Resisting the Urge to Start Over (Or, the Glorious Temptation of Crafting Introductions to my Senior Thesis)

Life

I turned in my first full draft of my senior thesis today, so now maybe my life will be ever so slightly more sane… Maybe. It was a pretty frustrating process but I am pretty excited to move forward with edits and am pretty sure it isn’t complete crap. So that’s something. This is a little rant I wrote during a particularly frustrating moment. I was trying to wrap my head around how I write and what the implications of that process are. Not sure if it will hold meaning for anybody else but I found it really cathartic, so here it is:

Resisting the Urge to Start Over

(Or, the Glorious Temptation of Crafting Introductions to my Senior Thesis)

The blank page is a huge comfort to writers such as myself who think through arguments as they write them. The blank page offers a fresh place to start, a fresh take on the research I’ve been sifting through for the better part of a year. If my ideas ever feel stale or overworked, I simply return to my introduction and write a new one. Because once you start writing, the words and the connections begin to flow. If you buckle up and brace yourself, you can ride that flow for as long as your computer battery lasts (or until you hit the page limit.) This is usually how I write. I do research, outlines, prewrites, bibliographies, and all those other things that fall under the umbrella of “good study habits.” Then I start my introduction and all of that prep work is thrown out the window. I start over, essentially from scratch, and all of those ideas bouncing around in my head finally begin to come together into something resembling a coherent argument. When I write a paper, I do it all in one sitting. And I always ALWAYS start with the introduction.

This method of writing has served me quite well. It has helped ensure that my writing flows and made it nearly impossible to get off track. Sometimes my later self comes back to read my earlier self’s work and is surprised at the direction our argument has taken. However, I trust that process and trust my earlier self to have written something compelling. As I dutifully read through for grammatical and spelling errors, I usually end up being re-convinced of that original argument after all. Then, I happily turn it in and start thinking ahead to my next assignment. I don’t look back and I really don’t edit, at least not in any substantial way. It’s not the way we’re “supposed” to write, but it works, so I stick to it.

It doesn’t work on my thesis. When a paper is 60-80 pages long, writing it all in one sitting is absolutely insane. Even writing it all in one week is near impossible. However that is what I have found myself doing, because I keep starting over. I wrote my introduction and then followed it for seven pages until I was about half way through my first chapter. Well done, Meghan. You made some progress today. Tomorrow, however, when I return to my writing and find that the argument isn’t complete, that my earlier self has yet to close all of the threads of her argument, I am no longer convinced. I find it impossible to continue because I can’t go back to the mindset of the night before. This old argument is dead and done. Today I have a new idea for an introduction, a new way to weave together the fragments of evidence and analysis into a coherent thesis. So I start over. I write an introduction. I am newly inspired. I follow this inspiration for maybe 9 or 10 pages this time. And then the next day I will repeat this process all over again. But 60-80 pages of introductions do not add up to a single senior thesis. I can’t keep starting over. I can’t keep giving in to the pleasure of a blank page.

Networking

Adventures, Life

Today I went to a career fair which was crazy and confusing and also really fun! These types of networking events have never really been my thing. I much prefer a nice informal cocktail hour. Maybe with a cheese plate and some Merlot? But that was not the event being offered this weekend, so I decided to step out of my comfort zone and brave the sweaty gym full of company recruiters and desperate job seekers.

business cardBelieve it or not, it wasn’t that bad! I actually talked to a bunch of friendly people about their work and learned a lot of interesting stuff. I made some new Linkedin connections, discovered some awesome openings in digital marketing, and got a whole bunch of free stuff. Seriously, I am set on t-shirts and pens for the next year. Another huge plus was that this event gave me an opportunity to hand out my new business cards, which I am super excited about. They came in the mail earlier this week and I think they’re gorgeous.

I talked to some neat companies. Yelp and Dropbox were definite highlights. I also have a friend who is a recent grad and now does recruiting for Medallia. She showed me their Book of Mormon-inspired recruiting video and it’s AWESOME. Is a musical theatre background required for most recruiting jobs?? There seems to be a disproportionate amount of vocal talent featured in this video… Check it out

Anyway, it was a fun adventure and much more productive than I thought it would be. Although I could definitely go for that glass of Merlot… Happy Friday!

Looking forward to….

Life

The last few weeks of my semester have been crazy. I’ve been non stop go-go-go-ing and fighting hard to keep up with all of my work and all of my finals. I am proud to say that I have survived and have officially made it to winter break. But, before I fly home and leave California behind, I wanted to take a moment to think about how lucky I am to be learning and growing every day. I feel so unbelievably privileged to be studying what I love and working on projects that I care about. I feel like I am contributing something important, and that knowledge has been an incredible motivator. So before I go on vacation, here’s a little list of things to look forward to next semester:

  1. My Art History thesis! I wrote the first of three chapters this semester and it has gotten me so excited about writing the rest. I am looking at the re-photography of Richard Prince and using Lacan’s and Zizek’s theories to explore how the male gaze functions in his work. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Prince’s appropriation techniques, but was shocked by how few critics were addressing this issue of possessing women’s bodies. (So please bear with me if these posts discuss Prince a disproportionate amount. It’s basically on my brain constantly. I’m sorry and you’re welcome.)
  2. I have a new job next semester doing community outreach and content creation for The Campaign For Scripps College. I am obsessed with my school so having the opportunity to help further its development is a complete dream come true. We are entering phase two of the campaign, which means a bigger push on social media and more consistent updates on the microsite. I will be helping to devise and then implement an effective strategy for this. My goal is to make all of our community as thrilled and excited as I am about Scripps’ future. This is the most ambitious campaign in the history of the school and I am so jazzed to be a part of it!
  3. I AM THAT GIRL stuff has been heating up this semester and we have a couple of incredible videos planned for the Spring. Who knew when we started this chapter a couple months ago, how successful it would be?! Love these girls and this organization!
  4. This is not set in stone yet, but I may be doing a kick ass independent study next semester. If all goes according to plan, I will be making art and organizing an exhibition in The Motley next semester. Keep it on the DL for now, but hopefully there will be much more about this later. Fingers crossed!
  5. Last but not least, I have another new job next semester as a research assistant to Professor Mark Andrejevic. He taught my Media and Surveillance class this semester and is a complete genius. I am so excited to learn more from him and to further explore a really important aspect of digital media studies. Online privacy and data collection is a very real but rarely discussed part of using the internet. Most users don’t seem to understand or care how their personal information is being used. I am super proud to be working on a research project which explores these issues.

Lots of fun stuff in store for 2015! But first, it’s time for a much needed vacation!

Seattle, here I come!

(Image from the Scripps College photo archives)

Cady Noland is a Bit of a Rebel

Art World News, Contemporary Women Artists

I just stumbled across an interesting article about Cady Noland in ArtNet which asks who is crazier: Noland or Richard Prince?

Since I am conducting my Senior thesis research on Richard Prince, anything with his name in the title immediately piques my interest. Prince is a notoriously strong personality and, if you ask me, kind of an asshole. Apparently Cady Noland is also incredibly intense and hard to work with. She rarely gives permission for her works to be shown and has gotten into legal issues with collectors over her refusal to remount pieces.

Once a work is sold, the artist really doesn’t have much control over when, where, and how it’s being shown. She no longer owns it. However, Noland’s work in particular is quite precarious and is entirely dependent on how it is assembled. It seems to be intended as something ephemeral which exists only in a single context. However, museums and private collectors are constantly trying to reshow the most famous works of her past. I understand how incredibly frustrating that might be for some artists. Your name will be attached to a work forever, even after you have no rights to control its display. Is it still Cady Noland’s art is she didn’t set it up or approve the positioning? Or is it just a bunch of empty beer cans? Where does the art happen?

The cynic in me must also question if this is just some part of her public persona, perpetuated to establish notoriety and mystery. Does it make the works more valuable? She seems entirely in conflict with the business side of the contemporary art world. Ironic for one of the top-selling female artists of her lifetime…

“It’s an interesting predicament, given that Noland is one of the top 10 most expensive female living artists, with her 1989 sculpture Oozewald holding the record for the highest price ever paid for an artwork by a female living artist at $6.6 million. In a way, her refusal to cooperate with the people who want to buy, sell, and display her work is the ultimate biting of the hand that feeds. Considering the current state of the art world, in which artists often complain of feeling like part of a meat market buffet, it’s a fascinating, if somewhat misguided, act of rebellion.”

I saw her work exhibited (without permission) at the Brant Foundation over winter break in Deliverance which also featured works from Prince, Christopher Wool, and Larry Clark. It is weird to look at an artist’s work while being acutely aware that they did not want it to be seen. It makes me kind of sad for her. I mean yes she seems really extreme and rather antisocial. But not having control over your own art would be supremely frustrating. Then again if she is making $6 million off a single piece, I can’t pity her too much…