Category Archives: Ravynn: Year 1, Semester 1

Week 17, or Ravynn Writes Her Conclusions

Whoever decided to only put one week in between Thanksgiving Break and the end of the semester deserves to step on a floor of Lego blocks for a very long time.

I didn’t realize how much I was depending on the turn around time after Thanksgiving to get ready for the end of the semester. Fortunately, due to my obsessive need to plan everything out and work weeks ahead of schedule, I found myself with a substantial part of my final papers done coming back from break. But I also realized that was somewhat unusual. Most of my peers had nothing written, no ideas, no arguments, and while I totally understand that procrastination is absolutely a way of life for some people, even the idea of having nothing this close to due dates was enough to nearly send me into a panic.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to work under the pressure of a next day deadline. I don’t want to imagine it. As a perpetually anxious person, I need to do anything I can to alleviate the stress I do have to deal with. So if that means getting an obnoxiously head start on papers…well, you know the rest.

Two of my three deadlines are Wednesday at 5 PM; the other isn’t technically due until Christmas Eve, but the thought of having one final paper hanging over my head for another three weeks also stresses me out, so that paper will probably get submitted with the rest of my semester portfolio.

As of today, I have drafts of two papers and half of the last; I’ve sent two in to professors to get comments and I have one back already; and after I finish writing this blog, I’ll probably get cracking on that last paper. Fortunately, it’s just a literature a review and a sort of exploration of my field of interest, which I’m discovering is Blackness in speculative, fantastic fields (thank you, Richard Iton, for expanding my ideas of the Black Fantastic), particularly sequential art and comic studies (which, thanks to Deborah Whaley, I’m realizing is not the same thing). Honestly, the literature review has been helpful; if anything it’s been helping me organize my thoughts and ideas, narrow down my areas of interest with laser precision, and read what else is out there, thus figuring out where my own work will fit in this larger intellectual conversation.

My research paper has been an experience. I started thinking about how I could track the image of Black Panther, the comic character, over time and then the deeper I got into the research, the bigger I realized what I wanted to talk about was. I wonder how often that happens and what happens when your realize your project is too big but you want to keep working on it…Maybe over time, with more research, this paper might turn into my first article that I refine for submission to a journal.

Finally, I’ve been working on a sort of interdisciplinary, literary analysis/criticism for my Interracialism class. I took a look at racial formation through musical and linguistic articulations, and how that may look in different geographic spaces, in James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man and Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues. I love that I’m coming back to works that I found intriguing in undergrad and finding a use for them now. So special shout out to Professor Hamilton who assigned some bomb books I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise in Musical Fictions, and also to Professor Woolfork for her Fictions of Black Identity books. I should also take the time to thank her for kicking my ass in terms of my writing. I will never forget how hard I had to work in her class–I bring that ethic to everything I do now.

Through out all of this, I have been trying to take care of myself…with varying levels of effort, thus with sometimes spotty results. I did outline my ideal study/work day and my usual attempts to organize my work and life during finals, though, for the site I write for Literally, Darlingso if you’re interested in my tips and tricks for surviving the madness, be sure to check it out here.

It’s hard to believe that the next time I write might be the last until I gear up for Act I, scene II of the drama that is my life as a graduate student, because it’ll all be over for the moment. I can’t wait to reflect on it all, to see the road I’ve come down, and assess the path ahead.

Over break, I might toy with writing a few blogs on writing the big papers, figuring out your areas of interest and reading on your own, and application tips and tricks that I didn’t know about when I was getting ready do the graduate school thing.

I’m so proud of myself for making it this far, and thank you, dear reader, for traveling with me as I embarked on my latest great adventure.



Week 16, or Making It

I have discovered the secret of Academia, and thus the secret of life. The secret is this:

You read a book, you are inspired. You begin to write, then you doubt. To take break is to read a book, and thus the cycle starts anew.

This is probably not the secret of Academia, nor life, but I have discovered that it is, at the very least, the pattern in which I live my life.

I spent Thanksgiving break with my nose glued to my computer screen and my head buried in my books, trying to get somewhere with my term papers. After writing 9 single spaced pages of one paper and double spacing it to find that it only amounted to about 15 double spaced, I was feeling enormously disheartened. I told myself I needed to focus, so I deactivated all of my social media accounts, turned my regular text conversations on “Do Not Disturb,” and let my only social interactions be with the inhabitants of Star Hollow during strictly regulated breaks. I hate the severity of my day to day schedule when it approaches the end of the semester, but the truth is, my work won’t get done otherwise and it certainly won’t be up to my own standards.

Yet even as the days until my deadlines dwindle, I’m finding that I might need to loosen up a little. I’m stressed and anxious and paranoid that nothing will work out, but everything always does. I promised myself at the very beginning of all of this that I wouldn’t sacrifice my mental health to do this, and I’m finding as I creep towards the finish line that I’m compromising this very important point.

But at the end of the day, I don’t know how to not push myself too hard.

I want everything I do to be exceptional work. It’s impossible. And yet here we are.

By the next time I write, I will be finished with my classes and work for the semester and will be focusing solely on finishing up papers. I can’t believe it, and yet here we are.

I’m proud of myself for making it this far.

I can’t believe I’ve almost made it.


Week 15, or Project Finish Line

The end is near, and unlike in undergrad, the impending holiday does not signal a joyous respite from school, but instead almost a week that I get to spend buried under books in the hopes of finishing my term papers.

A few weeks ago, I said my goal was to start writing. Admittedly, I did do some writing. I think I have about 18ish pages total of the 60 minimum pages I need before the end of the semester, and truthfully, that isn’t terrible! It’s better than nothing.

Normally, I’d like to be further along than this but the first half of November has been enormously busy and somewhat of an emotional trainwreck for me. The first weekend, my cousin came to visit me; then, the election had me in a tailspin for at least four days; after that, I went to my alma mater for some well-timed art therapy and bonding with some friends; and when I got home, it turned out that my uncle (who lives in Key West) was in town visiting as well…and my dad’s dog (who we’ve had since I was 8) had passed away. Needless to say, it was a miracle that I pretty much all of my work done– but it was mostly good time management, as I’d been working ahead for almost two weeks, knowing that visits would chew up a great deal of my time.

So, this weekend was the first weekend in a while that I got to spend bumming around my apartment in my sweat pants, as I so dearly love to do.

But alas–I fell ill.

I really think the universe is against me sometimes.

When I haven’t been sleeping off whatever vile sickness that’s invaded my poor body, I’ve been writing term papers and reading for class. Compounded with the fact that I’ve eaten nothing but soup for the last four days, yes, this situation is as depressing as it sounds.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d spend a little time in this post discussing some of the tactics I’ve been using to get through these long papers , which is all a part of what I’ve been calling “Project Finish Line”:

  • Annotated bibliographies are your friends! Listen, the best thing that ever happened to me was my research seminar professor assigning an annotated bibliography a third of the way into the semester. At the time? Yes, it was frustrating. Yes, I was freaking out because I wasn’t sure about what I was writing about. But annotated bibliographies are honestly a perfect way to think through your argument, how you’re going to support it, and how you’ll organize the paper. If you put a lot of energy into doing a bomb bibliography, you’ll have everything you need to write your paper, then all you’ll have to do is write it.
  • Try to write a little every day, but also give in when the mood strikes. Fortunately, I just naturally write like this. I like to write a little something every day, mostly because I don’t want to have to write everything at the last minute, but when I’m feeling an idea, I immediately get to my word document and spin out the entire idea. I always like to start projects with outlines, but I’m not picky about writing from start to finish order. So, if I suddenly know what I’m going to write for 8 pages of section 3 of my paper, hold the phones– I’ll be gone for about 3 hours.
  • OUTLINE! Like annotated bibliographies, outlines are your friend. Use whatever type of outline that makes sense to you, but try to get your ideas down on paper, and organize them so you have an idea of where you are trying to go with this paper. I used to be the type to just sit down at a blank word document and go at it until I hit the word limit, but the fact is…it’s a little sloppy. And professors can almost always tell when you do that. Working on an annotated bibliography, then an outline which breaks down the sections, main ideas, and even possible page amounts that you will spend on each idea, will making going to your document so much easier.
  • EDIT! Truthfully, I’m still so horrible at this. I go through so many steps to refine my ideas before I even write them down that the suggestion of changing something I’ve written is annoying. Usually, my thought process is, “That was what I was trying to say! Otherwise I wouldn’t have written it like that!” First of all, that’s defensive. Second of all, thinking like that is going to impede you from getting better. Embrace rewrites. Embrace edits. Edits are not a suggestion that you suck at writing. Edits are what make you more articulate to a greater number of people. It’s great that you understood what you write, but will anyone else?
  • If your professors will read drafts, GET A DRAFT IN. Almost all of my professors are willing to read drafts, and as a first semester grad student, I’m planning to take advantage of that. Having my professors read drafts in advance will let me know what they’re looking for, while also giving me enough time to change some things to make it better, and potentially get a higher grade. Plus, they’ll know I’m taking this seriously.

So, at the end of the day, my popular culture and power paper is basically writing itself. I just sit down at any given moment and plod through that. When I get bursts of inspiration, I write my literary criticism style Interracialism paper (that’s been coming out in bursts of about 5 pages every time I sit down). And I’ve yet to start my Intro to American Studies paper, but that’s possibly because I’m still a little unsure of where I’m going with it. But that can of course be resolved by having a quick chat with my professor.

Which brings me to my last bit of advice: talk to your professors. Just do it.

With only a few weeks left in the semester (2, really, of classes and then a week for finals, a.k.a. speed writing/editing term papers), I can’t believe I’ve almost made it through my first semester. It seems like just yesterday, I was running around the basement of Swem trying to find the Omohundro Institute. If Project Finish Line is successful, I’ll have three good papers to show for a semester of hard work in just a few weeks.

Until next time,