Turning paper stress into paper success

As a liberal arts college, McDaniel is a place where students take classes in a variety of disciplines, regardless of their major. As a result, McDaniel students can expect to write at least a few papers a semester (and if you’re majoring in something in the humanities, you can expect to write a lot more).

Papers can be intimidating and it can be difficult to drum up the motivation to work on them in a timely fashion. However, papers are not the end of the world. Here are some tips I can offer on planning and work methods that can help you turn paper stress into paper success.

1. Find a place where you can write well. There are lots of different spaces on campus, with varying levels of noise and technology. While writing from your dorm room may actually work well for you, a lot of students find that they need to leave that space in order to write papers or get other homework and studying done. I have a particular spot in the library where I really like to work (though I won’t reveal it–I don’t want to lose it!). My spot is quiet, but not silent, and there’s usually not a lot of people where I go. I also have a lot of space to work and space to walk around when I need to stretch my legs. Other students like to work in other parts of the library or in classrooms. We also have several computer labs on campus where students can get work done.

2. Go to the writing center. McDaniel’s writing center is a great place to go to get help on your paper, especially if you plan ahead and schedule a writing center appointment a few days before your paper is due. The writing center can help you at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to polishing up final drafts. As a writing tutor, I’ve encountered a lot of students who come into the writing center stressed about their work and leave feeling more confident about what writing they’re producing. The writing center is a fabulous resource, and appointments do not cost any money.

3. Find other work or writing to work on. Sometimes, when I’ve written a lot at once or if I’m experiencing writer’s block, I find that it’s a good idea to take a break and work on something else. While this often involves me surfing the web and checking my many social media accounts (a Facebook, a Twitter, and two Tumblrs), I’m sometimes able to direct myself to more productive work, such as other homework or writing for myself. (Fun fact: I’m writing this blog post right now as a way to take a break from a Shakespeare paper I’m working on. It’s nice because I’m still writing, but my mind is getting a nice break by thinking about other, less difficult things.)

4. Pace yourself. Never save an entire paper for one night. I know that’s easier said than done; I myself have written entire papers in one night, and it’s a miserable experience. Pacing yourself, however, can help you avoid dreaded all-nighters. I know of a few students who write one page per night of their papers, and I envy their persistence and planning–it’s a good strategy, and it works well for them. Perhaps it can work well for you too.

Papers can be stressful, but they’re not impossible. With a little self-discipline and clever use of resources, it’s completely possible to make the paper writing process a more relaxing experience.

My Favorite Professor-Coach-Friend

When I think about the professors I’ve had and try to pick a favorite, my mind immediately jumps to my track coach. I could pick my FYS professor, Dr. Ursin, who made my first semester here really enjoyable, or Dr. Wronski, who I’ll be peer mentoring for next year, or my current advisor, Dr. Regis, or my Multimedia Authoring professor, Dr. Muhlhauser. They all have an influence on my college career so far and I appreciate every one of them for it.

However, my track coach, Dr. Upton, has had the most influence by far. It’s just convenient that he also happens to be a history professor and I took his Jan term class this past year. I’ve heard some people say he’s intimidating, but I never got that feeling from him.

I have many reasons for choosing Upton as my favorite professor, not the least of which is that we spend so much time together at track that it was bound to happen that he gives me some advice. I think everyone wants to find that one person that has the ability to motivate, inspire, understand, and advise them, and Upton is that person for me.

As my coach, he’s the one who gave me the skills and the confidence to get a personal record and fifth place in conferences last Sunday. I honestly don’t think I would have made it without his help, and I know it’s partially his belief in my ability that makes me believe I can break our school record. He also knows enough about me to throw in some strength circuit training at the end of taper week (which requires decreasing exercise time and intensity in order to give muscles amble time to recover and be 100%) to keep my mood positive.

As a professor, he’s the one (besides myself) that continues to push me to make sure I remember the opportunities available for me if I maintain my grades and become more involved, and he’s the one reminding me that I am good enough for those opportunities.

As someone I consider a friend, he helps me maintain my mental and emotional equilibrium, whether he knows it or not, and he’s someone I would talk to if I needed it. Sometimes, he says something I need to hear without my making it clear I need it, so he either pays really close attention or does it accidentally. I’m not too surprised at what he manages to understand about my personality after coaching me for a year and a half (he does like to help people, including if they’re angry or upset), but it does surprise me that sometimes all I need is the steady, encouraging vibe he gives off at practice to get me through the day, often coupled with the silliness of my track friends.

Upton is one of the people I’ve met in my life that I don’t know how to thank properly. He’s spent a lot of his time trying to make me a better person all around, not just a better athlete, and that means a lot to me. His opinion is one of the ones I respect the most, at least on some things, and it’s an honor to be able to help him on his book or any future endeavors he decides to undertake. I guess that’s one way of thanking him, but it’s also just interesting and fun.

I’m only a sophomore, so my favorite professor and even my most influential one might yet change before I graduate. I doubt it, though. As long as Upton continues to coach me, he’ll be one of the people I think I can count on for help, advise, a quirky joke, or tough love when I need it…and I think that will persist even after I graduate.

I wish everyone reading this someone in their life that’s as good of an influence as Upton has been on mine.