I think that the Gateway course to the MiW was one of the best classes I have taken this semester, and so far at Michigan. It was really challenging in a lot of ways; having no strict guidelines or prompts was frustrating at times. Yet, it was also an amazing experience to have the time and the guidance to work on a project that I was passionate about and had ideas for, in the way that I wanted to do it. I agree with what Jason said in an early blog post, that my favorite part about the class was actually answering the attendance questions at the beginning of every class. It made me think a lot about myself and learn a lot about everyone else. Overall, it was a great semester!
When I was in elementary school my grandmother, who taught me the word “idiot” at the age of 5, taught me the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Sound familiar?
I thought it was true for the longest time. Until words began to rip me apart from the inside out. It’s true that words leave no physical damage in their wake, but they leave emotional scaring that can last a life time. So now, unlike my younger 10 year old self, the saying goes more like this, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can almost kill me.” As a reminder to myself (and others) that we should be mindful of the words we speak because they can uplift or absolutely destroy other people.
When this prompt was given to us as an assignment, I was really excited about it! I love reading the news and I especially love reading the same news stories in lots of different venues to get better perspectives. I thought that this assignment would probably be fairly similar to that. I think, however, that the majority of people read their news online and what threw me off from the very beginning was picking an author from a print publication, one that is rather obscure as well. When I tried to track her, I found myself in the depths of British tabloid magazines like The Daily Mirror and The Daily Mail (help). This is definitely not where I wanted to be in order to find good, quality writers. Yet, even when I switched tracks and started to follow a publication that Jia Tolentino had once written in, I found myself in a somewhat similar situation, the writing I was coming across wasn’t what I was hoping for. Maybe I came at this assignment from a completely wrong angel, or maybe I just had the wrong expectations, but I really struggled with it.
I struggled with this assignment- much of the time, I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right. I started out tracking an author that is no longer producing new work (Joan Didion), which made it hard to get comfortable with the assignment. I wasn’t a fan of it at first, as it was unclear to me what the end goal was and exactly what we were looking for.
Moving to Vinson Cunningham was a step in the right direction. He is published frequently enough in the New Yorker that I always had new content to read. His works often involve sports culture, which is different than what I typically choose to read but still enjoyable to track. I’d like to continue reading his works in the future, especially if he publishes a longer work that would make it easier to familiarize myself with his style. Both style and venue might develop as he gains more seniority at the New Yorker.
I was extremely apprehensive when I heard that this was going to be an experimental course with no focus on grades. I think we all were- we have been programmed to create work that will receive satisfactory grades, not to create work that teaches us something new about ourselves. Upon reflection, this was incredibly helpful for my development as a writer.
It would be hard describe this course to someone else because the experience is different for everyone. Even when talking to the other members of my cohort, we completed our projects with completely different timelines and goals in mind. My advice to someone taking the course would be to do your work ahead of time. I often fell behind which caused me to rush. I think that some of my works could have been higher quality had I given myself more time to review and revise.
I’m incredibly happy with my final project and its potential to be a work in progress in the future. Although I don’t know what to expect from it, I’m looking forward to the capstone course because I’ll be able to come in with an open mind and will hopefully take my own advice to get my work done ahead of time.
Next semester, I will be taking Academic Argumentation as my next portion of the minor. I am a bit anxious about this, as I haven’t taken a true English class since freshman year Great Books, which was an experience that I hope to forget. I really don’t know what to expect from this class, but I know that after finishing the gateway I will be able to adapt to just about anything. I expect this class to align well with my preferences as a writer. I hope to finish the semester with sharpened organization skills, as this is something that I could really use to my benefit.
I have been really surprised by the gateway course this semester! It’s been a lot different from what I expected it would be. I expected that it would be a lot more writing than it actually was. I think it’s been really beneficial to experiment with doing similar projects in varying formats and transforming them for different audiences. It’s been really neat to see how I can take a piece and make it into something seemingly unrelated – this seems like a practical skill to have moving forward as a writer because it’s a valuable skill to be able to send the same or similar messages to varying audiences and in varying formats.
So, most of you guys got to meet my dog, Rachi. And I know I’m biased, but she’s pretty much the cutest dog ever! And I just wanted to say that it was totally awesome to have an entire semester of writing that was centered around/based off of an essay I wrote about adopting her in 2013. She’s pretty pleased with it too.
I literally hated the author tracking project. I am not really sure if I even did it “right” but I didn’t really find it to be helpful or applicable to my experiments or projects. It was interesting to start forming that map I guess, but overall I found it to be time consuming, frustrating, and it didn’t yield fruitful results in terms of relating to my experiments or final project.
I really liked the challenge the course presented of doing 3 varying experiments and then choosing a final project to carry through to completion. However, I do wish that there had been a bit more written out material – instructions, hard deadlines, expectations, etc. I found it difficult to know what was expected of us at the end of each experiment deadline. Aside from that, I found the way the course was laid out to be very beneficial and more thought provoking than previous writing courses I’ve taken.