Attention to Craft: Neistat, Nerdwriter, and Visual Storytelling

If you’ve ever spent some time on Youtube, the name Casey Neistat has probably flown around your visual vicinity. Neistat’s entered the digital spotlight in the past few years due to his short films, cinematic daily vlogging, and a small cameo in the summer thriller, Nerve.

A vlogger that might have missed your side-scroller suggestions, however, is Evan Puschak, also known as Nerdwriter. Puschak speaks to a multitude of topics including politics and philosophy but it’s his dissection of film that holds a special place in my heart.

It was during a late night binge of such videos that the two intertwined. In a vlog uploaded on August 3rd, 2016, Nerdwriter broke down Neistat’s stylistic choices, composition, and  editing style, quoting Neistat to say: “my goal of these vlogs isn’t and has never been to share the intimacies of my life, it’s always just been to create a good or entertaining piece of content every day”.

And that’s exactly what he does. Neistat takes his previous knowledge of traditional filmmaking into a realm that is predominately contrived of amateur work. Puschak states Neistat wants his vlogs to “feel natural, but not be natural”, departing from the format commonly associated with daily vlogs.  Neistat’s success in these endeavors comes from attention to detail, whether it be waiting a half hour to get that sunset lighting, using three different cameras to capture angles of movement, or selecting various types of cameras, from handhelds to drones, incorporate their own “personality” into different shots.

As I continued to watch the video, not only did my appreciation for Neistat grow, but I found myself more and more impressed by the citation quality present in Puschak’s format. Blame it on the undergrad in me, but the skilled entanglement of Neistat’s footage with his own narrative is something my peers and I would kill for. A journalistic quality that’s somewhat rare in recent reporting and reviewing.

Both vloggers are examples of how creative nonfiction can be used successfully. By using the world around them they are able to speak to their own perspectives and personalities.Nerdwriter’s videos place an amazing amount of attention on the details— sifting through footage for the perfect shot to prove points eloquently, analyzing small frames, and editing them all into a cohesive narrative. Neistat is a master of pacing, using quick cuts, time-lapses, and zooms effectively to bring his audiences into his world of living in New York City.

Although the two diverge on the type of content they produce, they both play on the traditional and creative variables present in nonfiction storytelling in a way that can both be entertaining and informative. It’s a balance that can be tricky, especially when tied to a genre that stresses its high standards on how truth is represented. For anyone looking to dip their toes into the waters, however, I highly recommend taking a note from these two on how to get it right.

To see the full video see here.

Want more? Check out both Casey Neistat and Nerdwriter‘s full channels.

Poetry: Using Poetic Devices


“Ah, shall I metonymy or synecdoche?”

If you’re just breaking into the world of poetry writing, or if you, like me, wrote for years without much instruction or guidance, you may be wondering about some of the poetic terms that you see/hear tossed around in literary journals, classrooms, and conversations. What’s the difference between a metonymy and a synecdoche? What on earth is a kenning? An iamb? A trochee? More importantly, however, is understanding what these things can do for your poem. One easy way to explore their power is to experiment. With that in mind, here are three prompts that incorporate poetic devices:





  1. Write a poem that incorporates either a metonymy or a synecdoche. Metonymy is a device where something is signified by something closely linked to itself. For example, one of the most common is the representation of the American government by the term “the White House,” or the representation of police officers by the term “badge.” Synecdoche, on the other hand, is a specific form of metonymy where the signifier is an actual part of the signified, such as the synecdoche of “hand” to represent a person: “all hands on deck,” or “wheels” to represent a whole car, or “sails” to represent a ship. Metonymy and synecdoche can be valuable in a poem in a few ways. It can improve your poem’s imagery by using a smaller, more concrete stand-in for a complex idea. This also makes it a powerful tool for cutting unnecessary words. When used well, metonymy and synecdoche also forge new pathways in the reader’s mind, making them think about your subject in new ways. For your poem, try to be inventive – think of new ways to relate things, new parts that can stand in for wholes.


  1. Write a poem that uses a refrain. A refrain, or repeating section of a poem, can be a very useful literary device. A refrain can be as short as a few words, like Poe’s famous phrase: “Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore,” it can be a full line, like the final two lines in Robert Frost’s famous poem, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”: “And miles to go before I sleep / And miles to go before I sleep.” Or, a refrain can be a whole stanza, the term for which is a burden. Refrains can be used to heighten the focus of the word/phrase/line/stanza, but it’s important to remember that this comes with great expectations. The refrain should be strong enough to bear repetition. Try for a refrain where the repetition not only strengthens the impact of the word(s), but also deepens the meaning, presenting alternate or further interpretation.


  1. Last but not least, for this prompt, put a kenning into a poem. A kenning is a compound noun that is used in place of a third noun. It’s a literary device that traces roots back to Old Norse and Old English poetry. There are lots of examples to be found in poems like Beowulf: “wound-sea” for blood, “sea-farer” for sailor. Kennings are a powerful because they make the reader (and the poet!) think about things in new ways, often expressing emotive associations. In “wound-sea,” for example, the simple noun, blood, is given weight (a sea, something unstoppable and vast) and cause (a wound, representing combat and war). In order to find a kenning, think about your object from new angles (as you’ve probably noticed, this is sort of a theme among these devices). Compare it to things, make new connections and most of all, stretch your imagination.


If you were already familiar with these devices, pick a new one you didn’t know already (there’s a good online reference here). If not a new device, then a new form you’ve never encountered (here’s a good list to start with). The key to this prompt is to push your understanding of the craft.

Want more poetic devices and terms? Check out the list of sources:

The Poetry Foundation. An excellent online source for everything poetry. Read craft essays, poems, explore the searchable learning lab.

Project Gutenberg’s online annotated version of Beowulf.

Mary Kinzie’s A Poet’s Guide to Poetry. An in-depth look at the mechanics and craft of poetry.