Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

Finals Approacheth December 8, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 11:09 AM
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The end of the semester is nigh, promising holiday food, a break from homework, and a chance to sleep in. If you’re in high school or college, though, there’s one last hurdle to jump. Finals.

Finals can be detrimental to your health in a lot of ways. Stress can do a ridiculous amount of damage to your system, and anyone facing hours of testing that can sink your grade is going to be stressed. Many people stay up late into the night studying – 0r doing anything to put off studying – and the lack of sleep compromises their immune system. Students with notebooks full of information to review aren’t likely to go outside. We don’t have time. We end up sitting or lying down all day flicking through pages, getting absolutely no exercise. On top of that, I know I tend to eat more junk food when I’m stressed. I’ll often ‘reward’ myself with unhealthy stuff after accomplishing something, but finals can engender mindless snacking. Also, at my university, most of us are now spending our extra meal points, and most of the items available aren’t very good for us either. Put all of this together, and I’m afraid we’ll all come out of final weeks as fat slobs – just in time for the holiday season.

With this in mind, try to avoid becoming an amoeba – even if you’re studying biology. It won’t give you an edge. The weather isn’t too bad in my location, but even if it’s cold, try to move around a little every day. Many universities have recreation centers, and many neighborhoods have parks or gyms. If it’s cold, bundle up well and go for a short walk. Exercise may feel like a waste of time when you’re staring down a deadline, but it can give you a much needed break and chase away that sluggish feeling.

Eating healthier food is, allegedly, better for your brain. You also won’t regret it later. Depending on your location, healthy stuff can be hard to find. If you eat at school, swing by the salad bar and pick up fruit instead of a cookie. Drink water instead of soda. Tell yourself you can indulge once tests are over, and use that as motivation. It’s a pain – trust me, I know how tempting it is – but avoiding junk food will pay off in the long term. This doesn’t mean not eating any, of course – I don’t think anyone could make it through finals week on carrot sticks – but try to tone it down.

Whether you manage to get outside and eat well or stay curled in the fetal position on your bed surrounded by chips bags, good luck. I hope you all do well on your finals and have a wonderful break.


Kat vs Real Life: Working October 20, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 10:24 PM
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I had bad luck on my job search.

I wanted to get a job before I left for college. I really really did. But unfortunately our current climate has perpetuated a vicious cycle. You need experience to get a job. You need a job to get experience. See the problem?

I was given one offer but, for reasons I won’t go into now, I couldn’t take it up. I went into college experience-less, which isn’t very promising for an English major in this environment.

In college, it turns out, jobs are everywhere. Fluorescent fliers coat billboards and are plastered onto walls. They offer shady, not well described jobs promising ‘flexible hours’ and ‘competitive pay’. I’m not quite that desperate. It’s probably making phone calls. Phones are the enemy.

I do have a job. Kind of. It’s a fellowship, paying minimum wage, but for work that is somewhat respectable. I’m doing research work for a professor, which consists of getting lost in my campus library or reading centuries-old theology on the internet. (St. Augustine wasn’t as clever as he thinks he is.) It’s not work as many people would think of college ‘work’. It doesn’t pay super well. However, it’s a job that doesn’t require much personal contact and I’m getting about $200 a month.

That by itself is pretty cool. Yeah, I could make more at McDonalds. But still, it’s mine. I earned that money. (The notion that they’re basically paying me for  chunks of my life, although creepy, is easy enough to brush aside.) I’m worth money. Real tangible stuff that I can use to buy other stuff. Mostly hot drinks once it gets cold, probably. It’s another tiny baby step toward adulthood.

If only I could get a raise.


Trying Not to Drown August 28, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 11:19 AM
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I am a spy.

That’s what I say, at least. It sounds a lot more interesting than the more accurate terminology. During my first year of college, I get to work with a professor. Right now, I’m using my blasted slow internet connection to lurk other colleges’ programs and learn what they’re doing to attract students. As I said, spying. Kind of.

I’m paid a little for this project, and so far don’t have another job. Because of that – and because I have fewer hours of class time than in high school – I assumed college would be less stressful. Life lived at a slower pace, lots of free time – fun. Not work.

I was very wrong.

On my second day of classes, I was assigned fifty pages of reading (and an entire memoir to get to when I had the time). I’ve already taken a quiz, signed on for an oral commentary date, and taken at least twenty pages of notes. I’ve read, typed, and checked school emails until my eyes burned.

That’s just the schoolwork. I’ve made countless treks to the bookstore for last minute supply refurbishment. I’ve tried to snag the piano when it’s free, be early enough to get a place in exercise classes, and reach the laundry room before anyone else (so I can lose $1.25  to a broken machine without an audience.) Right now, sheets are draped across my bedpost and chair. A pair of damp pants hangs off the edge of my desk. My drying rack isn’t quite big enough. Laundry days are fun.

Every day I need to clean my breakfast dishes, tidy, and dash down four sets of stairs to check my mail. Later today I’ll need to rent out a vacuum for our sadly messy floor. At some point, I’ll need to develop an organization system for my even more sadly disordered desk. And did I mention I have quizzes to study for?

College is like jumping into deep water. It’s not a question of swimming. It’s a question of trying not to drown.


(Note: I wrote this post on Sunday, but neglected to post it until now. The quizzes will be faced this afternoon, and my pants are dry. All is relatively well. Still treading water here.)


What I Miss in College August 19, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 9:54 AM
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1. My cats. College has so far been an animal free zone. I’ve only seen dogs from a distance. I need to find a PetsMart and lurk in the kitten section stat.

2. Private showers. Yes, they’re in separate stalls, but I still feel awkward. Plus, you always need shower shoes unless you want to pick something nasty up off the floor.

3. Ease of transport. I don’t actually need a car to get around campus, but the constant walking is tiring. Reaching places like Target or the grocery store requires  large time investment.

4. Peace and quiet. Our dorm floor enjoys watching TV and playing games late at night. This wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t vocalize their approval… loudly. I’m still getting used to sleeping through it. Hopefully once classes start they’ll quiet down.

5. Family. This hasn’t hit hard yet, but it’s weird. I’ll see something funny and think ‘Oh, I’ll have a story when I get home.’ But… I won’t get home for a long time.

One thing I thought I’d miss a lot more was the food. Right now, though, we’re getting lots of free nourishment thrown at us. Also, the stuff at the dining halls is surprisingly good. We’ll see if that keeps up.

Currently, I’m weathering the storm that is living alone. Check back with me in a week to see if I’m still alive

Are any of you college students/graduates? What did you miss most about being away from home?


College and Contests August 15, 2012

Filed under: Whatever,Writing — katblogger @ 8:36 PM
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I’m writing this post from my college dorm, which is kind of crazy.

I only moved in yesterday, so I can’t make any definitive statements about college life yet. I can give you my first impression though – busy. I’ve been running around like a chicken with its head cut off – to use the very tired simile – finding books, fixing computers, buying passes… everything I need to get my life up and running.

Unfortunately, college also means something terrifying. Socializing.

I am not good at this. In the IB programme, I studied with the same set of kids for four years. Now I’m expected to learn people’s names? To talk to strangers? My reaction to all of this is to curl up in a hole and hide until semester break. But I will persevere. I’ve even learned three names!(Which I will forget quickly.) However, posting may not be as regular for a while as I wrestle out my new life.

Meanwhile, I got some good news!

Three times now I’ve succeeded by sneaking into the teen market right before the door shut on me. It’s a decent strategy. Competition is a lot lower in teen only magazines, because it cuts out so many people. Take advantage of that while you can. I’ve left those opportunities behind. Now any contests I enter pit me against writers with decades more experience, maybe even with books or awards to their name. Fighting my way past them is going to be tricky. For now I think I’ll sit back, relax, and handle college. Writing contests can wait.


Class Frenzy pt 2 June 22, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 12:57 PM
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The ordeal is over, and I survived (albeit barely). After a 5 AM to 11 PM day full of constant stimulation and not much sleep… let’s just say it was fun and leave it at that. What’s more – I’m enrolled! Per usual, this could not be completed without drama. Out of five classes and one backup chosen with an advisor, I was able to enroll in two of them without a fuss. One was full and I had to get special permission to enter. The others were either full, not available that semester, for upperclassmen only, or in conflict. After desperately scrolling through class lists, this is my schedule for the first semester of college:

General Anthropology

Classical Mythology (Honors)

Intermediate French Composition and Conversation

The Early Modern World (Honors)

Introduction to Religion (Honors)

No math, no science… it’s going to be a weird semester. I can’t wait to get started!

(Longer posts are forthcoming. I’m still sleepy at the moment, but we should be back on track on Sunday.)


Class Frenzy June 19, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 12:23 PM
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Tomorrow, I embark on a voyage to the college that will be my home for the next four years. I must undergo summer orientation, where I will conference with various people, take placement tests, and be forced to mingle. My schedule will be made during this event, determining how much slacking I’ll be able to get away with next year. (Just kidding. I do hope it’s easier than IB senior year, which many graduates have told me.) It’s suggested that I determine which classes I want beforehand to make things easier. A few days ago, I pulled up the course catalogue and set out on a great hunt through the list of random classes. I needed to locate three options (one preferred, two backup) for humanities, history, math/science, and electives.

Right away, I ran into problems. The navigation was poorly set up. I had to click through three different screens to view whether a course had empty seats, was open to non-majors, or required pre-requisites. Most sciences (which I need for general ed. credits) were major-specific. Others were unavailable. Courses that sounded interesting required me to take far duller ones first. Why do I need to take American History for the third time (paying good money for it) when I could be studying Vietnam instead?

My course list is currently a horrible, scrawled, and scratched out mess:


The course advisors are going to love me.

This is the product of a long day of finding classes, realizing I couldn’t take them, scratching them out, and repeating ad nauseam. I hope the schedule makers can decipher it. Meanwhile, my IB scores aren’t out yet. Those results may give me credit that can adjust my schedule still further, potentially undoing any progress we make during orientation. Fun.

You gotta love enrollment.