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.


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.


We Survived May 28, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 3:22 PM
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Well, I’m back. Again. I do tend to take long breaks, but I should be good for a while, since I just finished the main culprit.

That’s right. On May 22, I took my last International Baccalaureate test. Let me tell you – it felt good.

For students all over the world, this summer marks the end of a long and crazy journey. Non-IB people probably can’t grasp how much of a relief it is. The last two years were the hardest of my life. I cried, broke down, and worked more than I ever had before. People asked things of me that I didn’t know I could do, but I did it anyway. I took 17 and a half hours of tests this year and six hours last year. In between, I wrote hundreds of essays, gave loads of oral presentations, and shed bucketloads of tears. Now I’m done. For me and many of my classmates, everything feels surreal. We don’t know what to do with our lives. While I remain unsure of where I’m going next, I’ve had time to reflect on what I’ve done. This post serves as a summary of my reflections, and I address it – and dedicate it – to all IB grads, especially the class of 2012. No matter where you live or what language you speak, this is for you.


When the average high school student graduates, he throws his cap in the air and thinks “Yeah! I graduated!” When an IB student graduates, he throws his cap in the air and thinks, “Wow. I survived.” This year, my class proposed a group shirt with a Survivor icon and the words ‘Outwork, Outstudy, Outlast.’ On the back it read ‘I survived’. The shirts never hit the printing shop (partially because it burned down, annoyingly enough) but the sentiment remains. This year, our focus and our greatest triumph was in survival.

Think back to your freshman year. If your school worked at all like mine, there were lots of pre-IB students. Now think about the group that graduated with you. A lot smaller, right? You – we – are the ones who kept going, kept working, and made it to the end. Congratulations.

I could talk about chasing dreams and following stars and all those clichés, but this isn’t a graduation speech. You’ve probably heard that all before. Instead, reflect for a moment on what you’ve done. You’ve colormarked more sheets of paper than the average Harry Potter book. You’ve tried and failed to understand ridiculously ambiguous novels and poetry. You’ve written hundreds of essays, some of them in different languages. You’ve conducted psychology experiments and quite possibly blown things up in chemistry labs. You’ve cried, groaned, and despaired of ever making it past senior year.

But I hope you’ve also laughed. I hope you’ve learned something – not just about complex differential equations or electron configurations – but about yourselves. You’ve argued, talked, and made friends who will last forever. You’re part of a community that stretches across the globe, full of people with some of the best educations public schools can provide. These are the people with the skills, intelligence, and determination to change the world, and you’re one of them.

Some high school students might come back to their twenty year reunions and talk about their kids. I challenge all of you – all of us – to come back and talk about being a CEO of a huge company, or having several best-selling novels published, or finding a cure for cancer. Every singe graduate is capable of accomplishing amazing, impossible things. How do I know?

We already did.

Congratulations, IB class of 2012. We survived.