What I Wish I Knew

1. Your capstone project will somehow, someway come together at the end of the semester.

I don’t know if you believe in miracles, but if you don’t… then check out my website because there is no way in hell that I thought I was capable of doing all that, even if I had an entire semester to bring it all together. I doubted myself more than I can remember, and you will most likely, too. Your project may change and morph and see itself transform iteration by iteration. You might think to yourself that you’ve gotten yourself in over your head— that there’s no way you’ll have enough time to slap your work onto a website without it looking like a hot mess. But you will figure it out. Maybe it’ll be because you have all this new free time to fill once you’re forced to move home mid-semester and your only source of entertainment is making subpar TikToks, but I digress! 

2. The only way to do a project of this scale is to break it up into bite-sized tasks.

I’m talking minuscule. Don’t plan to record three podcast episodes in three days. Don’t assume you can tackle your annotated bibliography in an afternoon. This project seemed more manageable each time I listed out small, reasonable goals for the day. Think: transcribe ten minutes of audio or add captions to pictures. My absolute favorite thing to do is make long lists of trivial tasks, and while this may not be effective for short-term deadlines, it helped split up what seemed impossible and kept me productive each day.

3. Your voice is not nearly as annoying to everyone else as it sounds in your own head.

It may sound ridiculous but my biggest reservation about creating a podcast was the idea that my voice would be circulating the world wide web for anyone to tune into. My too deep, too nasally voice plagued with the occasional stutter. But each time I shared audio clips I was praised with how professional it sounded (granted, there was a lot of editing done to get it to that point). And each time I shared it in class or let friends and family listen in, I became more comfortable with the fact that my voice would be a forever artifact on the internet.

4. Use your mentors. They’re a requirement for good reason.

I hated the idea that I’d have to share my project with more people than anticipated, especially during the draft phase. I hated the idea, even more, when I couldn’t do it in person. Even if you don’t plan to meet with them on a regular basis, these are the contacts you can reach out to when you have no idea how to export as an mp3. Your mentors can change as the circumstances change, too. Some of the best advice I got was from letting my parents give a second and third pair of eyes on my website.  

5. You’ll be so grateful to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

I could have easily made this project as simple as words on a website. Don’t get me wrong, that would have been difficult in and of itself. But I’ve done variations of the same in the past and the best way for me to lose interest would have been to stick to my comfort zone. Taking on a new medium kept me interested throughout the entire semester and offered a new challenge.

6. Shit happens.

And on that note, global pandemics happen. We live in uncertain times and if this whole thing hasn’t blown over by the time Fall 2020 rolls around and you’re forced to live your senior year with two unexpected roommates (i.e. mom and dad), I feel you. If the majority of your social interaction in and out of the classroom is through a camera on your computer, I feel you. But this course is not meant to add to the anxieties and unknown that comes with this curveball. You have the power to tailor your project to whatever it is you want to commit your headspace to. Change it as many times as you wish. Take the day off. Take a walk. Take a breath.

Forgetting the Fear

Oh god. Staring at the currently unpopulated white space of this text box, I feel overwhelmed. What do I write? If I write something, will it matter to anyone? Will it matter to me?

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I find it a little hard to believe that after (nearly) completing a whole class dedicated to my writing goals, I still feel this way when starting a new project. Even if the “project” is just a blog post. Just like anything else, writing gets easier the more it’s practiced, but the beginning never ceases to feel scary, it seems.

When I begin brainstorming for my Capstone project, I thought I had it all figured out. I knew I was going to make a book, and that was the least scary thing I could imagine. And then I actually sat down to write something, and The Fear wormed its way into my brain. Why was I even doing this? Who would care?

My biggest piece of advice for my September self (besides the obvious “you don’t have time to write, design, and print a book”) is to write like no one’s reading. That might sound counterintuitive or depressing or completely wrong, I get it. But when in your college career have you been able to write whatever you want for a whole semester for credit? This time should be savored, and it shouldn’t be hijacked by a paralyzing fear of the “audience,” whoever that might be.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t listen to the feedback you receive on your work. Your Capstone cohort will likely be one of the nicest, most tightly-knit groups of writers you’ve ever encountered (I know mine has been). They really want you to succeed and they’ll give you great constructive responses that come from a place of love and genuine interest. Listen to them.

Maybe you don’t need to hear this, but I’m writing it anyway because I’m trying this new thing where I write what I want without second-guessing myself: your ideas matter. If that inkling of a project pinging around in your head excites you, if thinking about researching it for hours, spending time with it, shaping it into a thing that will live in your hands or on a screen… if all of that makes your chest glowy and warm, do that thing. Start today. As long as you’re passionate, as long as you care, someone somewhere will, too.

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Writing 420: My Best Advice

During my time in the capstone course, I learned a few things.

I was always overwhelmed by the possibilities. There were so many suggestions coming my way, so many things that I wanted to try. But, I quickly realized that I couldn’t do it all. There comes a time when you’ll have to sit down and decide what you want to spend the semester writing about, what form you want it to take, and what you want the project site to look like. The sooner you do that, the better off you’ll be.

The best thing that I did for myself was choosing a project that I was passionate about. Doing the work never felt like work to me because I was enjoying myself as I did it. Everyone in my capstone class had such different projects, but the one thing they all had in common was a passion that inspired them.

I found that immersing myself in my peers projects was extremely beneficial. Workshop days are the best because you get to see everyone else’s projects developing. I learned so much from workshop days, even when it wasn’t my work being discussed. When looking at your peers work, you can see first hand what works well and what doesn’t. Then, you can apply it to your own project. You can learn just as much, if not more, from reading, critiquing, and supporting the processes of your classmates.

I definitely had my hiccups along the way, but I am so proud of the work that my classmates and I produced. I couldn’t have done it without them.

So, future capstone students….

Good luck. I believe in you.

An attempt at giving advice…

Hello friends and future Minors in Writing!

I can’t believe the semester is coming to a close and the gateway course will soon be over. Honestly this has been one of my top three favorite courses I have taken here, and I will forever cherish the skills I have acquired and the friends I have made. (I know this sounds sappy, but you’ll see what I mean after a semester in the gateway…)

I feel odd giving advice since I am still a student, and I feel like the more I learn, the more I realize that there is STILL SO MUCH to learn, however, here are a few thoughts to help guide you so that you can have the best experience possible.

  1. Don’t forget about that e-Portfolio! A few of my cohorts may have mentioned this already, but I will repeat it anyway because it is so important! Figure out early on whether you feel most comfortable with either Weebly, WordPress, or Wix. (I learned this the hard way and had to switch over to a different site at the last minute…) Once you find your happy place, keep personalizing it in your spare time. This is actually super fun once you find a site that works best for you and allows you to be creative.
  2. Get started on projects as early as possible, or at least begin brainstorming and planning. This applies to pretty much every course project ever in the history of college assignments, but again, it is so important, so here I am stating it again.
  3. Volunteer for workshop! Be bold and share your work! Don’t be afraid to receive feedback–your cohorts are super friendly and are there to support you.
  4. Take this opportunity to experiment with your writing, and even tackle projects that you have been considering for a while. This is what I did, and I am excited to continue my Project 3 into the future. (check out the link to it on my ePortfolio!!)
  5. Have fun journaling. I have to admit that I never enjoyed journaling until I took this class and our fabulous teacher T. Hetzel 🙂 encouraged us to write for 5 minutes here and there–even while riding the bus! She provided some of the most thought-provoking topics imaginable for us to ponder–I will never forget the Tea Cup Pigs!
  6. Listen up during journal readings! I can’t express how much I learned just from listening to my cohorts read their journals out loud. It seriously was so extraordinary and inspirational, which also brings me to my next point…
  7. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the brilliant and creative minds surrounding you. You, too, have something important to say. Believe me, because it’s true.

Love,

Bekah

 

I wanted to buy this bear, but then I saw the price tag…

Advice to the gateway students: A bright future is ahead!

Hello new MiWs!

I’m glad you’ve joined our cult. I think you’re really going to enjoy the gateway course. It has honestly been my favorite class at Michigan and I wish every student got the opportunity to experience it. I guess what makes it so great is that everyone who is in the class wants to be in it — they applied for it! No one thinks they’re ~too cool~ for writing and advice from their peers. I hope you put as much as you can into your time in the gateway course — you will get a good return on your investment. Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you find yourself in the Minor in Writing community your first semester:

  1. Be you! It is definitely intimidating being in a class full of writers, at first. It’s easy to assume that everyone else is probably better and more experienced at writing than you are — don’t. Like I said, you’re going to be in a class full of writers…don’t forget that you, too, are a writer. You’ll soon learn that the best way to grow as a writer is to take down the security wall you have up about what others will think of you and your writing.
  2. Manage your time. This class may require three projects (or at least did when I took it), but do not be fooled — there is much work to be done! You will be tasked with reflecting on your writing processes and given many short, engaging writing assignments. Putting things off until the last minute won’t help you develop as a writer so be strong and push through the want to procrastinate! Also, consider starting the practice of saving multiple drafts of an essay on your computer as you go along (i.e., create a new document every time you revisit and revise the draft) — it is an excellent way to observe how you progress through the revision process and helpful to include in reflective essays about “the making of” your projects!
  3. Use your resources. You are part of the Sweetland Writing community now! That’s an exciting title, but what does it mean? Not only do you have access to one-on-one faculty or peer writing support like all non-minors, you get additional time and a special sign-up schedule for making these appointments. You also get a community of writers who are in the same boat as you: your MiW cohort! I’m sure every group of people is different and group dynamics are always varying, but I cannot stress enough trying to build a bond and connection with your gateway class. I was lucky enough to part of a great group of peers and it made me love writing so much more. We currently have a GroupMe to commiserate in stress about assignments as well as cheer each other on and stay connected — 10/10 would recommend.
  4. Learn to L-O-V-E peer review. I’ll be honest, I was not a fan of peer review in some of my other English classes. Writing a one-page single-spaced letter to three peers at a time for one workshop day x 2-3 workshop days per project seemed daunting. If you feel that way now, it’s ok! Keep your mind open to change because I learned to love it. Peer review is such a great way to a) gather insight on your own writing by reading others’ and being forced to reflect on what worked and didn’t and b) help point your peers in the right direction. Don’t be afraid of being workshopped and don’t be annoyed to write letters — both will help you grow as a writer more than you imagined if you keep an open mind.

Thanks for sticking with me this long and making it to the end. You’re going to have a great semester in the gateway and a great college experience in the minor. Here’s a cute gif to reward you for reading my advice:

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

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!