My advice to you!!

Welcome to Senior Year!! And welcome to your writing capstone. This is such a unique and special community where you learn from each other, harbor safety and support, and create unbelievable work. This semester has definitely been a rollercoaster. There are days when I love my project and days when I can’t stand it. Having switched online in the middle of the semester, it has taken a lot of will and motivation to complete this daunting project.  Here’s some advice I have for you as you embark on this exciting class. 

  1. Try to pick your project as early as possible and really find a niche idea/opinion/genre/medium. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my project since writing about privilege can be super uncomfortable. I recommend writing about something that is out of your comfort zone, a passion, a curiosity. It can really be anything which is the beauty in it but make sure it is something you want to write about. Purpose will come with passion. 
  2. Create a detailed production plan and stick to it. With classes going online halfway through the semester, creating a new production plan and sticking to it was very difficult. If classes are online, I recommend staying on track as much as possible because the work will creep up on you. 
  3. Lean on your peers. This capstone community is such a unique and strong group that is truly there to support you. Lean on your professor but also the peers around you. Get to know them. This made it much easier to share personal work with them and so much more rewarding getting feedback and advice. This community is truly awesome, take advantage!
  4. Know that your project will not look like how you envisioned it in the proposal, and that’s OK and normal. Your project will likely take many turns, edits, forms, etc. This is all part of the project process! Embrace it and don’t get too hooked on the details or the changing landscape of your project. In the end, you will create something you are proud of and that’s what matters most!
  5. Have fun! While this project is a lot of work, it is truly a time where you can reflect on your time at college, use new skills, and be creative! Take advantage of the opportunity!


Good luck!!!

Forgetting the Fear

Oh god. Staring at the currently unpopulated white space of this text box, I feel overwhelmed. What do I write? If I write something, will it matter to anyone? Will it matter to me?

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I find it a little hard to believe that after (nearly) completing a whole class dedicated to my writing goals, I still feel this way when starting a new project. Even if the “project” is just a blog post. Just like anything else, writing gets easier the more it’s practiced, but the beginning never ceases to feel scary, it seems.

When I begin brainstorming for my Capstone project, I thought I had it all figured out. I knew I was going to make a book, and that was the least scary thing I could imagine. And then I actually sat down to write something, and The Fear wormed its way into my brain. Why was I even doing this? Who would care?

My biggest piece of advice for my September self (besides the obvious “you don’t have time to write, design, and print a book”) is to write like no one’s reading. That might sound counterintuitive or depressing or completely wrong, I get it. But when in your college career have you been able to write whatever you want for a whole semester for credit? This time should be savored, and it shouldn’t be hijacked by a paralyzing fear of the “audience,” whoever that might be.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t listen to the feedback you receive on your work. Your Capstone cohort will likely be one of the nicest, most tightly-knit groups of writers you’ve ever encountered (I know mine has been). They really want you to succeed and they’ll give you great constructive responses that come from a place of love and genuine interest. Listen to them.

Maybe you don’t need to hear this, but I’m writing it anyway because I’m trying this new thing where I write what I want without second-guessing myself: your ideas matter. If that inkling of a project pinging around in your head excites you, if thinking about researching it for hours, spending time with it, shaping it into a thing that will live in your hands or on a screen… if all of that makes your chest glowy and warm, do that thing. Start today. As long as you’re passionate, as long as you care, someone somewhere will, too.

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The Rhetorical Circle

Wow.

It feels really weird being done with this semester-long journey of a project.

Like, I’m not sure how to comprehend and process this information.

It doesn’t help either that I’m about to graduate in a week and am still denying the reality of having to be an actual adult.

In all actuality, writing this post is really bittersweet; I remember way back in the fall of my sophomore year when I took the gateway class. We were pushed to write in mediums that were alien to us, and we would eventually publish our work onto a website. Which is the exact same thing that I did for this capstone class (with which said website can be found here). It’s really amazing to compare the work I did in the gateway class with this capstone project; it still retains the humor I like to include in any writing, but it feels so much more mature. It really highlights the fact that I learned a lot in that small window of time. Got to love that Greek rhetorical circle of starting and ending at the same point, am I right?

I guess since this is going to be my last blog post, here’s some advice to anyone about to do the capstone class and is looking for guidance:

Do what you love. It’s going to make the project a hell of a lot easier if you do something you are actually passionate about. The trick here, though, is that you have to know you’re passionate about it. Don’t go into it thinking, “Oh, this might be a cool thing to do,” cause I can almost guarantee you that it is not going to turn out in your favor when the work piles on top of you (although you may be one of the lucky few: if you want to take those odds, then go for it). Find something that you would be willing to spend many sleepless nights on, something that you wouldn’t mind researching for hours on end, something you wouldn’t mind working on for more than three entire months. If you can find that, then it will make the class, the project, and the semester an incredibly vivid and amazing experience. I was lucky enough to find a project that I had such a passion for, and it was even better in that I could include my friends in it. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I would have changed my project in any other way. It’s something that I’m happy with–both in the end product and the road getting there–even with the inhuman amount of coffee I ingested this semester.

There’s more advice I could give, but I give a fair amount of it on the website, so I’ll incentivize you to check it out that way.

For being a Minor in Writing, I’m surprised at how difficult it is for me to come up with more things to say about this project and the journey it took to get here.

So I don’t think I’ll say much else: just sit back, enjoy, and, as always,

Dear Prospective Minor in Writing Applicants,

I was hesitant to apply to the Minor in Writing because, well, I didn’t really know what it was. It was introduced to me with an email forwarded from an older friend without any real explanation. As I searched the Sweetland Center’s website I understood the structure of the program, but I still had unanswered questions. How much freedom do I have to write what I want? Am I just going to be studying grammar and punctuation all day? What will the classes be like?

I wished I could have seen students’ work, their progression, their struggles. I wished that there was a glimpse into the program other than the descriptions of courses and historical syllabi.

Over the course my time in the Minor in Writing Gateway, I’ve developed an understanding for all of these questions. And so, I wanted to share my experiences to show you, the prospective applicants, my struggles and progression, my missteps and successes.

An accumulation of my experimentation can be found here, in my Gateway ePortfolio.

You’ll see a discovery of my writing process, how I learned to think again. You’ll see the progression of my voice and how I learned to highlight it throughout various genres. You’ll see how I developed a strong sense of different audiences, and how they might react to assorted techniques.

And hopefully, you’ll see how I plan on continuing to experiment and question my ideas from now, until my final Capstone course, and beyond.

Happy reading, prospective students. Send in that application; you won’t regret it.

Best,

Ashley

Letter to Future Gateway Students

Dear Future Gateway Students,

Welcome to Writing 220! It will be quite a journey, but hopefully you will be able to look back on your time and finished product fondly at the end.

My biggest takeaways from this course is the necessity of not just writing well, but writing often. I think the two really go hand-in-hand. After a long summer of not really writing, it is easy to have fallen into a slump where the words no longer come to you as easily and you sit and stare in front of your paper for awhile and wonder what to do next. This course had a LOT of assignments, oftentimes being due between 2 and 4 times a week. Not only is this a lot of constant writing, but it is a constant reminder of the importance to keep doing small writing assignments to keep your brain active and thinking. I really do think that this constant writing has helped get me back into the flow of writing that I had previously lost from years of taking non-writing based classes.

I feel like I was most challenged in sharing my work with my peers. As a perfectionist, it is hard for me to let something go to share with others before it is in what I consider to be its best state. As there were so many small assignments and constant sharing and feedback with the members of our blog group, I was not able to make everything that I wrote a completely polished piece with tons of revision and thought put into it, and it was frightening for some assignments to know that people were reading and reflecting on something I had done that had not yet reached its full potential. As I have been having more practice with writing as I mentioned above, it also became easier for my thoughts to come to me faster in the way that I want them to, and so it became easier to write on the fly. Still working on that perfectionism thing though. TBD.

What surprised me most about the course I think was how much I found that I liked blogging. I had never really tried it much before, the only time I had being for another class where we blogged with a response to something we had read. In that class though, it didn’t feel like I could be personal like I could with this blog, and it was always fun to search for memes online that I thought were fitting for my topic. I’m considering doing something similar just for myself personally, maybe not even publishing it but just having this online presence that I can return to. Perhaps I can make it a part of my ePortfolio and keep it updated.

The practical advice that I have for incoming minor students is to relax. Relax if your writing isn’t perfect, or you don’t know what your final project is going to be, or you are overwhelmed by how much has to go into the ePortfolio. Just relax. It’s going to be fine; just breathe.

If I was starting the course all over again, I think I would have more fun with my blog posts. I would try to make them sillier and funnier and just let myself laugh at the things that I had to say. I would also make keeping up with the assignments in this course more of a priority. This semester with all of my other work and classes it was hard at times to keep up with the workload and I found myself submitting assignments last minute and not being as pleased as I could be with the quality of my work. If I were to do it all again, I would force myself to make time.

This class has made me excited for what the rest of the minor will bring. I took a class last semester that counts towards this minor, but I didn’t get the full picture of what my experience would entail until I took this class. I love that this class has pushed me to create an ePortfolio showcasing me, and giving me something that I can continue to work on and be proud of. Hopefully you will too by the end of your gateway course.

 

Best of luck,

Amy

Letter to Future Gateway Students

Dear Current Gateway Students,

You’re in for a ride. I didn’t know it when I first entered, so be warned that this course will see you through some of your longest nights and earliest mornings, the greatest sense of helplessness you’ve ever felt and a semester’s-worth of built up pride and triumph. I can honestly say that this course gave me some of my highest highs and some of my lowest lows, so think carefully on whether or not you think it’s all worth it.

I think it is worth it. I have to weigh the pros and cons, but the pros—in retrospect, the underdog in a lot of the fight—won out. First, the cons. It’s a lot of work. This was the most work I’ve ever had in a class; if you’re looking for a blow off class, this is not the class for you. It’s also one of the most challenging courses I’ve taken, not in terms of memorizing parts of the cell or regurgitating mathematical formulas but in terms of entering completely new writing territory. I purposefully, almost blindly took on a completely new genre of writing without any previous experience, and the learning curve definitely took my by surprise.

But now for the pros. As for the amount of work, I can’t spin that in a way that makes it any more palatable than it is. However, the challenge is all part of the process. This course is not meant to teach you about writing essays or how to create a podcast, it’s meant to guide you on your personal writing journey, wherever that takes you. You will have some of the most academic freedom you’ve ever experienced and it is through this freedom that you’ll be able to explore, create, fail, and write like you’ve never written before. All rules (well, I guess most) are thrown out the window, and your job in the class is, simply, to grow.

This is what makes the class so challenging: growing is hard. Growing is painful and frustrating and draining. You will inevitably find yourself drudging through assignments just to meet the deadline just as you will inevitably be unable to stop your fingers once you strike inspiration and the words just come to you. The whole point of growing is that you struggle and overcome, and I promise you that you will overcome. I had my doubts, despite Shelley’s utmost confidence, however it did miraculously come together.

This is what I want you to keep in mind: you will overcome. It seems like a lot of work, and it is. However, this isn’t just busywork or problem sets, this is the work that actually helps to improve your writing, however you see fit. I’m taking 6 classes this semester, and if there is anything I’ve learned it is that I am stronger than I think I am; if I can do it, there’s no reason that you can’t, too. I wish I had more faith in my own abilities, and if I could do it all again I would stress less because, in the end, everything will turn out just fine.

So please, don’t worry. It seems contra to what I said about the course load, but it will all work out fine. You will be swamped, you will feel like you’re just running in a hamster wheel, you will cry at 2 in the morning. However, you will also find inspiration, you will grow immensely as a writer, and you will triumph. Pinky promise.

Yours,

Ben Bugajski

Letter to Future Gateway Students

When I first started this course, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I loved writing and (I thought and had been told) that I was pretty okay at it. I thought it would be a cool minor because all employers want to know that you can write, especially in today’s day and age, and because how cool is it to be minoring in something that you actually love to do.

When you come in to this course, you’re going to be asked to write about a topic. This was by FAR the part that I struggled at the most, because at first I tried to be way too interesting. My all-time favorite writing teacher (besides Shelley, of course) once told me that readers love two things: your struggle or something that they don’t understand (something that you’re super, super passionate about). When I chose my first topic, I forgot about this advice. I wanted to make my topic Greek Life and how I feel extremely torn about it. Honestly, I don’t really care all that much about Greek Life. I’m a junior and it’s not really a big part of my life anymore. So I realized that I had chosen a topic that wasn’t really a big struggle for me and I wasn’t super, super passionate about.

When I remembered Sharon’s (the writing teacher’s) advice, everything clicked. Duh. Write about something that I struggle with and that makes me unique–something I’m super, super passionate about. I decided to write about being the oldest of four girls and, let me tell you, as disgustingly cheesy as it sounds, the words just poured out. I had SO much to say. So, basically, all I’m trying to say is that my advice is to completely FORGET about your audience and to instead write something that you care about an insane amount. If you care, your readers will care. It’s as simple as that.

Even if you pick the perfect topic and the world seems to be dumping happy rainbows and sunshine into your lap, you will still struggle with the remediation project. Everyone does. And you should–the entire point of it is that you’re supposed to go outside your classic comfort zone and try something new and crazy. If you’re not struggling and a little bit scared for what your final whatever is going to look like, you’re probably not doing it right.

You should have so SO many questions regarding your remediation projects to ask your blog group and your teacher and your friends and your parents. Does this look okay? Does this sound okay? It should be unchartered territory for you, and, I don’t know about you, but for me when it comes to unchartered territory, I need a lot of gentle hands on my back giving me advice and urging me on. So for the remediation project, get scared. Go outside your comfort zone, let yourself feel uncomfortable, and be willing to hear other people’s advice–whether it be good or bad. Being vulnerable and feeling like you’re not doing something that you are amazing at is absolutely terrifying, but can benefit you as a writer and a person so much in the long run. If I only ever did things that I thought I was great at, I would be majoring in jumping rope with a minor in Netflix binge-watching. But here I am, way, way, way outside my comfort zone with a major in art and a minor in writing. Do I know what I’m doing with my life? Hell no. But I know that I’m doing something where I have to push myself every day to go outside my happy little comfort zone in order to improve and be the best I can be.

I’m not positive if I answered all the questions we were supposed to get at. My biggest takeaways from the course? Well, I guess to just go for it and to trust my instincts. What heart/spirit/mind advice do I have? Wow this seems really funny that I am being trusted to give any of you advice when I haven’t even finished my own project, but I would say to just take it slowly and to let other people help you. Some of the best major revisions that I made came from people in my blog group and from Shelley. Try to not let your ego get in the way of anything–I doubt that any of you have ever been in a class with a bunch of people who are actually good at writing. I know for a fact that I take peer advice .0001% of the time. This is the one class ever that you really truly should take peer’s advice. They’re good. You’re good. Get great.

Good luck with everything! You’ll be amazing.

Letter to Future Gateway Students

Dear Future Gateway Students,

Congratulations! You’ve made (or will make) a great choice.

I’m not sure that I can pinpoint one specific takeaway that I have from this course because there have been so many. For me, the one word that comes to mind is growth. I feel like I’ve grown as a writer, student, thinker, and collaborator. Specifically, my creative process has really grown and developed during this course. I used to dread editing, workshopping, etc., but I really fed off the energy of my peers in the Gateway Course. I would suggest coming into this class (and this entire program) with no expectations. The course is really well structured so that the creative/writing process takes over, and resisting that would have been a mistake.

The most challenging part of this course for me was learning to express myself in different forms. I had grown comfortable with writing essays, but through the remediation and ePortfolio, I had to learn to articulate myself in other ways. There was a lot of trial and error, frustration, and working through obstacles, but I worked through it so that I am proud of my work in the end.

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From the very first day of class, there was an open and welcoming environment created in the classroom. Most teachers say that everyone should feel free to share their thoughts, but in this class, that sentiment actually turned to reality. It’s hard to capture that sort of environment at a huge university like Michigan, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a classroom that was totally open, but the Gateway Course made it happen.

I feel like I spent 3X as much time on this class than I did on any of my other classes this semester. That was partly because it was fun and I was passionate about the work, but it was also because it is a demanding course that requires lots of time and energy. If you’re an incoming Minor in Writing student, I would advise staying organized from the very beginning. Plan out your process for different projects and start early. If not, they can have a tendency to pile up on each other and make you feel overwhelmed. The best writing is done with a clear mind and a free imagination, which stress can compromise. So I would suggest trying to space out the work to give yourself the freedom and time to write at your best.

If I were to start all over again, I would have spent more time looking at my peers’ work. I became close with my blog group which consisted of four students, but I was not as familiar with the rest of the class’s work as I wanted to be. Whenever I did come across another student’s work, I always learned something from it. Because learning from your peers is such a huge advantage in this course, I would have tried more actively to seek out their work.

This course is an adventure. As a Gateway student, you learn a lot of new concepts, and work on a lot of projects that you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with. While this can be stressful or daunting, I would just say to embrace the spirit of this course because it will absolutely be worth it. This has been the most rewarding class that I’ve ever taken at Michigan, and I feel like my thinking has been pushed by my peers in this class more than any other class I’ve taken here. If you focus on learning from others, delving into your most creative self, and participating in the environment of the classroom, you will do meaningful work and create something that you will be extremely proud of in the end.

Sincerely,

Jon

 

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A Letter to Future Gateway Students

Dear Future Gateway Students,

Don’t be scared. This class is fun! You get to hang out with interesting people who think interesting things and then you get to write about whatever you want…guided by prompts of course ;).

Maybe you’re not scared like I was, maybe you’re just excited. If this is you, that’s great! If this isn’t you, then keep reading (but also keep reading even if this isn’t you, because maybe I’ll still have relevant advice). When I went to orientation for this class and saw the finished ePortfolios of the students before me, I was both amazed and scared. Amazed at how professional their work looked and scared that I had to climb such a high mountain. But here’s a piece of advice. Don’t be scared or nervous or worried, because those feelings stifle creativity and the important thing to remember is that your final ePortfolios won’t happen over night. They’ll happen over the course of the entire semester and your instructor will space individual parts out along the way so by the end of the class, you have the bulk of everything you need.

Here’s another piece of advice. Don’t limit yourself. If I could go back to the beginning of the class when we were brainstorming ideas for our first project, I would tell myself to think outside the box and then think outside of that box and even that box, because there are so many interesting and different things you can do with this project. At the same time, be slow. Be slow? That’s not something you hear often, but I mean it. You don’t have to go with the first idea that pops into your head. I took over a month to even decide on my overall topic and even still changed the genre of my piece after writing the first draft.

The re-purposing project will seem daunting, because you have this assignment that basically sets the tone for the rest of your assignments for that semester. But remember this. You can re-purpose anything! It doesn’t have to be an academic essay or creative fiction. Seriously, you could re-purpose a grocery list if you think about it long enough. Whose grocery list is it? What are they shopping for? Do they even need groceries or are they trying to take their minds off of something? See what I did there? The possibilities are endless.

Maybe you don’t even quite understand all of the pieces of advice I’m giving you yet and that’s ok. Once you start the class things will start to fall in place and hopefully something I’ve said here will help you even just a little bit. The last thing I’ll say, is pick a topic that is dear to your heart, because it will be hard to last the entire semester if you choose something you’re not passionate about.

Good luck!

Brenna

P.S. The final results of your ePortfolio will blow your mind and it will be a source of great satisfaction and accomplishment that you can show to potential employers, family members or whomever you want. So, going into Writing 220, know that the work you do there is going toward something useful and important.

 

Letter to Future Gateway Students

Future Minor in Writing gateway students,

I hope you enjoy the learning that comes with the gateway course. Learning about others, yourself, and your writing process. Every writing class has felt impactful to me, but this one feels especially so, considering the type of work that was done in this class. All projects required some reflections, because they were either products of previous works or an essay about why I write. Without this class, I would not know as much about my own writing as I do now.

My biggest takeaway from the course has been using multiple modes to exercise my creativity and convey my arguments. I am used to writing in a word document and shaping my essay around a prompt. However, in this class I was able to write about anything I wanted that stemmed from a previous piece of writing. This gave me a lot of liberty in choosing what would inspire me to think in different modes as well as what just plain interests me.

The most challenging part of the class is juggling all of the different projects, especially at the end of the semester. Due dates aren’t really a thing, unless you make your own.

Because I failed to make my own due dates, I am now sitting here on the last day of class feeling that “oh shit” feeling because I have to somehow revise all my projects and put them on my ePortfolio, which is at a rough stage to say the most. If I could do this class over again, I would tell myself to make due dates a priority.

What surprised me the most is how easy it was to create my re-mediation and also the website for my ePortfolio. I initially thought that these two projects would be my biggest struggle, but they have turned out to be the most enjoyable ones.

Some practical advice I would give? Use your peers and teacher for feedback, help, etc. Everyone is there to become better writers, which means both learning and teaching. They are invaluable resources!

Finally, I think the most important advice for going into this class is to trust that everything will fall into place, whether you’re stressed about picking a topic that you have to cover the whole semester or you are burnt out over all the assignments. They all have their purpose, and that is to help you realize/explain/think about your purpose for writing.