An Open Letter to the Unorganized Writer

If I am known for anything, it is my organization. I am your average Type A perfectionist who loves to nit-pick and fine-tune. I love to be steady-minded and ahead of the game, if you will. I’m also a writer. I write out my prayers, letters to my future husband, and keep a daily journal. Most of my writing is recreational, but I also do quite a bit of writing for my classes (as I believe any other college honors student would). I’ve come to notice that my love for organization and writing go hand-in-hand. My organizational skills have greatly improved my writing, and my writing has greatly improved my organization.

I think organization is a wonderful tool that can improve the products of any writer. Now, in a world where organization exists, disorganization must also. Disorganization is often caused by stress or a lack of interest in writing itself. The stress that makes many writers become disorganized is often a result of procrastination. Picture this: you have a five-page essay due at midnight, and it’s 8 p.m. The last thing you would want to do is sit down and create an outline for this essay. With a deadline quickly approaching, many writers simply want to get words on the page and hit that word count. A lack of interest in the subject at hand can also affect a writer’s organization. Let’s say you have to write a research paper on the history of the United States Postal Service. Boy, does that sound fun. You’re right, it doesn’t. Nevertheless, the paper still has to be written. Lack of interest will often cause writers to treat the paper like a nuisance or inconvenience, which has the same effect as the stress mentioned earlier.

Disorganization is one of the worst problems a writer can face. When writers quickly throw together a paper under stress or because they “don’t want to”, it is quite evident in the quality of their work. There are no connecting themes, the thesis is weak, and the ideas in the paper itself are simply not strong enough to convey valid points. Moreover, it limits the mind of the writer. When writers dread writing about a certain subject or under certain circumstances, they begin to believe that they simply are not capable of that type of writing. This is not true! Anyone can write about any subject and actually enjoy it; it only takes a little organization.

There are so many ways to use organization to improve your writing. The first step in starting an organized piece of writing is to evaluate what kind of outcome you want. How many pages do you want to write? What are the main ideas that you want to convey? How do you want to structure your thesis? These are all very important questions to ask yourself before you even start writing. If you have these questions answered before you begin writing, it will be much easier to structure your paper and reach that glorious word count. Creating an outline is so underrated. Before I start writing anything, I always make an outline. For me, this means writing a sentence or two of ideas that I want to convey for each paragraph (I did that for this blog post). This really helps me stay on topic and focused while writing. Let’s say I’m in the middle of an essay and I completely lose my train of thought. I can easily look down at my outline, see my main ideas for this paragraph, and keep writing! Lastly, when you get organized and give your paper the time, thought, and attention it deserves, your content is going to be far more advanced and presentable than if you were to just throw words on a page.

1 Corinthians 14:33 tells us that God is not a God of confusion but of peace. When God created you, He sat down and took the time to shape every hair on your head until He saw you as perfect. Knowing that God has given us His utmost thought and attention, we should, in return, glorify Him by giving that same thought and attention to the work we do. Take delight in knowing that you can glorify God by working well, and use God’s gift of organization to do the highest quality of work you can do.

Written by Lindsey

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Summer Suggestions

As finals are coming to a close, we college students are eagerly turning our minds toward the next three months of freedom! Whether we plan to work, travel, take more classes, or just watch Stranger Things reruns all summer, each of us looks forward to a break from our demanding college lives. No matter how much or little we hope to accomplish, there are several things that every college student needs to make time for this summer.

  1. Relax: Yes, you workaholics, even you need a break. Though some college students have no trouble taking a break, I, and other likeminded individuals, have a lot of trouble in this area. During winter break, I spent the entire month, sans Christmas day and my mother’s birthday, working in one way or another. At my church, at the Writing Center, and even at home, important tasks kept finding their way into my chill time. I never read that book I wanted to finished, never played a game with my family, and never revamped my quiet time or exercise schedule. Thankfully, the sheer exhaustion from finals week forced me to catch up on sleep, and Christmas gatherings forced me to socialize with family. Summer breaks, like winter ones, are intended to give college students a break because we cannot physically and mentally keep studying twelve months of the year. Yes, work that summer job and take that amazing trip to Paris, but take time to rest that overworked brain of yours and do the things you never have time for during the school year.
  2. Get some experience: While resting is important, those of you who are not workaholics need to get into the work or volunteer force and build yourselves up professionally. Find that perfect summer internship, get a part-time job, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or go on a mission or service trip. The people you work or serve with this summer will help you in your future profession. For example, I am working at the Writing Center on my campus, despite the fact that I am a nursing major. Weird, right? But even during my short time here, I have already gained professional experience and skills I will be able to use for the rest of my life. You can rest assured I will be getting as many hours as possible this summer to continue developing my professional skills (interspersed, of course, with a nice, long “me time” with that book gathering dust on my shelf).
  3. Develop good habits: You may have no trouble in this area whatsoever. You may have a perfectly balanced professional, spiritual, physical, and academic lifestyle down already! But for we humans, summer break helps us to rebalance. My problem is spending far too much of my time in the academic arena and practically none in the physical or spiritual. I am going to spend the summer revamping my quiet time, finding a workable exercise schedule, revisiting some old hobbies, and hanging out with friends and family as much as possible. It is easy to tip the balance in one direction and neglect the rest, so take the gift of time to rebalance every area of your life. It’s worth it, I promise.
  4. Prepare for the next semester: Yes, sadly, summer will come to an end. Don’t find yourself caught off guard when August rolls around, and your calendar lets you know that your next semester begins in three days! Take advantage of your extra time in June and July to plan your semester. Invest in a good planner, sign up for classes as soon as possible (some of the best classes close the first day of registration!), talk to your boss about your hours, buy your supplies, find a roommate… the list goes on! Do as much as possible before the first day of classes, so you will be able to dive right into your school work on day one. This way, you will not be required to spend the first week running to the store and settling your affairs.

Though my list may seem rather basic, each thing here constitutes an important part of your summer. Rest, rebalance, and prepare. Your body, soul, mind, and next semester require this of you! This list may not be exhaustive for you, or it may be too exhaustive. Tweak it for your needs, and head into summer ready to conquer!

Written by Michelle

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Graduation: I Remember

Four years ago, I remember wondering if I’d have a hard time making friends in college. I remember worrying about my tentative choice of major (English) and being curious about what it was like to only have one person—myself—to worry about. I remember finishing high school, fighting my mom over my choice to wear my glasses in my senior pictures (thanks for insisting I take them off for a few shots, Mom), and waiting for more news to arrive from that mysterious place called “college.”

I remember hearing the message on the answering machine that told me I’d been accepted to Dallas Baptist University. I remember being excited, then wondering why I was excited. Up to this point, I had either been cripplingly lackadaisical or worried sick about my life after high school, but that phone call changed everything. I remember the fancy acceptance letters coming from Baylor and Hardin-Simmons first, but DBU’s water-bottle invitation felt right.

I remember excitedly comparing piles of dorm supplies—bedspreads, decorations, and cleaning supplies—with my best friend. I remember helping my dad create a jigsaw puzzle in the back of the family minivan as we tried to fit all my dorm stuff inside. I remember meeting my roommates for the first time. I remember when one of them came back to the dorm on the third day of class gushing about a cute boy, and we did the weird hushed-squeal thing 18-year-old girls do when they talk about cute boys. I remember meeting that cute boy for the first time, and shortly thereafter meeting a cute boy of my own to giggle over.

I remember the moment when my family left me at the dorm, and I realized they weren’t coming back for a while. I remember just a couple of days later when I realized I could go to Whataburger with my roommates late at night without having to ask permission. I remember telling everyone I met about my new baby brother (and getting some surprised responses). I remember the first time my dad didn’t filter a “non-kid-friendly” word when we were talking, and I felt like I had really grown up.

I remember attending a dance the first year, then the second year. I remember deciding that staying at home with some blankets and an Indiana Jones movie was more fun the third year, and forgetting the dance altogether the fourth year.

I remember spending most of my free time in the lobby of the dorm, hanging out with members of the opposite species. I remember sneaking a bag of cotton candy into the cafeteria and putting some in every fountain drink they had just to see if it improved the taste.

I remember the day I decided to be brave and switch my major, and, once it was done, I remember the intense feeling of relaxation and excitement that assured me I had done the right thing.

I remember laughing uncontrollably for a solid 20 minutes at a two-minute video at midnight during finals week. I remember betrayals and fights that struck closer to my heart than ever before. I remember my first real heartbreak, and I remember picking up the pieces for weeks afterward.

I remember trying new churches for the first time in my life, and I remember the day I found the one where I belonged.

I remember many late nights studying with my favorite people. I remember many late nights avoiding studying with those same people.

I remember shyly wandering into the school Writing Center and asking, with more boldness than I had ever shown before, whether they had any jobs available. I remember being frightened by the forwardness that was shown to me, but turning in my application anyway. I remember countless morning shifts filled with yawns and coffee, and still more evening shifts filled with laughter.

This blog—my last for my career here at the Writing Center—is so hard for me to write because memories are powerful things. When I look back on the last four years, I sometimes wish I could do it all again—not to do anything differently, but to experience it all and savor every second of it.

I hope that, as you read this, you can feel some of what I felt, and you can remind yourself to live in the moment. College doesn’t last forever. Neither do jobs. What do last are the memories, and those memories dramatically shift the course of your life long after those friendships split off and die out, after those late-night trips to Whataburger permanently alter your waistline, after you lock your on-campus apartment door for the last time, after you walk off campus with your degree in hand. You’ll remember some of the stuff you learned in classes, but the stories you’ll tell your kids are the ones where you laid classwork aside and really enjoyed the moment.

As a 4.0 student and an introvert, this has been a hard lesson for me to learn. It’s easy to hide behind homework instead of socializing and relaxing, but I’ve never regretted letting go and having fun (for long, anyway).

So long, DBU, and thank you for the memories.

Written by Catherine 

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10 Tips to Survive and Thrive During Finals Week

Though finals week is often the college student’s worst nightmare, survival is possible! Here are ten tips to survive, and even thrive, during the most challenging part of the semester.

1. Make a study schedule (and stick to it!)

 Planning ahead of time and making a schedule will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and help you to avoid last minute cramming. To be honest, I’m a bit of an obsessive planner… I won’t even try to deny it. My flower printed Erin Condren planner is even color coded to the hour! Though hourly scheduling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’ve always found it helpful to prioritize my to-do list in order to decide which things are the most important. After I’ve decided on the essentials, I often reserve blocks of time throughout my week devoted to accomplishing the specific tasks on my list. This trick has saved me from several nights of last minute cramming and helps me to devote an equal amount of time to preparation for each test.

2. Eat well

As a girl with a MAJOR sweet tooth, I know how tempting Braum’s and Sonic sound during those late night study sessions. However, the simple sugars in these treats only leave me hungrier and lacking energy when it’s needed the most. In order to function at my best during finals week, I try to fill my body with nourishing fuel.  Beef jerky, granola bars, nuts, and fruit are easy snack options (found in the Patriot Store) that support brain health and keep me full and focused while preparing for that upcoming exam.

3. Use your resources

There are so many free resources offered to help students survive and thrive during finals week. For instance, the University Writing Center (*cough, cough, shameless plug here) offers students free assistance with papers at any stage of the writing process. In addition to academic advice, many local churches open their doors to students during finals week, often providing free treats and a quiet study space. If you prefer to stay on campus, the new Coffeehouse, located next to the Union, is a great place to focus!

4. Minimize distractions

In order to overcome the temptation to scroll through Doug the Pug’s social media accounts while studying, I often put my phone in Do Not Disturb mode, or open the SelfControl app on my Mac. SelfControl is a free application that allows you to block certain websites for a period of time. Sorry Doug, finals week is no time for Pugs!

Also, make sure to choose a study space where you can actually focus. Seek out a quiet spot with comfortable seating and make sure to bring snacks and water with you. Rumbling tummies and parched throats are the worst distractions of all- trust me, this distance runner knows!

5. Take a break

After several solid hours of focus, I am in desperate need of a brain break! Seeking sympathy from my mom over the phone, swinging by the pond, or watching an episode of the Great British Baking Show helps me to regain my sanity and awards me the boost needed to reopen the textbook. These short breaks are essential to successful studying and remind me that there is life beyond finals week.

6. Get comfy

Finals week is my only chance to wear my owl onesie without judgment. I suggest pulling out your comfiest, coziest outfit and snuggling down in a quiet place with your textbooks. However, make sure that your finals week ensemble isn’t too comfortable, or you may end up dozing!

7. Exercise

Although exercise may be the last thing on your mind during finals week, this long distance runner can attest that exercise releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease stress. After sitting around all day, a few trips up and down the library stairs would be the perfect brain break. However, if you want more of a challenge, treadmills, weights, and stationary bicycles can be found inside of the university Fitness Center.

8. Put down the coffee

Take it easy on the energy drinks! Although coffee and Red Bull are sure to give a quick boost, too much caffeine can actually increase anxiety. Try green tea or…

9. GET SOME SLEEP

Although this one is difficult, do your best to avoid late night cramming. Trust me, you will not benefit from all-nighters. In fact, sleep deprivation even decreases concentration and leads to memory loss, headaches, and stress! Get some sleep, ideally six to eight hours.

10. Keep an eternal perspective

Although you understandably want to ace all of your finals, remember that you are not defined by test scores. As Christians, our identity is secure in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. This life is so temporary and each day is a gift from God! During finals week, remember to be grateful for the opportunity to receive an education and rejoice; no matter your grade, God is still sovereign and He is still working for our good.

Written by Leah

Got Stress?

Stress is a major part of our college lives. As college students, we stress about school, work, finances, food, social gatherings, family events, and the process of balancing it all out. Stress can be really unhealthy when it persists for an extended amount of time. Chronic stress can harm our sleep patterns, immune systems, and digestive processes (National Institute of Mental Health). For this reason, it’s extremely important to find ways to relieve that stress. Even if we have something going on every hour of every day, we need to find time to give ourselves a break.

I myself came to the realization of my workload and stress level last semester when I became engrossed in homework every single day and rarely did anything but go to class, go to work, read numerous books, and write extensive essays. During this time, I explored several different ways to relieve my stress which could benefit anyone experiencing a similar situation.

One way to relieve stress is reading. It’s a great way to escape reality for a bit. We can get involved in another story rather than our own. Whether it be poetry, fantasy, history, or dramas, reading forces us to focus on that idea instead of the things that give us stress. However, maybe you’re tired of reading. Maybe you’ve simply read too many books to be able to enjoy reading right now.

Instead of reading, you could try writing. I know, I know. “But I’ve just finished writing three 2-5 page essays!” you may say. Well, writing about our passions is loads more fun than writing academic essays for school. Trust me. Writing can help us focus on something specific and get our minds off whatever has been bothering us or stressing us out. For example, composing poetry can hone our senses on certain details about objects, people, or ideas. If poetry is a little out of your comfort zone (as it is for me), fictional writing is a good alternative. Much like reading, writing fiction can immerse us in another world, but this world is our own. Through fictional writing, we can create an entire world full of interesting characters and stories and use it as a temporary escape from reality.

However, if your enjoyment does not reside in writing, maybe you’d prefer something a little more artsy. Sketching, drawing, or painting can be considered leisurely activities, which may sound fun and peaceful to you. But my personal favorite type of art is coloring. It may sound silly, but coloring is a great way to relieve stress. It’s such a calming and pleasant exercise. It reminds me of the simplest time of my life: kindergarten, when the most difficult decision was deciding which crayon or marker to use. I think we as stressed out college students need to revert back once in a while to those more manageable stages of our lives in order to stay sane. So don’t feel awkward about going to the store to buy a coloring book and some colored crayons or pencils. I myself have to buy a new coloring book and some newly sharpened pencils every now and then.

One of the easiest things that I have done in order to reduce the stress in my life is simply taking a walk. Last semester when I was drowning in school work, I took up to an hour to walk around the DBU campus once a week. It may not sound like much, but it helped me out a lot. It gave me time to clear my head and get my thoughts in order. It was hard at first, forcing myself to do nothing when I knew that I had so much to do. But eventually, I came to love it and couldn’t go a week without taking my evening stroll.

I know that you may feel as if you do not have any time during any day of any week to take a break. But I implore you to make time for it. It doesn’t have to be every day; your break could be only a couple times a week. It doesn’t matter. What matters is your state of mind. Don’t let the stress of life consume all of your thoughts. Sit in your bed and read a chapter of that book that’s been on your reading list forever. Chill out on the couch and color while you listen to your favorite tunes for half an hour. Take a leisurely walk around the block. If you have time to stress, then you should make time for relaxation.

“5 Things You Should Know About Stress.” National Institute of Mental Health, 2018. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml

Written by Taylor Hayes

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Why You Should Never Be a Writer

Writing is hard. Really hard. To an outsider, it might appear easy enough, but writers know that isn’t true. It takes years of careful practice and a million and one drafts to produce one complete novel, and don’t even get me started on trying to publish it. We all know that’s almost impossible. Writers spend hours and hours carefully crafting a single poem or story, only for it to never see the light of day. All of that goes to say, don’t become a writer; it’s not worth it.

It’s not worth the hours you’ll spend with your head in the clouds, dreaming about worlds and characters that don’t exist. You’ll go on imaginary adventures and live a thousand lives in the span of a single lifetime. The world around you will begin to change because of your new perspective. The more you write, the more you will see the beauty and intricacy of the world. Your mind will be opened to new ideas and perspectives, and you will begin to realize that God is using our lives to weave together billions of detailed and unique narratives that all interconnect into one long story that points to Him. So, don’t become a writer.

It’s not worth the rewarding feeling of writing something that you’re truly proud of, that unmatchable feeling of finally fulfilling the dream you’ve had for so long. When you finally get the perfect draft after dozens of discarded ones, you’ll feel more pride than you ever have before. Not to mention the feeling you get when something you wrote makes someone else smile, or laugh, or cry. A writer has the power to make people feel. To make them experience the world in a new way. That’s why you shouldn’t become a writer.

Most of all, it’s not worth the time you’ll spend pouring your soul out onto a page. When nothing in the world makes sense, sometimes all you’ll have is words. A pen and paper might be your only friends, the only way you can make the world make sense. You’ll amass dozens of journals and books filled with the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of times past, and you’ll get a nostalgic thrill from reading them. They can track your growth as a writer and as a person. Nothing compares to the realization that you aren’t the same person you were before. You wrote; you grew; you changed, and you overcame. All of the old giants have been conquered. Writing will purge all of your emotions until you have none left to give. So, don’t become a writer.

Writing will make you work harder than you have before. It will push you to the very edge of your creative limits. You will be challenged in new ways every day. There will be good moments and bad, but it will never stop being rewarding. Through writing, you will learn to think and to feel differently – more deeply. It will help you develop a writing community and hone your craft. Writing is hard, but it can be wonderful. So, obviously, don’t ever, ever become a writer.

Written by Taylor Hayden

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Full Faith During a Full Schedule: How to Use Faith as a Guide During Chaotic Times

I am currently a full-time psychology student at DBU, as well as a part time on-campus worker. Because most student-worker jobs pay little more than minimum wage, getting a second source of income was almost a no-brainer: it’s a little more practical than simply not eating throughout the semester. After applying at a local retail store, I now have the equivalent of a full-time job as a full-time student. More importantly than my student and professional status, I am a believer in Christ, the one who gives strength and provides clarity in difficult times. My chaotic season inspired me to encourage myself and others enduring overwhelming circumstances to use the power of God to help us succeed.

Begin the Day With God

Before jumping out of the bed to cram for the big midterm today or turning on the coffee pot to brew your first of today’s three cups of dark blend, give thanks to God for actually waking you up. Delight in His presence, and ask Him to clothe you in gratitude, servanthood, and protection. Begin the day with faith that these requests shall be received and that the Father is near, no matter what the day brings. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV)

Be Intentional in Serving God

Many can recall days we would attend school or work only to perform minimally. Instead of considering school as a route to a good job, think of it as a place where God has given ongoing blessings of wisdom and opportunity to learn from a variety of people. Rather than complaining about your stale work routine or your less-than-pleasant supervisor, remind yourself that your job is more than completing tasks for a paycheck. Your job is also an opportunity to gain field experience, socialize with others, learn about new cultures, and to simply serve others. “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5 (NIV)

Let Go and Let God

In hindsight, we often find that the harder we try to manipulate events in our favor, the more out-of-control events seem to become. Day and night, we stress about the things of the past and more things yet to come. In lieu of focusing all of your energy into trying to control everything, give yourself the freedom to be out of control. We, alone, do not possess the power to curate and manipulate life completely, nor do we have the strength to maintain these manipulations. The Lord, however is omniscient and omnipotent. He knows everything about us and what’s good for us, and He carries the power to execute His great plans. Many have come to find that we don’t receive much power in attempting to rule over our worries and responsibilities. We receive power by admitting that we find strength in the All-Powerful God. Give Him your burdens and seek His wisdom in going forward. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Be Still

Begin your day with God in mind, labor intentionally for the Lord, and have give Him your burdens. Now be still and trust that God is up to the task of supplying your every need and more. Believe in your prayers, align your mind with God’s desires, and feed your faith by being still. “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

Written by Ashley

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