Letter to the Overwhelmed Writer

Dear Overwhelmed Writer,

First of all, you are not alone. Even the most experienced writers can get bogged down in ideas, sources, and deadlines. I have learned from experience that writing assignments can definitely be stressful. Sometimes the page count is just too daunting, or the right words are hard to find. However, I have some good news: no matter what it is you’re struggling with, it can be overcome.

For starters, a good way to cut down on the stress of writing assignments, no matter what kind, is to go into the writing process with everything already prepared. If the writing process is for a paper, gather all of the sources, quotes, and information ahead of time and have them readily accessible. If you’re writing a story, write out the main idea and make sure that it makes sense and that all the important details are accounted for. Next, outline. Every piece of writing should start as an outline. Any easy way is to go scene by scene or paragraph by paragraph and write down the ideas and information you want to use in that section. The easiest way is to also include any quotes or statistics with their sources in the outline, to avoid having to hunt them down later. Then, when the writing process starts, it’s just a matter of converting the ideas into words. However, the key is to do all of the preparation ahead of time instead of the night before. Researching and outlining can sometimes be a long process, and an impending deadline can cut the writing time short.

Although the worst is now over, writing itself can sometimes cause anxiety. There are many times where the right words just aren’t coming to mind. For situations like this, a thesaurus will be your best friend. It helps a lot to be able to look up similar words that will often lead to a better synonym. Another tip that often helps with writing is waiting until after the work is completely done to do any editing. Getting caught up in going back and making changes slows down the process and sometimes the entire work needs to be complete to be able to tell if an idea makes sense or not. If necessary, cover the entire screen except for the line or two you are currently working on. Then, once it’s finished, go back and check for spelling, grammar, and fluency. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help if it feels like things aren’t going well. The Writing Center can be a great resource, and having a second set of eyes can help.

There you go: some tips to get you through the stress of the writing process. Now that you know how to beat the overwhelming feeling, you have all the power in the world. Next time you feel the anxiety setting in, start early and be prepared; you’ve got this in the bag. So, go forth and write!

Written by Taylor

Image credit

Fire Drill

Picture this:

It’s 5 o’clock on a Monday, and I just found out that I have three major assignments due before the end of the week. There’s no telling how long it’s been since my hair has been washed, laundry is piling up, and I’m teaching my very first lesson to a group of kindergarteners tomorrow morning. On top of all that, I’m taking 18 hours of classes, working 25 hours in the Writing Center, and I haven’t gone to bed before two-thirty a.m. on a single night in over a week and a half. To say that I’m stressed is an understatement and a huge one at that.

So, in all of my infinite wisdom, I decide to take things on one at a time. I decide to prioritize the tasks at hand and do the most important things first. I naturally decide to watch The Office.

Okay, so maybe this wasn’t the wisest decision, but hear me out before you judge. On that very cloudy, very crummy, completely overwhelming Monday, The Office taught me something I’ll never forget. But, before I get ahead of myself, let me set the scene.

office-stay-calm

Season Five, Episode Fourteen.

Dwight Schrute, Assistant to the Regional Manager, decides it’s time to have a fire drill. Since nobody paid attention to the fire safety presentation he gave last week, Dwight decides to make the drill a little more creative. What better way to do that than to jam all of the doors leading to the exterior of the building, to scorch the door handles with a torch, and to start an actual fire in the office? When his co-workers finally notice the smoke, havoc is wreaked, and they quickly try to evacuate the building. As they sprint around the room, screaming, pushing, and burning their hands on door handles, Dwight calmly announces fire safety procedures in the midst of all chaos. Ignoring his existence entirely, Dunder Mifflin’s finest staff completely lose their cool. Oscar climbs through the rafters to retrieve help, Angela fears for the life of the cat she’s hiding in the filing cabinet, and Jim attempts to bust down the door by slamming the copy machine against it. In the meantime, Michael throws a projector through his second-story window, and Kevin prepares for his last meal by shattering the glass of the vending machine. Commotion continues, and all the while, Dwight never ceases to provide safety instruction for his coworkers, yet, engulfed by the intensity of the stressful situation, his colleagues fail to utilize his guidance.

Now, let’s stop there.

I don’t know about you, but this scene, though I had seen it twenty times prior to this particular viewing, held more value to me on that day than it had ever before. There they were, my closest friends in Scranton, living through what might have been the most stressful experience of their lives; here I was, a poor and struggling college student still pining for her future husband, John Krasinski, living through what definitely is the most stressful chapter of her life. And yet, neither they nor I decided to look to the only One in charge of situations at hand that day. Instead we looked to people. We looked to our possessions and food and things of this earth. We looked to ourselves, hoping that we could conquer the stresses of our lives on our own. We did all of these things and chose to ignore the ones in charge. I failed to ignore the One in charge.

We, as Christians, tend to think that we have complete control of our lives. We exhaust ourselves daily by trying to keep up with the demands of the world on our own, and all the while, the Lord calls to us, yearning for us to submit our worries unto Him. Why is it that we are so slow to turn to Christ for guidance? The truth is, He already knew if those three major assignments were going to be completed, when they were going to be completed, and how well I was going to complete them. He already knew that a restful weekend would come at the end of the week, that my mom would help me do my laundry, and that my kindergarten lesson would be a success. He already knew the outcomes of every task I was stressing over, and all He was asking me to do was to turn to Him, having faith that He would give me the strength to make it though.

Today, I encourage you to look to Him. When finals start and presentations begin, turn to Him for the wisdom and strength. Don’t flounder in your own fire drill, but turn to Him.

Written by Haley

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Image credits: Header image, Everybody Stay Calm .gif

Dealing with Stress

We’re all familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed. Whether it’s half a dozen homework assignments all due on the same day, a lot going on at work, or friend drama, everyone experiences stress from time to time. Although it is sometimes inevitable, there are a few things I’ve discovered over the years that make it easier to cope with stress.

The first and somewhat self-explanatory way to help is to keep from spreading yourself too thin. If you know you have a big paper due in a couple of days, don’t make a lot of plans with friends and only leave yourself a couple of hours to do the assignment. Using a planner or calendar to schedule plans and projects that you have to do is the best way to avoid over-booking your time.

Another key when trying to cope with stress is making sure to give yourself time to relax. Yes, it is important to be productive when you have a lot going on, but it is also critical that you set aside a few minutes to take a walk, watch your favorite show, or have a short nap. Taking a step back from the work can help calm you down and will give you a fresh perspective when you return to it. I would even suggest turning off all electronics so that you can completely clear your mind. No matter what you have going on, allow yourself a few minutes to decompress.

Finally, remember to lean on the Lord. God can give you peace even when you feel completely overwhelmed. When you feel the stress coming on, take a moment to say a prayer and ask the Lord to calm your heart. No matter what the situation is, He is in control and will use it for good. I often find myself so focused on the issue at hand that I forget I have a wonderful savior who can give me serenity. I’ve learned to stop and pray the moment I begin to feel stressed out and it always helps almost immediately. As He says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you…let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Written by Taylor

Image credit

It’s Not Enjoyable. It’s Not Healthy. It’s Not Worth It.

Stress: a word that often appears at the top of a college student’s vocabulary list. We are exhausted, always, as stress and pressure to excel academically is ever-present in our lives. Whether it is brought on by parents, professors, or one’s own drive to succeed, stress holds an intense amount of power in the way that we interact with the world, and, more importantly, stress can definitely hinder our relationship with God.

Now, let’s be honest.

I’m the type of person who greets each new semester with a big smile and arms wide open. I get thoroughly excited about picking out new school supplies, and the smell of sharpened pencils brings me entirely too much joy. My obsession with new supplies and organization is so real, that the TV show,  “My Strange Addiction,” reached out to me in hopes of doing a segment on the girl who sniffs sharpened lead (JK, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this actually happened).

The moral of this story is that I love school, and, for the most part, I enjoy completing assignments that require creativity and prepare me for my future career as an educator. I have a passion for higher education, but sometimes that passion transforms into complete and utter drudgery.

Being that I literally will NOT submit anything less than my best for grading, an abundance of stress and exhaustion begins to reside in my being not too long after the start of a new semester. Like my second cousin at Christmas time, stress storms into my life, unwelcomed, and refuses to leave until I’ve fed it all of my time and energy. This relationship with stress is toxic. It affects not only me, but those who are gracious enough to want to spend time with the girl who lets an unnecessary emotion control her life.  It’s not enjoyable. It’s not healthy. It’s not worth it.

Why is it that I, like so many others in my generation, insist on allowing stress to consume me? After three years of struggling and fighting and persevering to succeed in a collegiate world dominated by stress and pressure, I think I finally found the answer:

Priorities.

For the past three years, my number one priority has been to perform in a way that would please my professors, make my family happy, and impress my peers; I wanted nothing but for others to find pleasure in and be impressed with my doings.

Were these bad desires? Not exactly. But, there were some drastic flaws in my intentions, which were, what I believe to be, the causes of my stress filled life.

Had performing in a way that pleased God been my number one priority, I would have been reminded that He longs for me to work wholeheartedly for Him and not for man (Colossians 3:23). I would have been humbled in the fact that He is the source of all of my creativity and talent (Ephesians 4:17). I would have found peace by reflecting on how He has an everlasting, passionate love and care for me that is not based on the quality of my work or the grades that I receive (Romans 8:38-39). I would have sought to please Him more and others less.

We, as sinners, spend too much time living and striving and breathing to find approval from the world that we often become blind of the approval that God has already given us. So, we work hard through the stress, and we get the good grade, and, though we win the approval that we desire at the time, we almost always end up just as empty as before because we sought acceptance from everyone but the One who actually matters. Whose opinion of us is never less than wonderful. Who sees our imperfects, yet loves us all the same. It really. isn’t. worth it.

Some anonymous smart person once said, “Be a prayer warrior, not a panicked worrier,” and that is exactly what I encourage you and me to do today.

prayer warrior

Whenever you’re feeling stressed or worried or that you must do everything on Earth and Mars perfectly in order to get someone to approve of you, stop. Take a second to pray and ask the Lord to help you find your worth in Him, and I can promise you that stress will be much more hesitant to come around.

Written by Haley

Photo credits: Featured Image, Prayer Warrior

Frazzled but Saved by Grace

While sitting at my desk in the Writing Center this morning, I stared at my schedule in confusion. “I only work two hours today,” I said to my colleagues, “That can’t be right.” Since I made my work schedule for the fall semester several weeks ago, I could not remember my reasoning behind working so few hours on Tuesdays, so I pulled out my class schedule in a frenzy. Sure enough, my brain had completely blocked out two of my classes. “Man, the first weekstressed of the semester is full of surprises,” I exclaimed.

As a junior at DBU, this semester is surely not my first rodeo; however, I find myself feeling just as unprepared as I did when I was a freshman. I do not have all of my books. I have not met a single one of my professors.  And, believe it or not, I have yet to pay a dime of my first tuition installment.

Between work, class, campus life, and church, I feel as though I am completely in over my head at times. Unlike SpongeBob, I am not ready.

That being said, however, I know something that keeps me from drowning in all of this commotion:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (New International Version, Ps. 18:2).

No matter how crazy or difficult the beginning of the semester may feel, I know that my God is here to save me from the messiness. He hears my cries of concern and confusion and, in return, blankets a spirit of peace and tranquility over me just to get me through the day.

So, now, I ampraying writing this to encourage each and every one of you to realize the same. When the weight of the new semester begins to weigh down on you, have faith that the Lord will keep you from sinking. When your textbooks cost an arm and a leg more than what you have budgeted, lean on the Everlasting Rock for financial support. When the Wi-Fi is down and you cannot submit your homework, remember that the Lord’s plans for you are bigger than any one assignment. Embrace the sloppiness of crashing computers and missing student IDs and take on the surprises of the semester in full-force, trusting that God is with you every step of the way.

And from the University Writing Center, welcome back! We are so excited to see your bright, shiny, and somewhat frazzled faces this semester!

Written by Haley

Photo credit: uiowa.edu & youthalive.ag.org