Challenge Journal #2: Anxious & Overwhelmed

As the end of the semester creeps closer and closer, I am feeling very anxious and overwhelmed. I have adored this minor and will miss the work that it entails. However, this semester has been challenging. As I am trying to schedule strict times for myself to sit down and write, I find myself preoccupied with job interviews and other assignments. These next few weeks will be crunch time. I remember that my Gateway project was daunting in the same regard. I just need to focus my time and energy – this project matters to me. Anyone else struggling with discipline? Is this senioritis? Writer’s block? Both?

I had this problem last year during my first semester: I was preparing to study abroad and I found it hard to discipline myself and write. In my PHIL 224 class on global justice, the GSI was so strict on grading that it made writing papers a nightmare. You could no longer write a paper the day before it was due or even two days before. He made us prepare for papers a week in advance, making us write progress reports every night leading up to the paper’s due date. It was tedious but it worked. I would take 30 minutes to an hour every night before bed looking at the book we read or sketching a paper outline. I need to practice this old habit again. It definitely motivated me to just write something. I can hear Shelley’s voice in my head saying “Just write. Just do it.” And though that is some of the best advice I’ve ever received, I still struggle with the anticipation of writing. I feel paralyzed by the rut that I am in. The sketch drafts definitely helped me put pen to paper and organize my ideas. I am grateful for that. I think my stress is coming from the idea that there are only 5 weeks left to make this project come to life. I want to be proud of my work. Twyla Tharpe’s chapter on “Ruts and Grooves” reminded me that there are ways to get out of creative ruts – a bad idea doesn’t doom the entire project.

I think implementing a “progress report” structure to my writing schedule might help with feeling unprepared. What do you do to combat feeling overwhelmed and anxious?

– Anna

3 thoughts to “Challenge Journal #2: Anxious & Overwhelmed”

  1. Hey Anna, I totally understand this! I’m getting very reflective of my time at U-M, stressed by endless obligations, anxious about an uncertain future, and, for this class, terrified that I won’t meet the high standards I’ve set for myself because, like you, this actually means something to me. If we’re defining “senioritis” as beginning to slack on work in anticipation of graduation, then no, we don’t have that; if we define it as what I’ve found among my friends is a pretty much universal combination of the above, then yes. I think that structuring your writing time is a good idea because, as you said, just doing it always helps. What helps me when I’m feeling overwhelmed, however, is to save up time and do it all in one big chunk of time, 2 hours or more. I find that I’m just getting into my groove at that point and, at least for me, once I have the ideas churning I have to get them all down. That way not only am I directly facing the problem of having no progress, I’m doing so in a way that maximizes my time.

  2. Hi Anna!

    I know we talked a bit in class together the other day about the stress that the semester has brought and how much multitasking we seem to all the sudden be dealing with. I am running into what sounds like very similar issues, myself. Know that you are not alone!
    Something I did for my third project in the gateway course in order to get my project going was that, instead of jumping directly into the content of the project, I wrote a “preface” to the piece. Doing so reminded me of why I was writing what I had chosen to write and what good it was doing for others around me. It made me feel more comfortable in my own writing and helped me to easily begin the real content of the project. If you end up putting real time into that preface… maybe it will actually become part of your project… like mine did for me.
    Best regards. Remember, we are in this together! It WILL get done!

  3. Hey Anna! I 100% relate to this–I haven’t actually written anything yet. I am trash.

    Something I’ve done in the past, though, is to just start writing the parts that I want to write first. There must be interest behind your choice of topic, so hone in on that and just do some no-risk writing. For me, a lot of my pre-writing anxiety comes from the looming weight of what’s ahead. Even for this project, I haven’t started because it feels daunting to have to think way back to my childhood and re-understand myself. However, I did some reading about how to write memoirs, which got me excited again. I’m planning to sit down and just write one small story from my life, leaving out all the explanations and thoughtful grammar, just writing viscerally the memory that comes to mind. I know your project is a little bit different from mine, but perhaps if you just start writing the most exciting part first, it will get you closer to a groove, making the hard parts a little bit easier.

    I also agree with Ben and Caroline’s comments and plan to use their advice myself. They definitely have more long-term solutions–but I hope that something about your project excites you enough to WANT to write.

    Good luck! 🙂

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