Saturday, July 30, 2016

How to write an essay in response to a simple question

Well, friends, I have good news. I'm taking online classes again. And do you know what that means? It means I'll be online more often, and looking for ways to procrastinate that aren't fully counter productive.

For example, this post. I really have to write a brief essay in response to a question that I think can be thoroughly answered in one sentence. It is due in just under four hours, but since I can usually write a page an hour and this essay does not have a specified length (the usual length for papers in this class is between one and two pages), then I should be able to write it easily in two hours or less.

Which would be easy enough once I get inspired. So how do you flesh out a single sentence answer? I seem to be quite capable of wordiness on my blog. I guess I like the sound of my own writing voice. But when I'm writing a paper to be graded, my perfectionism kicks in. Perfectionism applies a little bit to this blog; I'm still capable of obsessing over saying the wrong thing. But if something really bothers me, I either decide to call it an exposure and continue on with my life (my counselor reminds me to go back and see how my anxiety is coming down, but for one thing, I forget, and for another, I really don't want to know that any anxiety is left), or I delete my post. Unfortunately, deleting submissions after hitting that "submit" button in my class website is, well, I don't think it is possible. Because once after submitting, I had an OCD rush of concern that I didn't cite or reference something well enough and I came up with a safer idea, but it was too late. I couldn't figure out any way to take back my first attempt. So I went the exposure-and-forget route.

In case you didn't catch it, my great OCD fear in college classes is that I'll be accused of plagiarism. And, in not-atypical OCD form, I'm afraid of accidentally plagiarizing. I blame Helen Keller's biography for giving OCD that idea - she wrote or dictated a story and then it turned out to be verbatim a story she didn't remember hearing before, a published story. But even though the author was flattered, some educator or somebody important to Helen didn't believe that it was an accident, and knowing this person judged her was very painful for Helen. Now I should probably cite the book, right? I think it was The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (1903). So my fear isn't even so much on fear of academic repercussions (although they play into it); my fear is of disgrace. And somehow, even though you would think the exposures would be easier than certain other exposures where I fear for other people's welfare, OCD still makes a very strong case for the utter wrongness of any intentional or negligent mistake in the realm of "Academic Honesty." OCD should really join a debate team instead of hanging out in my brain.

But anyhow, I'll circumvent most of my plagiarism and academic honesty fears by putting the reference section onto my paper before I even write the body of it. And I'll check to make sure I haven't inadvertently copied the question I'm answering, since I have never fully decided if that is wrong, therefore I generally avoid it, to be safe. And then... somehow I must expand my one sentence answer (the kind you want to follow with, "duh!"). I wanted to write about that, but writing about writing when you don't know what to write is... well, it would be a good handwriting exercise for practicing the letter "w." But I'm still not inspiring myself.

So back to OCD and depression and all that fun stuff. Going back to school has been a bit detrimental, but I'm hoping to swing that the other way so at least I stop getting worse mental health-wise. An obvious problem area has been going to sleep. Lack of sleep is a faster way for me to worsen my depression. But I'm having trouble sleeping about a third to half the nights, so it could be much worse. I tried melatonin last night. I don't know if it left me feeling more tired today or not, because I regularly feel extra tired on Saturdays. I have felt almost dizzy after my last two meals, and that probably isn't good, but breakfast didn't make me dizzy, so it probably wasn't the melatonin. Who knows what it is. If it continues or gets worse and I can't figure out any way to help it, then maybe I'll consult a nurse or doctor. But hopefully it is just random. And maybe I had too much sugar both times since my food included more sugar than usual at my last two meals.

Anyway, I don't want to quit school, because succeeding would open up more job opportunities, hopefully that would be easier to support myself on. But school is scheduled to take at least two years since I'm not going full time. So not too many changes too soon, I hope. But I struggle with even small changes, so ... my life shouldn't be boring any time soon.

Well, it is now time for another attempt at the paper due in 3 hours and 22 minutes. I could truly just write one paragraph and loose all the points on it and still be fine in the class, but what would my teacher think! I wouldn't want to disappoint her. Especially since she is also my adviser, and I will almost certainly take at least one more class from her - my program is not very large.