer to said conversation with professor in the hopes that they will explain the topic for you.

--oh, and--it doesn't hurt to look nice.

I'm not saying go buy yourself a new suit. But get rid of the baseball cap, the sweatshirt, and--regardless of what you're wearing--the slouch.

Anything else?