Be Something You Are Not

Hello people of the Internet and welcome to my first ever blog post! As an amateur blogger I am feeling fairly uncomfortable and stressed about having others read my writing. I’ve googled about 10 different silly questions about blogging do’s and dont’s. Also, I have started writing about five different topics that have all been shit. I have gained a lot of respect for the blogging community by attempting this post.

These feelings of stress come from the fact that I am forcing myself to try something new. This reminds me of times in my life when I was an amateur at things like surfing and rock climbing. I am trying to force my way into being part of a subculture that I haven’t associated with before. I keep telling myself that the feelings of uncertainty and tension shouldn’t hold me back. This is because the tension of trying to be something I am not is what promotes personal growth. One way I have found of doing this is by experiencing different subcultures.

A subculture is a group of people within a culture that differentiates itself from the parent culture to which it belongs. Subcultures have always been a part of any society. Wherever there is a group of people that do not conform to the social norms of the larger society there can be found a subculture. These cultures can be great agents of social change. For example, think of the hippies in the 1960’s and how their subculture impacted music.

The subcultures that have had the biggest impact on my life made me feel uncomfortable. The people I meet in the surfing and rock-climbing subcultures straight up made me feel dumb when I first started. I can’t even begin to count how many times I felt out of place or in over my head. However, these experiences lead me to grow into the person I am today. The people that made me feel dumb when I first started have become my closest friends.

Attempting to be something I am not has provided me the opportunity of learning a lifetime sport. Given me an excuse to travel to new parts of the world. All while put me into contact with individuals and organizations that have broadened my thinking.

I hope that as a gain more experience as a blogger that it will not take me a week to write a post. Hopefully I can cut down on some of the grammar errors too. Thank you for reading and I hope you can find a subculture that forces you to be something you are not!

Matthew Young- An east coaster who moved to Montana to get away from the shitty snow and get himself an education.

Calling Bullshit

Two professors from the University of Washington are teaching a class that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, should have to take during their college career.  The course is aptly named Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data.  Yes, it is an actual course offered for one credit.  They have published the syllabus and the reading material used in the course so that students at other universities can take advantage of the opportunity.

Follow this link to find out more:  http://callingbullshit.org

6 Tips to Becoming a Writer

Writing can be hard, but it is necessary to formulate your thoughts and to understand the world around you.  I once read that, as humans, we don’t write because we understand, we write to understand.

We write to understand, to share, to express ourselves, to heal – to communicate.

Whether you’re writing a blog post about DIY Halloween Costumes or a very personal experience, there a few key factors to note when getting started.  Here are my 6 tips to becoming a writer:

 

  1. Write What You Want to Read

If you don’t enjoy what you’re writing, chances are you wouldn’t enjoy reading it either, so why would anyone else?  Austin Kleon writes about this in Steal Like An Artist in the chapter called Write the Book You Want to Read. 

He talks about how you should write about what you like.  He tells us to think about our favorite writers and then think about what they would create if they all collaborated – Write that.

 

  1. Make it Engaging

When you write, don’t tell the reader how incredible you felt on the rollercoaster, make them feel it.  Or, maybe you’re writing about a painful experience or the most exciting time in your life.  Whatever it is, take the reader there.  Words exist so that we can express ourselves to others.  Are you more likely to be drawn to a piece that just tells you something, or are you more likely to be drawn to a piece that makes you feel something.  We read to learn; We read to experience a world different from our own.  JK Rowling didn’t tell you about Hogwarts, she took you there with Harry and she did it with words.

We all have the ability to take the reader there, we just have to be creative with our words.  If you’ve ever been to an impromptu show, you may have seen the game they play where one person leaves the room and the other stays behind with audience.  With the remaining person, the audience chooses an object to describe to the other person when they come back into the room.  When the person comes back into the room the audience has to describe the object to them without explicitly saying the name of it.  As you write, think about what you are wanting to write about, and then leave it on the page as if you are describing it to the person coming back into the room.  That is how you take the reader there.

 

  1. Have a Point and Maintain That Point

Whatever the topic is that you are writing about, make it a point to have a point.  That means that with every sentence, you need to be able to come back to your point.  As a reader, have you ever read something that didn’t stay on topic and by the time you get to the end of the piece (if you get to the end of the piece), you wonder how you got from point A to point B?  As a writer, you never want to create a piece that doesn’t have a clear journey beginning to end.  As you are writing, take time to pause throughout your process and read different bits and pieces and ask yourself if there is a arrow pointing directly back to your point.  If not, it probably doesn’t belong.

 

  1. Be Vulnerable

When people read something, they are either desiring to learn something new or to hear “me too”.  Writing a piece that lets the reader know “me too”, is 10X more effective than a “how to”.  That’s why local parenting magazine Mamalode is so successful.

CEO and Founder, Elke Govertson, was looking for “me too” not “how to”, but continued to only find the latter.  One year, on the night before Mother’s Day, she thew a party in which she called “Mother’s Day Eve”, and invited fellow mothers to come together in the name of motherhood.  Out of vulnerability, these moms began to share their experiences with one another – the good, bad and the ugly.  For the first time, Elke didn’t feel alone or lost in the perils of Motherhood.  Instead, she felt uplifted and empowered and, most importantly, part of a larger community who could say “me too”.

Through her own experience, Elke wanted others to feel the same.  She knew from her own frustrations with the “how to’s” that a publication filled with “me too” stories, like the ones shared that night, would create value in the lives of mothers across the country and even the world.   Thus, Mamalode was born and is referred to today as “America’s Best Parenting Magazine” across the United States and in various parts of the world; all because of a little vulnerability.

You see, we’re all human.  At the end of the day, we’re all made up of the same stuff.  We experience upmost joy and happiness, as well as the deepest heartache and pain, all while craving to love and be loved; always wishing for more time.  What differentiates us from one another is how we experienced those commonalities.  It’s funny how some of the most gut-wrenching topics to write about are ones that every single human on Earth, has or will experience.  Think: love, loss (death) and time; the three abstracts that motivate every single human on the face of the Earth.  Be vulnerable and write about your experiences with those.  Let your reader know “me too”.

 

  1. Find Your Voice and Embrace It      

There is no one like you in this world, and there will never be anyone that is as “you” as you are.  That’s pretty incredible.  This means that your voice, whether you’ve found it or not, is yours and yours only.  We each have our own thoughts and experiences and opinions.  If you don’t voice them, no one will because they’re not you.  To find your voice you must be willing to be vulnerable (see #4).  Sometimes this is the hardest kind of vulnerability to engage in because you are forced to be vulnerable with yourself.  You must ask yourself questions like: “What do I truly think/feel about this?”, “What does my voice sound like?”, “Am I being honest with myself?”.  Once you’re honest with yourself, you have the key to unlock your voice, which not only helps you to find yourself, but also to discover where your niche is in the world.  Maybe your voice sounds at home in humor or dripping in satire, or how to create a multitude of DIY Halloween Costumes.  Perhaps your voice is more at home talking about the tough stuff.  Wherever your voice is at home, follow it there, put your feet up, get to know it and write.

 

  1. Actively Pursue YOUR Human Experience

 There’s an incredibly metaphoric, on-going scene in the first Princess Diaries movie that is so important to remember when it comes to this tip.  Princess Mia’s neighbor in San Francisco is a writer who sits in front of his house every day working on his autobiography.  The ironic part of his “autobiography” is that is filled with events that he sees happening in the lives of others within a hundred-foot radius of his front porch.

As a writer, you need to make sure you leave the porch.  Pursue and engage in YOUR human experience, because no one else can truly write about that (see #5).

In contrast, there’s another movie called Stuck in Love that hits this head-on.  About a family of writers, it follows the life of a father – a writer, who hasn’t written a single word since his wife left him for another man three years ago.  He’s raising two teenagers – one of which is publishing her first novel and, the other, a Stephen King fanatic.

Raising both children to be writers from birth, the father gets hold of his son’s journal (a journal he has paid him to keep since he could write, along with his sister too), and tells his son that he needs to really experience life to become a better writer.

To become a better writer, you must actively pursue your human experience; you must really experience life.  You can’t do this from your porch.

 

 

 

 

 

…And since we’re talking about Stuck in Love, I will leave you with this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meg Dowaliby is a Senior studying Marketing at the University of Montana, who has a passion for content creation and storytelling.  Meg considers herself to be a “creative” with the objective of evoking emotions that bring people together as a marketer.  

10 Surprising (but true) things Wikipedia won’t tell you about growing up in small town Montana

1. Stargazing is a nightly thing and when you can’t see them, you miss it immensely.

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Growing up laying out on a blanket late at night is one of the best things in small town Montana. According to vox.com, 80% of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way. I consider myself one of the lucky ones that can still see stars outside my window and can see the Milky Way only a couple miles out of town. I remember multiple nights around the campfire (or bonfire depending on the time of year) and staring up at the sky talking with the family about everything imaginable. We still do this today, not as often as we should though.

2. Friendships are a thing of a lifetime, the few kids in your class easily become kids that you are friends with forever.

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I grew up with 80 kids in my entire school, it was a 9 grade school (K-8), that means less than 10 kids per class, on average. Can you imagine that? If you didn’t know every name for every kid then they must have been new. This had both good and bad aspects to it. The good was you created friendships that lasted a lifetime, but the bad was that growing up a girl there was a lot of drama among the girls in the school. When I was eight I remember coming home from school with different “best friends” every day. But the friendships that lasted are still strong 15 years later.

3. Hard work is a part of life, from getting firewood in 10 below weather to bailing hay in 90 degree weather, you don’t get to slip by without working hard.

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Have you ever come home from a long day at work, at 15 degrees and had no firewood to heat your house? I have and do you know what that means? You get to go chop would and wheel it to the house in a wheelbarrow. It really teaches you a lesson in chores and hard work. I can remember having multiple school days where the bus just couldn’t reach our house back on 2 miles of dirt road covered in feet of snow or inches of ice. I can count on two hands how many times my dad had to use his own personal truck to pull out the school bus in order for us to get to school.

4. If you have more bars in your town than you have churches, that’s average.

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I can remember when my older brother had decided to go to the public schools in the larger town over a small school farther out in the country (both the same distance away) he made his decision based off of the fact that the town had more bars than churches and it definitely only had one school and one store. To a 13 year old this meant literally nothing to do, ever, besides drink. Just to let this sink in, Montana ranks #2 (according to eater.com) in number of bars per capita. The number for Montana is 1,658 people per bar, meaning that Montana has 602 bars in the state. That is a fairly daunting number and when it comes to small towns, don’t be surprised if you have at least 2 or 3 bars.

5. Seeing more animals during your commute than cars is a normal everyday occurrence.

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According to beef2live.com Montana has 2.51 cows to everyone human. That means there are over a million people in the state but almost 2.5 million cows. Seeing cows and driving over cattle guards on your daily commute is in no shortage in small town Montana. Also according to 50states.com, the average square mile of land in Montana “contains 1.4 elk, 1.4 pronghorn antelope, and 3.3 deer.” The last time I drove home for a visit (a 170 mile drive) I counted 6 cars and at least 30 herds of deer during the 2 hours I spent on the road. Talk about a stressful ride.

6. Driving miles to see a big box store is a weekly adventure.

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Take a moment and think about this; how far ahead do you decide what you want for dinner? 1 hour before you start making dinner? 1 or 2 days before so you can run to the store? Well living in a small town means not having the ability to decide at the last minute what you want for dinner, it means planning a week or two weeks ahead just so you can run to town (which maybe an hour or two away) and buying hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries. This also means that pantries, gardens, and canning are almost necessary the farther you live away from a decently priced store.

Montana fun fact: Circle, MT is the farthest spot from a Starbucks in the continental USA which is 185 miles.

7. A story that starts with “so I was at this party in a field” is not uncommon, actually a rather common occurrence.

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I have heard so many stories about parties in fields, this is the normal once you hit high school in a small town. What also is normal is driving through the back dirt roads in a truck with a beer in your hand. Not that I condone this behavior, but there is nothing more impressive than watching your dad hold a beer, roll down the window (with the actual window crank), and shift the truck all at the same moment. Driving through the back roads and partying in fields are all a part of growing up in the middle of nowhere and the only thing that puts a damper on the party is the sheriff (who only comes around once a month, if you’re unlucky).

8. Dangerous animals are a large part of life and you better get used to it.

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On any given day during the summer months, you can trip over rattlesnake walking through a field or run into a bear in the woods. Both of which can kill you in a matter of minutes or hours, depending on the severity of the damage they do. As of this year, one Montanan was attacked twice in the same day by the same bear! And what’s even more surprising is finding a bear in a Target parking lot or finding an elk in a schoolyard. But when I was a kid, there was one time that my mom was walking through our own backyard and almost stepped on top of a rattlesnake. There is nothing scarier than hearing a rattlesnake rattler and not knowing where it came from.

9. Dial up internet is not a thing of the past, but a thing of the present. And having cell phone service in a really desolate place is basically impossible.

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That’s right, you read that correctly. My dad still can’t get high speed internet at his house, because guess what? They don’t have wires that go out that far from town. Can you imagine not having Netflix, Hulu, Amazon? Or not being able to update your PS3 because that runs off the internet? That’s a normal occurrence for small town Montana, even today. According to a study in January of 2015 by the Federal Communications Commission, 90% of the rural population is without access to 25 Mbps Broadband internet. And overall 87% of Montana is without this access… so basically most of Montana is without broadband internet. Scary thought, huh?

10. Fireworks, sparkler bombs, tannerite, and loud guns are not a thing for only holidays, but for whenever the heck you feel the need.

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If you have never put a sparkler bomb inside a snow drift or put some tannerite inside a pumpkin and watched them blow up then you are definitely not living yet. When you live out in the middle of nowhere there is a great chance your neighbors don’t care what in the heck you do, or are so far away that they can’t hear you from their house. There was many a time when I was growing up and we would have a great Saturday full of shotguns and whatever we felt the need to shoot. That could be garbage cans, televisions, kids toys, barrels, or even straw targets put out at 100 yards. Almost every year we would even take a barrel of used oil and light the weeds on fire to decrease the fire hazard of dry grass.

Small town Montana will always be a part of who I am and where I came from and I am proud to proclaim that we are still and forever will be the LAST BEST PLACE!