all-nighter

Overcome Writer’s Block With These Summer Writing Exercises

Writer's Block

Ah, the summer is here and you’re ready to kick back and relax. If you spent last semester struggling to overcome writer’s block, picking up a pen is probably the last thing you’re planning on doing over summer break. However, soon next semester will sneak up on us and you’ll be back to stressing over how to start writing a paper. The truth is, there is no secret to being a great writer. Simply put, practice makes perfect. Writing and reading are exercises for your mind. The more you practice the craft, the better you will become. You shouldn’t stop writing simply because the semester ended. When school starts back, lose the stress by practicing these four writing exercises over the summer:

Free Write

Some students appear able to begin writing a paper without taking any time to brainstorm. Before class is dismissed, they’ve written a novel and are off to claim their National Book Award. While we can’t all be the next Edgar Allen Poe, we can improve on our ability to overcome writer’s block. Practice free writing, an exercise writers use to strengthen their creative ability and sharpen their voice. Free writing is trying to continuously write for 15 minutes without interruptions. Sound easy enough, right? Well, the challenge is your pen should not leave the paper until those 15 minutes are up. Free writing is not about stopping to think. It’s about actively writing whatever pops in your head. Try walking outside, whether it be in your backyard or in a local park, and finding a comfortable spot to write about your surroundings. 

Once you are finished, take an hour or so before you review what you wrote. After you read your spontaneous creation, take time to make any necessary revisions and turn it into a story. This great exercise for young writers strengthens their thought process and improves their editing skills.

“My first…”

 New experiences create rich memories filled with lasting emotions and detail. Many people can recall their first day of school, their first pet, or their first time driving with distinct clarity. All of these firsts are great story telling opportunities. Try to think about how you felt those days or in those moments and expand on them. What details stand out in your mind? What senses or emotions can you remember? Think of it like you’re telling the story to someone else; what would you want them to know? Start a paragraph with “I remember” or “My first” and let your memories dictate what you write. This will help you create strong stories and sentences because you’re practicing reporting information and using descriptive words.  

Use Online Prompts

The internet is a great source for education. There are dozens upon dozens of online writing prompts that will help strengthen your skills and reduce writer’s block. The best part about using prompts is your freedom to search for and customize them to fit your interests. Prompts usually start with a subject or topic (I.E. What’s Outside Your Window) and feature questions to help you brainstorm what to write for your story.  For a more creative approach, you can combine two prompts to create one bigger story. The options are endless!

Ask Journalistic Questions

If you’ve spent more than 10 minutes in a writing class, you’re likely familiar with the five W’s. Who? What? Where? When? and Why? This formula is often used by journalists to create leads, but it’s a great tool for other writers to utilize. Imagine your walking through town and suddenly see a dog chasing a cat. The dog chases the cat up the street until both animals run around the corner of a building and disappear out of view. Who is responsible for that dog? What caused the dog to start chasing the cat? Where did the two animals run off to? All of these questions create awareness of your surroundings and help with describing a situation.

Writer’s block is the last thing anyone needs when facing a deadline. Doing any of these exercises once a day, once a week, or even once a month can help keep your writing skills sharp throughout the summer. Write, take a break, come back to read it, and learn from your experiences. Now go practice writing! 

 

Recover After Your All-Nighter

First off, let me congratulate you for actually successfully staying up all night. So many people fall asleep with their coffee cups in hand, or wake up with their notes stuck to their face. So you should be pretty proud that you made it all the way through. Though, likely, right now you’re not feeling very proud. Your eyes are probably drooping, a hint of dark circles giving away your marathon school work endeavor. All you want to do is curl up and sleep forever. But, there are better steps you can take to return to your normal self.

Though after an all-nighter the only thing on your mind is skipping classes you don’t need to go to and napping, you won’t be doing yourself any favors. Your sleep schedule is screwed up, and long naps will likely only make you more tired and even more useless in the classroom. Instead, you’re going to have to force yourself to stay awake until bedtime—early bedtime that is. Think about what time you usually turn off the lights and go to bed 3-4 hours earlier. You may be thinking that’s not enough sleep. You’ll likely still be tired the next day, and we’ve all learned there’s really no such thing as “catching up on sleep,” but this step is important to get your sleep schedule back on track. By following this step, you’ll be able to fall asleep at your normal time for the rest of the week and get up in the morning as usual.

During the day following your dusk-to-dawn cram session, there are some options to help you stay awake and also remain tired enough to hit the sack earlier that night. You need to keep your day as normal as possible, following your routine like you spent the night dreaming of unicorns and butterflies. Caffeine was your friend to stay awake, but now it is your enemy. You can drink some coffee or tea in the morning to give you some energy to get through the day. After noon stick to water or some other non-caffeinated drink. Though you may have to drag yourself through the finish line, it’ll be better than getting too wired and energized that you stay awake way longer than you planned to—no need for another all-nighter.

When you do nod off or can do nothing but yawn, instead of reaching for an energy drink, you need to get up and do something. We’re all well aware that when a teacher has that droning voice or turns the lights off for a movie, at least one person is bound to fall asleep. Well, it’s not going to be you! Once your head hits the table, you’ll have a hard time waking up again. Instead, opt for a nice little walk to the water fountain. Go to the bathroom and splash some cold water on your face. Take a walk around campus and soak in some rays. You’ll feel a little more energized and you can feel a tiny bit less guilty about skipping the gym for sleep later on.

The following day, as much as you might be tempted to sleep in, you need to get up at your normal time. Just because you were good and went to all your classes after an all-nighter doesn’t mean you get to reward yourself by skipping out today and sleeping to your heart’s content. This too would throw off your sleeping schedule and keep you up later at night, thus going back into this vicious cycle of constantly being overly-tired. So, don’t hit that snooze button and set a bunch of alarms to make sure your open your pretty little eyes. By doing so, you’ll have helped repair your sleep schedule and it’ll be as if that horrible all-nighter never happened.

Finally, you should remember all-nighters should be kept at a minimum. Don’t torture yourself by staying up all night several times a week because you put off homework or studying. Cramming and waiting until the last minute won’t get you very far in your classes or your real job down the line. It’s not only bad for your grades and your work ethic, but you can seriously throw your body completely out of whack. So, rather than sitting here reading this article to get ready for an all-nighter or feeling like death because you just finished one and need some help getting over it, try making a schedule and getting nights of regular sleep. You’ll thank yourself later.

-ToonyToon

I’m reading Short Course in Digital Photography

10 Tried and True Tips for Pulling an All-Nighter

It’s here, the time of the year when college students from all over the country are scrambling to organize for the misery that is finals week. My gut tells me that there are some students who study weeks and months in advance to prepare, however the rest of us will have some long nights and early days in the next week or two. I know I will. If you’re a freshman, you might be asking yourself, how am I supposed to learn 10 chapters of Spanish in one day? Or how can I memorize this 15-page study guide in one night? The answer is simple: Pulling the infamous all-nighter. The all-nighter is among the most deadly weapons that a procrastinating student can use in this battle of knowledge that is “higher education.” Most of us have been there before, some of us multiple times, so what is the best way to use this weapon? Here is a list of tips that I’ve come up with during my 3 years in college.

  1. Study Groups – Think about it this way. Everyone in the class must complete the 10-page study guide. If 5 students all chip in, that’s only 2 pages of work for each person. Furthermore, it will give everyone more time to study what he or she needs to know instead of searching for answers.
  2. Caffeine – Whether your caffeine fix involves coffee, soft drinks or energy drinks, finals week is the time to use it to your advantage. Do NOT overuse caffeine if you’re panicking. My advice is study for 90 minutes, then take a short break and consume your drink of choice. Use sparingly and caffeine will be your friend.
  3. Take Breaks – This will ultimately slow you down, but it will help you avoid being sidetracked. I usually take a break every 90 minutes to give my brain a rest from information overload.
  4. Music – I like instrumental music the best during finals week. I’ve found that it’s less of a distraction and it still keeps my brain stimulated. I think it’s ultimately beneficial and helps time go by faster.
  5. 2 Tests to Study For? – It’s best to switch up subject every once in a while, to avoid brain drain. Try studying subject 1 for 90 minutes, taking a short break, and studying subject 2 for 90 minutes.
  6. Don’t Fall Asleep – This is without a doubt the most challenging part of pulling an all-nighter. Some tips on staying awake: take a cold shower, spicy foods can help, exercise will get your blood pumping again, take a smoke break, play a quick game of solitaire, make a quick phone call or talk to someone from your class about your study guide. What ever you do, DO NOT take a nap. That 10 minutes will turn into 30, which will turn into the entire night.
  7. Don’t Give Up – If you find yourself in an impossible studying position, just keep on moving. This can be very hard when your stress level is that high, however I have found that it is best to suffer through it. Think about it this way: do you want to go home and fall asleep, knowing that you gave up? Or do you want to study hard all night and go into the exam feeling confident?
  8. Forget about “I’ll finish this in the morning” – No, you wont. Especially if you are getting little to no sleep already. Think about it realistically: If you go to bed at 5 am, and have a test at 9 am, do you really think that you will wake up at 7am and do equations? It’s nearly impossible to wake up clear-headed and ready to do work after two hours of sleep.
  9. Try to laugh – It will keep your stress from taking over, and it will keep your brain stimulated. Try your favorite YouTube videos during breaks. Also a good way that I’ve found is to call a classmate who you know will be less prepared than you. Their progress will give you that little tiny bit of motivation needed to move on.
  10. Stay Confident – This is easier for some than others, but staying confident and positive about your scholastic ability will ultimately help your study session. For example, knowing that you have the confidence to do well will help your brain take in more information. It’s like knowing you’re better than someone in basketball, that confidence might just be the difference in the game.

Bonus Tip – If you’re freaking out, call your Mom or Dad. I have done this many times over the years, and it has helped me greatly. There is something about talking to my mother that helps me calm the storm and keep moving forward. Tell your Mom or Dad that you are freaking out, and ask them for advice. Their advice might not be golden, but just talking to them will help lower your stress levels.

All-nighters are technically not great for your body or mind, however sometimes you have to step up to the plate and do what you have to do, or fail. The choice is yours, choose wisely!

Good Luck Everyone.

Alabaster

I’m reading Economics: Principles, Problems, and Policies

Never Pull an All-Nighter Again (unless you want to)

The All-Nighter:  a panic and caffeine-fueled attempt to cobble together an acceptable academic document such as an essay, lab report, or problem set.  Usually directly followed by The Mad Dash to wherever said document is due.

If you are entering freshman year or are a chronic procrastinator, this post is for you.  You cannot write a quality paper in one night.  It’s just not going to happen. If you were here in person I would grab your face and squeeze your cheeks together like that aunt you avoid at family gatherings, look deeply into your wonderfully naive eyes and tell you not to sell yourself short like that.  OK?  They sound romantic and so…college, I hear you.  But it’s like trying to lose ten pounds in a day.  You’re not going to reach your goal and you’ll feel like crap the next day.  Shaky anxiety from too much caffeine and falling behind on everything else in life does not have to be part of your college experience, nor do you have to spend all your time in the library.  Here’s how:

If you have time to get schoolwork done during the day, use it.  Nighttime is full of distractions.  All your friends are out of class, meal times run long, better TV shows are on.  You get the point, the list is endless.

When it comes to writing a paper, give yourself ten hours for a 3-5 pager, double that for a 10-pager, and so on.  If you use a calendar like Google or Ical (which I highly recommend), use those time guidelines as a rule of thumb and give yourself a day as a cushion.  Any more than that is unrealistic if you’re a procrastinator.

One thing I try to avoid is scheduling huge blocks of time devoted to writing.  It sets you up for dread and procrastination.  Everyone operates differently, though.  Pay attention to how you are most productive and use that to your advantage on your next big project.  Also key is working out the finer points of your paper while doing mundane tasks.  Whether that’s making your drive/walk to class every morning, or cleaning your Superhero figurine collection (I’m not judging, I swear).  Keeping your paper on the backburner of your brain will keep you from pulling an all-nighter.

One last thing, and I realize this is oddly specific and personal but it took me a while to figure out and might help you, too.  I find that sometimes a cup of calming tea is better than coffee or energy drinks to write.  It gets you out of “HOLY SHIT I HAVE TO GET SOMETHING ON PAPER OR I’M GOING TO FAIL” mode to an “okay, let’s take this one step at a time” mindset.

Still having problems writing that “A” paper?  Coming soon…. How To Write a Paper So Wickedly Fantastic Your Professor Will Try to Pass it Off As His Own Kids’.  The length of that title was completely necessary, thanks for asking.

 

Wonderbread

I’m reading Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function