Monthly Archives: August 2014

To all new Drake SJMC students: Be willing to change your goals

It’s a natural time of year for goals — defining new goals, checking up on past goals and even abandoning them entirely.

As I bid farewell to my favorite summer ever (yeah, you’re right, that statement deserves a duck-face/sunglasses Instagram selfie), I’m not setting any goals, for once.

When I entered as a freshman (I refuse to partake in that “first-year” rubbish) in 2011, I was determined to be a big-name newspaper editor. You know, that stereotypical editor-in-chief with an eternal glare and a red pen forever in her white-knuckled grip.

That rigid goal kept me from trying new disciplines for a long time. I, Taylor Soule, future print editor-in-chief, didn’t need to learn any of that newfangled digital whatnot.

Eventually, I realized I’m not some print hotshot (or any kind of hotshot, for that matter). I abandoned that rigid, limiting goal for something more flexible, more malleable. I want to try as many elements of the journalism world as possible.

While I lament the naiveté of freshman Taylor, I’d like to leave the new Bulldogs in the Drake SJMC with a few pieces of formal advice.

Define goals, but don’t forget their innate malleability. You’re free to alter them and even ditch them altogether.

Try everything. Not a techie? Take a TV field photography class. Despite your initial reluctance, sign up for that Android app-design class. Help build a killer tablet publication.

By the way, I did all of the above during my Drake experience.

Finally, if your Drake experience doesn’t make you question your major, your passions and your life trajectory on a daily basis, you’re not doing it right.

With my final semester a day away, I can only think of one way to properly end this post — a nugget of advice from late SJMC professor Rick Tapscott: “Journalism is an honorable and fun profession if you go into it for the right reasons.”

Capstone experience reveals the power of failure, teamwork

The final frontier (my attempt at hip lingo) of my Drake career begins on Monday. We’ve reached that dreaded part of the break where students consume inhuman amounts of ice cream/popsicles (my attempt at justifying that half-tub of Blue Bunny) and create vague, syrupy-sweet goals like, “Have my best year ever!” and, “Live it up!”

But given my life-writing fervor, I’m taking part only in the ice cream half of that equation.

Tonight, I’m meditating on my senior journalism capstone, in particular. Yeah, yeah, I know I completed it in May, but I admit I’ve felt (productively) traumatized by the experience until now and am finally realizing the extent of its impact.

Besides, had I written this post before today, it probably would have read more like, “Inman (my professor), why are you making me rewrite that damn lede? A–hole!” Fear not, we created a ticker for every time he received that name. Each addition to the ticker, I now realize, wasn’t proof of malice but proof of all he taught me.

The rumored horror of writing all night and texting your mother, “I am going to die from copy editing!” (all right, maybe that one is just me) is all true.

But you’ll love it, I swear. Capstone teaches you more about what it takes to work on a team than about anything media- or writing-related. It’s not about the final product, that portfolio piece or that telling photo.

It’s about the jarring, angering but ultimately eye-opening reality of what you’ll face in the big-kid world.

While capstone taught me many important life lessons (don’t drink that record eighth cup of highly caffeinated black tea), it taught me the importance of failure, above all.

I failed big-time in capstone — often. I don’t mean letting the conniving (FYI, my thesaurus app listed “Machiavellian” for an alternative) Oxford comma into the tablet edition of Think Mag.

We cut an article I wrote. I waited way too long to lead the fact-checking charge. I wrote an article that we eventually cut by an entire page (if you ever need to know anything about the alarming trend of heroin in the suburbs of the Twin Cities, tweet at me or something).

But it all worked out — really, it did. We created a killer tablet edition, I now know the price of heroin in every major Midwestern city and in the end, I learned to communicate and function on a team. And I learned to fail epically.

Why ‘complete’ and ‘in a relationship’ aren’t synonymous

“My other half.”

It’s tossed around Facebook innocently enough, typically paired with a sickeningly cute couple photo (Hey, I’m a single 20-something, I’m allowed to be jealous and angsty from time to time). You know, the one you like and maybe comment “Presh!” or something equally deep. Then, the dreaded caption: “My other half,” or, even worse, “My everything.”

Now I’m all for expressing love for other people, but those sneaky, little words perpetuate an ugly idea about selfhood and more broadly, dating. They remind us that we are, apparently, not complete unless paired with another member of the human race.

In the world of ‘Facebook-official’ everything, the need to not only ‘complete’ oneself but also proclaim it alarms me. ‘Likes’ and all those inevitable “Precious!” comments affirm the wholeness one can only find in a relationship.

Though I’m not in a relationship — ‘Facebook-official’ or otherwise — and though I lack an album of ‘cute couple’ photos, I feel complete.

And I want you to know you’re complete, too, regardless of your relationship status.

So, let’s continue celebrating love. Keep posting those adorable couple photos (I’ll probably be the first one to ‘like’ and favorite many of them, per my serial-liking skills).

But let’s celebrate and acknowledge our innate, individual wholeness, too.

Patience key in finding purpose in interpersonal relationships

As a writer and reader, I regularly ponder the phenomenon of literary purpose. When I read, for example, I instinctively pause at least once a page to ask, “Why did [author] choose that [word, diction, metaphor, et cetera]?” My own writing undergoes the same dissection, though on a more scrutinizing, borderline-neurotic level.

Therefore, I read and write at a glacial pace — I’m talking the rate of a snail with a limp here. With the nagging question of purpose forever present (and forever slowing me down) in the literary sphere, I find it seeping into my life beyond the keyboard and page, with like effect.

Lately, I’ve been consumed by the purpose of the relationships in my life. “Everyone you meet will teach you something.” Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, I agree. But there’s a key element missing from that uncomfortably neat little quote: patience.

Now I’ve never been patient. I check the oven every two minutes (or fewer) every time I bake. If I post something I feel is clever and/or funny on social media (let’s be real, it’s probably another old video of Andy Roddick ranting at an umpire or a fruit-themed pun or something equally show-stopping), I check said site every minute or so for a while to see if anyone acknowledged my brilliance.

I hate being patient. As more new people have cycled in (and out) of my life in 2014 than any other year, I’m constantly in pursuit of whatever it is they inevitably taught me. And it’s not enough to simply ponder it; I feel compelled to document and physically represent it. For the purpose of this post, picture a sampler. You know, one of those quaint, stitched wall-hangings that offered wisdom like, “Haste Makes Waste,” during the colonial era.

I need a quote for my hypothetical sampler. (I’m kidding about the embroidery, for the only aisle I can tolerate in a craft store is the one with the oversized dinnerware — I mean, who doesn’t need Bigfoot’s margarita glass?) Hypothetical embroidery aside, the harder I tried to derive and document meaning from my relationships, the more unfulfilled I felt.

In early 2014, I probably would have embroidered something like, “One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” Pensive décor for my wall, of course.

Now, though, I’m trying to let learning happen more naturally; I’m trying not to force it. An updated version of my hypothetical sampler would likely read, “Be patient. Buy that giant gravy boat from Michael’s. And if you follow nothing else on this sampler, leave all future crafting to the innately crafty.”