I remember reading my professor’s comments on a paper I’d written in one of my first graduate seminars at Carolina. The paper excited me because it was a topic that interested me, and I believed that my excitement would also factor into producing a well-written, deeply riveting original argument. I was wrong. When I read my professor’s comments, which were few, the words that stood out most were on the last page. Scribbled around some other notes that mentioned the promise of my idea, the professor had written, “This is almost unintelligible.” Reading this comment took a heavy toll on me even though I thought I could shake off the unhelpful criticism.
How I Write and Learn
This semester, my anatomy course has posed a unique challenge for me. My previous studying methods were not helping me reach the level of understanding needed to excel on the quizzes; instead, I found myself falling into the trap of reading over material in the textbook and feeling a false sense of understanding. I could recognize what I was reading or the diagrams I was examining, but my quiz grades were still less-than-ideal. Frustrated with this pattern, I decided it was time for a change in my studying habits!
I have always felt that, in my life, there is a direct tie between food and focusing. When I get hungry, I have no desire to do my work. If I find myself wanting to stay focused, I know that snacks motivate me. I used to carry at least two in my bookbag with me at all times. Whether I’d sit under a tree outside and eat in-between classes or go to Lenoir with my friends instead, I had a system to stop my hunger and help me focus.
Somewhere in this year of quarantine, I went from just casually using social media to being a full on addict. Between Snapchat, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram, my attention span was totally shot as notifications, dings, and buzzes pulled me away from class, homework, and even sleep. After a few months, I’d become a master at logging onto Zoom calls with half my attention and getting by with only half a night’s rest.
What makes me a unique writer? This is a question I ask myself often. As an identical twin, saying that I have gone through a bit of an identity crisis is an understatement. I am constantly confronted with the reality of my own uniquenesses, or the lack thereof, especially when it comes to writing.
In college, I consistently wrote papers last minute. I rarely outlined anything. My senior thesis–supposed to be a year-long writing project–was written in a flurry in March and April of 2013. (I changed the novel I was writing about in February.) While I was furiously adding footnotes and writing whole sections of my thesis the night before it was due, a good friend of mine was calmly line editing hers. I was jealous–and started to acknowledge that I might be a die-hard procrastinator.
For me, one of the most challenging parts of online learning is my attention span. It seems like the longer I spend on my laptop with fifteen tabs open, jumping between them and glancing at emails while on yet another Zoom call, the less I can actually concentrate on any one thing. These days, I struggle to concentrate on a task for more than twenty minutes at a time. I jump between projects at odd intervals, working on eight things at once and yet somehow not getting any of them done. It’s the worst!
Pandemic conditions and fully remote class loads have left many of us students with a mix of synchronous and asynchronous classes, including me. Navigating asynchronous work can be difficult, because it often lacks the enforced structure of a live lecture format and requires me to be self-reliant not only in learning the material, but also in managing my own class schedule. After one and a half semesters of virtual instruction, I’ve developed some strategies that help keep me focused and on track with my asynchronous work.