#pivot(ing) Away From The MIW

When I applied to the Sweetland Minor In Writing program at the end of my sophomore year, I was looking at the program as an opportunity to diversify my collegiate educational experiences. My favorite classes in high school were my English and Literature courses—I loved having the opportunity to read new things and to express myself creatively. And honestly, I was good at it, always at the top of my class when it came to essay writing and grammar sections. So when I came to U of M and embarked on a pre-med curriculum, I knew that I would lose that literary, writing-centric aspect of my education.

After finding out about the program through some of my endless hours of digging through the LSA Course Guide and Curriculum Guides, I thought two things: one, blogging, writing, and new-age media all sound like a neat way to put a spin on traditional writing experiences and two, a Minor In Writing will stand out on my medical school applications and differentiate me from the cookie-cutter, biology and chemistry medical school applicants. Plus, in my egotistical way of thinking, I liked the idea of being a part of an acceptance-based program here at U of M. It made me feel important, different, unique.

Now after completing the program, I can honestly say that this was an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed yet not one that ended up the way I expected it to. What I mean by that is that I came in picturing a classroom environment (in reference to the Gateway and Capstone Courses) that was dedicated towards nailing down the nitty-gritty aspects of writing. I expected that the use of blogging and new age media would be an avenue to working with things like grammar, syntax, and the ways in which to make my writing stand out from the crowd. I expected to examine different types of writing—novels, magazines, newspapers, websites, journalism, etc—and compare the different styles on how the authors reached their audience.

This is not what I got from the program. Classroom discussions were, well, that—discussions. We talked not only about writing, but about life. We talked not only about how new-age media is impacting how we and other people view the world, but also about our place in the world and what we have to offer. This did not disappoint me. Rather, I found the structure of the program to be refreshing, outside of the rigidity of my other classes. It was different because for once, I wasn’t solely analyzing other works and putting them into my own words and context. I was analyzing my works, my thoughts, and my ideology. For once, I was looking introspectively at myself and thinking about who I am and what I want from not only academia but from life. The writing assignments, like the “Why I Write” essay in Gateway or the “Evolution Essay” in Capstone, were not meant to challenge how much you could write but rather the quality of the work you produced. I really loved that—a 15 page essay often times doesn’t achieve what can be done in 4-5 pages, something that I feel like many teachers have a hard time understanding. And, perhaps best of all, I loved that I was never graded on the quality of my work. Sure, I had to complete everything adequately and up to the appropriate standards, but everything was self-motivated. I wanted to complete these assignments to the best of my ability because it was important to me—not a teacher, not for a grade, but for me. That is such a foreign concept at this school that it added yet another layer of beauty to the program itself.

Further, I never felt like the classes I had to take outside of Sweetland were a huge burden. I really only had to take four extra classes outside of what I would have had to take had I not been in the program (I would have had to take an ULWR course anyways), which always seemed like the perfect amount for an academic minor.

Where do I go from here? Well, I will be going to medical school in the fall, which is about as far away from writing as I can possibly get. That has made me appreciate what I have been able to accomplish in the Minor so much more. The Minor has been an outlet to try new things and do things that I will never have the opportunity to do so ever again. For instance, I’ve used Adobe graphic programs, created two online portfolios, and written a nearly 30-page story based in the world of Harry Potter. Never again will I be placed in such an environment that will allow me to explore these things in a safe and supportive way. From now on, my career in medicine will lead me on a road in a direction opposite of these creative outlets. I’m not upset about it—I cannot wait to be a physician, to interact with people on a daily basis and make a real impact in the lives of others—but it leaves me with a slight pang in my chest knowing that this type of environment will never be available to me ever again. Sure, I will be writing constantly as a doctor—patient notes, emails with colleagues and patients, research articles, etc—but it won’t be the same as the Minor In Writing.

Nevertheless, I know that reading and writing will continue to play a huge role in my life from here on out. Starting in fifth grade, I read the sports page of the newspaper every day before I went to school. I understand the value of reading, of thinking, of learning, and I know that writing is but one more tool in my lifelong pursuit of a healthy and active mind. Further, I have long made it my goal to write a book at some point in my life. While the next 10-20 years of my life will undoubtedly be busy with the development of my career and hopefully a family, I steadfastly maintain that at some point, you will read a book of mine at your local bookstore (if they still exist in the future!).

So, thank you to the Minor In Writing program, to Sweetland, to my teacher in both the Gateway and Capstone courses (Ray), and to all of the people I’ve met and been inspired by as a participant in this program. Adios!

Top Ten Reading List #topten

I’m a reader. I’m more of a reader than a writer. So to whittle this list down to ten of my favorite, most influential books was next to impossible. I cheated a little bit and made some of my rankings about a series, not just one book. Obviously Harry needed to go first (anyone who has heard me talk in class or read my portfolio would be shocked if I said anything else!) but the rest are a mix of books from past and present that I am deeply indebted to. The plots, the characters, the messages–all of these books have impacted me in one way or another and I’m excited to share mine with you as well as to read your lists!!

1. Harry Potter series: J.K. Rowling

2. Enders Game and Enders Shadow: Orson Scott Card

3. The Giver: Lois Lowry

4. Number The Stars: Lois Lowry

5. Game of Thrones series: George R.R. Martin

6. A Lesson Before Dying: Ernest J. Gaines

7. Life of Pi: Yann Martel

8. Sherlock Holmes: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

9. To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee

10. Kenny and The Little Kickers: Claduio Marzollo

Posting About Publishing

I just returned from attending a panel from the Voices of the Middle West conference hosted by the Residential College and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies. I really didn’t know what to expect from the event held in East Quad but was pleasantly surprised to walk into the atrium and find a book fair with tons of interesting looking books and, of more critical importance, bagels and coffee! Together with my classmate Benji Shanus, we went to a Student Publication Panel session where student editors and publishers from various student-run publications answered a variety of questions about their roles as publishers and their background on how they got there. While I have no real interest in ever entering the world of publishing and editing (though I do think it would be fun), I did learn a lot about the process and about some different publications available on campus. For instance, there were representatives from the LHSP Arts and Literary Journal and the RC Review, among others.

Each journal has a different mission with different histories/goals, but each editor reiterated how inspired they were by the student submissions that they review and edit every year. They all maintained that while their work is varied and demanding, including a lot of marketing, advertising, funding, and designing, their publishing work has allowed them to experience a more diverse set of opportunities and perspectives. Their editing work has also seeped into their own writing, inspiring them to find their own unique verse and live up to the exceptional work of the submissions they receive.

In all, this was simply another opportunity provided by the MIW program to experience things I wold never have even considered doing had I not been a Minor. I am glad I went and I definitely learned a lot about some cool art and writing groups on campus.

Workshopping Works #RayRay

A couple of quick thoughts…

Today’s discussion and some of the peer reviews I’ve gotten have been really helpful for my project in terms of both the introduction that I presented to the class and the direction that I need to take for the project itself. It seemed like everybody had fun talking about Harry Potter—I mean come on, who wouldn’t?! However, that also gives me slight anxiety about the fact that I have a lot to live up to. I don’t want to disappoint people who are expecting this amazing creative piece from me, so I guess I have to live up to those expectations and work my butt off over the next month or so! One of the best pieces of advice I got today was that I need to write this exactly how I want to do it. In any piece of artwork, whether it is a drawing, painting, film, novel, anything, there are always going to be critics. I do struggle sometimes with not wanting to let people down, but I think I have to keep in mind throughout this process is that I can’t please everyone. People are interested in what I have to say, not what they expect me to say.

There was some hostility in the room on whether my current approach—writing as if I were a “Muggle” who stumbles upon the scene where Lord Voldemort is being resurrected—is the correct way to do it, or whether I should be myself within the story itself (i.e. a Healer at St. Mungo’s when Arthur Weasley is brought in after his snake bite). The thing that stood out to me, and something that I had never thought of, is that being a “Muggle” inherently forces me to lose a lot of the context about the magical world I’m describing. This definitely is a challenge and is something I’m going to have to work through in order to appease the readers imagination.

I think the mission now is just to dig in and start writing. I have never written anything of this magnitude nor as imaginative/fictional as this project is about to be. And truthfully, thinking about that fact stresses me out. The only way to combat this is to dive right in and just start writing. I have a feeling that through the process of writing it, I will learn more about myself as a writer and how I want the story to go than to just sit there and think about it.

Thanks again for all of your help everyone!! Y’all rock.

Ummm, about these micro-assignments…#RayRay

I’m going to come out and state the obvious…I’m writing this blog post as a way to get points. There, I said it.

I’m putting that out there because I have spent the past day doing everything I can to rack up some points before we head for spring break. I did, by my count, four micro-assignments to snag some points, with the intention to do a couple more tomorrow.

My intention is not to make you feel bad that you aren’t doing this either; rather, I want to say that I AM STILL SO STRESSED OUT ABOUT THE POINTS WE NEED FOR THIS CLASS. I literally spent hours today doing these assignments for, what, maybe 100 points? For 1/20th of the grade I need to earn an A?

I know the goal of this class, and the Minor, is to not worry about grades as much and focus more on the writing process, on stimulating yourself as a writer and thinker, on engaging in different forms of media, but I can’t help it. I have academic goals (GPA, graduation honors, etc) that I don’t want to miss out on by not completing these micro-assignments that are staring me in the face. Yet I feel like I am ignoring the more important things for the class–the Evolution Essay, building out my portfolio, the Capstone Project–to focus on gaining points with micro-assignments that aren’t always applicable to my project. I’m trying to strike the correct balance between the two, but it just seems like I wasted a day that could have been spent perfecting my Evolution Essay or even getting a head start on my project.  And, with just about a month left after spring break and before everything is due, I am feeling increasingly panicked about not getting the # of points I need for an A. I want an A in the class AND to produce outstanding work, but I’m really struggling to make it work.

I know we talked about it in class, but is anybody else feeling this way? Any suggestions on how to make me feel better about myself?

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Seeing Me For Who I Am and Project References #RayRay

Connecting this (me)…

-I like to observe everything before reacting, careful to make my one and only shot count.

-I’m anxious for others to know my name but am constantly toeing the line between self-promotion and being humble

I’m like the lion roaring in the distance, hoping to scare others off before they encroach on my territory.

-I don’t want to let other people down, only showing my good side without letting on to the ugliness that’s just a turn of the cheek away.

-I preach patience yet am easily frustrated when success doesn’t come as quickly as I would like.

-I would rather turn away from a meaningless debate than engage in an argument to prove my point.

-I enjoy listening to others; I live in my own head 24/7—its nice to hear from others

With this (my project)…

-Harry Potter 1-7

-Sons of Anarchy

-The Truman Show

-Game of Thrones

-Psychology Textbooks (don’t know specifically which ones)

-Dan Brown novels

-Call of Duty

-Scrubs

-Twitter/Facebook

What does it mean?

Honestly, I don’t really know…yet. My project–writing myself into the world of Harry Potter as if I were living in it–speaks to the project references in the sense that many of them revolve around seeing things from a certain point of view. Whether you are Robert Langdon in Dan Brown novels or scrolling through social media, you see things from different perspectives, things that ultimately end up influencing how you experience something. The qualities listed above, I guess, are things that I will try to emote during my writing of the project in order to get the readers to see things from my perspective.

Is a Project Idea Finally Starting To Emerge? #RayRay

Sup y’all,

Since I know you are all sitting at the edge of your seat, waiting for me to reveal what my final project is going to be, here is the big revelation! Drumroll, please…

First, a brief recap of how I came to this point. My project revolve around the fascination I’ve had since a child with diving completely and totally into books, TV shows, movies, etc. When I read a book, I disappear into the mind, characters, and setting of that alternative world. Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl…I love being in those imaginary worlds. When I watch a TV show, I read every blog I can about it, read every TV recap, picture how I would react to those characters…you get the point. So I wanted to do something to explore this disappearance into different universes, a phenomenon that psychologists call Escapism.

My big concern was that I didn’t want my project to focus on the psychology of Escapism. More research, more boring prose? Yuck. So I’ve been thinking about  how to be creative with this overwhelming idea, and here it is (now, the drumroll has reached a crescendo…)

I’m going to write a chapter (or more) of Harry Potter as if I were in the book! Picture yourself sitting at the Ravenclaw table in the Great Hall, listening to Dumbledore give an impassioned speech about Harry’s heroism in thwarting Voldemort from the Sorcerers Stone…what are you thinking? Jealous? Wishing Hermione would be hugging you, not Harry? Mad that Dumbledore clearly shows favoritism towards the Gryffindors? Relieved that Harry is your classmates and saved your school from epic chaos?

I don’t know yet if I’m going to write my own perspective (i.e. am I a student at Hogwarts?) or from the perspective of a random student J.K Rowling has created but the story isn’t focused on he/she(i.e. what is Cedric Diggory thinking as he goes through the maze in the Goblet of Fire?). Any suggestions? What do you guys think about this idea? How can I incorporate media into the project?

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McDonalds? More like McWriting! #rayray

I’m joining the chorus of Minors blogging about Professor Maria Cotera’s Writer to Writer presentation at the Literati book store in downtown Ann Arbor. The first thing I want to say is that I am really happy I went for the sole reason that I got to experience a venue and an event that I will probably never visit again. By that I mean that if I weren’t in the Minor in Writing program, I would have had no interest, motivation, or idea that event like this was happening at a bookstore on a random Thursday night. Not only does the Minor give you the opportunity to explore yourself through our class assignments, but also to seek out new ways to widen your scope of the local writing community. I went to a reading for Ray’s book during the Gateway Course ([PIKA!]) at the Vault of Midnight comic book store, so the Minor has exposed me to events and places I had no idea even existed. So, thanks Sweetland and the MIW program!

Now to Professor Cotera’s presentation. Everybody else on the blog has talked about Professor Cotera’s message on being passionate about what you’re writing about. I couldn’t agree more with what she and everybody else has said–being passionate about what you are doing, whether it is your writing, your career, your hobby, or your social life, is of the utmost importance. How can you expect people to read your writing when you wouldn’t want to read it yourself?

However, I want to blog about something different. She talked a lot about her mother and how she learned to love the writing process by watching her mother write at McDonald’s on scratch paper. She then proceeded to talk about how some of the best writing nowadays is happening on blogs–more blogging=more writing, and as she said, writing a lot is the best way to become a good writer. Ray then asked the question about whether Professor Cotera missed anything about the era where people were writing on scratch paper and napkins instead of blogs and the Internet. I’ve thought about the same question myself before because I constantly find myself distracted when I type on my computer. With ESPN, Buzzfeed, and Twitter just a click away, I often find myself procrastinating when my writing stalls or the going gets tough. These moments are crucial to a writer; as Professor Cotera says, when things aren’t making sense, when you feel like you are stuck, that is when you will really start figuring out the direction your writing is going. Sometimes I think it would be simpler just to have you, a pen, paper, some light, and your thoughts (yes, I know I can do this nowadays too. But with endless distractions and the craziness that is college life, as well as the fact that most assignments are due online/via electronic word processors, I often find it challenging to find self-restraint when I work on a computer).

So, I’m wondering if anybody else has these same thoughts. Do you think writing would be better or worse if you could just write all of your assignments with pen and paper? Like Professor Cotera’s mom, do you have a  “McDonalds” that you consider your personal safe haven for writing? How do you deal with the inevitable distractions of working on a laptop, computer, iPad, etc? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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An Intimidating Idea (What hashtag are we using?!)

Hey y’all,

First off, we need to have a slogan/hashtag/symbol to signify which of our posts are coming from our class. Our Gateway Course used [Pika] as in Pikachu, but we definitely shouldn’t do the same thing…this is a new class and a new year! Perhaps we should do #Raichu? (that is what Pikachu evolves into when exposed to the Thunder Stone–don’t worry, I didn’t know that off the top of my head…I swear!). Just an idea.

Anyways, I’m experiencing some #projectanxiety as I think about the project idea that I have floating around in my head. It’s not because I’m not interested in the topic or don’t think I can produce something unique out of it, but because it is much more abstract than the writing I am more comfortable doing.

To keep a long story short, I love Harry Potter. In middle school and high school, I read each book at least 5 times, no exaggeration. Every time my parents would see me reading the books, they asked me why I was doing it for the millionth time. And I had no good explanation. Why did I continue to want to escape into this alternative world despite knowing exactly what was going to happen in every chapter of every book. The same is true for TV shows…even though I’ve seen every episode of Scrubs at least twice, I can’t help watching and imagining myself in JD, Turk, Carla, and Dr. Cox’s world. Why do I do this? Am I simply escaping from my own boring world (at least in comparison to Harry and JD), or is there more to it. Ray pointed out that there is a psychological phenomenon called Escapism that more or less addresses this exact topic. My project, as I see it now, is going to use myself as a case study to examine this phenomenon and delve into my own theoretical perspectives on whether or not my personal experiences mirror escapism directly or if there is more to this phenomena that meets the eye.

However, being theoretical ain’t my thing! That’s why I’m intimidated about this project idea. It has potential, but its very new and very different than what I’m used to.

I definitely think it’s going to be interesting to explore yet I have no idea what the final form will look like. Any suggestions for me? I’m all ears!

Missing My [Pika!] Mates

Long time no write.  It’s been over two months since the end of last semester (aka the end of Writing 200 aka the end of one of my favorite classes of all time), and something seems to be lacking.  Sure, I’m taking some enjoyable classes, and sure, I’m in an Upper Level Writing class, but there was something unique about Writing 200 that has left my semester unfulfilled.  The talking, the sharing, the joking, the weirdness, and the uniqueness of all of my classmates created a diverse environment that made waking up early (okay, 10:00 am wasn’t THAT early) bearable.

But, I’m not going to sit here and wallow in my sorrows. I’ve tried to stay involved in Sweetland this semester, but that’s been a challenge considering the time I’ve been spending studying and preparing for the MCAT in May (AHHH!!!).  I can say for certain that I’ve taken some of the skills I learned in Writing 200 and transferred them  to my other classes.  The most important skill has undoubtedly been the recognition of my audience; whereas I used to dread writing scientific papers, I’ve now come to accept the rigidness and appreciate its feasibility in promoting scientific understanding.  While I do miss the introspective thinking that “Why I Write” required and the creativity that our WordPress accounts necessitated, I take solace in the fact that we will be revisiting these projects in the Capstone course next year.

So, there is my life update.  I hope all of my fellow Pika classmates are doing well and I look forward to hearing how all of you guys are faring without the Gateway Course in your lives!

My Life=Not So Fun