A Guide to Surviving the Summer

No, this isn’t about safety abroad or using sun protection; (although we do advise those things) this is about how to get through the long summer months which fall between exam period and fresher’s week without losing your mind.

Summer

The last week of term after exams always feels free, and celebratory, but what then? What do you do from late May to September? Of course, a lot of students have jobs or internships, but in the last few years it has seemed more difficult to find these opportunities, which means you may lose motivation.

So what can you do? Well…

Write something – you have all the time in the world now to just write something you want to write, not because you’ve been told to, not because you have an impending deadline. You could write something fantastic that would get published, you could write something utterly terrible that you never show to anyone, that won’t get you a bad grade. You could explore and develop some of the things you wrote over the academic year (because don’t we all improve so much between week 1 and now?) The point is that if you do something which feels productive, it is likely to motivate you to do other productive things.

Take up a hobby – It doesn’t have to be a new craft, it can be something that slowly became less prominent as the academic year got more and more crazy. What do you love to do? Think about it, do you miss it? Do it. Again, sometimes it’s difficult to get motivated to even do things that you know you love doing when you feel like you have nothing to do, but seriously, go and make a pie, bake an upside down cake, build a computer, make your own dress, plant some vegetables. Seeing and holding the product of your own work is extremely fulfilling.

Read a book – Read two books, read ten, read a hundred. This is your opportunity to pick up any book in the world and read it just because you want to. Apart from being one of the best feelings in the world, it will still hone your reading skills and your writing skills. One of the first things I was taught at Brunel was ‘the more you read, good great or terrible, the better your writing will be’.

Do voluntary work – If you’re looking for actual paid work, then voluntary work won’t get in the way. It is flexible, it’s far easier to get into than a paid position, because in general, if you have the time, you are qualified. It will also look great on your CV and will get you out of the house for a few hours each week.

Start a blog – This kind of goes hand in hand with ‘Write something’, but then again, you blog doesn’t have to be for stories or your other creative work. You can take anything you enjoy and blog about it. Film reviews, books, games, crafts, cooking, health and fitness, nail art. The world, as the say, is your oyster when it comes to blogs, and it’s hard to explain how surreal and satisfying it is seeing views accumulate from all over the world.

Those are a few tips, hopefully they’re useful to you in some way. What are your tips for staying productive over the summer?

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Under the Weather

Living in England, we are used to the weather being ridiculously temperamental. A few weekends ago, people were walking around in shorts, with horrific sunburn. Now, it’s big jumpers and umbrellas.

Cloudy

*PHOTO CREDIT: andersbjornsbo.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/does-cloud-computing-only-work-in-cloudy-weather/

When I opened my curtains this morning, the clouds were shifting and there was a hint of blue skies. I felt motivated to write for the first time in a long time. Not only that, but my mood lifted instantly. Within the hour, the clouds have returned, and with it, the familiar sense of being entirely unmotivated to write anything at all, save for some sarcastic tweets.

I find myself wondering if this is a common thing – Does the weather really affect us in this way? Do clouds in the sky somehow manifest as writer’s block, clouding our creative vision? Do they make for dull writing? In the same vein, does the sun make us write with more tenacity and verve? Does the rain make our writing take on a more sombre edge?

I’m interested in your viewpoints, writers. Please leave a comment below or send a tweet to @brunelwriter.

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Motivation, Motivation, Motivation.

It’s cold. It’s raining. It’s miserable. You’re tucked up under a blanket watching Gavin and Stacey. It can be really hard to get up and sit at your laptop for hours writing something, whether it be for your own satisfaction or for university purposes. There’s no one there apart from yourself to push you and lack of motivation can be a real killer, especially when you’ve got a deadline looming and are feeling so snowed under by work, you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or you might be bursting with ideas, but can’t find a place to begin. Here are some top tips for jumping that first hurdle and settling down to some hard graft.

1. Get up!

It might be tempting to stay under your duvet (especially is a cold house – how expensive is heating??) and say to yourself, “I can do work here”, whilst balancing your laptop on your knees. Whilst that works for some people, it might actually be more beneficial for you to sit at a desk where it feels like you are actually about to do some work, rather than lounging around in bed where it feels like you should be watching a film. Once you’re sat upright, creative juices can flow and you’ll find that you get into a rhythm of typing.

2. Be patient!

It may seem like you will never reach the bottom of that metaphorical pile of work that seems to be towering above you. However, take it one step at a time! If you try to do everything at once, you’ll be going nowhere fast. Sit down and make a list before you even do anything, making sure you know which deadline comes where.

3. Take the pressure off.

It is so difficult to get started on an assignment, or any piece of work, if you’re more focused on pressuring yourself to finish rather than the piece of work itself. Yes, the piece might be due tomorrow and you’ve only just started (we’ve all done it) but panicking about it will only take up more time. Be focused, be chilled out. It WILL get done and it will take as long as it takes. You may just have to sacrifice a little bit of sleep. Somethings gotta give!

4. Try somewhere new.

Okay, so you’ve been sat at your desk for half an hour, staring at a blank word document. Move yourself to somewhere else! It might be just moving to a different part of your room, it might be putting your feet up on the desk. Or it might be leaving your house and taking a trip to the library. Brave the horrible weather and relocate yourself. Different surroundings might spring your brain into action.

5. Wake up earlier.

Lying in until 2pm is bliss, there’s no doubting that. But if you set your alarm for 10am, you’ve got the whole day ahead of you! It gives you more daylight hours (and let’s face it, we’re running low on daylight hours) to get the work done before it gets dark outside and you just want to have dinner and relax.

These tips may seem a little clichéd, but are SO easily forgotten when it comes to the crunch. Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that you DO know what you’re doing and that you need to calm down and get on with it. A little tough love on yourself may be the key.

Hilary Nouwens.