Final Challenge Journal: The Challenge of Being “Done”

It’s over! The project is turned in and I feel ~weird~ about it. I cannot believe this journey has ended (that’s cliché ew). But, I really cannot believe that I am done with the Minor in Writing. I am so happy that I stumbled upon it my sophomore year. This minor has introduced me to the best lecturers, peer-edit groups that actually work, and a new appreciation for the craft. I cannot imagine the last two years without it.

The challenge of saying goodbye is one that I wish I could postpone a little longer. I cannot compare this to any other experience. That’s the challenge. I want to reflect on how I felt after I turned in my Gateway Project, but when I turned that in, I knew I would be coming back to work on something new.

Turning in my Capstone has left me feeling nostalgic and proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish at this University. If I could offer any advice to a future Capstone student, I’d say “trust yourself.” You know what you are doing and what you want your finished product to look like. I struggled to understand how I was going to get to a final product, but somehow it just came together. It took months to start writing, but I eventually started, and that’s what matters.

Shelley’s words of advice to “just start writing” really do help. Just start writing. You will surprised at what comes out of you.

Thank you, Minor in Writing team, for giving writers a place to express themselves. I am so excited to see everyone’s Capstone Project.

Here’s to us and the challenge of being done!

Welcome to My Capstone: “A Court of Silence”

“A Court of Silence” is a collection of testimonies from my experiences working in legal offices, observing court hearings, and interviewing attorneys. These stories reflect the blatant discrimination that exists in our legal system. This site is their home. These stories live on here. I have had many fears approaching this project. One of which is the fear that you will leave this site without feeling the anger that I’ve felt; the anger that I am still feeling. If nothing else, I hope you walk away from this site feeling like you’ve learned something about the criminal justice system.

This has been my favorite project to date. Thank you to my mentor, Erin Lavin, for her words of wisdom. Thank you, Shelley, for always offering your eyes and ears at any time of day.

Let’s shatter the silence.

Find my project here:

Challenge Journal 3: The loose ends

It’s that point in the semester where we all look around and say, “Oh, it’s literally due in a few days.” Perhaps I am odd for this, but I enjoy this time of the semester. I have always loved the “crunch time” that comes before feeling relieved. I remember this feeling during the Gateway project. I loved staying up late the two days leading up to the due date. It was thrilling to know that I would eventually have to say, “I have to be happy with this.” The Capstone project brings some new challenges. I am faced with not only cleaning up the loose ends of the project, but of my time as an undergraduate here at the University of Michigan. I would be lying if I said that my project is at the point where I am merely tying up any loose ends. I am definitely still writing a few pieces (please tell me I am not alone in this). But, it is nearing the end – of everything.

Thus, my challenge has been tying up the loose ends even if I have not reached that point in my progress yet. I am overthinking my writing, spending extra time on assignments, and soaking in that oh-so-loving feeling of stress. All of this is coming from realizing that my days left on this campus are numbered. However, this feeling of wanting to make the most of the lasts is actually preventing me from finishing assignments in a timely manner because a part of me doesn’t want them to end.

This feeling is similar to how I felt during my Gateway project in that I enjoyed working on the project so much that I never felt satisfied when it was “over.” However, the stakes are much higher now. I know that I will finish my Capstone and think, “Is it really over?” I will always feel like there are more loose ends that need tying-up.

Does anyone else feel this way? Or are ya’ll excited to be completely project-free?


Challenge Journal: Writing from Experience

Sometimes I feel so hesitant to write that the very thought of pulling out my laptop feels overwhelming. Other times, I feel like the words pour out of me. Today is one of those days. Perhaps my long hiatus is finally ending. All I know is that Mercury is in retrograde and I have surely felt it. (Ask me about my weekend if you are skeptical of Mercury’s strength). Anyways, today I woke up and felt inspired by the gloomy day to finally get my sh*t together.

I started writing an actual piece for the actual thing! Wow! The piece is a narrative from an experience I had two summers ago when I interned at a law firm for the first time. It’s easy to remember my emotions at that time because the event was so frustrating. I will remember it for the rest of my life. However, I found it somewhat challenging to instill this emotion into my writing. I want my readers to feel angry after reading the piece. I need them to feel the frustration that I felt. If they feel nothing after reading it, I have failed.

For some inspiration, I looked way back to a piece I wrote in English 125. The paper was about my frustration with people who don’t understand invisible disabilities. I was inspired by the hundreds of looks my family has received as we park in handicap parking and my seemingly healthy mother gets out of the car. As I re-read this piece, I recalled how fast I was typing when I wrote it. I was angry. My first draft was filled with so many typing errors because my fingers could not keep up with my thoughts. It was my first time opening up about my personal life on a piece of paper.

I think I need to channel this anger once more to achieve my current goal. While the words have been pouring out of me, I have hit a small road block in my overall delivery of the story. I want to make sure people “get it,” but I also want it to read smoothly. Perhaps I should write from my anger first and then worry about editing later.

Have you ever written a piece straight from experience? How did you infuse it with emotion?

Challenge Journal #2: Anxious & Overwhelmed

As the end of the semester creeps closer and closer, I am feeling very anxious and overwhelmed. I have adored this minor and will miss the work that it entails. However, this semester has been challenging. As I am trying to schedule strict times for myself to sit down and write, I find myself preoccupied with job interviews and other assignments. These next few weeks will be crunch time. I remember that my Gateway project was daunting in the same regard. I just need to focus my time and energy – this project matters to me. Anyone else struggling with discipline? Is this senioritis? Writer’s block? Both?

I had this problem last year during my first semester: I was preparing to study abroad and I found it hard to discipline myself and write. In my PHIL 224 class on global justice, the GSI was so strict on grading that it made writing papers a nightmare. You could no longer write a paper the day before it was due or even two days before. He made us prepare for papers a week in advance, making us write progress reports every night leading up to the paper’s due date. It was tedious but it worked. I would take 30 minutes to an hour every night before bed looking at the book we read or sketching a paper outline. I need to practice this old habit again. It definitely motivated me to just write something. I can hear Shelley’s voice in my head saying “Just write. Just do it.” And though that is some of the best advice I’ve ever received, I still struggle with the anticipation of writing. I feel paralyzed by the rut that I am in. The sketch drafts definitely helped me put pen to paper and organize my ideas. I am grateful for that. I think my stress is coming from the idea that there are only 5 weeks left to make this project come to life. I want to be proud of my work. Twyla Tharpe’s chapter on “Ruts and Grooves” reminded me that there are ways to get out of creative ruts – a bad idea doesn’t doom the entire project.

I think implementing a “progress report” structure to my writing schedule might help with feeling unprepared. What do you do to combat feeling overwhelmed and anxious?

– Anna

Challenge Journal: Picking a Project

Picking a project is hard. I’ve forgotten how much self-doubt comes with the process. I usually think of something that I want to focus on, get excited about it, and then start overthinking how well I will accomplish it. I want my capstone project to be something that I can look back on in a few years with pride. I’ve enjoyed pursuing this minor over the last three years and this project should pay some patronage to that. At the moment, I am struggling to commit to a project pitch. I would love to do something on social justice, more specifically on the way linguistics impact defendants in the courtroom. However, I fear that I am biting off more than I can chew. Should I focus on something more personal? Something more creative and less academic?

This reminds me of the same struggle I had when deciding on my Gateway project. I remember this feeling of discomfort in committing to a semester long project. Back then, I was driven by telling such a personal story. I remember that I thought about my decision for my Gateway for a while before realizing that it was something I really wanted to do. I think that is the same thing that is happening now. I need to meditate on the idea for some time before feeling truly motivated to start creating. Something that helped me last time I felt this unsure was meeting with students who shared personal stories similar to mine. More specifically, students who had ill parents. There was something about talking about the issue with people who could resonate with it that made it feel real. Perhaps that is what I need to do for the Capstone Pitch. I am hoping to meet with a linguist to chat about how language has implications in social justice. I think having this conversation will spark some inspiration.

I am feeling somewhat overwhelmed and excited by the amazing pitches I’ve heard so far. Anyone else unsure of their Capstone pitch yet?

Creative Rituals – The Blessing of Hatcher

When I was a freshman, I thought that I could write papers in the community lounge where all my friends were “doing homework” which looked a lot like watching youtube videos, playing games, and blaring music. Needless to say, I was mistaken. But, did I stop going to the lounge to write papers? No. It had become an awful ritual that never ended in productivity.

Actual image of me entering the lounge.

I realized that I had associated this room with homework even though I knew it was the worst place to do it. I went my entire freshman year spending ten hours a night in that lounge working on assignments that should have taken 30 minutes. It wasn’t until my sophomore year when I found God’s gift to this planet: Hatcher Reference Room. Finally free from the chains of freshman dorms, I was a free woman with a mission to find a place where I could actually be productive and this library was my calling. Within a week, I was going to Hatcher every day after class and on the weekends to do homework. I broke my old habit of doing assignments with friends and found that working alone was my key to success.

As a senior, I have developed a ritual of writing papers in a quiet library with no friends around me to act as distractions. However, I must admit that I do write from the comfort of my bed from time to time. I think the ritual of getting to the library is what motivates me to write. It is very similar to Tharp’s ritual of calling the cab to get to the gym. If I can get to Hatcher, I know there is a greater chance that I will be productive than if I was at home or with friends at a coffee shop.

The struggle of second semester senior year has been, surprisingly, keeping up with this ritual. After 5 semesters of perfecting this routine, I find myself less and less motivated to get to the library these days. Is this a byproduct of senioritis or does this happen to other people too? Is it possible to outgrow a ritual?



Hello my people!

I am so excited (and ready) to announce that my ePortfolio has not driven me completely mad, but has tested my patience and self-motivation. It has been a long time coming, and by long time, I mean I cranked this out in the last 2 weeks. Regardless, I am so proud of how this website turned out. I could spend hours and hours editing its appearance, but I need to just sit back and let it be. I am happy with how it looks, so I should just chill out.

This semester, I have learned more about tone and audience than I thought I would.  Going into this project, I was always unsure of what tone I was going to go with. Do I take the serious route, the funny route, or the sentimental road? It was truly conflicting and I found myself going back and forth between many ideas. When I expressed my concern to Shelley, I finally realized that I didn’t need to be constrained to a certain tone. In fact, I could pick many different tones and allow them all to stand on their own. This was refreshing and such a relief. It is once I stopped worrying about my tone, that my tone began to form. Suddenly, my pieces were falling together even if they were unique in and of themselves. I took an honest approach, one that I was unfamiliar with.

This approach gave me the liberty to say what I wanted and how I wanted. I found myself having the most fun with the blog portion of my site. This, once dreaded feature, became the home of all my reflective pieces. I feel like I will keep adding to it even after this class. Between now and capstone, I would like to continue building upon this honest approach. I think it has strengthen my writing in more ways than one. I sure have had a fun time with it.

So, welcome to my ePortfolio – “MS is a Bitch,” it has been a wild ride.

Letter to Future Gateway Students

Welcome to the best decision you’ve made in college (besides getting that one time that you ate No Thai before 9am). This minor is going to challenge you, inspire you, and introduce you to some of the best professors on campus. When I first found the MiW, I was surprised that I had never heard of it before. It’s a hidden gem here at UofM, and I cannot decide if I would want it any other way.

I felt the most challenged when due dates became suggestions and it was my job to stay on track. It is easy to let your ePortfolio sit and sit and sit and sit until it is finals week and you realize you have a shit ton of editing to do still (me currently hahaha). But, don’t worry – I am actually excited about the work I have ahead of me and that’s when you know you made the right decision to minor in Writing.

What surprised me to the most was how comfortable the learning atmosphere was. Shelley is absolutely amazing and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to take a class with her. I have heard nothing but great things about the other MiW professors, either. I am so used to professors who only teach the material and answer questions – the MiW professors are involved in your projects and care about you and what you have to say.

Here’s my practical advice: don’t be afraid to do something that makes you cringe at first. My project was very cringey to me and I second guessed my decision several times before realizing it is exactly what I wanted and needed to be doing. Take a chance on your ePortfolio and see what happens. It is easy to do themes we are comfortable with; take this class as an opportunity to find out about yourself and share your honest work with others. As much time as I spent writing and thinking of my audience, I truly think my audience inadvertently ended up being myself. This course and this minor is what you make of it; don’t let that opportunity go to waste.

If I could do this course over again, I would have started my re-mediation project sooner. RIP y’all – but thrive on the stress and excitement of creating!

Take care & write & be awkward & be forward –



Re-visiting Sullivan’s “Why I Blog”

As I blog this, I feel more of a writer than I did in the beginning of the semester, than I did last month, and than I did yesterday. I am becoming more and more passionate about this minor and what comes with it. When people ask me: why the minor in writing? I often tell them how I think it compliments my major and my career goals. But, on a real note, I just wanted to write more pieces of writing than the philosophy papers that take up space on my computer. I love my major, don’t get me wrong, but I need to be able to vent about life sometimes and still let it count towards my grade – ya feel? And it is hard to do that when you are writing about Kant and Malthus.

Anyways, I digress. I re-visited Sullivan’s “Why I Blog” and found myself, for the second time, unamused by his conclusions. I guess my reservations come from the stark differences between Sullivan’s view on writing and Didion’s and Orwell’s. Sullivan talks about blogging as if it has replaced conventional writing whereas Didion and Orwell speak to the importance of writing as an art, a mode of presentation, an outlet for expression, and a necessity to understand things around us. I think that, yes, blogging is a new platform that many of us love to navigate and utilize. I love blogging – I mean look at me now. I can write freely and carelessly and you are going to read it regardless – or maybe you won’t. Maybe you have stopped reading because you thought this was going to be another boring review of three authors. Maybe I don’t blame you.

But I have to say – I love the way Orwell and Didion express themselves in their writing and how conventional and yet unconventional each of their pieces felt. How did they achieve such a presentation? It is unbeknownst to me but I can only appreciate their work and feel inspired to follow suit.   I could analyze each other, incorporate quotes and take the time to unpack them. But you know what? I am sitting here at the library and I am surrounded by friends who have felt hell this past week and who are continuing to feel hell today and this week. I am consumed by something so much larger than Sullivan’s piece or Orwell’s piece or even Didion’s piece that I am having a hard time putting into words exactly “Why I Write.” Because right now, I feel like I need to write to understand, like Didion says, but I also need to write to practice articulating myself, like Orwell – and I am also at a loss for the words that should be at the tip of my tongue – like Sullivan suggests.

I am excited to pursue this minor even more than I was on day one. I am inspired to keep writing – through the good and the bad. I am determined to write until I physically cannot. I apologize if this blog post was scattered and lacking of gifs. I will do better next time, and the the after that, and the time after that. But today, I resonate with Didion in the fact that I am just trying to understand what the hell is going on in the world around me.