Am I a masochist? Reflections on my time management skills

I’m a procrastinator. There, I said it. In fact, I have an exam tomorrow that I’ve hardly studied for, along with an essay due tomorrow night. I know for a fact that this kind of pressure would drive many sane people insane. In fact, it’s driving me insane too. But the scary thing is that I’m used to it — this is just my default mental state now. And I think this is the case for most, if not all students at this university.

Yes, procrastination is bad. Yes, there are ways to manage your time so that you aren’t starting your studying the night before the exam. Yes, I know I have a problem. But at the same time, I tend to think there’s some sort of validity in my lifestyle choices. Given the ludicrous amount of work that is expected of U of M students, along with extracurriculars, part-time jobs, and maintaining a healthy social life (not really sure I do this but I’m sure many of you manage to), who has the time to not start a paper just a few days before the due date, if not the night before? Can any of you relate to this? Or am I just horribly maladjusted to college?

Sometimes I think I like the pressure, even thrive on it. To compare my situation to “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” I am the grandmother, and the University of Michigan is the person holding the gun to my head. It’s certainly not a healthy relationship, but I do think the pressure put on me by my classes and the university at large is sort of motivating. The process of writing a paper in one night is horrible, but the feeling of finishing it before the midnight deadline, and the feeling of getting positive feedback on it (doesn’t always happen to be fair)… there’s nothing else quite like it. It’s like a war against myself and my own sanity, and when I win… sigh. It’s pure bliss.

Looking over this, I am clearly not okay. Send me some finals self-care tips if you have any. Winter Break can’t come soon enough.

End of semester woes

This is my third semester here so I should be used to this by now, but I’m just not. Finals season is hard. I have three finals next week and I don’t feel adequately prepared for any of them. And along with my job, the student film I’m editing, Daily responsibilities, etc. I feel very overwhelmed.

I wish I had much more time to work on my Gateway project. I’ve been trying my best to work on it for at least half an hour a day, but that just isn’t enough time to create something that is as good as I want it to be. I know this project doesn’t need to be perfect, and doesn’t need to meet the quality standards of something like a Capstone project, but it still hurts that it can’t be perfect, that I didn’t manage my time well enough to make it perfect.

But it’s going to be okay! We’ve all got one more week. And, at the end of this process, even if (or when) my project doesn’t turn out as perfect as I would have liked, the act of creating it has taught me a lot. Mainly, writing deadlines are very real. Also, writing is hard. But really fun too.

Movie Snobbery: Good or Bad?

As a self-proclaimed cinephile, I tend to be very snobbish about movies, whether I intend to be or not. I’m a film critic for the Daily, I see at least one movie a week, and I’m an avid Oscar predictor. In other words, I love film, and I’m deeply embedded in the film-watching community.

That said, the films I care about, the films I go out of my way to watch, are movies that are for the most part critically acclaimed. Why would I go out of my way to watch a movie that’s not considered good, that critics don’t love or even respect?

Just by reading what I’ve just written it’s clear that I’m a bit of a movie snob. My snobbery comes out in full force when I think about franchises – Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, etc. Everybody knows that these movies are specifically designed to generate as much revenue as possible. But does that prevent them from being considered “true” cinema? Aren’t all filmmakers hoping to make money from their work at the end of the day?

Probably. But I do believe that there’s a greater sense of artistry behind films such as “Moonlight” or “Phantom Thread” as opposed to something like “Endgame”. But that doesn’t mean that huge franchise movies don’t have any value. They are technically impressive, usually well-acted, and most importantly, fun to watch.

I’m still a movie snob, I probably always will be. But I want to work on opening myself up to movies that are not necessarily high-art, but entertaining nonetheless. Just because something isn’t revolutionary or profound doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.

The most important song in my life

I’ve been thinking more and more about a question Raymond asked us a few weeks ago – what song can I listen to over and over again, without ever getting sick of it?

I gave an answer in class, but I was curious about what my Spotify statistics might reveal. I found a website that tells you your most listened-to songs in order, along with albums and artists. Turns out my most listened to song of all time, a song I clearly haven’t gotten sick of, is “Angel in the Snow” by Elliott Smith.

That song and that singer have meant the world to me since I was in middle school. Elliott Smith was a musician who is famous for the sadness, the melancholic despair contained in his music. And I love him for that. But “Angel in the Snow,” a song that admittedly contains undertones of darkness and hints of drug abuse, is a love song. “Don’t you know that I love you? Sometimes I feel like only a cold still life that fell down here to lay beside you.” It’s sad and almost foreboding, but it’s beautiful, and so addictive. And I’ll be listening to it for the rest of my life.

Watching “Marriage Story” as a person whose parents are still married

I just saw “Marriage Story” and I have to talk about it. I HAVE to. It was incredible, easily the best movie I’ve seen this year. But it was without a doubt an uncomfortable viewing experience, and definitely a piece of art that tells of an experience I am detached from. But I still felt it.

My parents have been married for 21 years, with no signs of divorce in the near future. My family is as nuclear as it gets. Marital conflict is simply not a part of my life. My parents fight, as all couples do, but they are still together. But today they are the exception, not the rule. There’s that famous statistic that 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce. I’m not sure how accurate that statistic is; in all likelihood, that ratio now is even smaller.

But the events that ensue in “Marriage Story,” I imagine, are very, very real for many, many people. The process of divorce, which in the characters’ situation is further complicated by a custody battle, is often unpleasant, tedious, even vicious. I know because I have friends who’ve gone through it in their own families. So even though I may not be the target audience for this movie, even though I’m a stranger to divorce, I still connected to it, because the story it tells is one that my friends, people I love very much, are not strangers to.

A Wix Appreciation Post

So it turns out that using Wix is really, really fun. At first I was pretty worried about creating a whole website, but Wix has done all of the work for me. I was particularly worried about how I was going to display the hyperlinks to the poems I’ve chosen in a way that didn’t look terrible, but I just found a template on Wix that is exactly what I need.

If anyone needs any help using Wix, feel free to reach out! I’m not a graphic design expert by any means but I’ve spent quite a few hours playing with my sites, and I like to think I’ve learned a few things.

P.S. I promise Wix didn’t pay me to say any of this, I’m just a very big fan of them. Also, I’ve typed the word “Wix” so many times it doesn’t sound like an actual word anymore. Where did the word “Wix” even come from? Maybe that will be my next blog post.

Virginia Woolf and Literary Experimentation

When I think of literature that is considered great precisely because it is abnormal, the first writer who comes to mind is James Joyce, author of “Ulysses.” However, I don’t think it makes sense for me to write about that book, as I have never read the whole thing. I’m not sure if I ever will. It sounds terrifying.

A modernist writer I have read, however, is Virginia Woolf. I adore her. She might be my favorite writer. My favorite book of hers, and maybe my favorite book ever, “The Waves,” is certainly unconventional, and certainly at odds with the literary expectations of her time. The book, which consists of six stream-of-consciousness-esque soliloquies spoken by six characters, deliberately wants its readers to have a hard time deciphering whom is speaking. Its six characters – Louis, Bernard, Neville, Rhoda, Susan and Jinny – are individuals with varying personalities, histories, and ambitions. However, the more of the book you read, the more it feels as though the six voices are more alike than they are different. In fact, it’s almost like they’re all simply facets of one singular voice. A passage from the novel touches on this: “‘But when we sit together, close, we melt into each other with phrases. We are edged with mist. We make an unsubstantial territory.”

This apparent lack of regard for individualism challenges what many readers expect from novels – strong, stand-out characters and a distinctive narrator to latch on to. “The Waves,” however, refuses to give this to the reader. Her characters are, in a sense, one character, one voice, and that is the point of the novel. And I don’t think she could have conveyed this idea as powerfully as she does without playing with voice and narration, and in doing do breaking the rules of her form.

Does this count as writing?

I’m really excited about what I came up with for my final experiment, and I’m really curious to hear what Raymond thinks about it. The experiment is a curation of all the climate change poetry I have found so far, poetry whose subject matter ranges from descriptions of environmental disaster to individual experiences of eco-anxiety, poetry whose authors span continents and generations.

I was inspired to do this experiment when I realized that there’s no real comprehensive collection of climate change/global warming poetry anywhere on the Internet, or I haven’t found it at least. There are several lists and short collections of poems with titles like “The Best Poems About Climate Change,” but nowhere can readers find a collection of poems larger than 20 poems or so, and I think that kind of resource could be really useful to a lot of people, especially if the resource allows users to search for specific kinds of poems within the curation.

A major concern I have about this experiment, though, is that it’s not nearly as writing-intensive as my previous experiments, and I feel that it should be since this is a writing course after all. I included a brief synopsis of a poem for the excerpt portion of the experiment, and I wonder if that’s something I could do for all of the poems I curate. I also wonder whether there’s room for me to include other forms of my writing in a project like this. An idea I’m currently playing with is writing relatively short blog post/field note type pieces of writing about poems I come across that particularly speak to me, and putting them in a separate section of my website. I guess we’ll see what happens.

P.S. I really hope I used the right tag for this blog post.

Questions that inspire me, and remembering where I began

When Raymond asked us in class to think about the questions we still want to answer, the questions we’ve failed to adequately explore in our first two experiments, I came to a painful realization about the writing I’ve produced for this course thus far – it isn’t really about what I initially wanted to write about, at all.

My first experiment, a research venture into the history of climate fiction, wasn’t particularly interesting to me in and of itself, but all in all it was useful to me in the sense that it gave me a general understanding of the genre’s current landscape and past influences. My second experiment, which focused more on genre studies and literary criticism, was more interesting to me, but there was still something missing. From the very beginning I told myself that I wanted to write about cli-fi because of my emotional investment in it, because climate change scares me but literature makes me feel better about it.

Writing down these questions reminded me of this. Here are some of them: Can art save the world? What can art do that other mediums can’t? What role does emotion, in particular emotion resulting from reading literature, play in inspiring real, impactful action?

How did it take me this long to realize I’ve been doing everything wrong? How did I get this far without questioning myself about my own investment? Isn’t the whole point of this project to give me the opportunity to write about something that moves me, that speaks to me? Isn’t a major reason why I signed up for this minor in the first place that I wanted to write with greater creativity than my regular English classes allow for?

I want my final experiment, and my final project at that, to account for what I’m just now realizing. I want it to be more creative, more moving, more personal. I’m not quite sure how this will manifest itself in writing, but I’m hoping my classmates can help me figure that out.

Uninspired and overwhelmed

If I’m being totally honest with myself, I think I’ve hit a roadblock with this project. The thing about climate change literature, or rather literature in general, is that, to fully understand it, you have to read it. Reading takes time, time that I don’t think I have at this point in the semester. This is largely why I chose to write about the history of the genre for my first experiment, rather than what’s contained within the genre – the thing I’m actually interested in.

My initial goal for my project was to find out what exactly climate fiction is all about – what themes it discusses, which emotions are commonly conveyed by it, and most importantly, why it matters. Maybe my frustration is pushing me toward unwarranted cynicism, but this goal feels way too broad to do justice to. Moving forward, I think I want to avoid searching for generalized, universal truths about cli-fi and instead write in depth about certain works that lie within that genre. Hopefully, this will allow me to produce more thorough, stronger writing that I can be proud of.