Welcome to my Mind, Also Known as my ePortfolio

Seeing all of the sample ePortfolios throughout the semester was interesting and inspiring, but I honestly did not really understand the importance of the ePortfolio until I created my own. I understood that the ePortfolios would all be different and customized to everyone’s completely unique and individualized pieces, purposes, and experiences, but I guess I did not really realize how special it could be, or what I would learn about myself during the process of creating it. I knew that at the end of the road, I would have a unique work that I could share with anyone I choose, but I cannot even believe what I have created; I have created a visual database of my mind. As I scroll through the pages, I have a real, tangible experience of moving through my brain, and finding clarity in my thoughts, my experiences, and my life. This makes sense, since all of my projects are centered around the idea of mindful practices and peace of mind, but it is crazy to look at all of these things and think, I created this. I have created something truly special, and no one else could have done it this way. This all came from within me.

This is what learning is supposed to be like in college; this is learning that exists not only inside the classroom, and not only outside the classroom, but also in your mind and your soul. Thank you, Sweetland Center for Writing, for this incredibly special experience, and for creating the next Buddha out of me. To be continued…

ePortfolio

Introducing my ePortfolio

After a long semester of hard work and strenuous editing, my ePortfolio has finally arrived. It was certainly a long process getting to this point but what a rewarding journey it was. I walked into the Minor in Writing hoping to find a conveniently placed haven right in the middle of my school day, a time for me to be alone with myself on paper. I found that haven and more. For the first time since I’ve truly enjoyed writing I began to workshop my pieces with other people. As we grew attached to each other’s work, it made it easier to ask for feedback in order to make my writing the best it could be.

In the simplest of ways, I have grown this semester because I can now comfortably call myself a writer. I officially study writing in school and therefore by default I am in fact a writer. It took me some time to become one with this identifier but now that I have, I fully embrace all that it implies.

Between now and the capstone, I hope to grow the narrative I created with my re-purposing piece. Perhaps maybe I’ll even find myself with a small collection of essays that can be packaged together. I want to explore submitting my work from Gateway to other publications.

So here we are, the end of the semester.  I find myself on the cusp of a new reality as I prepare to study in the UK for the next six months. On my travels I hope to keep extensive records by way of blogging. Maybe I’ll even add a blog feed to my ePortfolio.

All in all I’m beyond proud of what I’ve created.

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An ePortfolio is Born!

Whew! It was a lot of work pushing that thing out. The past few months have been tiresome and grueling. I was sleep deprived, my moods were all over the place and oh my god, the amount of times I got up to pee…insane. What? No, I wasn’t pregnant! I was birthing an ePortfolio! I worked on it into the late hours of the night (hence the sleep deprivation), I kept changing my mind about the direction I was going (hence the mood swings), and I functioned on copious amounts of coffee (hence the peeing). This project has become in a sense my newborn child. I read chapters on the best techniques and methods to create it, I nurtured it through the beginning stages of life, and I tried my best to teach it my values.

So here it is. I hope it gives a sense of who I am as a writer and that people enjoy reading it, but if not that’s ok, because I enjoyed making it. As a first time parent to an online portfolio, I’ve learned a lot. This thing was hard work! But, I think one of the biggest ways I’ve grown as a writer this semester is that I started to think about the bigger picture. Most other writing intensive classes I’ve been a part of have never required me to write for an audience outside of the classroom. This class forced me to do exactly the opposite of that. For the first time I got to think about what I wanted to write, why I wanted to write it, and for whom. I realized I’m much better at writing to other people (for example in the form of letters or a blog post) than I am at writing to or for myself.

Something I want to work on between now and the capstone is exactly that–writing for myself. I thought I could try doing it in the form of creative fiction. This is a genre I really love and want to explore more, but the direction I chose for the gateway took me inward to a place of self-reflection. I think it would be beneficial to expand my writing skills by working in genres I am less comfortable in. I really enjoyed the creative fiction class I took my freshman year and want to revisit the exercises and assignments I did for it. One of the outside artifacts I included in my ePortfolio was actually a short story from that class. It wasn’t necessarily going to win any awards, but I liked it, because it was the first piece of writing I had created purely from my imagination. Yes, imagination plays a part in all writing as does creativity, but fiction takes it a step further. The gateway course taught me how to write for audiences outside of the classroom and now I want to write for audiences outside of the classroom without being forced to do so.

I’ll get back to you on how that goes…

 

 

ePortfolio Introduction

I feel like I’ve grown in more ways than just as a writer this semester. But in terms of the writing itself, I have learned to view writing as a creative endeavor rather than as an academic task. This class is structured to take you through a complete and intensive creative process, and once I threw myself into that process, my work went from an assignment to an artwork. Learning to embrace the process was the biggest way that I grew as a writer this semester. More than that, I even came to enjoy the process by the end. I hope my passion for the projects are apparent in the ePortfolio, which you can view by clicking on the homepage at the bottom on this post.

During this class, I have expanded my communicative arsenal. In addition to improving my ability to express myself through writing, I also began to learn how to express myself through pictures, speech, and design. Between now and the capstone course, I want to continue to build on these multimodal skills. I will certainly continue to write, but I will try to challenge myself by taking pictures, speaking, and designing. Furthermore, when I see images and designs, I will think about the choices behind them and why they’re significant. I look forward to coming into the Capstone course for another challenging, engaging, and creative experience!

 

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Letter to Future Gateway Students

Dear Future Gateway Student,

Words don’t seem to be coming quickly to me right now. I’m not surprised—it’s finals season and I have been in a robotic work flow for the past few days. Writing this post forces me to be a person again. I guess that’s one thing I’ve learned from this course, that writing really forces it out of you. The “it” may be different for you, but for me it represents a commitment to my thoughts, even when I’m not sure where they are going or if they are valuable. The gateway course taught me that even a seemingly silly, insignificant, or boring string of words is worth writing. That’s what a shitty first draft is for. We talked a lot about the “shitty first draft” in here, which, in all honestly, I am skeptical of. I found myself writing some shitty first drafts in this class, which made those drafts hard to revisit. This became the biggest challenge for me. My shitty first drafts didn’t seem to help my progress, but they made me feel stuck. I felt like there was little hope for them to go from shitty drafts to good drafts. This fear paralyzed me. So, future gateway student, keep in mind that once you write and submit the shitty first draft, you’ll have to read and revise it. It might be painful.

We pretty much have one project that we work with the whole year, which begins with the repurposing project. Choose your initial piece wisely. I chose a personal essay that I hated. In fact, I brought it in the first or second class as an example of something I’ve written and don’t like. Why did I chose it to stick with the whole semester? I thought it would be a challenge that I would grow from. I was determined to turn it into a piece of writing that I felt proud of. Well, it’s the last day of class and I don’t feel that way at all, so if I could go back to the beginning of the course I would’ve chosen differently. Even though I know that choosing to challenge yourself is a good thing. So do that, future gateway student: challenge yourself! But keep in mind that there are no guarantees. You may write a shitty first draft and you may leave with a shitty final draft. Hopefully that’s not the case for you. But that was what surprised me about this course most. I thought I would feel great about writing as the semester wrapped up, but I don’t. I won’t give up on writing. I’m not going to drop the minor. But this class was a reminder that good writing doesn’t just happen. I used to think that I could magically become a great writer, but writing is just like anything else that takes practice and time. So don’t expect to come out of this class as a freshly inspired young writer. Maybe you will, which would be great. It seems like a lot of my peers feel that way. But you might, like me, find out more about what you’re not so great at. You might, like me, realize that there’s a lot more work to put in.

Good luck!

Annie

Letter to Future Gateway Students

Dear Future Gateway Students,

First, I want to say congratulations on being accepted into the Minor in Writing! You have made a great choice to pursue your passion for and interest in writing. If you breathe writing, sleep with your journal under your pillow, or dream of having a career as a writer, great. If you have only written when you are told to for a class, struggle tremendously with starting an essay every time you try, and don’t really know much about writing in general, even greater. The Gateway course will help you explore what writing means to you, and give you time to be the kind of writer that feels most natural. It is a time for learning, reflecting, and growing as a writer– all of which you get to do with an awesome teacher and a group of talented classmates who are there with you on your journey.

After taking this course, I have learned that I worry a lot more about being “perfect” the first time I sit down to write than I should. Whether it be a short answer to a question, a blog post, or a full-blown essay, I used to be so concerned with getting it exactly right on the first try. However, one of the biggest takeaways that I have from this course is that an imperfect draft is key. Nothing you write should be perfect the first time, because it is through the first draft that you learn exactly what you want to write and how you feel about what you are writing. The first draft is not all about producing something you are proud of and immediately feel satisfied with. It is about giving yourself something to work with, figuring out what’s in your head, and then going from there. It’s only a starting point.

During the course, I felt the most challenged when it came time to decide on a piece to re-purpose. I was between two pieces that were very different– one was about a dance teacher who pushed me to work hard through tough love, and the other was about a special place in Canada that I go to every summer with my family. I really had no idea which to choose, because I knew that each would take me in a different direction. However, with the help of my blog group and teacher, Shelley, I took a leap and decided on the one that seemed to speak to me the most.

I am most surprised at the progress we all have made during the course. We started writing short, brief answers to questions and blog posts, and have since then been able to develop three separate major projects that make up our ePortfolio. I was quite overwhelmed when I learned about everything that this course would require us to do, but since we took it step by step, it was manageable. I am also surprised at how close I have gotten with my blog group and how helpful they have been. I have never had such a successful, cohesive group in a class before, and am thankful for them.

Some practical advice now… First, stay on top of your assignments during the course. You will learn that everything you do contributes to the final projects in the end, so you will be thankful that you completed everything on time and with thought. Also, take advantage of your blog group. Be honest about what you are struggling with, concerned with, or have questions about.

If I was starting the course over again, I would try writing the re-purposing version of both pieces I was considering. I still wonder how my piece about the dance teacher would have turned out. However, I am happy with the way my project has turned out, and will keep my other topic idea in mind for future writing projects.

What is so special about this course is that it allows you to uncover what is truly in your heart and mind as a writer. You will realize through this course that much of the writing that has happened so far in your college career has not allowed much room for creativity or exploration. In this class, you have time to write and worry and change and think and change again. This course is for you, as a writer. That is, the kind of writer that you are, and not the kind that anyone else requires you to be.

Enjoy it!

Sincerely,

Melony

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

First welcome, and congratulations on getting the chance to be a part of one of the more unique porgrams at Michigan. I started my journey with the gateway course during the fall 2016 semester and would like to tell you a little about my experience in the class.

One of my biggest takeaways was the importance of getting words on the page. This class stresses the importance of shitty first drafts and now I understand why. This mindset makes writing infinitely less daugnting becuase once I have words on the page I feel like I can go anywhere from there.

I was suprised by the freedom this class gave me and every other writer. I love sports, they are so important to me, but I never get to write about them for any of my clases. But in this class I was not only given the opportunity to write about sports, but was also encouraged to do so. So another quick piece of advice is to write about what you want, because in this class you can.

What has been the most challening, but also very interesting was playing around with different mediums for the remidiation project and created the website for the E-Portfolio. I made a podcast for my remediating and I was suprised with how much work doing a podcast was. I had to learn how to create an entire podcast from nothing, and that wasn’t easy or quick.

A piece of advice I have to all of you is to stay on top of your work. This class in different because there are not really set in stone deadline throughtout the year, but instead one big deadline at the end of the semester. This makes it easy to fall behind, so I emplore you to stay on top of your work and meet with Shelley whenever you can. I always found meeting with Shelley very helpful for my projects, and very claming for myself about anxietes about the class.

I think if I was going to do one thing differently I would have tried to get to know my peers better. Blog groups were great, they were the people you could lean on and look to, but besides them I didn’t branch out as much as I would have liked to. I say this not only because the people in the minor are all fantastic and incredibly smart, but also because they are the same writers I will be having classes with for the rest of my time at Michigan.

You guys are smart people, you’re going to do great in the minor, you don’t need anymore practical advice so I will leave you with this. All the problems in your life stem from you not drinking enough water.

-Good Luck Fam

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.

Advice For the Future

We cannot control or predict everything; in fact, things often turn out to be the complete opposite of what we might think they will be at the beginning. I wish I had realized and accepted this earlier, because I think my biggest setback was that I was trying so hard to envision the final product, that I allowed that vision to dominate and control the direction of my projects, even when my writing was telling me something different. Throughout this denial or confusion or whatever you want to call it, I learned that it really is okay to panic. It is okay to be lost and confused and feel like you have no idea what you are trying to say or accomplish or who you are trying to be. Something I have always liked about myself is that I am a planner – I am always the first to step up to organize an event and make sure that every plan is executed smoothly and properly – and I have always thought about my writing as a place where my planning excels, and my collection of messy and clean outlines has rarely failed me. However, writing is also a place where you just need to go with the flow; sometimes, words on paper can say something completely different than whatever was happening in your mind when you first picked up the pen. Nothing is ever what you think it will be when you first begin to plan, and trying to fit your writing to your original plan instead of allowing your plan to change is the biggest mistake you can make. This semester, it was the biggest mistake I made. But, it’s not too late. It’s never too late to allow yourself to change.