Separating Writing For Fun From Writing For School

I try to keep the two separate from each other as much as possible. Otherwise I’d lose what’s left of my sanity. But sometimes when I’m pressed for time, I wonder if I should consider what I write for school as fulfilling my creative quota for the day.

Who am I fooling? Not myself obviously. And it’s sort of cheating in my eyes.

Come on. Do better, Herminia.

As much as I love what I’m studying (Book & Media, English, Writing & Rhetoric), there are areas of overlap in my personal interests. So everything mixes into one giant mess.

Personally, I blog for a lot of reasons. I clear my head when I write. Well, I try to anyway. I know I can always turn to pen and paper, my best friends when school gets to be too much. It didn’t help my non-existent patience that I hated the second sentence of an essay I had to edit.

Writing is hard. And if you are a writer, it’s even harder. Yet I still put myself in the same position every day, staring at a blank page or a white screen.

I was just thinking to myself if someone gave me the choice to do just about anything, writing would be a top priority. Even if that list of potential tasks was a million items long. I’d still choose writing over a ton of other things.

Over the years, I like to think I’ve fallen more in love with words.

I used to tell people I want to publish a book. I do. But as of late, I tend to say I just want to write and blog. Is that too much to ask for?

I digress as I often do.

Back to the point of writing for fun and for school. I won’t let university stop me. The whole process of creating something takes time and effort. But it’s also so incredibly rewarding. More than anything, writing is worthwhile.

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Tips For Academic Writing

Blog posts are the only things I know how to write, but even that is questionable. It depends who you ask.

So whenever I have to write for academia, you can imagine the ensuing panic. And if you can’t, I’ll try to describe it.

Never mind, I can’t.

Safe to say I’m no expert when it comes to writing research papers or literary essays. But somehow I’ve gotten by.

How? I have no idea.

Do I have any business giving advice on writing? Nope. Will that stop me? Never.

Follow instructions. Follow rules. Follow whatever your professor says.

I hate following with a passion. But I’ll do whatever it takes to pass. Academic writing will never be as kind to you as creative writing is.

If you’re ever unsure about a fact, double check.

When you’re unsure of the meaning of a word, look it up. It’s always better to err on the side of caution. Always.

When in doubt, cut it out.

Try to delete anything you don’t need. It’s hard to detect sometimes, especially if you’re editing your own writing. But you’ll thank yourself later. Besides, everyone is better off without unnecessary adverbs. Seriously, your lovely teacher will totally understand that your really amazingly awesome point is very important.

Know your weaknesses.

Also, try to learn the words you fall back on as a crutch. You know what words I’m talking about. In elementary, my teachers pointed out my love for the word “then.” Then this happened. Then I did that. Then you get the idea. Now for some reason, I have a mildly unhealthy attraction to the word “that”. It’s more obvious in my essay writing when I’m not careful. Using the same words again and again becomes redundant. If you use them too much, the word loses power. After all, not every sentence needs to begin with “then” followed by “that.”

Even if you follow nothing else I’ve said, hopefully you’re able to do this:

Write about something you care about, something you’re passionate for.

It doesn’t have to be a topic you know like the back of your hand either. That’s why research exists. I realize students don’t always get a say in the matter. Still, finding an interesting subject that makes you want to write is half the battle.

A Terrifying Transition

One of these days I’ll stop talking about my 20th birthday. Today isn’t one of those days.

To be honest, I feel good about where I am right now. Better than I have in a long time.

A while ago, I was talking to one of my high school teachers. Somehow my birthday in August came up. He made a point that stuck with me. I wish I remember his words exactly. Something like my having a birthday during an anxious, stressful time of the year. I couldn’t have agreed more.

I used to feel horrible in the mornings right before school. It’s not that I hated school inherently. But the thought of having to deal with people sent my heart pumping even faster than exercise.

My special day is and I suspect always will be a transitional time for me even after I graduate from university in two years. Yes, I’m assuming I’ll graduate. Allow me.

The memories I have of my childhood mornings are not fun or easy. I realize I can’t change the fact that I used to dread going back to school. But a part of me thinks it’s messed up that I and many other students feel anxious or afraid.

There’s a difference between not liking something and being terrified of it.

I felt terrible for so many reasons. My overactive imagination deserves a medal or trophy. More often than not, I scared myself because I thought of horrible situations. Most never came to pass.

When I think about school now, I’m not as worried or nervous. I’m not too afraid or scared. I am excited.

I’m looking forward to the rest of this upcoming academic year because I know that regardless of what happens, the sky won’t fall on my head. The ground isn’t going to open beneath my feet and swallow me whole.

I’ll be fine. The world won’t end. And if the sun will rise every day, so can I.

Some Reminders About School

You go to school to learn, not to prove that you’re some perfect, infallible human being.

So it’s okay to make mistakes, to fail. That’s when you learn the most or should anyway.

Stop focusing on your grades, your GPA. Start focusing on getting a good education.

Learning doesn’t stop after graduation. It shouldn’t stop ever. Keep your eyes and ears open. There’s always something you don’t know.

Figure things out on your own. Don’t give up right away when the going gets though. You have to solve some problems by yourself without anyone else helping you. Still, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Do great work.

Don’t cheat. You’re only cheating yourself. Not just in the traditional sense either.

Be your best.

Thoughts I Have About The First Day Of School

I’m writing this before I go back to school, but by the time I edit and publish it, I’ll probably have survived my first day. Or not. I don’t know. Even though I want to predict the future sometimes, I can’t. Ever.

(I survived.)

While the first class is an easy one in some ways, I’ve never felt great in the days leading up to it. Nervousness and excitement don’t mix well for me. I’m just a ball of stress in the mornings.

Fortunately, university hasn’t been as horrible as high school.

I think I’ve experienced enough first days to know I’ll get through another one without the world crashing down on me.

I’m going into my third year of university. Been there, done that. Twice. So I’m not as nervous or terrified. I think I’m more excited than scared at this point. I just want to make this year the best one yet. At least better than last because second year is not one I want to relive. Thankfully, I don’t have to.

(Now I only have one more first day to go. That’s insane. I can’t wrap my head around it.)

I’m wondering if I was more worried about my first day of work. Technically, first days. I think not. There’s something scarier about school, I guess.

To all the students who have gone back, I hope you had a great one. To all those yet to go back, I wish you the very best. If you already graduated, congrats on making it through.

I don’t really know what else to say, except that I’m looking forward to seeing what this year has in store. I have no idea what to expect, so I’m not expecting much.

I know it won’t be easy. But challenge makes life interesting.

I’ll write about my trials and tribulations, so you can laugh at me as I wallow in my misery.

I like to think whatever happens, happens for a reason. I can’t control everything, but I can control myself.

Over the course of this semester, I will do my best to look after my health (physical and mental). That’s important to me. And my happiness too, of course.

Here’s to an amazing year. May you achieve all your goals, academic or otherwise. I hope 2017-2018 is everything you hoped for and more.

Why I Love And Dislike Going Back To School

Hate is a strong word. I love and dislike going back to school for different reasons.

I enjoy learning. I want to learn for the rest of my life. I hope to remain a student even after I graduate school.

Here’s some baseball for you. People often describe ball players as students of the game.

Well, I want to be a student of the craft that is writing and blogging. Creating good content.

There will always be things I don’t know. Stuff I want to learn. And to be fair, school has taught me a ton. Not just facts and dates. But soft skills that are tough to quantify. Life lessons I needed to experience first-hand.

Without the classroom setting, I’m not sure I’d be able to hold a conversation with anyone not in my immediate family.

So I’m excited to learn. I miss being a typical, traditional student. But I don’t miss the stress and anxiety.

I used to dread the moments in the morning between getting ready and going to school.

I felt awful. My heart beat faster than if I had sprinted a marathon. (I’m aware you don’t sprint an entire marathon. I said this more for effect. But if I have to clarify than I guess I didn’t do that great of a job, did I?)

Being late still gives me nightmares. Talking to people, especially strangers is difficult even now. So you can imagine how much worse it was for younger me.

My imagination is wonderful when I’m writing. Not so much when I’m living.

I would play out various scenarios in my mind, some much worse than others. So I tended to believe bad things would happen. Like I’d be late and miss my exam. Or I would participate but say the wrong answer. Come to think of it, what’s the worst that can really happen, right?

At least this year I’m more excited than nervous. I can’t say the same for previous years.

I wish everyone going back to school the best. Send me your success stories. Of course, I’ll share many of my horror stories on this blog, so stick around. Stay for all the humiliation of Herminia to come.

How To Earn Cash Back, Loyalty Points, And Free Rewards

Back to school season is the perfect time to find new ways to save money. One of the easiest ways to do this is by collecting points you can later redeem for free rewards.

Listed below are various loyalty programs available on a mobile and the web to make this year supercharged with great offers that won’t cost you a penny.

Drop

Download the app to your phone to earn rewards for your everyday purchases. Simply connect your credit or debit card, and you’re good to go. Drop works by converting what you purchase into rewards for points, which allows you to redeem gift cards to your favourite retailers. It is free, easy, and secure.

Upon signup, enter l0dyz for additional points.

Carrot

Would you like to earn points every time you walk? Carrot encourages its users to live a healthy lifestyle by making good decisions. Any time you do something on the app, you get rewarded. There are short quizzes on health and wellness topics you can take to learn more about living well. In addition to that, you get a personalized step goal to meet every day. If you walk the set number of steps within twenty-four hours, it grants you points to a program of your choosing such as Aeroplan, Drop, Petro, Scene, among others.

Enter the code uoft for bonus points.

Swagbucks

The site provides gift cards and cash for doing things you probably already do on the web like shopping online, watching videos, answering surveys, just to name a few. Afterwards, exchange your Swagbucks for gift cards to retailers of your choice such as Amazon or cash back via PayPal.

Ebates

You get cash back for shopping online as the program returns a percentage of your purchase back into your pocket. It’s that easy. All you need is an email address to sign up. Ebates will pay you however you want. You can decide between them mailing a cheque or transferring the money to your PayPal account. If you’re feeling extra generous, you can opt to have your earnings sent to a charity of your choice.

You can find the full post with additional loyalty programs here.

How To Write And Win Essay Based Scholarships

I'm not an expert by any means, but I've written my share of essays for school and scholarships.

These are my tips to increase your chances of standing out and possibly winning a scholarship.

Apply for them.

You can't win if you don't apply. Was it Einstein who said, "common sense isn't always common practice" or was it another intelligent human being? Either way, the point stands.

Brainstorm ideas.

You need to write about something. So having a couple topics to explore can't hurt. Obviously, you'll want to pick the best one and run with it.

Cut the unoriginal.

Be different, interesting. After all, sometimes you're judged on creativity or originality.

Don't repeat the essay prompt.

I'm not keen on telling people what not to do, but imagine reading 999 entries that started off by restating the prompt.

Easy reading means hard editing.

Give yourself enough time to edit your essay. At the very least, put it aside for a few days, so when you come back to your work, you see the words with fresher eyes. Even several hours between writing and editing can do wonders.

Follow the rules.

Do what's asked. Provide any necessary documentation. You might be disqualified otherwise.

Grind through it.

At times, you may feel tempted to give up. Keep going. You'll better than you think.

Help yourself.

You want to avoid sabotaging your own entry in any way. Never overlook a small detail or do something that's the opposite of smart. Answer what's asked. Fill out your contact information accurately. Review your submission for grammar and spelling mistakes.

I'm realizing this post isn't all that helpful. Go figure.

Maybe one day Herminia Chow will create useful content that isn't just spewing common sense. Today is not that day.

Ranting About Grades

I should stop checking my grades. I did this for a couple of months last year because I hated how I felt after I checked. It usually led to disappointment or frustration. To be honest, a combination of both sounds about right. 

I feel like I can never be satisfied with my grades. No matter how “good” they are.

Admittedly they aren’t great this year. This semester especially. But even when I do well by someone else’s standards, I don’t feel satisfied. Because I’m meeting (or not meeting) other people’s expectations rather than my own. I’m writing for someone else who isn’t myself. And I’ve found having to do the very thing you love most for a grade is messed up in a way.

Let me be the first to tell you I often get too caught up with the creative process and the words themselves that I neglect everything else. The assignment instructions. My argument and evidence. I could go on.

Also, I hate the idea of someone five years older than me deciding my entire grade. Something there doesn’t sit well with me. Actually many things. It’s not my main problem with grades though.

It’s feeling like a number or percentage defines me. As if one grade defines my value or worth. Since when did I care for numbers? I’m a writer after all.

What’s Wrong With University?

Is there something wrong when:

  • students work two jobs and go to school full-time just to pay for tuition?
  • universities care more about the bottom line than they do about the lines of individuals waiting to enrol in a course they paid for?
  • one performance on an exam determines a quarter, a third, or even more than half one’s grade for an entire course?
  • older authority figures are unreasonably condescending to young adults doing their best to navigate this world? 
  • someone is told to drop out because they are stressed out?
  • parents and/or students pay thousands of dollars for an education but don’t get one?