Tyler’s Totally Trustworthy Tally of Tips

It seems like just yesterday that I was beginning this class by reading the advice that the previous sections had given to future sections. Now I seem to be expected to impart some wisdom onto future students myself. I don’t know what made them think this was a good idea but I guess we will have to trust the all-powerful being that is T.

Tyler’s Totally Trustworthy Tally of Tips

  1. Trust Yourself

You need to have confidence in yourself in order to be successful in this class. This involves trusting yourself with both your own work and the work of others. In this class you are given a very loose prompts for all of the projects and you need to be able to trust yourself enough to decide what to do for these projects and to decide the course for the rest of the semester. This also applies to the works of others and trusting yourself enough to have opinions about their work. Of course don’t be mean and overbearing but trust in yourself enough to be able to give advice with confidence and a good intent.

  1. You Are A Writer

Become comfortable with calling yourself a writer. This is kind of related to the first piece of advice but important enough to be on its own. I know that you probably have some anxiety about calling yourself a writer because that word has such a connotation. A connotation with knowing exactly the right words and having the best and most insightful ideas. But let me tell you everyone in your class has those exact same uncomfortable feelings with doing so. That person in class halfway down the table from you who you are already kind of resent because they seem like a capital W ‘Writer’ and sure of it has those exact same thoughts and feelings. Trust me we all have no idea what we are doing but that doesn’t mean we aren’t writers.

  1. Keep On Top Of Things

This class is planned out well so that if you follow the schedule you will never be overloaded with work at any time for this class. There are certainly busier and slower times but the workload is never totally insane. However, if you fall behind this can all go out the window. Trust me this isn’t a class where you can throw something together last minute and it will work out fine. Always try and keep on time as far as the big projects go as otherwise they will become overwhelming very quickly.

  1. Play Well With Others

Work with your groups when you are assigned to do so in class as they will be the best feedback that you will receive about your project. Unless you do manage to get it workshopped work groups really will be your most consistent and the easiest way to get someone else to look at your work. (Your professor will always be willing to meet with you as well if you want it.) So this means that you need to get the most possible out of it. Have questions ready and don’t be afraid to really guide them to what you want help with. This works in the opposite direction as well. You represent the exact same thing for their project as well. So try and ask good questions and pay attention to what they really want feedback on. Give the quality of advice on their project that you want to receive on your own.

  1. Stay Calm

This Is Fine Dog

This will be you at least one point during the semester. You will be buried in work, your project draft will not be where you want it to be, you won’t know what to do or how to proceed, something, anything or everything will happen that could possibly cause you to stress out about the project or life in general. In times like this you just need to stay calm, trust yourself, have confidence in your abilities as a writer, stay on top of things as best as you can, and listen to the help others are offering you. Everything will work out in the end (Hopefully?).

I don’t know. Was that helpful?

Wear sunscreen

“If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it”

-from Baz Luhrmann’s sunscreen song (and Mary Schmich).

I think that’s pretty solid advice. Specifically in regards to the minor though, I think taking risks is important. For most of the projects (in my case), there was always an easy way that I could do them, the non-threatening and trodden path on the way to completing them. But if I hadn’t scared myself a little with some of the decisions I made for project II and III, I would definitely not have gotten as much enjoyment, meaning, and use out of them. The projects all signify something special to me, and I encourage future Gateway-ers to choose a topic that they know they are enthusiastic about, and then really stretch their mind when it comes to deciding what they want their Projects II and III to be.

I would also recommend fully utilizing the time you have in workshops and meetings with T. Your project proposal meetings will be so helpful in working out the maybe not as strong parts in your project outline. The workshops will give you so many important perspectives that you may not even have thought of before. The class works when there is a collaborative air, and I highly recommend contributing to that vibe.

The gateway was amazing, and I’m so sad it’s already over. Enjoy it!!The sunscreen speech, ladies and gentlemen.


WARNING: The Following is Cheesy & Cliché.

For those about to embark on the journey that is the Sweetland Center’s Minor in Writing, I wholeheartedly salute you. If the written word is truly a passion of yours, you will find you have made a grand decision. As the PR posters claim, a Minor in Writing definitely goes with any major.

But anyway, let’s get to some advice, which is why you are reading this (forcibly, or otherwise). The Gateway Course in the Minor in Writing is, in my opinion, as challenging as you make it. And if you want to make the most of it, you should certainly challenge yourself. By this I mean make things a little uncomfortable. Stretch farther than you have dared before. Dabble in a genre that is unfamiliar, that you previously left untouched because you felt those waters were better left uncharted.

I can’t claim that I necessarily did this in terms of the actual writing I did for the course, but my final project for the semester was something I had never done before. Putting together a mini-documentary was something of a challenge, but I am certainly glad I pushed myself to do it. And if you can muster the willpower to step outside your comfort zone in the realm of writing, you will surely be glad you did it, too.


Dirty the Void.

My advice…

Put yourself out there. In writing, of course. My advice to any writers, spill your f***ing guts onto that blank page. Let the words crawl from your mind and unfurl onto the blank page. Dirty the void.


Say something.


My advice to cohorts: Don’t do too much thinking before you write. Just write, goddamnit. The thoughts will come as the pen moves across the paper (more accurately: as your fingers move across the keyboard). Are you stuck on an idea? Or even a sentence? Don’t sit there with your hands pinned underneath your ass, be active about your immobility. Either move on to something else, or talk it out with your instructor, a friend (imaginary or real), your mom, cousin, brother etc etc etc. You get the picture.

The worst thing you could do as a writer is be still. Standstills are inevitable. Rough patches are inevitable. You might hit one in the early brainstorming stages or final revision stages, or somewhere in between. The point is: it’s natural to be stuck, but don’t stay stuck for too long. Because then you’ll lose the spark.

One of the most important things this class will teach you is how to be a part of a community. Take advantage of the talents and opinions of your fellow cohorts. You are all here because you share a passion for words. Make use of this commonality and really get to know your peers. Utilize them as a resource and more importantly, reciprocate. I’ve found that reviewing my peer’s work has helped me edit my projects.

Have an open-mind. Come to class ready to discuss. Add something each day. The great Hannah Montana once said “Life is what you make it.” Well, this class is what you make it. You can come to class simply for attendance and you can fulfill your projects simply for the GPA. But to what end? Don’t you want this course to mean something? You are minoring in this subject; it should mean something to you. Anyways I feel like I’m getting aggressive, I’ll back off and leave you with this sentiment: the possibility is in you; it is up to you to make something of this course.


Hannah Montana rocking out like you will in the MIW gateway course.

“It’s Worth It” would be an understatement

I love writing, and I love learning about it, so when I entered the minor in Writing program this fall, I thought I’d enjoy it. But to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect beyond that.

I ended up with a great group of classmates, a profound improvement in my approach to writing and even a different understanding of what writing is.

I do a lot of work at The Michigan Daily, so a lot of my writing is on deadline, when I don’t have too much time to think about it. Much of it is structured, where I write about something specific. And much of it has rules: third person, no opinion, no exclamations, questions, unfounded statements, and so on, and so on, and so on. I love it, and it’s my favorite kind of writing to do, because it has a clear purpose and gives me an avenue to tell the stories I want to tell.

No matter what kind of writing you enjoy–even if you don’t prefer any particular form at all–the gateway course changes how you approach writing.

On the first day of class, each student had to answer one or two of a number of questions, and one of the questions was, what is your favorite part of writing? Some said starting, some said finishing, some said any number of parts in the middle. The gateway course helped me get better at each of those parts by thinking about how I approach each of them. No matter what I do, I’ll always be able to say that.

Hey You! Listen! – My advice for incoming students

Did that get your attention?

Good. It’s the final day of this class, and I wanted to give you some advice for the minor.

So I’ll start off by saying I came in to the minor having somewhat of an idea what to expect. I knew, probably just like you, that I liked writing, and that this would be a chance to improve my skills. Then I got thrown a curve ball. We were asked to put down what we think as writing, and comment on them. When we did this, I realized I posted several links to blogs, books and other things that use words for writing. But when I examined others peoples posts, I saw things like calligraphy, artwork, and videos. This is something that I never considered. Writing could essentially be anything you want it to be. But in order to think that way, you have to open up your mind.


If you open up your mind, you'll be surprised at what you might find
If you open up your mind, you’ll be surprised at what you might find

Once you open up, you might find that you want to do a style of writing that’s different than what you have done throughout your collegiate career. Having an open mind will help you get a better idea of what to do so that you don’t have to worry about the fact that the class itself is not as structured and rigid as other.

But that’s not to say it wouldn’t hurt to have a few ideas in mind before you start the repurposing or remediation assignment. For example, although I didn’t know my what my source was going to be when I started the class, I did know that I wanted to write about sports and I was going to base most of if not all of my writing about that topic. It made making decisions early on a tad bit easier.

Finally, I will say keep track of the schedule (especially the blog posts), keep track of when things are coming up and make time for them. I will fully admit I underestimated the amount of time it would take to finish the assignments, as I would be up late into the night trying to finish assignments because I didn’t realize they were due, or that the process of actually doing them would take so much time.  Then of course, when your stressed for time, your 4 year old laptop starts having processing issues. Both of these lead to a ton of stress, so try to give yourself enough time.

Panda destroying computers from pandawhale.com
What I wanted to do to my computer after it froze or was moving slowly while working on my remediation project.

However, I will fully admit that this was still one of the most enjoyable classes I have taken during my time here at Michigan. I was able to focus on what I liked to write about, and I developed skills that will make the writing process easier. I really hope you enjoy your time in the next class. It’s a great chance to become better at something you already like doing, and if you simply open your mind and give yourself ample time to work, you will be able to enjoy this class to its fullest.

The coolest (and most challenging) classwork you’ll ever do

Hello future Minor in Writing students!

I remember reading the advice of students who came before me wondering what the hell they could possibly say that could make my experience in the Minor better. Theoretically you’ve all been accepted by Sweetland and have already enrolled in Writing 220, so really you’re going to have to do this no matter what. If you’re thinking what I was thinking when I was in your shoes, I understand. But stop.

Allow me to impart my wisdom.

Earlier this semester I wrote a blog post about how terrified I was to be writing a fiction short story in this class.

I had never written fiction before, and in fact was incredibly self-conscious about my ability to do anything that wasn’t an academic/research paper. This was going to be read by a bunch of people and then GRADED. How was my shoddy self-esteem going to handle it?

Scared face cat.
It clearly wasn’t. [Wolfgang Lonien/Flickr]
But I did it anyways, and it was the best decision I made this year. That’s why my advice to you is this: do what makes you scared. Especially if you want to be a better writer because of it. It’s way easier said than done, I know, but once you try that one thing you’ve never done, you’ll feel at least 9 times more confident in yourself.

And honestly, being afraid of writing something makes you try even harder than you might if you were overly-comfortable with what you were doing.

It’s a win-win.

Best of luck.


Advice to Future Cohorts

Dear Future Cohorts,

Welcome to the Sweetland Minor in Writing. In the Gateway course your writing will be challenged in ways that you probably have not been exposed to previously. Specifically, you will be asked to reflect on yourself and your passions, while writing to a specific audience. Additionally, you will take and transform your old work to fit new criteria using multimedia.

Over the course of the semester, I’ve learned a few things that I urge you to consider. Let me outline them for you:

1) Try to do things you’re bad at.

Because, when else will you be able to (without ridicule)? After this class, everything is serious. You probably won’t have another opportunity to experiment with various forms of multimedia, publish fake articles on the New Yorker, et cetera, and you definitely won’t have the opportunity to receive such positive feedback. So, take advantage of it. Try new things. You may find confidence in a new outlet that you would not have found otherwise.

2) Be a helpful critic.

Everyone has a unique viewpoint from which they work and your viewpoint, specifically, may be of help to another student. Learn to be a helpful critic. Offer advice and insight. Don’t be passive – this class provides a perfect environment for workshopping where anything is welcomed.

3) Challenge yourself.

This class in unique in that you are not limited to specific length requirements for any project. My advice? Don’t settle for the “minimum” — whatever that may be. Do more than you think is necessary, and work to make something complete and challenging. It will feel better in the end.




Future Cohort:

The Gateway class  is not like any other english or writing class you have taken. This class should not seem like it is for school; it should not seem like it is for a grade. This class is for YOU. In the gateway you have the freedom to create something unique that is your own. Now that I have your attention, I want to share the three most important rules for being successful in the MIW.

1) Be open minded! You never know where this class will take you.

2) Be original! You will be introduced to many new resources throughout the semester. These are valuable…so pay attention. Pool your resources and your brain power to create art that you are proud of, and that you feel has expanded who you are as a writer.

3) Be friendly! One of the greatest things about the MIW is your own cohort. No where else will you be in a class room with so many people that love to write and want to learn. Bounce ideas off of your peers, in and out of the class. Look to them for advice, and share advice with them when you can. People are your most valuable resource.


Cheesy, but it had to be done.

Caring is for Sharing

Dear Future Minor in Writing Students,

Congratulations! Welcome to your journey as a writer.

I am sure you have written many essays in the past and have even taken other writing courses at the University of Michigan. Those classes may have been focused on any number of topics, but this class is different. This class is about building up you, your brand, your writing persona.

So take advantage of the “you” time.

Creating an EPortfolio gives you the opportunity to showcase yourself and something you care about. So make sure that everything you write for this class is meaningful to you. This isn’t an essay to hand into a teacher and never read again. This is work that you will share with your classmates, that you will discuss all semester, and that you will pass along to your friends and even potential employers.

They say sharing is caring. I would like to argue that caring is for sharing. Dedicate your time to something you are passionate about and you will be excited by every opportunity to share your work.


Good luck and make the most of you.