Letter to Future Gateway Students

For me, what I took from this course is that the ability to share with each other what they feel and believe, and why, is one of our greatest strengths as students at the University of Michigan. I learned this from my growing relationship with my blog group. Meeting two strangers from different colleges, hometowns, friend groups, and even campuses (North Campus is better than the best ever!!!) can be really intimidating. Having to critique these people, and receive critiques, is even more daunting.

But the thoughts of “what will they think of me writing this” or “will I sound mean with this criticism of their work” or even “do I sound sarcastic here by saying I really like this part of their piece” melt away when you read their thoughts on the some trivial and many personal matters and find that you can relate. Suddenly, you will know a responsibility within your group to review honestly, thinking of ideas for their pieces as you would your own, because the people who you once saw as strangers become human to you. You even care that others see the ingenuity in them that you do; if their ideas changed your way of thinking, why not make sure that the next reader is even better off from discovering their piece? Because of my blog group, I will never look at Roman History or the word “Lemon” the same again, and I hope none of their other readers do either.

Letter to Future Gateway Students

Dear Future Gateway Students,

Congratulations! You’ve made (or will make) a great choice.

I’m not sure that I can pinpoint one specific takeaway that I have from this course because there have been so many. For me, the one word that comes to mind is growth. I feel like I’ve grown as a writer, student, thinker, and collaborator. Specifically, my creative process has really grown and developed during this course. I used to dread editing, workshopping, etc., but I really fed off the energy of my peers in the Gateway Course. I would suggest coming into this class (and this entire program) with no expectations. The course is really well structured so that the creative/writing process takes over, and resisting that would have been a mistake.

The most challenging part of this course for me was learning to express myself in different forms. I had grown comfortable with writing essays, but through the remediation and ePortfolio, I had to learn to articulate myself in other ways. There was a lot of trial and error, frustration, and working through obstacles, but I worked through it so that I am proud of my work in the end.

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From the very first day of class, there was an open and welcoming environment created in the classroom. Most teachers say that everyone should feel free to share their thoughts, but in this class, that sentiment actually turned to reality. It’s hard to capture that sort of environment at a huge university like Michigan, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a classroom that was totally open, but the Gateway Course made it happen.

I feel like I spent 3X as much time on this class than I did on any of my other classes this semester. That was partly because it was fun and I was passionate about the work, but it was also because it is a demanding course that requires lots of time and energy. If you’re an incoming Minor in Writing student, I would advise staying organized from the very beginning. Plan out your process for different projects and start early. If not, they can have a tendency to pile up on each other and make you feel overwhelmed. The best writing is done with a clear mind and a free imagination, which stress can compromise. So I would suggest trying to space out the work to give yourself the freedom and time to write at your best.

If I were to start all over again, I would have spent more time looking at my peers’ work. I became close with my blog group which consisted of four students, but I was not as familiar with the rest of the class’s work as I wanted to be. Whenever I did come across another student’s work, I always learned something from it. Because learning from your peers is such a huge advantage in this course, I would have tried more actively to seek out their work.

This course is an adventure. As a Gateway student, you learn a lot of new concepts, and work on a lot of projects that you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with. While this can be stressful or daunting, I would just say to embrace the spirit of this course because it will absolutely be worth it. This has been the most rewarding class that I’ve ever taken at Michigan, and I feel like my thinking has been pushed by my peers in this class more than any other class I’ve taken here. If you focus on learning from others, delving into your most creative self, and participating in the environment of the classroom, you will do meaningful work and create something that you will be extremely proud of in the end.

Sincerely,

Jon

 

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A Letter to Future Gateway Students

Dear Future Gateway Students,

Don’t be scared. This class is fun! You get to hang out with interesting people who think interesting things and then you get to write about whatever you want…guided by prompts of course ;).

Maybe you’re not scared like I was, maybe you’re just excited. If this is you, that’s great! If this isn’t you, then keep reading (but also keep reading even if this isn’t you, because maybe I’ll still have relevant advice). When I went to orientation for this class and saw the finished ePortfolios of the students before me, I was both amazed and scared. Amazed at how professional their work looked and scared that I had to climb such a high mountain. But here’s a piece of advice. Don’t be scared or nervous or worried, because those feelings stifle creativity and the important thing to remember is that your final ePortfolios won’t happen over night. They’ll happen over the course of the entire semester and your instructor will space individual parts out along the way so by the end of the class, you have the bulk of everything you need.

Here’s another piece of advice. Don’t limit yourself. If I could go back to the beginning of the class when we were brainstorming ideas for our first project, I would tell myself to think outside the box and then think outside of that box and even that box, because there are so many interesting and different things you can do with this project. At the same time, be slow. Be slow? That’s not something you hear often, but I mean it. You don’t have to go with the first idea that pops into your head. I took over a month to even decide on my overall topic and even still changed the genre of my piece after writing the first draft.

The re-purposing project will seem daunting, because you have this assignment that basically sets the tone for the rest of your assignments for that semester. But remember this. You can re-purpose anything! It doesn’t have to be an academic essay or creative fiction. Seriously, you could re-purpose a grocery list if you think about it long enough. Whose grocery list is it? What are they shopping for? Do they even need groceries or are they trying to take their minds off of something? See what I did there? The possibilities are endless.

Maybe you don’t even quite understand all of the pieces of advice I’m giving you yet and that’s ok. Once you start the class things will start to fall in place and hopefully something I’ve said here will help you even just a little bit. The last thing I’ll say, is pick a topic that is dear to your heart, because it will be hard to last the entire semester if you choose something you’re not passionate about.

Good luck!

Brenna

P.S. The final results of your ePortfolio will blow your mind and it will be a source of great satisfaction and accomplishment that you can show to potential employers, family members or whomever you want. So, going into Writing 220, know that the work you do there is going toward something useful and important.

 

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 –

 

Anna

A Letter to Future Gateway Students

Future Gateway Student,

Breathe.

You are certainly not a number to the Minor in Writing. You are you, and the gateway class will help you explore whomever you believe you are..

The journey you are about experience will be one of the most informative of your college career so far. The writing minor gateway class is unlike any of your other classes. There is no cramming, no memorization, no true target. It is exclusively up to  you how this class will academically service you. You merely need to show up and involve yourself in the daily discourse to  jump into the deep end. Try not to skip the readings ~ they are the heart of self improvement in this course as you may soon realize some of the greatest writers have a lot in common with you.

What is writing? Why do you write? What is good writing? Does good writing exist? Do not worry about the bigger questions. Just write. Struggling to make the first blog post? Just let the words flow. Afraid to speak during the first conversation about an article? Just let the words flow. Unsure where you want your major project to go? Just let the words flow. If there is one piece of advice I can give you, it’s just let the words flow. The gateway class is about getting the first “shitty draft” out and returning to it for improvement. You will realize that sometimes a heat-of-the-moment fire of writing will let you delve into a sea of honesty and raw emotion. Don’t be afraid to jump. The words on the page, although they may appear to be at first, are not a stranger. The words are you. Use the paper to have conversation with yourself.

Unlike Orgo or States, there is no wrong answer in this room, and there certainly is a multitude of routes to arrive at one. Some of your peers will use this class to improve their professional career aspirations while others may use this course to explore themselves. You will read personal narratives, poems, journal entries, research reviews, and genres you didn’t consciously realize existed.  What will draw every one together is a desire to explore. Try to figure out how the words can be written on a page in an intriguing and meaningful way to communicate your story.

I started this semester a bit knocked down. The sophomore slump can be real (perhaps more real than the freshman 15). The gateway course has made writing much easier for me. I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be, but I am willing to let the words flow and get lost in my own brain.

Be careful not to procrastinate too much on first drafts. Once a full draft is done it’s much easier to take your time to return to, but make sure – no matter how bad it may be – to power through and pump out the first round, ALWAYS. You’ll be happy you did.

And even on nights when you get very little sleep, show up to class!

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Enjoy the journey.

Sincerely,

Daniel Greene

A Room Tied Together With Words

The Gateway? I have never before been in a room with a more diverse array of academic majors. But somehow regardless of our different academic pathways we all found ourselves at the same crossroads, the Minor in Writing. The truth of the matter is we really don’t have much in common other than perhaps the common likeness we share for the written word.  Across from me sit two Art and Design students and to my left a pre-med, but regardless of what brought us to this room in North Quad, we all grew to share a common descriptor…we’re a room full of writers.

I entered this room as someone who loved to write. I was given the chance to revisit my past in an interesting manner and mold it into what I dreamed it might have been the first time around. I got the opportunity to break from my otherwise monotonous days of politics and war-torn conflicts with an hour and a half of just me and my thoughts; me and a blank canvas open for any and all suggestions. If I were to start the course all over again, I would take myself more seriously, make that final leap to identifying as a writer because regardless of however I may have twisted it to be inside my head, I was really a writer all along.

I’ve never really had a problem writing about my personal life, but that being said I never was tasked to write about my personal life for a grade. I never felt quite comfortable leaving my deepest and darkest secrets ready and able to be quantified by a letter grade. If I already felt insignificant would my personal reflections be below average too?

Don’t be afraid to let your thoughts take shape, regardless of the subject matter. Be fearless.

I came in with a goal: come away feeling confident in the work you produced. I feel that as a class we succeeded in that and then some. We left everything we had to say on the table, no stone left unturned.

Good luck and happy writing!

 

 

Letter to Future Gateway Students

Future Minor in Writing gateway students,

I hope you enjoy the learning that comes with the gateway course. Learning about others, yourself, and your writing process. Every writing class has felt impactful to me, but this one feels especially so, considering the type of work that was done in this class. All projects required some reflections, because they were either products of previous works or an essay about why I write. Without this class, I would not know as much about my own writing as I do now.

My biggest takeaway from the course has been using multiple modes to exercise my creativity and convey my arguments. I am used to writing in a word document and shaping my essay around a prompt. However, in this class I was able to write about anything I wanted that stemmed from a previous piece of writing. This gave me a lot of liberty in choosing what would inspire me to think in different modes as well as what just plain interests me.

The most challenging part of the class is juggling all of the different projects, especially at the end of the semester. Due dates aren’t really a thing, unless you make your own.

Because I failed to make my own due dates, I am now sitting here on the last day of class feeling that “oh shit” feeling because I have to somehow revise all my projects and put them on my ePortfolio, which is at a rough stage to say the most. If I could do this class over again, I would tell myself to make due dates a priority.

What surprised me the most is how easy it was to create my re-mediation and also the website for my ePortfolio. I initially thought that these two projects would be my biggest struggle, but they have turned out to be the most enjoyable ones.

Some practical advice I would give? Use your peers and teacher for feedback, help, etc. Everyone is there to become better writers, which means both learning and teaching. They are invaluable resources!

Finally, I think the most important advice for going into this class is to trust that everything will fall into place, whether you’re stressed about picking a topic that you have to cover the whole semester or you are burnt out over all the assignments. They all have their purpose, and that is to help you realize/explain/think about your purpose for writing.

Re-Visiting “Why I Blog”

It’s funny, after re-reading Sullivan’s “Why I Blog” I sat here and pondered what I wanted to write, not daring to type a single word until a well-thought out discussion had been thought of. And then I remembered that this is a blog and I literally just got done reading about how blogging is all about action, all about the now. And I realized that I needed to start writing in this very moment!

But in all seriousness, I agree with Sullivan that blogging is an excellent medium to allow you to get your spur of the moment thoughts out there. So much of my time writing has been spent sitting there and waiting for inspiration to come to me or being afraid to start writing those first few words with the fear that they will be absolutely terrible. I want to get back to the reason that I really wanted to pursue the minor in writing in the first place: the fact that I think I am hilarious and I narcissistically love to read my own thoughts, especially the ones written late at night when my sarcasm is at an all-time high. As I most likely will be planning on using my work from the minor for more professional reasons, I most likely will not be including any of these late night thoughts in any of the pieces that will make it to my ePortfolio, but I do enjoy the opportunity to write these blog posts and share my thoughts as they come to me.

Clearly, Orwell and Didion and their “Why I Write” pieces come from different times than Sullivan’s “Why I Blog”, so they were not able to give their two cents on this fairly new form of self-expression. However, I think that Didion would really enjoy blogging, just in its very free and readily accessible nature that Sullivan touches on. Didion writes in order to make sense of the world around her and to provide a story to the things that only she can see. With so much quickly changing, I can see Didion being the type of person who rushes to grab a napkin to jot down her thoughts while they are still in her head, like someone who keeps a dream journal next to their bed so they can capture the dream’s essence before it slips away. Blogging could provide Didion a way to quickly respond to her thoughts and keep a log of her experiences, allowing her to keep living without anything bogging her down.

I see Orwell as the opposite, as someone who needs the rules and formal notions of professional writing to keep him grounded. He clearly states that writing for political purposes has been his main drive because he feels that that is what provided the most significance and necessary opinion of the time. I do not think that Orwell would like either the unpolished nature of the blog or the easily available interaction with readers. I can see Orwell wanting all of his thoughts and arguments to be well thought over and to get to have the last word with his audience; anything else would lessen his credibility.

Writer to Writer, to Writer

“The best writers reveal something about themselves that a smarter person would choose to hide.”

“Don’t wait to be inspired—work to be inspired.”

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Sitting beside the walls of the café in the Literati Bookstore felt like reading a book that I never wanted to put down. The walls are filled with quotes from professors and writers, and each and every quote spoke to the fears, questions, doubts, and hopes that I feel each time I sit before a blank piece of paper. In that quaint and intimate setting, looking over the streets of downtown Ann Arbor, in a room of so many smiling and curious people, I could not help but feel inspired.

Phil Deloria had me from the moment he told us that at first, he did not want to be a writer because his father was a writer. Right then, my ears perked up, and I was ready to listen to anything and everything he had to say. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to blaze my own trail: my parents grew up in Long Island, I grew up in Long Island; my parents went to Michigan, I go to Michigan; my dad studied abroad in Spain for a semester, I am studying abroad in Spain next semester; my parents went to law school; I am doing anything and everything to remind myself that I have no interesting in becoming a lawyer. But sometimes, while trying to convince myself that I am not a robot clone—living a life that has been lived before by my parents, uncles, and second cousins—I remind myself that it is not about blazing your own trail; it is about blazing your trail. Becoming a writer does not mean that Phil Deloria is following in his father’s footsteps; it only means that he is following his own desires, and that he is strong enough to put aside his pride and stubbornness, and his fear of becoming his father, and just be who he wants to be.

In my work for the minor so far, I have been drawn to the idea that we must make the most of each moment, and refuse to let a moment pass you by. It was almost like Deloria was speaking to me, when he said, “To get ideas, you need to move through the world with one-hundred-percent attention…Grab that little weird thing…the first step is to see stuff; the second is to not let it pass you by.” Everything he said about moments is everything I have been trying to say, and it is the reason why I write. I write to hold on to moments; I always try to grab those little weird things and tear them apart with thoughts and words alike, until there is nothing left to say. If you do not write it down, you could lose it forever.

My favorite thing that he talked about, however, was his idea about “the life” and the idea of life as a spa. He discussed how sometimes, in times of pure bliss and relaxation, like at a spa, you think to yourself “this is the life.” Deloria looked at the audience, and said, “drop the ‘the’; Just say, ‘this is life.’” This blissful, relaxing spa-like life should just be the life that we all strive to live every day. We need to take advantage of life’s small moments and simple pleasures. Make the life your life.

Why I Blog – Revisiting

Something has really changed for me since I began my journey as a writing minor. Writing has always been something I love; yet, I have always thought about writing as for someone else, rather than as for myself. The minor now means more to me than I ever thought it would, because it allows me to both write for someone else, and write for myself. I want to have my own place; I do not want to publish my works to the Odyssey Online grouped with my other, more superficial pieces that the editor insists that I share across my personal social media pages. I want a space for my own work. I want to write for me. I want to be able to write anything I feel like writing; I want to write because I want to write; I want to be able to choose to share it, or not share it, with whomever I want to.

 

I want to write without being asked. Without deadlines. Without topics. Without reservations. Without worrying about things that I should not say. I just want to write whenever I feel something or think something. When I have an assignment, I usually stare at a blank document for minutes, hours, and even days, trying to write about whatever I am being told to write about, and trying to make it sound eloquent enough for submission. As a minor, I have learned a completely different side of myself as a writer; I am capable of writing something that I am really proud of in just a few minutes, and in any moment. My work means something to me; it is not even work. It is an experience I have, or a feeling that I cannot shake.

 

Writing, to me, has become about experiences. It is about LIVE emotions. Sometimes the world just stops, and the only thing in that moment is me and my thoughts, and I need more than anything to stop and just write. Writing is a way for me to work out my thoughts and magnify them, and ensure that they do not go anywhere.

 

I write because of why Didion writes—to gain access to my own thoughts and work them out and make meaning out of everything going through my brain at that moment. I stop what I am doing, no matter where I am, and just write it down. In 10 minutes I have two pages of something more amazing than what is ordinarily a shitty a paragraph that takes me six hours to write.

 

Everything I write is a blog; it is a diary; I want to develop not only as a writing student; I want to develop as a writer.