‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.’

While I have to agree with Benjamin Franklin for the most part, I did start wondering the other day about planning our creative work, and whether we were really setting ourselves up for failure when we just run with an idea without really thinking about where it’s going.

I’ve always loved writing, and until I started my dissertation I didn’t really plan what was going to happen. Sometimes I’d hit a bit of a wall or have some discrepancies in the story, but for the most part, I’d love being surprised by the twists and turns that happened along the way – sometimes it was even as if I was reading the story for the first time. That kind of writing is great because it’s fun and based on reactions, and let’s be honest, sometimes doing something without any real structure is really freeing, and can really lift your writer’s block.

However not planning what direction you’re going in can be really detrimental to your writing. If you have no guidelines, how do you know where to go next? I found this as I got further into my degree. I realised I didn’t have writer’s block just because it happens, I realised I had writer’s block because I didn’t consider which direction I was going to take in the long run.

I don’t think I would have done as well at university if it hadn’t been for the screen writing module I did in second year. The level of planning that goes into writing a screenplay was something completely alien to me at first, but I slowly accepted the fact that I needed to adopt at least some level of structure (and the planning documents contributed to my final grade…)

Once I learned to plan, my work was completed faster and to a much higher standard, and while I still enjoy the freedom of not planning, I can’t actually do it any more. Even something as simple as a blog post, which used to be like stream of consciousness when I’d write on emphaticpanda.blogspot.com, has become a process which begins with a title, followed by in-depth bullet points before I finally open a ‘new post’ tab and actually write down what I’m thinking.

I found a happy medium between planning and having the freedom to be surprised by what I’m writing however. I think it was one of my tutors who suggested we wrote the key events of our narrative on post-it notes and stuck them to the wall, then we knew what would happen, but if we got bored of the storyline we could move around some of the key events to shake things up. Planned freedom. A strange oxymoron.

What do you think? How meticulously do you plan your narratives? Get in touch in the comments, or tweet us at @BrunerlWriter

Dear Freshers,

Congratulations on your fantastic A level results, they are well deserved.

congratulations

It’s not long now until you’ll set foot on Brunel’s campus as an official student, but until then, you have the a few weeks where you’re likely to feel nervous and excited all at once. Here are a few things to bare in mind during your fresher’s experience.

freshers

1. You’re only a fresher once. I mean it lasts a whole year but that’s no excuse to rest on your laurels! Now, fresher’s week, and uni in general is what you make it, so if you want good grades you have to work for them, but during your freshers year it really doesn’t hurt to go a little bit wild. Of course, don’t take ‘go a little bit wild’ as an excuse to get arrested or hurt anyone, I mean just have fun, but stay safe. Definitely stay safe.

2. You’ll make really great friends. This is something that will happen really quickly, especially if you’re living on campus because you’re all in the same boat. You’re all away from home, all with people you don’t know and possibly wouldn’t even mingle with normally, but there’s something about halls that means you’ll have at least one good friend in there. On the first day I moved in, I was very shy and nervous, but as soon as I said hi to a couple of people I felt fine. Everyone’s going to be friendly for the first couple of weeks, and if at any point people stop being friendly/ sociable, you’ll have met the people on your course by then, and they will be great.

3. Sometimes in halls people can be noisy. This is something that you kind of have to roll with. During the day you probably won’t notice it so much because you’ll have music on, or you’ll be out or there will be that general hum of day to day life. However, (and I was very lucky with my whole building) there will be some noisier individuals. If you’re a light sleeper, I would recommend ear plugs. If you get the foamy ones you can still hear fire alarms through them so they’re okay in terms of your safety as well.

4. With that said, fire alarms happen. This is one of the least fun things that happen while you’re living in halls, and I’m not speaking from a noise perspective. In my halls, we had four fire alarms. Three were at night, while it was raining, while I was not wearing shoes. Once someone shared their slippers with me. That is as strange as it sounds. They aren’t entirely unpleasant though, I mean the whole building is outside so you can socialise for a bit. One tip though – if there is a fire alarm in the afternoon, make sure it goes on for longer than about 30 seconds because they test the fire alarms once a week, and I knew a few people who got half way down the stairs in towels after being caught in the shower…

5. Socialise. What I will start off by saying is that I came to Brunel being very shy and socially awkward, I didn’t know what to say to people, and I always assumed they wouldn’t like me anyway. That made socialising more difficult, but then there came a point where I relaxed and realised that at uni, there are very few people who really judge you, and those who do aren’t worth your time anyway. The people who do accept you and who you do get along with are worth your time and are worth socialising with. There were so many times in first year when we’d stay up all night watching films as a flat rather than going out and they were some of my absoluter favourite times and some of my best memories. Being social will do wonders for your sanity, trust me.

6. There’s more than one way to be social. Don’t think that when I say ‘socialise’ I mean go out every night and consume copious amounts of alcohol if that’s not what you want to do. If it is, fine. If not, get your flat mates together to watch a film, walk to town, join all the societies and sports teams you want to. Basically fill up your time with lots of different things and lots of different people. If sport isn’t your thing, there are so many societies, there will be one that is your thing.

7. If there isn’t a society you like, make one. It’s actually pretty easy to get a society together, if you’ve got a handful of people with similar interests and time and energy to put into it, you could have yourself a successful little society.

8. Don’t worry. Your first year of uni is about fun, and it’s about finding yourself. As cliché and wishy washy as that may sound, it’s true. So don’t worry. Of course put the work in, you got this far and let’s be honest, you’re paying for this, so definitely put the work into this. What I mean is don’t burn yourself out in your first year. Of course you want to be proud of yourself, of course you want your parents/friends/family to be proud of you, that’s natural, but burning out won’t do anyone any good. Leave that for third year when the end will be in sight.
9. Sometimes there might be pranks and practical jokes. That’s fine and it’s all fun and game but make sure A. you don’t take it too far. It’s not a joke if someone gets hurt, and B. don’t let security catch you – always have a lookout.
I could go on for ages about how great Brunel is and how much I’m sure you’ll love it here, but you’ve got some celebrating to do! Huge congratulations to you all, once again. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to tweet @BrunelWriter for things related to the course, or tweet me personally @EmphaticPanda, and I will be happy to answer any questions about anything Brunel/freshers/uni related.
In case you’re in need of it, or know anyone who is, here’s the clearing hotline for Brunel university – 01895 272273, and the webpage, should you need further information. Best of luck! http://www.brunel.ac.uk/clearing-adjustment-courses-2014 
We look forward to seeing you around campus in a months time!