The Last Assignment. Ever.

The year is drawing to a close (about 5 months too late on my internal clock) and as such end-of-the-year things are happening. This post is the last of my portfolio requirements for the Journalism and Media Studies Writing and Editing three course I’m doing.

The brief was hideously simple – reflect on the semester. I was expecting to write a long, formal academic essay, referencing ‘writing theorists’ (actually, do these exist?!) and generally not being allowed to express subjectivity 😦 .

But, thankfully, we had free reign with the form and structure of the essay. I’ve written my essay just as I write my diary entries – time, date, place at the top, and a short sentence contextualising the diary entry (think of it as a very informal sub-heading).

I just love this picture. It bears no relevance on anything in this post, really. Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/1448155188803544/photos/pb.1448155188803544.-2207520000.1414785269./1493636920922037/?type=1&theater

I just love this picture. It bears no relevance to anything in this post, really.

I’ve attached a pdf of my final assignment.

[Note: It’s kinda sad and a bit ranty so read it at your own peril.]

5 Reasons Buzzfeed Isn’t Actually Journalism

[Warning: rant]

Social media platforms are saturated with content with Buzzfeed and I hate it (Although as this video shows, I’m not the only one who hates it). Buzzfeed propagates and disseminates some of the most useless and annoyingly shallow information I have ever had the displeasure of reading.  This article about Kim Kardashian’s supposed Blackberry hoarding is just the tip of the iceberg (of bad writing).

Buzzfeed never proclaims to be a bastion of journalistic integrity but seeing as they use words to peddle their wares, I take offence at how poorly constructed most of their content is. Buzzfeed is the popular kid who doesn’t have innate talent or skill – popularity for popularity’s sake.

So in true Buzzfeed style, I present you with a list of reasons why Buzzfeed isn’t actually journalism, nor good writing.

  • Many articles function as teasers to other media, which isn’t multimedia journalism. It’s more like a goodie bag of disparate forms of media.
  • Many stories deal with celebrity inanities – unproblematised and without any sense of nuance.
  • Stories are packaged in a visually attractive way  but the structure of writing renders the meaning and angle superfluous. This ties to my belief that words arranged beautifully and eloquently need less bells and whistles.
  • Their relationship with the advertising world is quite sketchy. Objectivity and neutrality cannot be sustained in such environments.
  • Valourisation of popular culture does nothing for the collective internet intellect. Good writing isn’t boring or dull.

Writer’s tightrope act

Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15) by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I was exposed to this poem in my last year of high school by my inspirational bare-footed English teacher. At first I looked at the free form poem with disdain. Poetry is nice to describe nature. And love. But I never took poetry seriously as an art form outside those two spheres. It could never describe or explain anything else without sounding overwrought (or so I thought).

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, credited as one of the architects of Beat poetry, wrote this poem in ‘classic’ beat style – no noticeable form, rhythmic structure or decorative words.  Its straightforward meaning is conveyed through typographic gymnastics on the page. As with all good poetry, the scaffolding of the poem is pivotal to the meaning it contains.

Ferlinghetti owned the famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco which helped catapult many Beat Generation writers into the literature world.

Ferlinghetti owned the famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco which catapulted many Beat Generation writers into the literature world.

Ferlinghetti presents insight into the performance of the poet. The poet is likened to an acrobat, teetering on a tight-rope of her own making, juggling perspectives, trying to entertain an audience whilst still trying to hold onto Beauty and Truth. She constantly risks absurdity in trying to convince others of her vocation. The job is a dangerous and public one.  Ferlinghetti speaks about the conflicted position of the poet, but I believe his words resonate with all creators of written word.

When I was still young enough to believe in mystique of the circus, Brian Boswell’s performing troupe pulled up to an empty lot in the small farming town I grew up in. It was widely advertised in my primary school and I nagged my parents until they relented.

My childhood ideas of circus acrobats was a little bit like this image.

My childhood ideas of circus acrobats was a little bit like this image.

The acrobats were my favourite – I was going for gymnastics lessons at the time (and had been for around 3 years) and my mom encouraged me to pursue gymnastics so I could become like one of the wildly swinging women I saw at the circus.

In a way I have.

If you would like to find out which Beat Generation poet you would have been, take this hilarious quiz.

Review of “Where We Stand: Class Matters” by bell hooks

At the end of the day the threat of class struggle is just too dangerous to handle. The neat binary categories of white and black or male and female are not there when it comes to class. – bell hooks

bell hooks is an author I’ve recently (read: this year) started reading in more depth. Her approach to intersectional feminism is thoroughly analytically and simultaneously lyrical. Her book Where We Stand: Class Mattersis a slight departure from what she’s usually known for – exposing uncomfortable truths and ingrained lies about race and gender.

In the Chapter entitled “Money Hungry” hooks explains her childhood household situation with child-like simplicity. Big ideas and concepts are whittled down to their essence by hooks’ writing.

This is an excerpt from the above-mentioned chapter.

This is an excerpt from the above-mentioned chapter.

This is not the style of writing you’d expect from someone with a doctorate. It’s incisive and marries psychology, gender relations and power hierarchies in a subtle and nuanced way. You are invited by hooks to enter into dialogue in a language that is easily understood by many – in a language that is your own. That is why her work is revolutionary. She not only writes about an inclusive and non-oppressive world, but she creates one by her accessible writing style.

Here is a pdf of Where We Stand: Class Matters to devour!

Unearthed truths

Words cut, heal, maim, transform, confuse, enlighten and excite me. The words with the most impetus are those ones, beautifully put together to reveal a forgotten or un-articulated reality.

Writers and readers seek one thing – truth. This commonalty is something I hinted at in my Why I write post. Readers and writers share many other similarities but this is the binding glue making these two roles inseparable. Readers can be writers BUT writers must be readers. The search for a particular truth, honesty and rawness is something I do in my writing and the novels I consider more as friends than lifeless pages of tree pulp are those which have highlighted a truth specific to me.

Toni Morrison encapsulates my view about the relationship between reading and writing perfectly.

Toni Morrison encapsulates my view about the relationship between reading and writing perfectly.

A Literature Comparison
I outright ugly-cried when reading Nervous Conditions in Grade Eleven. I’ve only cried a handful of times in high school. Never over boys, never over exam marks, never over anything really. This book went through the layers of flesh and blood and bone to some part of me that related so strongly and deeply to Tsitsi Dangarembga’s fictionalised Rhodesia.
The same experience was replicated a few years later when I read The Story of an African Farm. I wanted to hide from myself when I read it. I didn’t like looking at mirrors. The novel followed me around, either in my mind or physically and I hated and loved its lingering presence. I couldn’t pin-point why these novels touched me so.
On the surface these two novels mix like oil and water. Olive Schreiner, although liberal and progressive, wrote from a post-Victorian, colonial perspective. Tsitsi Dangarembga wrote from the perspective of a female Zimbabwean intellectual.

Pastiche of home truths
Besides being from completely different eras, they differed entirely from me, too. What would a young Indian girl find insightful from dusty texts written by people entirely unlike herself?

Like Lyndall, I believe in independence. Like Nyasha, I break with cultural norms. Like Waldo, I blindly stumble along my life path. Like all of these characters, I question until I find my truth.

I was and still am a voracious reader of things because I like the duality of knowing something about the creator of the words, as well as the message the words themselves are trying to convey. The authenticity of emotions from the characters can, I believe, only come from a point of reality. These novels speak to each other and to me because what they say is rooted in the tangible reality of the human spectrum of emotions.

C.S Lewis knows what I'm talking about.

C.S Lewis knows what I’m talking about.

I have attached pdf versions of Nervous Conditions and The Story of an African Farm for your reading pleasure 🙂

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

I wish I’d come up with the title of this post but that honour goes to Samuel Beckett, the amazing Irish playwright and writer. There is much more complexity underlying these six simple phrases. The fear of Failure, the fear of fearing Failure so much, has sometimes rendered me paralytic. Logically, being wary of Failure makes sense – if I want to succeed in this thing called life, I need to succeed in everything I do otherwise…well there is no option but to succeed. Or so I thought, for a long time. Failure became this baddie that tracked me, traced my movement in life and with every achievement Failure was cast back into the shadows. However, the fear of Failure was never completely banished. When I had not been acknowledged in achieving some milestone in my life, I would feel Failure biting my heels. Academic achievement was always a big aspect of my life – fear of not meeting someone else’s randomly assigned standard drove me to excel. In this way I would stave off the feeling of being a ‘failure’.

Failure, in picture form. Tim Burton drew this lovely little sketch.

Failure, in picture form. Tim Burton drew this lovely little sketch.

However, Failure and the fear of it didn’t magically vanish when I saw the faults in academic valourisation. The fear transmuted itself into something else I judge myself on, which are my writing skills (or lack thereof?!). Self-deprecation and fear of failure are uneasy bedfellows in my mind and these two walked in tandem in rendering my relationship with writing as distinctly troubled. At the start of my university daze, I realised that failure wasn’t going away any time soon. Alexander Pope said it best with the phrase: “to err is human”. It is human to both fear failing and to fail. I have failed many times – from *that* AP Maths test in high school to disappointing those close to me (which I see as failing others). Fear of failure isn’t something unique to me and isn’t something escapable by being a successful human being (what is that, even?).

The shift in my thinking about failure hasn’t increased or decreased my successes but it has influenced how I deal with the times I do fail. Failure is still hobbling after me, trying to steal my shine. I realise and, importantly, accept that. And that has only come about because I became aware of why I fear failing. Once you know how and why your mind ticks over, you can become much better at dealing with emotionality. I’m not advocating hulksmashing emotions or programming feelings out of the equation, but rather letting feelings wash over you. Acknowledge their presence and understand why they’re there. The next step is doing something about it.

Things I do when fear of failing/generally failing life gets out of hand:

  • Bake
  • Cry
  • Journal
  • Walk
  • Talk to myself (sometimes to others)
  • Watch Black Books
  • Eat baked goods 🙂

It is because of that acceptance that fear of failure doesn’t leave me in a cold sweat all the time. As this tedx talk shows, fear of failure and failure itself can be put to constructive use. Experiencing failure is learning. Failure is no longer that dark brooding character living in the shadows of my success – Failure, is in fact, pivotal to success.