Archive for November, 2007

Lessons I Need To Remember: On Writer’s Block

I’ve had occasional spots of writer’s block, everybody does, but this semester I experienced one that I did not know how to deal with.

Late in September this writer’s block started to make its appearance. I was not only busy being stressed about having less time to get school work done, but all the sudden it seemed I had nothing to write about or when I did write it sounded like garbage. It didn’t bother me too much at first, I’ve handed papers in late before and it didn’t turn into a problem. But then it started to spread to all my classes and suddenly I had several papers that were late, it was a virus slowly killing my grade. The most I could seem to muster up was a paragraph and a comment on a blog post. I could not write about anything at great length, I felt I had bits and pieces sitting in my brain, but I couldn’t build anything with them. Even in English class where I had to write a paper about myself I was coming up with nothing, is that even possible?

Why was it so hard to write about anything?
Why didn’t anything sound right?

As time went on I became increasingly gun-shy (or is that pen-shy?) and an endeavor I once enjoyed was something I had come to really abhor. Had I become such a perfectionist that nothing I wrote was as good enough?

Steve always being the concerned mentor was helpful and honest. “What is Nike’s slogan?”, he would ask. “Just do it”, I would respond knowing all to well he was right (how annoying). I’m sure those of you who follow me on Twitter were subject to many tweets of complaining (thanks for not blocking me). The nice thing about twitter is that I could also receive helpful advice from people. For instance Sue Fernsebner pointed me to a website that contained the following quote:

“Commit yourself to the process not the project. Don’t be afraid to write badly, everyone does. Invest yourself in the lifestyle not in the particular piece of work.” -Frank Conroy

So I’ve been trying very hard to write. Even when I have felt that every sentence I was writing down was crap I’ve kept trying. Somewhere along the line I had convinced myself if it wasn’t going to be great it shouldn’t be written at all and of course that is mostly complete rubbish.

Maybe not everything I am writing is worthy of a gold star, but that isn’t the point. I should be writing for myself. If I want a random post about my love of CSI why not go ahead and do it. I can no longer just keep this blog dedicated to those “golden ideas”, I don’t want my blog to be like that at all.

No one has a perfect life and why should my blog make it seem like I think I know all the answers, I am certainly do not. I’ve just got to blog in the way that works best for me, and be ok with that.

There will be a time for posts that require a slow blogging approach and there will be time for a more “bavatuesdays” or “Bill’s Stuff” stream of thought of just getting what you need to say out there. Both foster conversations in their own way.

Just blog it.

Lessons I Need To Remember: On Over-Scheduling

There has been a long period of silence on this blog, much longer than I ever intended. Ideas have floated in and out of my head and have never quite reached digital paper. My schedule (and my approach towards school work and perhaps even life) this year is vastly different than the one I had last year and I have had to come face to face with many of my own flaws and insecurities; just the sort of problem you don’t want to have be dealing with in your sophomore year of college. So with a cup of Earl Grey tea and setting myself in the “Jim Groom Work Position” (feet up on the desk if you are not familiar) it is time to do some dissection. There is a lot I want to say (or ramble on about) so I plan to break this up into multiple posts that are loosely tied together. And I also need to remember that I can blog for myself.

My freshman year of school I intentionally kept my schedule open. I didn’t take a campus job or really get involved in any clubs. I wanted to make sure I would give myself enough time to be able to meet the demands of a college level classes. So I ended up having a lot of free time on my hands. It conveniently went along well with my work ethic of procrastinating because there was always time to get whatever I was putting off done.

Fast-forward to this school year. I now have a job as a student aide at DTLT about 10 hours a week (I really couldn’t ask for a better job), I babysit in the morning twice a week, I am a Young Life leader (that takes up about 10+ hours a week), and somewhere in between that I also go to classes. Not that I necessarily prioritized being a student last, but somehow I forgot to figure in work outside of classes into my schedule. About a week or two in the fall semester I started to realize I was in way over my head. Also considering I had always dealt with procrastination by leaving my schedule wide open, I had run into a glitch in my system and I was sinking fast.

Logically, I could have (and maybe should have) cut back on some hours at work or better structure my time so that when I had free time I was putting it towards something productive. Being of the stubborn nature (as my cousin once told me) I didn’t want cut back on the commitments I had made. Going to work is something I look forward to and I didn’t want to have to cut back on something I enjoyed. Secondly, babysitting has been an escape from having to think about me, it is a time to distract myself from a lot of the worries that tend to drag me down. Three hours can feel like an eternity (both a good and bad thing) and sometimes I come back to campus feeling like I have been living a completely different life (it is weird, I know). In addition, a large part of my time has been spent being a YoungLife leader. That in itself has its own set of occasionally unpredictable hours and has been stretching me in directions that completely take me out of comfort zone, which, of course is both scary and thrilling. After going through all the things that I was interested in what I found left of my list of things to do was “be a student” and how boring and unattractive did that seem against the other things I was doing.

What all this over-scheduling really made evident was how my study skills among other school related skills were rather poor. I wasn’t able to keep up because I had no work-flow or real effective method for studying. My approach to studying had always been going over notes the night before or, more likely, an hour before class. I have a pretty good visual and short term memory so it has been always been easy to pour out the answers on the test before it all disappeared down the drain. That sort of method was exactly what I wanted to avoid this semester, but I realized I hadn’t thought of another approach to replace it with. It is not pleasant to realize that in my sophomore year of college that I’ve never really had an efficient or dynamic plan for academics and the method I had now was no long sustainable. I’ve always been to busy playing “the game” to actually come up with ways to actually learn well.

I’m already making sure that next semester is not as jam-packed as this semester and that I have an actual plan of action for acquiring the tools to be a better learner. My grades have taken a hit this semester, not that grades were ever a motivator for me in the first place, but it is still disappointing considering the enthusiasm I had at the start of the school year. So, despite desperately wishing that I had not been so busy this semester I have learned that when I am filled to the brim it is easier to see where the cracks are in my foundation. What was once a slow leak and a minor annoyance became a rushing stream of water that I could not ignore. It has forced me to take problems head on and in that way I am thankful for this experience.

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