By applying these strategies to my writing process, I now think of my own writing as a puzzle. The techniques that I’d use during my puzzle night are also useful for making progress on writing, especially when the project’s structure won’t become clear until closer to the end. To illustrate how this works for me, let’s look at an example of a lecture series about Marx that I recently wrote.
How I Write and Learn
Over the summer, two apps have helped me find the time to read for pleasure. I’ve always loved to read, but, sometime in my sophomore year of college, I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I read something I picked. Finding time to read anything for fun has been a challenge for me. Because I’ve been reading so much for school, I found myself not wanting to pick reading as my relaxation of choice. I really missed reading, though.
I see it everywhere–the caricature of frazzled academics taking notes on endless scraps of paper, a trail of ideas flying behind them in the wind. In my case, I used to shove my notes into a drawer, where they were promptly lost and forgotten. Then I found Evernote.
“I have a hard time motivating myself to write.” “I struggle to find the motivation to sit down and study.” As an academic coach, I hear these comments countless times from students. If I had the one infallible solution for how to motivate students to write and learn, I’m sure I would be a much sought after speaker, could go on a world-wide tour, and eventually would retire among the rich and famous! Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s quite how it is going to work.
My brain already feels fried, and this is only my third paper of the semester. For my other writing assignments, I’ve always made an outline before I started writing. Outlines don’t always feel helpful, at least not for me. In any case, I’ve been trying to find a new method to jumpstart my writing. Imagine how surprised I was when I realized that PowerPoint–yes, PowerPoint–could be used for more than presentations. Dare I say, I’ve turned PowerPoint into a writing tool.
The Word and Phrase Tool is a resource that I use to answer questions about my language use. How is this word usually used in a sentence? Does this sound right? Is this formal enough? All of these come to mind as I write. While a dictionary or a thesaurus can help me research these questions, I sometimes want a collection of real examples of the way language is used in real sentences. That language resource exists: it’s called a corpus.
Surprise, surprise: I sometimes (or always) get really distracted while trying to study. Yes, CHEM102L is important, but Instagram is more fun, right? I’ve been even more distracted than usual as I complete my online summer courses! Fortunately, I have two awesome programs for phones and laptops that help me stay on track for as long as I need. Cold Turkey and Forest have been (virtual) life savers.
The following tips, tools, and resources are things that have brought me joy during #quarantinelife. I wanted to share them in the hope that maybe something here will resonate with someone else, too.
When I first came to college, I found it challenging to balance various elements of my life. From class assignments and club meetings to my work schedule and meet ups with friends, it didn’t take long before I started feeling very overwhelmed. I started thinking: How am I supposed to stay on top of all of these deadlines? How can I figure out when I’ll have time to fit everything in my schedule? Eventually I developed a three-part system to keep myself organized.
Another day of quarantine means another day of enforcing structure, something that I am sorely missing since UNC’s shift to online classes and the state’s subsequent stay-at-home order. Like many of my peers, I am struggling to maintain work-life separation and am mourning the loss of the people and patterns that would usually give my days some direction. However, I have found that I am leaning even more on those that I care about not only to help me cope but also to help me stay motivated.