I will admit, I only applied for the Minor in Writing initially because I dropped my psychology major. I came into college expecting to study psychology and only that, and my freshman year I enrolled in the ROTC program with the dream of becoming a psychologist for soldiers with PTSD and any other on-site issues. After some reconsideration, my parents did not agree with this decision because of the four-year commitment to the service post-college. As disappointed as I was at the time, I realized that going down that path would not have been the best option for me. Eventually, I grew to loath the classes I was taking through the department because I thought it was busywork. My breaking point, though, was all the low Bs I was getting on my papers. I knew they were well written, and they followed all of the guidelines on the syllabus. However, I quickly learned that in science-related writing, it didn’t matter at all how well written the papers were. It mattered how black and white you could get your point across so as to not annoy the GSI. This is when I decided to double major in English as well, because I thought if I was going to be studying English for four years anyway, I may as well get something tangible out of it. English has always been my favorite subject; I just hadn’t originally thought that there was anything I wanted to do pertaining to it. Soon after that, I just dropped my psychology major because I started loving the English classes so much that all I could do was hate my psych courses even more. So here I was with just an English major, which, at the University of Michigan, I didn’t think was enough.
I researched minors that I could fulfill within two years because I was ending my sophomore year at the time. Eventually I came across the Minor in Writing, which I applied for immediately because I was so excited about the opportunity to take more writing and English courses for credit rather than just electives. I couldn’t believe that being so involved in English and knowing a lot of teachers in the department personally, I hadn’t heard about the MiW before. It took a lot of research to discover it. I applied without knowing much about it, excited to have something more to graduate with and an opportunity to further develop my writing skills.
I then figured out that if I wanted to do the Minor in Writing, I would probably want to do some sort of Spring English classes to get some more requirements out of the way. I had randomly heard about the New England Literature Program through the English department, and, also on a whim, applied for that as well. I figure I love being outdoors and I love writing, I may as well try it out. It would fulfill eight English credits and knock a lot of requirements out of the way for the major. The entire semester leading up to my departure (even after I paid the deposit), I didn’t know if I would actually end up attending. What the hell was I thinking leaving my entire family and life behind, unable to be reached by anything but snail mail? I was so worried that something would happen to my family while I was gone, and I wouldn’t know about it until three days later when a letter would arrive from someone else. But nothing happened to my family. What happened was a transformed view of writing for me. Through letters to and from my friends and family, I learned so much more than any academic writing. I learned the best way to portray feelings through my sentences, be personal, summarize a week’s worth of experiences, and tell exactly what is important, rather than every single detail. I didn’t write a single essay, but rather I wrote in a journal the entire time and that is what our final grades were based on. This journal included academic, personal, creative, and every other type of writing we did there. It felt so great to be a part of an alternative education program because it proved that I could still learn a lot even outside the rigidity of a traditional classroom setting.
I brought my new views on writing to the Minor when I returned. I wrote about extremely personal things for my gateway course, and I had a new confidence that I hadn’t had before. I was no longer scared to include personal details about myself in my writing – these assignments were graded on the writing itself, not the person. My writing became so much more passionate and detailed once I opened myself up to the idea of writing in a more personal, rather than formal, style. The different mediums in which I wrote during NELP also made me realize that a great writer isn’t just great at writing essays, poetry, or novels. A great writer is someone who can compose a unique idea and execute it in the most appropriate way – which is not always through a formal essay. This is something I had never even considered before NELP and the Minor in Writing. I now loved adding photos to my essays to convey more meaning and emotion, I wrote about videos I watched rather than just other things I had read, and overall I had a much more open mind about the ways in which we practice writing than I had before.
Writing isn’t just a way in which to receive a grade. Writing is a therapeutic way to work through your feelings, it’s a way to express yourself, it’s a way to show love toward someone you care about, and most of all, it is yours. Writing shouldn’t always be just an academic essay. Through my experience in the Minor and as an undergraduate student, I have become much more aware that writing is everywhere. It is in the email we write, the letters we send, the magazines we read, the advertisements we see – everything. Writing is an art, not just a way to get a point across.
As far as where I’m going next, I’ll be using my writing skills for more public relations, web content, writing copy, and everything else a launching startup needs a writer for. Long-term goals, though, I’d love to write a fiction novel … it all depends where my passions take me.