To the Future Writing Minors….

Dear Future MIW Cohorts,

Congratulations! You are now part of the best minor at the University of Michigan (well at least I think so). I’m sure you slaved over your application, making sure each sentence was perfect…But now it’s time for the good part! Throughout your first semester as a writing minor you will learn more than you would ever expect to learn in a class that meets twice a week for an hour and a half. I know that is a pretty bold statement, but trust me, by the end of the semester you will agree! I came into this class thinking that it would be just like all the others here at U of M, but boy was I wrong. This class became much more than a writing class, it became a class where I could converse with other writers, hear their thoughts and opinions and ultimately improve as a writer. Here are a few suggestions I have for you as you begin your Minor in Writing journey:

  1. Participate in class discussions as much as possible.

One of my favorite parts about the class is the emphasis on discussion. Whether the conversation is on a topic like social media or about a peer’s draft, actively participating in discussions definitely enhanced my experience.

  1. Make an effort to get to know your classmates and reach out to them for help.

Everyone in your class has a love of writing. Make sure you utilize their love, opinions and abilities.

  1. Make an effort to get to know your instructor!

I was lucky enough to have T as my instructor in the Gateway course. I think it is important to meet with your teacher about assignments in the class, or just simply to say hi!

  1. Write about things you are passionate about.

If there is any time to explore your ideas through writing, this is the time. The Gateway course allows you to write about what you want, so make sure to take full advantage of it.

  1. Make the most of the semester!

It goes by fast.

1e79dc738cd17cf2dc344e26e75c2b19

A “Success Guide” to the MIW Gateway

To all of the future MIW students out there: welcome!

You are about to embark on one of the most rewarding adventures of your life. I know that’s a pretty vast statement, but believe me, it’s true. Some of you may be nervous, some excited, some curious, some determined; and that is perfectly normal.

I’ve compiled a list of some things to keep in mind as you begin this course. Which, by the way is actually more of a book club, but about writing. You will learn by thinking, by asking questions, by doing. It’s definitely not your average class setting at Michigan, and I think that’s the reason it has become one of my favorite classes I’ve taken in my two years here.

So, here I give you—in no particular order with no numbers because they’re all important—my “Success Guide” (because who just wants a survival guide?) for the Minor in Writing Gateway Course. Enjoy!

Keep an open mind.

In this course you may be asked to write and think in ways in which you haven’t done before. Be open to writing in new styles, about new topics, and maybe even with a different production process. Change can be good, I promise!

Utilize your resources.

In addition to asking your professor for his or her opinion on your work, ask your peers as well. I know the words “peer review” or “in-class workshop” can easily make you cringe, but in the gateway course these experiences are some of the most valuable. Your fellow minors are probably some of the best writers you know…take advantage of this opportunity.

Ask questions.

If there’s something on your mind, say it! Don’t be afraid to question a discussion topic or ask someone about something they said or wrote. You’ll be amazed at how much you can gain just by asking the simple question, “why?”.

Don’t worry about making mistakes.

If being a college student has trained our brains to do anything, it is to worry about getting things correct and receiving a “good” grade. News flash: you will make mistakes in your writing, and this is a great thing. The whole point of first and second drafts is to recognize what you need to change, and the process of editing your work helps you learn about yourself as a writer.

Just write. 

Coming from someone who used to try to plan out every single aspect of her essay ahead of time, I cannot stress enough how important it is to just sit down and write. You will do a lot of writing in this course, and some of your best work will come when you least expect it. Your scribbled down notes can turn into an amazing project; it’s all just a matter of getting started.

creation
Yes, great writing can come from something besides a Microsoft Word document.

 

Six Ways to Make the Best of the MIW

When it comes to advice for future MIW cohorts, I have come up with six ways to make the best of this minor.

il_570xN.350947546
Enjoy!

1. Be excited about writing. The Writing 220 course offers plenty of writing opportunities that you should be excited about. Although it definitely takes some hard work, this class is unique in the way that it allows you to work with writing projects with topics that are important to you. So make you sure you pick something that makes you excited to write!

2. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Before taking this class, my only writing experience was in stereotypical English classes, which included writing essay after essay. In the Writing Minor, I am able to push myself to new ways of writing. For example, in Writing 220 I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and was able to produce a series of comic strips, as well as a Buzzfeed article. Although I had the most difficulty conforming to the conventions of these new medias, I found that when I challenged my writing skills, it was much more rewarding to produce a final project. And with that, I urge you to challenge your writing skills as well.

3. Take advantage of the available resources. Not many students have the luxury of taking a class full of other like-minded people. Take advantage of this. You are surrounded by writers who are willing to help you become a better writer and you should be eager to accept their constructive criticism. Additionally, being a MIW student also gives you special perks in the Sweetland Center for writing. As a MIW student, you are allowed extra 1-on-1 time with staff members to talk about your writing and current projects!

4. Ask questions. This piece of advice sort of works in tandem with the “Take Advantage of Available Resources” point. You will go through multiple peer workshops while taking courses in this minor and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. Volunteer your writing to be workshopped as often as possible. This is the best way to better your writing. And with that, come to every workshop with a list of questions for your peers. You can ask questions about everything from grammar to content, it doesn’t really matter. Just make sure you ask questions.

5. Make Connections. This program is unique in that each cohort is relatively small compared to other minors. This gives you the ability to make fast friends with other students in the minor, as well as to connect with staff members. In a large university such as Michigan, making connections is very important. The MIW staff also provides plenty of opportunities, such as pizza parties and group gatherings, for you to connect with your peers. Enjoy these moments, make friends and connect with staff!

6. Write. That’s all.

An Open Letter to Future Writing Minors

Dear Writer,

Congratulations! If you are reading this, you have decided to join the best of us as part of the Sweetland Minor in Writing.

Welcome.

At this point, you’ve probably thought a lot about why you wanted to minor in Writing and articulated that desire through your application essays. So I’m not going to tell you something you already know in saying that you made a good decision (even though, in that last statement, I ended up saying what I said I wasn’t going to say). I will, however, provide you with a neat, numbered list of some advice, gathered from what I’ve observed, enjoyed, and messed up over the course of this semester:

1. Have an open mind.

This is probably the most cliche piece of advice ever. I feel like having an “open mind” would apply to anything, whether it’s the first day at a new job or if you’re on an awkward blind date or if you’re trying a new brand of cereal. It’s generic. But it’s true. Over the course of the minor, you’ll probably change in your writing style; it’s important to keep an open mind when observing that change.

chic
Love your topic as much as this chihuahua loves this other chihuahua.

2. Pick a topic you LOVE.

I don’t mean “pick a topic you are okay with” or “pick a topic you like.” You seriously need to be deeply, irreversibly in love with your topic. Spending all semester on something you don’t care about would not only be miserable for you, but your lack of enthusiasm would likely show through your quality of writing.

3. Dedicate some time to picking that topic, and actually think about it.

When I was considering which topic to choose for Project 2 and 3, I kind of sifted through folders on my computer a bit without really thinking about it. It was casual. Too casual. Take some time deciding what to choose, and don’t rush into it. If you think about it more later and want to change your idea, change it. As was mentioned earlier, I’m all about that change.

4. Get to know the beautiful thing that is Wix.

Seriously, the best way to format your EPortfolio. Hands down. Who needs C++ or Python when you have Wix, man.

5. Channel your urge to write for fun.

In the minor, you’ll talk about writing, you’ll think about writing, you’ll write about writing. Which is kind of weird at first, since–before starting the Gateway course–writing seems kind of inherent. Professors tend to use writing simply as a vehicle of communication for you to present what you have learned in their course. But writing is an actual thing. and when you’re thinking about writing ALL. THE. TIME, you’ll want to write more often. So keep a journal / Word Doc / napkin nearby at all times for when the inspiration strikes.

Now go write something.

-Allison

THIS IS NOT A CLASS (my advice to the future MIW cohorts about the gateway)


My advice about the gateway course: THIS IS NOT A CLASS.

In the gateway to the minor, we learn what it means to be writers. We explore our feelings about writing and what writing means to us personally. We develop and reflect on our process. We create. We critique. We are inspire and are inspired by one another. We build a community.

Take note: we do all of these things, but we do not seek a grade. It’s not about “doing well,” “scoring,” or “competing.” It is simply about doing, no matter what that means. Beware of approaching the gateway as a class in the typical sense, because if you do you’ll miss the point.

Have fun. Don’t worry about getting an A. If you do your best and put all that you can into your work, the A will appear. If you distract yourself with “A” thoughts, your writing will suffer.

THIS IS NOT A CLASS. Be sure to read the warning label.

 

Warning Label