Pivoting into the real world

Writing this last blog post feels a bit like a victory lap, and yet it also coincides with the final realization that I’ll be leaving Ann Arbor and the university, a place where I not only discovered myself but also found fulfillment. Just two days ago, I found out that I will be moving to New York City to write for Business Insider’s tech section as a reporter. It’s a big deal for me, for beyond the security of having a job when I graduate (which I never really expected), living in NYC has always been the goal, specifically for its creative environment. And yet, I don’t want to leave this little creative environment found in Ann Arbor. Who knows, maybe I’m crazy. I swear I’m not ungrateful, just afraid to leave a place that values and encourages writing to the extent that Michigan does.

I’ve done a good deal of creative writing in the past few months: I’ve written two short stories for my English 423 workshop and I’ve finally penned the first chapter to the novel that I’ve been working on for the capstone. Writing has always brought a deep and satisfying fulfillment, but I’ve found that even this creative pleasure has been tainted to some extent by the thought of leaving Ann Arbor. Stereotypical “I’ve-changed-so-much” college talk aside, I can wholeheartedly say that I am almost the opposite of the person that first moved into his UM dorm four years ago. I feel better off for it, but the transformation (both of character, writing ability, beliefs, and habits) was so condensed and drastic that it still leaves me wondering and worrying, for I’m still a bit unsure in my new skin. So much of my happiness seems to be tied to Ann Arbor, so much so that even with the promise of a similar culture and energy in Manhattan (or likely Brooklyn since I’ll be living on a budget), I’m still worried that I’ll fall out of love with writing, or even more worrisome, that I’ll let the sizable competition and disarray of the publishing industry scare me off from after a few rejection letters. This cannot be the case.

My writer’s evolution essay touched on how I’ve come to realize that professional writing and creative writing can both exist without one eliminating the other, but there’s nothing like the feeling that, “Well, it’s time to prove it.”

Don’t get me wrong, I spent the last summer in NYC and I absolutely loved it, but I always had the comforting thought that I could return to Ann Arbor in the fall and enjoy another year where I truly felt at home. At the end of the day, I know that I’m simply experiencing the growing pains that everyone gets when they make a big life transition, but I can’t help but realize that the last big transition (moving from high school to college), transformed me and fundamentally changed my personality as well as how I glean fulfillment from the world. I guess this could all be boiled down to say: I don’t know if I want to change anymore at this moment, and I’m afraid of what will be discarded after this next transition.

Thankfully, while I’m still thinking through such troubling questions, I also feel far more assured in myself than I did when I set out for UM. I also realize that many people grow into themselves through college, and much of the change happens during those four years, and perhaps a slower rate of change occurs in the years following graduation. Even though that I fear that I could somehow lose my drive to leave a creative imprint in some way, another part of me feels like that is a core desire that should follow me for the foreseeable future. Being prudent, I also have set out to figure out a way to make sure I don’t lose that drive. I started by looking at what structures were in place these last four years that will help me stay motivated and thinking/writing creatively.

Free time. So it’s no secret that as long as you’re not working a full-time job during college, you’re probably going to have a decent amount of free time on your hands. Discounting the hours of Netflix and wasted revelry, a lot of that free time allowed me to think through some of the bigger questions such as the path I wanted to take in life, the mark I wanted to leave, the people I wanted to surround myself with. My takeaway from this realization is that for creativity to be fostered, and especially for the imagination to be set free, human beings need downtime to let their minds wonder (and isn’t that when the good ideas hit?). Some of that is tied to some of my weirder habits, such as putting on some headphones and walking around at night, letting my mind wander as I think through different stories or characters or settings. Luckily, I did a good amount of that last summer in NYC, so I should be good there.

I also have come to realize that I, like many writers, much prefer thinking about writing rather than actually writing. It’s been my classes that have forced me to turn thought into story, and those deadlines are certainly a blessing in disguise. So, I’ll be in New York, and what deadlines creatively will I have? Sure, I’ll have work deadlines requiring a very different style of writing, but I won’t have a professor telling me when he needs my short story by. One way to combat this is by realizing that I’ll never have more time to write than I do now. I don’t have a family, I don’t have a girlfriend, my work hours aren’t that crazy, and there’s really no excuse.

Further mulling this problem over, I’ve also decided to stay in touch with one of my best friends here at Michigan, John, who has read every story I’ve written while here…and even more valuable, he gives me a no-nonsense, no-fluff critique of every work. I’ve always know this is valuable, but for anyone looking to pursue any sort of success in creative writing, I’ve found his bluntness so incredibly helpful that I’d encourage everyone to find a friend-editor with a similar honesty. Hopefully, by staying in contact with John, who will be pursuing his own writing in his remaining years here, I’ll be reminded to keep writing. If not, I know John, and he’ll nag me about it, which is just what I need.

Finally, I’ve also come to realize that creativity deserves the same sleep-deprived treatment we give to other things in life (such as enjoying ourselves and hitting the town or cramming to meet a deadline). Without a firm writing deadline for my fiction in place, I still plan on keeping the boldness of the college attitude towards late-nights and furious typing…if I’m feeling creative, the sleep can wait. There’s something special about those moments when the ideas are tumbling forth faster than you can keep track, and you take another drag of coffee or whatever else you consume to stay awake. That kind of lifestyle almost feels immature, but how many fun creative works were created in a boring, mature fashion? Looking back, those were the moments when the best stories came forth, and I don’t plan on letting some job get in the way of that—that’s what personal days are for, aren’t they?

I think that’s the answer to maintaining the creative spirit I discovered here in Ann Arbor: keep the same creative habits. Sure, there’s going to be many more distractions in New York, and I look forward to many of those distractions, but I think even planning ahead just a little for the drastic change that will likely take place will help me retain that drive and continue to grow creatively. It won’t hurt that I’ll probably see or hear about others pursuing their passions, and I plan to use any jealousy as further motivation. There also has to be some sort of fiction workshops that exist in the city, and I plan on hunting them down and finding some other like-minded people to keep me on my toes.

Things are changing, and at the close of this chapter, my main goal is to make sure that my love of writing is something that will not change, regardless of environment or commercial success. Otherwise, my transformation here will feel like it was for nothing, and I know that there’s no way that’s really the case. I guess it’s time to stop worrying and just go do something, and at the end of the day I’m excited about that.

#PIVOT #RayRay

The feeling that I have right now writing this pivot reflection is a weird one.  I feel happy to be graduating, but at the same time sad.  I feel excited about the future, but anxious about the unknown.  I look back on my college career and am filled with the happiest of memories, and feel extremely lucky to have spent the past four years here, and also lucky to have stumbled across the Minor in Writing.

it was I came to college, I really had no idea what I wanted to do.  I was stuck between what my parents thought I should do, what I wanted to do, and what I thought I should do.  Is what my parents think I should do also what I want?  What if I major in something completely useless and am left with little career options?  What if I pick something and end up hating it?  Well, now that I have the answers to all of these questions I realized that I worried for nothing.  I decided to go with Psychology, and its not what my parents necessairly thought I should do, but it’s what I wanted.  I figured out its not completely useless, and I have three interviews in the coming weeks.  And, I actually didn’t hate it!  My concentration is such a small part of my college experience, and I’ve found out that my minor has been more influential than my major. (That sounds odd).

I didn’t even know the Minor in Writing existed, but I’m so so glad I discovered it.  Well, I guess it was my dad. I was avoiding homework sophomore year by looking at Facebook, watching Netflix, and looking at other useless nonsense online when my dad called me and said, “Hey, you should check out this writing minor thing, it looks cool.”  I said, “Okay Dad, yeah sounds good I’m kinda busy I will call you later.”  I really wasn’t busy at all I just didn’t really feel like talking about future plans or any school related thing when I was already avoiding homework.  A few days later, I listened to my dad’s advice when our conversation popped into my head, and was pleasantly surprised.

I applied, thinking that I might not get in.  I didn’t really know much about it or how many people were applying, but all I know is that I’m lucky I was accepted.  The first day of the Gateway course was my 21st birthday.  Let’s just say, I was not feeling at my best.  But, I could tell that I was going to enjoy this class.  T Hetzel was amazing, and so excited for this journey to begin for our class.  Through completing the Why I Write essay, and doing the re-mediation, I learned so much within the first weeks.  I knew that I wasn’t going to be comfortable with sharing my writing in class, and I wanted to get over that.  I was self-conscious of others reading my personal thoughts, and at first I leaned away from asking for advice.  I would say my biggest accomplishment by the end of class was getting more comfortable seeking criticism, and actually using it to improve.  Taking suggestions from my peers was so valuable, and I wish I was more comfortable with it sooner.

This Capstone course was (Woah, past tense is making me feel sad…) definitely one of my favorite classes at Michigan.  I got to build on what I already knew, but I learned so much from Ray and the people in class.  I grew even more comfortable sharing my work, and with such intelligent, genuine people in class I realized that this was actually the best thing ever for my writing.  My classmates took a genuine interest in my writing, and I was inspired to put 100 percent into what I was writing about.  I learned to write with more honesty – meaning I would tell the whole story, even if it meant being vulnerable.  I learned to ask myself questions – maybe the answers I am looking for are really right in front of me.  I loved the beginning of each class when Ray would ask us a question.  The people that were strangers at the beginning of the semester are now friends, and I feel fortunate to have learned so much about their lives and aspirations.  If any of you guys are reading this, you are all awesome and I’m lucky to know such amazing people, and I have no doubt you will all go amazing places in life.  My favorite day of class was the last one.  Even though it was over, getting to listen to Ray talk about life was great.  His advice will stick with me, and I also know I will never forget the story of how he met his wife.  (Ray, that is seriously so cool.)  I will miss this class, and simply learning every day through the completion of my project and portfolio.

Now looking ahead…I’m very sad to be leaving this place.  I can’t imagine not waking up in Ann Arbor, walking to class, getting coffee on South U and running into my friends, and sitting at Charley’s on sunny afternoons.  I sometimes really think that life doesn’t get much better than it is now.  I’m surrounded by people I love and that have turned to family, in one of the greatest places in the world.   What could be better?  But, as much as I want to stay, I can’t imagine not moving on.  It’s time for the next step, and I will admit it will be pretty nice to not worry about exams, papers, and homework anymore.  I’m not exactly sure what the next step is yet, and the unknown scares me.  I have interviews in Chicago and in the Detroit area, and am excited about the possibilities.  Moving away from Ann Arbor means I will have it as a home to come back to, and be reminded of the best years of my life so far.  (Now I honestly feel like crying.)  The Minor in Writing is something that made my college experience what it was, and I am so thankful for everything I have learned, the people I’ve met, and the stories I will have to tell after graduation.

Sadly #pivoting

As I’m sitting outside anxiously awaiting a phone call that will determine whether or not I have a job, frantically tallying up my points, and dreading my upcoming graduation from Michigan, I feel there is no better time than now to reflect upon not only my Minor in Writing experiences, but also on my time in undergrad.  I’ve wished for this time in my life to come as quickly as it possibly could, but now that it’s here, I almost wish it wasn’t, which is something I’ve noticed a lot about life.  I can’t imagine not waking up to go to my classes next week, or maybe ever again.  I pitied the people who have graduated already and tweet or post on Facebook how much they wish they were back in Ann Arbor, sleeping in, going out to the bars, or getting late night food at some hole in the wall pizza place.  I used to hope that by the time I graduated I would have gotten all of that out of my system.  Now I’m not so sure that I won’t be feeling those same exact things that they did after I graduate.  If it’s true about what they say that the “best years of my life haven’t even happened yet,” then there must be something I don’t quite understand yet about growing up, because I can’t imagine that my life, and the people that I share it with, could get much better than this.

Not to sound too cliché, but writing has taught me a lot about how to deal with these kinds of feelings – how to articulate them, understand them, and share them with others.  A really wonderful professor told me one day that he truly believes that he cannot think clearly about something until he writes it all down and has analyzed the numerous things that he would never have been able to before writing it.  I never would’ve thought that to be true until I completed my final portfolio project and my essay on Beyoncé’s feminism and my own feminism.  This project, and the Capstone class more specifically, taught me so much more about myself than I ever would have been able to grasp on my own.  I can honestly say that this last semester of my senior year was quite possibly the most life-changing times in my whole life.  Not just because it was the last semester of my senior year, but because of the things I was forced to study, analyze, and write about, most of which were my own personal choice – hardly any guidelines from academia, which as you know from my evolution essay, is something that I appreciate when I get the chance to write.  My own autonomy.

I have learned about so many different facets of my life throughout the classes that I have taken and the professors and peers who have helped me along the way.  For example, in my English 473 class, we studied Midwestern literature and all of the themes that go along with it.  Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t really pay much attention to the mindset or ideology or stereotype that is often inflicted upon us.  I was just a sweet Midwestern girl who often dreamed of one day moving on to bigger and better things somewhere on the East or West coasts.  Little did I know that this thought process is something that is often reflected in Midwestern literature, and can sometimes fuel incredibly long research papers about what it means to be from the Midwest, what it means to write about it, and what kinds of stereotypes do we reinforce when we play into the Midwestern mindset.  It wasn’t meant to be a sociology class, but it made me self-reflect on the ways in which I have allowed the place where I grew up, the Midwest, to shape me.  Now, I’m sure that’s fairly true anywhere you go in the United States, or perhaps even the world, but it was such a strange phenomenon to witness these different Midwestern writers perfectly encompass the sometimes underlying themes that people portray in the Midwest.

In Writing 400, I learned even more about myself than I was probably ready to learn.  Since finishing my final project on Beyoncé, I have noticed a very real transformation in the ways that I think about my own personal representation and my own feminism, along with feminist projects in general.  I was most surprised to learn so much about black communities and their experiences with feminism, and how it is totally not the same as what I’ve known to be “white feminism.”  I always had this picture in my mind of a large sisterhood of women who are all fighting together to demand equal rights and opportunities for women all over the United States, and the world.  What I didn’t realize was that women all over the world don’t all want the same things, which seems like an obvious things to accept.  Black women are fighting against the stereotype that they present an animal-like sexuality, while white women are trying to find more productive ways to embrace their own sexuality.  Marriage, also as an example, means different things among different communities of women.  And finally, I’ve become determined to explore the ways in which feminism isn’t just for females – in order to make positive and drastic changes in our culture, it must be a joint effort among all people in it.  These things that I’ve come to learn about Beyoncé, different feminist projects, and myself, would not have been possible without writing and analyzing it for this final Capstone project, and I’m so grateful that was given the option to write about this topic.

As for future plans, I am still awaiting the phone call from my potential employer.  In fact, I just got an email from her that said she was so busy today and won’t be able to give me a final answer until Monday – the waiting game continues.  I hope to move to Chicago and start a new adventure there.  The self-confidence in my education and myself would not have been possible without incredible peers, friends, professors, and family.  Thank you so much for anything, big or small, that you may have contributed toward my personal development as a writer, a person, and a Beyoncé lover.

 

Sami

#Pivot Reflection

Project Reflection: I really enjoyed the project component of the capstone course.  Throughout January and February I was really struggling to come up with a project that I was truly passionate about.  I had a few ill-conceived perceptions of the type of product that the Minor faculty would expect me to produce, however there was a clear disconnect between that product and my own preferences.  I was trying to incorporate methodologies and formats acceptable in my academic discipline of History with my interests outside the academic realm and things weren’t adding up.  Meanwhile, outside of my course work a friend and I were working on a new pet project of writing a TV comedy series.

I couldn’t have dreamed of using my NSFW written content for a school project, however clearly the Capstone project is very different from most projects.  We were tasked with both creating something interesting and worth reading, as well as finding a way to best present that material in an aesthetic manner.  Because of this duality, I approached the capstone project differently than I would other works.  I decided to make my TV show writing the cornerstone of my project.  As a supplement, I would include various supporting documents that would help the reader fully understand the scope and degree of effort placed into writing a script.

This project tied together work in which my skills developed throughout a variety of disciplines during the Minor.  During the gateway and capstone course, students were encouraged to engage with writing in new ways, think about written conventions and media in an adaptive way.  Throughout my history courses, writing has been a crucial component in conveying a narrative for analysis; in my writing and english courses writing has been a tool for expressing consciousness, sentiment and emotion.  For me, the capstone project brought this all together with the development of my portfolio.  Engaging both perspectives in which I’m creating something I’m truly passionate about and conveying it in my own unique way and also considering the preferences and desires of a neutral audience.

Capstone Reflection: I really loved both the gateway and capstone courses with Ray.  He really got me to think differently about writing and reading (so cliche, I know).  Throughout college when I’ve been encouraged to explore writing not merely as a tool of communication and academic reporting, but also as a creative outlet.  In the capstone course, we spent a lot of time doing peer review and group workshops of eachothers work.  Due to the diverse constituency of the Minor program, this enabled me to think about presenting my work to a wide reaching audience.  I was catering my work and considering perspectives ranging from hard science, premed students, to business school elite future CEOs, to creative English majors.

Beyond peer work, a major emphasis of the course was the writer’s evolution.  We focused a lot on reflecting on our growth both in terms of written aptitude as well as a people. This sometimes demonstrated the effect of life changes on writing (perhaps manifesting as changing disciplines and subsequently changing the accepted form of writing).  For me, as I’ve stated throughout, writing has become a much safer and accessible creative outlet.  I feel comfortable exploring creative ideas through the written word.  Moreover, due to the reflective nature of the assignment, I was able to notice some of my own personal written preferences.  I noticed how defective I am when tasked with menial assignments merely to keep me busy.  But when I’m pushed to engage with something with something that I enjoy and motivated to complete something for myself and not just a grade, I can fully enjoy writing.

Writing Ambitions: So I think I’m actually going to try to make this television show an actual thing.  Over the last few years, even though I’m a year younger than most of you guys, I’ve been really struggling to figure out what exactly I’m doing at school and what kind of career and life I’ll live after graduation; and I haven’t really got a clue.  On one hand, I could see myself falling easily into a 9-5 grind at some corporate job slowly climbing the ranks over the years.  I think I could do well and would feel fulfilled, however I’m not entirely sure how motivated I am to jump into that type of life.  On the other hand, doing something purely creative that I would definitely enjoy more, both in terms of lifestyle as well as the actual work I’d be doing, however this comes at the expense of stable financial situation.  I’m not entirely set on either, and maybe there is a way to make the most of both tracks.

That being said, I’ve finally found something (this TV show) that I really enjoy doing.  I haven’t felt excited about doing something like this years.  As my girlfriend would describe, I look “like an excited lil pup.” My co-creator and I both have a unified vision of what we would want this show to be about and what direction we are headed in.  With this shared vision, maybe we can one day make this show onto a network or something.  Over the summer, my co-creator and I plan on writing out more of the show and working on making this dream a reality.

Other than writing “Dick Schindler,” over spring term I’ll be attending NELP (New England Literature Program).  Over the course of six weeks, attendees live without technology in New Hampshire, studying american literature that was produced in the New England region and exploring the area on various hikes.  Aside from the vast amount of reading involved, a core component of the program is journaling.  Although the journal ultimately is a component of my grades, it serves the purpose of documenting all that I learn and experience throughout the trip.  Without readily available communication with my friends and family, I’ll need to rely on myself to resolve conflict and face myself through the journal.

 

I suppose it’s time to #Pivot.

So, I guess the G-word is actually happening soon. I can’t imagine a summer without school at the other end; a morning commute that doesn’t involve walking through the Diag and being handed flyers for acapella concerts; a nine-to-five job that doesn’t involve analyzing literature. But – it’s coming.

And, despite my hesitance, I know that it is time to go.

My education at the University of Michigan has been challenging and exciting; I have had a truly liberal arts schooling. I know more about contemporary politics from Political Science 300, more about women’s studies from my Human Sexuality course, more about literature from all of my various English courses as an English major – and more about writing from all of those things put together and then some.

The Minor in Writing has helped me think reflectively on how all of those liberal arts pieces fit together – adding up into the summation of my education here. Everything I have ever studied required some form of writing – and the minor has given me a reason to curate that, make sense of it, and even draw some conclusions about my writing, why I write, and how I write.

When I first began the minor, I really didn’t know what it would be about. Writing, sure, but what about it? The gateway course was a ton of fun; I loved re-purposing and re-imagining a dry, matter-of-fact academic essay into a funny New Yorker Piece then a video. I learned to expand my concept of writing to beyond the straight text of an academic piece. Writing involves hyperlinks. Involves images. Involves videos. Involves charts. Involves presentations and print and web and mobile. People complain that they stop writing after they take their last English course – but I disagree. We are constantly writing (hello, email? Twitter?!) and thinking creatively…it just isn’t in the form we are used to. And that’s okay.

I also learned about the importance of concision. Less is more. Especially when writing for an online space, I learned how to accommodate for Internet readers. Short paragraphs, headlines, and media all help make a piece of writing more effective in a digital space – but also have high-impact but short sentences and phrases (rather than long ones) are key.

In English 325 and 425, I found out why I really love to write. Personal essay writing is so fun because the writer has such stake in the product. The story is yours to tell – so you want it to be told in the best way possible. It was during these two workshop-style classes that I really came to understand the importance of revision and of sharing my work with other readers.

Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Instead, it is a shared experience (both the writing and the sharing of the final product). People interpret things in different ways, and it is exciting to know that something I write can leave my brain and enter someone else’s and come to mean something different and unique to that reader based on the experiences they bring to their reading.

Even at a sentence level, people read things differently. In my essay titled “A Day at the Fair,” people in my workshop read the first line: “I am an imposter in a blazer from eighth grade” to mean I am an imposter from eighth grade in a blazer (rather than how I meant it – that I felt like an imposter at the career fair because I was wearing an old blazer from eighth grade that I have had for years). I never would have realized this other reading had it not been for workshop and for sharing this piece with so many other fresh pairs of eyes before revising.

I have also learned a ton from helping others with their revision. As an objective reader, I am able to catch grammar mistakes and logical errors that I would not have been able to see in my own work because I am too close to it. I am also able to pick up on style moves and writing techniques that others are trying out. Not to mention, I have been able to read some really moving personal essays that have allowed me to walk around in someone else’s skin, and shown me a little more about the human condition.

I love writing – I love stringing words together, making meaning from meaningless characters on a computer screen, and sharing with others. And for all of the collaborative efforts encouraged by the Minor in Writing, I am thankful. I have so enjoyed the minor in writing, and have learned a ton more about writing in general and writing in a digital space.

So what happens next?

For now, I am looking to take a break from the world of academia and get a job in the “Real World.” I would like to write professionally for a marketing agency and work specifically with the web. Whether it be a brand’s message for their new app or a company website, if there is a message to be said, I want to be the one to write it. To get creative. To be concise. To have an impact.

But that’s just for now.

For the future? Who knows. I would love to become a professor some day. To have an essay or two published in The New Yorker. Maybe even to write a novel. But one thing is for sure: I feel most fulfilled when I am writing and sharing my work with others. (AKA why I spent so much time on my portfolio – I love having an easy place to send people who want to read my work!)

Conclusions? There aren’t many. So much is left to the ambiguous unknown of my future. But I am excited about it – and thankful for my time as an undergraduate. I have loved every second.

Thanks to everyone (professors and peers and friends) who has helped me with my writing through this minor – I appreciate it more than you know.

Amy

#Pivot: Last Thoughts

In sum, my last thoughts for Writing 200 is: this was a rigorous course that concluded the Minor in Writing (MIW) and my college career in a thoughtful, pleasant way.

I entered college with no idea what I wanted to do and ended up pursuing the MIW as a resume builder. Little did I know that I would actually enjoy it and that it would change my perceptions of writing. I never thought about why or how I write; to me these things were not that important. I wasn’t pursuing a career in journalism and I never found a need to have the answers to these questions ready to go. But what I found is that I learned more about myself than my writing abilities in answering these questions. And through the course of the MIW, I realized that writing became a way for me to discover my beliefs and opinions on subjects that I otherwise didn’t think much about.

In the meantime, I was improving my writing skills too! I learned to write in different mediums, how to address separate audiences and how to really think about the reader as I composed my work. And today, whether I’m drafting an email or a 30 page research paper, I feel more equipped to explain my point and communicate effectively. I am very thankful for the skills I have attainted from the MIW.

The MIW was a process that didn’t come full circle until the final class, Writing 400. (But before I say anything about this class:Don’t be fooled! Points take FOREVER! So get started on them early!) Although the expectations are high, the workload seems unattainable and your are asked to give the most effort during a time when you have the least motivation (second semester senior year), you may find that it truly was worth it in the end. At least that is what I found. Writing 400 pushed me to view older pieces of writing from my college career in a light that I had never viewed them in before. Truthfully, I had never given many of the pieces much thought after I turned them in and only thought about the grade I was going to get on them. But writing the annotated bibliography caused me to analyze each piece and explore what I learned from it and how I could have made it better. Then I was pushed to write my evolutionary essay and connect all these pieces together into an argument. This was difficult. How was I supposed to connect every piece of writing I had composed in college into one, seamless argument. Oh, and then connect it to the capstone project. Well initially I just thought about how my writing had affected me. I realized that it was a way for me to converse with myself and discover my thoughts, feelings and emotions. My “thesis” (I guess if you want to call it that) was,

Writing is the how for me. It has been through the process of writing that I have been able to explore, discover and develop my own thoughts.

And then I had to think about this project. Something I cared about so much that I was going to be married to it for over half of the semester. And pour more thought and energy into than any other academic assignment… EVER. I thought, sure, I’ll skim by like I always do – I won’t really be married to it. Well, looking back, I had a ring on my finger, vows exchanged and was cohabiting with that capstone project. But the coolest part was that it was honestly by choice. I was given the autonomy to direct my own project. And write about essentially what ever I wanted. At first this made it almost impossible to choose a subject, but once I did, I fell in love with it. Absolutely head over heals.

Now I would like to say it was love at first sight, but it wasn’t. It was more like meeting someone at the bar and the next morning you remember that person being really attractive but you really have no idea. You’d like to think they are but you can’t remember what they look like. And then you start texting them and forming an image of what you think they like in your head, but again you have no idea. And then finally, you meet them for coffee and it all become clear. Boom: you’re in love.

My project was this fuzzy idea. And then I started talking about it with my classmates through workshops and open group discussion. I met in office hours with my professor Ray (who is great – you should definitely get in his class if you can) and you start to form an idea of what your capstone project will like like. And then you’re forced to write a proposal and make a plan with deadlines and then, basically start working. Once you get past the research faze it becomes clear and Boom: you’re in love.

So you write this project and you display it on a beautiful website platform and you are so, so proud of it. And then you’re asked to make the evolutionary essay a bridge between your portfolio and the capstone project, and then add a bunch of additional pieces to your portfolio. And you realize, they are all connected.

It is amazing but viewing my writing is like reflecting on my college journey. It’s silly, flawed and choppy yet enlightening and story-like.

The capstone project was a way for me to reflect on myself, my interests and all the knowledge I had gained from college. And it is really cool to see!

As for the rest of my life I really have no idea. I am one of those fortunate ones that has a plan for post college. I’m traveling through Europe for 3 weeks and then moving to Boston to do sales for an IT research and advisory firm called Gartner. It is all  very scary and exciting but to be honest, I have absolutely no idea if this is what I want to do with my life. But hey, it’s a start and an income. So I’ll take it.

Someday I want to find and do something fulfilling. I could see myself returning to school to get my masters in social work or education and pursuing completely different career but who really knows. And as for writing, I know that it will follow me wherever I go. I want to continue writing to make sure I don’t loose the skills I currently have. But the cool part is I think this won’t be too hard. I can write for personal interests of diary keeping and thought discovery or discernment. I can write about things I learn in the future or about books I read. In the professional sphere of my life I will write reports summaries and explanations.

I’m excited for what the future holds and I am certain the MIW has better equipped me for what the future holds. And I’m not just saying that! I learned more about myself and my takeaways from college.

So to you I say: stick with it, you won’t regret it. And…HAPPY WRITING!

#Pivot

At this point in the semester my brain is fried. Actually, at this point of my education my brain is fried. I am a second semester senior and at this point, I can’t do it anymore. I have no thoughts left in my brain. Which sounds a little funky when I read that sentence back over again. It sounds funky because I consider myself to be a writer- someone who can take a seemingly mundane topic and discover its many fascist with my words. In order to do this (successfully) I  need to have thoughts, and I need to be able to develop those thoughts into other thoughts. The problem is, these aren’t just any ordinary thoughts. Well, I suppose they’re ordinary thoughts on the surface- like, where do my socks go? But then it develops into a whole thought train: I’m always missing one sock, maybe if I was a more organized person then I’d be able to find my socks, I should make an effort to be a more organized person, but I’m not an organized person, organization is not who I am, when I walk into my room after I clean it there always seems to be something off about it, oh yeah, it’s clean, I know it’s my room but it doesn’t feel like my room, when I walk into my room and there’s clothes on the floor I instantly recognize it to be my room, after awhile the clutter seems to clutter my brain so too much of a mess is annoying, but if there’s just some stuff lying around it makes me feel good, so it doesn’t make sense for me to make an effort to have an absurdly clean room because I wont feel comfortable in that space and it wont be my space. See, my thoughts always get introspective- even when they don’t have to. And my writing is a reflection of my thought process (I think I’ve written that statement at least seven times in the past year).  So when I write, I think, and I think about myself and I analyze myself and delve into my brain until I’ve gone into a trance and have to bring myself back out of it. It’s exhausting. Sure, I’ve gained a great deal of self understanding and awareness- but I am just so tired of thinking. I’ve stopped being able to live in the moment- rather, I observe everything around me, as well as myself. I step outside of myself in order to analyze what I’m doing, what I think about it, and why I think that way about it. I constantly feel like an outsider, like I don’t belong. But then I ask myself: am I really an outsider, or am I just placing myself in that position? I’m acting like everyone around me: I’m doing the same things, I’m engaging in conversation, I’m very much physically present. But I’m not mentally present. Mentally I’ve taken a step outside in order to view the situation with a semi-unbiased opinion. So at this point of the semester, of the year, and of my school experience- I just need a break from thinking. That’s why I tended towards stream of consciousness and abstract writing in order to complete my project: my stream of consciousness writing is about something, but I don’t force myself to consciously consider that meaning; rather, the meaning manifests itself from my word choice. It’s the words that I’m focusing on- the uniqueness of the words, how many syllabus the words has in order to create a specific rhythm- in order to to create a certain aesthetic experience. Interestingly enough, I always manage to subconsciously create a commentary of what I think is fucked up about the world, or something that is relevant to my current state of mind. But it always goes somewhere dark. Like always. I was talking to a friend about this the other day- how it has become impossible for me to produce personal writing that isn’t depressive and semi-suicidal. She told me that it’s just my voice, that I’ve found my voice and that it’ll never change unless I completely change as a person. And I don’t think that will be happening, at least for a while. Now that I think about it, even my first personal pieces that I composed in elementary school incorporated death. (In fourth grade I wrote a poem called “From the Falling Darkness to the Bright Day” about the cycles of life.)  So that’s why writing is exhausting for me, even though I call myself a writer, and even though I want to make a living through writing. Maybe I’m just going through an introspective phase and I’ll work my way out of it in time. Or maybe I’ll stay this way- god, I hope it doesn’t stay this way because every time I finish a piece of writing I feel like I’ve been through a mild emotionally traumatic experience and I don’t know if I want to go smoke a cigarette, curl up into ball and cry for hours, or just sit motionless while blankly staring at a wall for an indefinite amount of time. Is this my future?:(also is that grammatically correct? Can I  place a colon after a question mark?) having to chose between one of those three options after I finish composing a piece, which I plan on doing a reasonable amount because I want to have some sort of writing career. Maybe I just wont write personal essays, but there’s no way I can write objective pieces of writing and feel satisfied with the work I do. I like thinking about myself, and I like writing about myself because I like myself and I think I’m a fascinating person. Maybe I just need to figure out how to think about myself less, while living in the moment more. So there’s my goal from this point forward: be self-aware, but not too self aware.

 

P.S. If any of you are curious as to what my plans and hopes are for the immediate and long term future, here you go. I plan on graduating in December, and then I’ll hang around Ann Arbor until I’ve saved enough money to feed myself and pay for a living space that cost no more than $600 for a year, and then I’m going to leave and never come back. I’ll probably find a friend somewhere in this country and go live with them for an undetermined amount of time. I’ll probably work in customer service for way longer than I’d like before I find what I actually want to do, but I suppose that’s the consequence for not having a parent approved plan. And that’s ok with me.

#pivot(ing) Away From The MIW

When I applied to the Sweetland Minor In Writing program at the end of my sophomore year, I was looking at the program as an opportunity to diversify my collegiate educational experiences. My favorite classes in high school were my English and Literature courses—I loved having the opportunity to read new things and to express myself creatively. And honestly, I was good at it, always at the top of my class when it came to essay writing and grammar sections. So when I came to U of M and embarked on a pre-med curriculum, I knew that I would lose that literary, writing-centric aspect of my education.

After finding out about the program through some of my endless hours of digging through the LSA Course Guide and Curriculum Guides, I thought two things: one, blogging, writing, and new-age media all sound like a neat way to put a spin on traditional writing experiences and two, a Minor In Writing will stand out on my medical school applications and differentiate me from the cookie-cutter, biology and chemistry medical school applicants. Plus, in my egotistical way of thinking, I liked the idea of being a part of an acceptance-based program here at U of M. It made me feel important, different, unique.

Now after completing the program, I can honestly say that this was an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed yet not one that ended up the way I expected it to. What I mean by that is that I came in picturing a classroom environment (in reference to the Gateway and Capstone Courses) that was dedicated towards nailing down the nitty-gritty aspects of writing. I expected that the use of blogging and new age media would be an avenue to working with things like grammar, syntax, and the ways in which to make my writing stand out from the crowd. I expected to examine different types of writing—novels, magazines, newspapers, websites, journalism, etc—and compare the different styles on how the authors reached their audience.

This is not what I got from the program. Classroom discussions were, well, that—discussions. We talked not only about writing, but about life. We talked not only about how new-age media is impacting how we and other people view the world, but also about our place in the world and what we have to offer. This did not disappoint me. Rather, I found the structure of the program to be refreshing, outside of the rigidity of my other classes. It was different because for once, I wasn’t solely analyzing other works and putting them into my own words and context. I was analyzing my works, my thoughts, and my ideology. For once, I was looking introspectively at myself and thinking about who I am and what I want from not only academia but from life. The writing assignments, like the “Why I Write” essay in Gateway or the “Evolution Essay” in Capstone, were not meant to challenge how much you could write but rather the quality of the work you produced. I really loved that—a 15 page essay often times doesn’t achieve what can be done in 4-5 pages, something that I feel like many teachers have a hard time understanding. And, perhaps best of all, I loved that I was never graded on the quality of my work. Sure, I had to complete everything adequately and up to the appropriate standards, but everything was self-motivated. I wanted to complete these assignments to the best of my ability because it was important to me—not a teacher, not for a grade, but for me. That is such a foreign concept at this school that it added yet another layer of beauty to the program itself.

Further, I never felt like the classes I had to take outside of Sweetland were a huge burden. I really only had to take four extra classes outside of what I would have had to take had I not been in the program (I would have had to take an ULWR course anyways), which always seemed like the perfect amount for an academic minor.

Where do I go from here? Well, I will be going to medical school in the fall, which is about as far away from writing as I can possibly get. That has made me appreciate what I have been able to accomplish in the Minor so much more. The Minor has been an outlet to try new things and do things that I will never have the opportunity to do so ever again. For instance, I’ve used Adobe graphic programs, created two online portfolios, and written a nearly 30-page story based in the world of Harry Potter. Never again will I be placed in such an environment that will allow me to explore these things in a safe and supportive way. From now on, my career in medicine will lead me on a road in a direction opposite of these creative outlets. I’m not upset about it—I cannot wait to be a physician, to interact with people on a daily basis and make a real impact in the lives of others—but it leaves me with a slight pang in my chest knowing that this type of environment will never be available to me ever again. Sure, I will be writing constantly as a doctor—patient notes, emails with colleagues and patients, research articles, etc—but it won’t be the same as the Minor In Writing.

Nevertheless, I know that reading and writing will continue to play a huge role in my life from here on out. Starting in fifth grade, I read the sports page of the newspaper every day before I went to school. I understand the value of reading, of thinking, of learning, and I know that writing is but one more tool in my lifelong pursuit of a healthy and active mind. Further, I have long made it my goal to write a book at some point in my life. While the next 10-20 years of my life will undoubtedly be busy with the development of my career and hopefully a family, I steadfastly maintain that at some point, you will read a book of mine at your local bookstore (if they still exist in the future!).

So, thank you to the Minor In Writing program, to Sweetland, to my teacher in both the Gateway and Capstone courses (Ray), and to all of the people I’ve met and been inspired by as a participant in this program. Adios!

Getting nostalgic #pivot #rayray #imsad

It’s almost surreal to look back to myself four years ago and realize how many awesome things I had yet to experience. My time here at Michigan has been absolutely incredible, and I can’t help but feel nostalgic every time I do my “last” anything. Today, I had my last class as an undergraduate. Tomorrow I will take my last exam. This Thursday may even be my last Ricks Ladies Night as an undergraduate as well. All of these experiences, the people I’ve met, and the memories I have created, I will take with me forever. Although they may seem like just memories, the things that I have experienced have changed me and the way that I view the world in such substantial ways.

 

I feel as though the minor in writing has truly helped me grow as a writer, but more importantly, as a person. When I wrote my first DSP Essay, I had no clue what I was doing or what expectations would be held of me once I became an official member of the freshman class that year. Writing 125 seemed like a breeze, but I was clueless to how much more I needed to learn. A few hundred 10-page papers later (I wish I were joking), I think I’ve picked up a thing or two, but nothing can compare to the work that I put into the Capstone project and what that truly did for me as a writer and a person.

 

It was such a great experience to create the Capstone project, because I wanted to prove to myself that I could take on a major project like that and put everything I had into it. Sure, I’ve already gotten into law school and my grades and these projects don’t hold a lot of weight for my future at the moment, but I didn’t care. I treated that project like it was something that I was doing for myself, not for a writing minor requirement. I found that by doing this, I made the entire process so much more enjoyable. It didn’t feel like a chore, but rather something I was choosing to do for myself. I was able to set aside time to just be in my own thoughts for hours on end, and that was actually really cool.

 

This minor in writing program I have found is absolutely incredible. The opportunities it has presented have been so much more than I expected. Going in, I figured it would be a lot of writing assignments and prompts covering a broad range of writing forms. But it was really quite the contrary. There was so much room for customization in this minor, which I enjoyed. Even in the gateway, where they definitely held our hand a bit more, we still were able to choose the topics that we wanted to write about. I thought this was a great way to keep students interested and writing about what they care about—which ultimately makes us better writers and plays up our strengths!

 

I found the difference between the gateway course and the capstone course to be immense. In the gateway course, we were given much more instruction on what was expected of us, how long things needed to be, and what dates we needed to have XX number of pages done. In the capstone course; however, we were really left to ourselves and were expected to be keeping up with our own projects over the course of the semester. In addition, we weren’t told how to complete our projects, but instead that they simply needed to be inventive and well presented.

 

If there were two things that I would change about the minor (and believe me, there really wasn’t much to complain about), I would have to say the lack of check points and the point system itself. I truly believe it would have helped if we had more check points throughout the semester where we were given hard deadlines for when we needed to have a certain number of pages or content completed. This would have made the editing process a lot easier, and would have helped a lot of us seniors at the end of the semester (that was really rough). At the same time, though, I can completely see why it’s designed this way, and we’re all adults, so we should know not to procrastinate on a project of this size. Yet….I’m pretty certain 90% of our class did anyways (oops sorry Ray!) Finally, THE POINTS SYSTEM. Sorry to rant in a post that I wanted to come across as overwhelmingly positive, but I HATE THIS. I was so disappointed that we were not awarded points on the quality of our projects. Rather, this point system brought out the type-A in all of us (even me), and distracted our efforts from the project for the majority of the semester. Even worse, it was hard to get motivated to do an incredible job on the project if it really wasn’t reflected in our grade either way. Just some food for thought for the next incoming writing class! J

 

So, back to the positive stuff. What can I say…my time here at Michigan and in the minor in writing program has been so much more than I expected. When I walk across the stage next Saturday, I’m glad to say that I’ll truly feel like I earned that degree. From the thousands of pages of written work I have completed in my four years here, and the hours upon hours of studying for exams and making sure projects were just the way I wanted them to be, I gave this place my all, and I’m proud of that.

 

Cheers to Ray, the best teacher I have EVER had at this University, and a class that was filled with awesome people who I know will do great things in the future. For today goodbye, tomorrow good luck, and FOREVER GO BLUE!!

#Pivot Essay

As I mentioned in my last post, it is very hard for me to process the fact that this semester is coming to an end.  Upon entering the University of Michigan, I remember countless people telling me how fast the four years would go and how quickly this time will fly by.  At the time, this did not fully register with me.  Senior year, graduation, and real life all seemed like a very distant and intangible future when I was a freshman moving into Mary Markley Hall.  But here I am, writing this post on my last day of classes as an undergraduate college student.  I truly never thought this day would come, but since it has, I would like to use this #pivot essay as an opportunity to reflect on my time here.

When I was accepted to the Sweetland Minor in Writing program, I had no idea that it would end up becoming such an influential part of my college career.  I have always loved to write.  Even in elementary school, writing was always my favorite subject.  But when I began the Sweetland Minor in Writing program, I never imagined that I would be exposed to such a wide variety of different types of writing and different types of people.

My favorite aspect of the Sweetland Minor in Writing Program is the class time.  The fact that this is my favorite aspect is certainly strange, considering it is definitely my least favorite aspect in all of my other classes.  Throughout middle school and high school, English was always my favorite class. There is just something about English classes that is different than all of the other ones.  All of my English classes throughout my academic career have been small classes that tend to engage in deep and meaningful life discussions.  When I think back to them, I think of them almost as a community or family, and have fond memories of our class discussions and the lessons I learned.  Coming to a huge school like The University of Michigan, I was very worried that I would never experience this small and tight-knit community feel in a class again since there would be so many people.  However, I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first English course, English 125.  While the rest of my classes were large lectures where the professor had no idea who I was and none of the students spoke during class time, my English class had the same small classroom and tight-knit feel with a professor who led us in engaging discussions during each class. This trend continued with each of my English and Writing classes to follow. While I found myself continuously dreading sitting through each of my other classes, I looked forward to attending my writing and English classes.  Especially in our Capstone course this semester, I found myself fascinated with the class discussions, and excited to peer review and discuss other classmates’ work and ideas.  We had such a diverse group of people in our class, and I really learned so much from each and every one of them.

In addition to my enjoyment of class time throughout the minor, I am also pleased with how much I have grown as a writer.  Writing the Evolution Essay for the capstone course forced me to think long and hard about why I write, how I write, and how my writing has changed.  This is something I honestly have never really thought seriously about until this year.  Performing a critical analysis on all of the writing that I have done since freshman year was both difficult and enlightening.  It was surprising to see what aspects of my writing had changed drastically and what aspects hadn’t changed at all.  This process really helped me to identify how much my writing had grown and evolved over these past four years, but also what I still need to focus on and work on as I move forward.  I also was excited to use these findings and apply them in my final Capstone project.  It was extremely fulfilling for me to find a way to use the Capstone to show how much my writing had evolved, and how I have become capable of writing in so many different formats and genres.

The Sweetland Minor in Writing has really shown me that writing is everywhere.  No matter what I end up doing in the future, writing will be a part of it.  As I have been going through the interview process this semester, there has not been one interview where the Minor in Writing has not been brought up.  “Oh wow, you are a minor in writing? That’s fantastic!” is usually somewhere along the lines of how it goes.  It seems that no matter what industry you are in, you need to be able to write.  The Minor in Writing has exposed me to so many different forms of writing, even some that I didn’t know existed.  I know feel equipped with the necessary skills to succeed in business, professional, personal, creative, administrative, and new media writing.  The Minor in Writing, especially the Capstone course, really forced me to break out of my comfort zone and try new writing styles, voices, tones, formats, and mediums.  While it was certainly challenging, I am thankful for it.  Completing the capstone course, portfolio, and project was without a doubt one of the most rewarding experiences I have had throughout my four years at the University.  I am sad that it has to come to an end, but I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful program! I am looking forward to taking the skills I have learned with me on my next step into the real world.