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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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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Glorifying God During Spring Break

It’s about halfway through the spring semester of college, and boy does it feel like it. Assignments are piling up, deadlines are getting closer and closer, and it feels like the strenuous work of college life will never end. As soon as we start losing all hope and contemplating what life would be like if we dropped out and joined the circus, a light appears at the end of a long, dark tunnel: spring break.

A whole week without studying, piercing rings of alarm clocks, or stressful emails from professors reminding you of upcoming assignments… well, as long as you aren’t taking a mini. When I think of spring break, I think of going home to my family in Arkansas, sleeping in every morning, and relishing in the glory of my mom doing my laundry and cooking my meals. As relaxing and peaceful as that may sound, it got me thinking; how would I be glorifying God while laying around being a slug all day?

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” I think we all must take this verse to heart this spring break; let us not lie idle, but see the opportunity to work for the Kingdom of God during this week of rest. Though there is no school work to keep us occupied, there are still plenty of opportunities to stay active and get involved in our communities. From volunteering for a worthy cause to dedicating time to a loved one who needs a supportive companion, there are endless possibilities to glorify God this spring break.

Almost every community offers volunteer opportunities like feeding the homeless at a shelter, reading to children at an orphanage, or partaking in fellowship with the elderly at a retirement home. If not, there are still ways that we can be a servant leaders in our communities independent of an organization. Every community can benefit from volunteers picking up trash on roadsides, holding yard sales that benefit a local cause, or paying for the car behind you in a drive-thru.

It is important to remember the purpose for these good works during spring break. No matter how you spend your week off, don’t forget the will of the Lord. In all of your triumphs, give Him the glory. Use your week of rest as an opportunity to teach your community for the One who set you free. Take advantage of this time that the Lord has given you, and let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.

Written by Lindsey

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Take Care of Your Characters

Have you ever been writing a story and get the worst writer’s block? Maybe you simply can’t figure out where the plot should go or why your characters are even in the situation in the first place. If you’ve had this experience, don’t worry. You are not alone. (If you haven’t, then I am jealous of your talent.) A good method to use when you get writer’s block is to focus on your characters. The plot is definitely the main element of a story, but the characters have a huge impact on where the plot is going.

If you’re like me, then you can get caught up in all the plot details like how Person A and Person B will finally fall in love and be together or how the hero will climb out of the hopeless situation he’s been thrown into. These, along with many other types of plot details, rely on characters. If you can figure out what you want your character’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations to be, then you can figure out where your story is going.

One thing I like to do in order to keep everything organized in my brain and give me a visual aid is make character sheets. I compile a list of all the things I would want to know about my character. And this isn’t limited to a simple description like eye color, hair style, body type, and clothing. Although appearances can give certain clues to the identities of people, they do not tell the entire story. You can also list personality traits. What mood are they in most of the time? Give both the good and bad side of their character. Also, list some other random facts about them. What annoys your character to the nth degree? What can they simply not resist? What is their sense of humor like? What are their greatest fears? Do they have any deep, dark secrets? All of these attributes can affect your characters’ actions and therefore guide the plot of your story in a specific direction.

If you’ve got all this stuff down already, then maybe it’s time for a plot twist of some sort; you may need something unexpected to happen. Well, this may sound harsh, but to do this, you’ll probably need to put your character through a little (or a lot) of turmoil. But don’t be afraid to be mean to your characters. A lot of the time, the most influential moment in a novel or short story is when something negatively impacts the characters, especially the main protagonist. If they take something for granted, take it away, whether it be an object or a person. It will cause them to either change routes or test their commitment to a certain path. Maybe they have a belief or a certain someone or something they believe in. Make them doubt it. Make them confused. They may choose to seek out another truth or maybe they will overcome it and have a new, stronger faith. Remember their worst fears? Use them. They could fall in defeat or overcome it.

I used a couple of these methods when I was in one of my creative slumps as I was writing one of my fantasy stories. I specifically turned to my protagonist’s loved ones. My young, orphaned heroine had recently begun to form a positive and growing relationship with her newfound father figure and mentor, and she couldn’t have felt happier or safer with him. The plot grew to a standstill because the protagonist felt too safe and had no reason to move forward in her quest, so I decided that this was the time the villain should strike and take away this new safety from my heroine. I didn’t exactly kill the beloved mentor off, but I left barely enough hope for the heroine to hold onto so that she would have the motivation to continue her quest and fulfill her destiny in my story. Saving him and the goal of her quest became the same, so if she believed that she could save her mentor, then she would have the motivation to fulfill her destiny in completing her quest.

You can use these concepts and techniques to both develop your characters’ identities and push the story forward. Thinking about your characters, their actions, their beliefs, their fears will help aim the plot of your story in a certain direction. Without your characters, there would be no story.

Written by Taylor Hayes

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