Organizing a Blogging Notebook in OneNote

Capture

A few months ago, I made the executive decision to create a new notebook in OneNote solely dedicated to blogging.

This was a huge decision for me. Previously, I only had two notebooks: one to hold everything I was working on and one to hold everything I wasn’t working on. But after seeing people devote entire binders to blogging, I figured that a digital notebook wasn’t too much.

That still seems excessive. Can’t I just use the WordPress editor/Microsoft Word?

For the longest time, I only used the WordPress editor to write and edit my posts. But ideas came to me sporadically. Sometimes, I’d get a marvelous idea and realize that I only had 2 sentences to write down. This led to an incredibly messy “drafts” folder. When I wanted to work on a post, I had to open all my drafts to see which ones I was interested in working on. Sometimes, I would write something I liked but didn’t want to publish. I didn’t know what to do about that. And I never quite figured how to keep all that writing advice I read online in an easy to access place.

The blogging notebook fixed all that. There were other things I liked about OneNote as well- no distractions a Ctrl+T away, the flexibility of the page (Literally, you can just click and write something on the side if it pops up in the middle of writing.), that it syncs with my phone, that it’s free.

After some trial and error, these were the sections I came up with:

  1. Word Vomits
  2. Currently Writing
  3. Advice
  4. Finished Posts
  5. Trash
  6. For another day

Looking back, these sections were a bit arbitrary, but it worked for me. Here’s how I use each section.

Word Vomits: The first place where all my well, word vomiting, goes. If something comes to me spontaneously, it goes here, whether it’s good or not. I recently purged a good number of drafts, and there are 13 other ideas I could write about here. The first page here is a running list of ideas.  If this notebook were a brain, this would be the working memory.

Currently Writing:  These are “Word Vomits” I feel comfortable with publishing. Once I feel like the post is coherent, I copy paste the post into the WordPress editor and move the page into “Finished Posts”. This section usually holds about 3/4 posts.

Advice: I reached out to two of my favorite bloggers via email a few months ago and asked for advice. I created this section after they both responded, and I never wanted to lose those emails.  If I ever find a good piece of advice on the Internet, I put it here as inspiration.

Finished Posts: After a post gets moved to WordPress, I move the page with the draft into this section. Sometimes there’ll be snippets of lines I didn’t use or personal side notes that I didn’t want to publish. Usually a post will go through much more editing before it gets published on WordPress, and this is another way to preserve the drafts.

Trash: The receptacle for “Word Vomits” that turn out to be actual vomit. I keep them around in case I change my mind (and to remind myself how I can write crappy pretentious stuff at times.)

For another day: I created this section after I wrote a reflection on a trip I took and the people I met. I felt like it was a good piece…but not something I wanted to make public yet. It was a bit too raw, something that would be more interesting to look back on a year. For now, this section is littered with half-baked anecdotes, as well as a page that’s literally “List of awkward moments”.

I could write more about the merits of such a notebook, but frankly, it’s a relief to come up with a writing process that doesn’t mind when I come up with 5 ideas in 2 hours and want to write about each of them, that doesn’t mind when I end up trashing more than half of said ideas, that doesn’t mind when I want to recover some of those ideas again.

Usually, it takes me multiple days to write, review, and finalize a post. This was an exception- 20 minutes to write in one sitting, 30 minutes to look over and publish a few days later. 

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Dealing with inferiority complexes

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A reflection on being un-extraordinary, plus a bit of advice.

I’m a second semester senior.

Let me repeat that again. I’m a second semester senior.

I’m a second semester senior.

I’m free to not care about anything, free to say #yolo to anything and everything. And yet for some reason, I’ve begun caring more and more about certain things. Knowing that I won’t see most of my classmates in a few months means that I should be nice as possible now. (Or maybe rather, there’s no risk in starting a friendship that could end poorly.) Knowing that I’ll be leaving most of the organizations I’ve been involved with motivates me to make some sort of difference before I leave. (Or maybe rather, that I’m finally not plagued with the idea that I’m just doing everything for my college apps.)

Of the organizations I joined as a freshman, Quizbowl has been one of the few organizations I’ve stayed in. And last week, as I saw 7 new members join the team for the last time, I began thinking back to when I first joined the team as a freshman.

Still fresh off the novelty of  high school, I was eager to join the team, to continue something I had done in middle school. In some ways, it was great. I was included in on the jokes. Most people knew my name. (This was a bigger deal to me than I care to admit.) My team members and the sponsors were witty and intelligent and nerdy. Plus, there was free food.

But something else wasn’t right: my actual quizbowl ability. Week after week, I watched juniors and seniors on the team name things I had never even heard of, much less could identify. Spending 90 minutes each week listening to hundreds of questions I didn’t know the answer to was demoralizing.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise that after a few months, I didn’t want to come to practices anymore. I wasn’t contributing anything to the team, and people had no reason to pay attention to me.

* * *

If this were a good story, someone else would swoop in right about now, motivate me, and I would muster up the drive and self-discipline to become a national quizbowl champion. If this were a good story and had I not won the birth lottery, this type of story might even become famous: the girl who beat all her more privileged peers.

None of that happened though, and now,  I’m still mediocre at quizbowl. End of story. Simply another failed story, a direct result of my lack of hard work…

…but is that really it? I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly was so discouraging in the first place. Was it being exposed to the genius upperclassmen? Nope,  I had seen plenty good quizbowl players in middle school and been pummeled at every math competition I went to. I had been exposed to the limits of my own intelligence early on. That didn’t explain everything.

What was different, however, was that in middle school, there were other people affirming how I felt. When my friends and I saw these “geniuses”, we could marvel at their intelligence together before throwing ourselves into studying more. But as a freshman on the quizbowl team, I was an outsider among a group of people who had already assimilated. (at least from my perspective).

When I ask people why so few stories of people overcoming tough situations exist, their response has been “some people just aren’t cut out to do well” or that everything can be accomplished with enough “grit”. My parents occasionally talk about the necessity of “chi ku” (literally: eating bitter) in order to succeed. Every work of literature I’ve read in English has had the theme “Wisdom through suffering,” to the extent that it’s become a joke.

I believe that mindset too at times: I’ve told myself: “Screw the inferiority complex. I’ll just work twice as hard and prove myself” more times than I can count. Because maybe that’s the right attitude. Maybe I’m just trying to rationalize my laziness, and maybe I’ll just have to face the uncomfortable truth that I don’t want to put the work into being a good quizbowl player.

Yet,  I can’t help but feel bad when year after year, I see the same excited students join the team each year and leave discouraged after a few practices. I see a bit too much of myself in them,  and most of them didn’t even have my exposure to middle school quizbowl. The last thing I want to blame it on is their own laziness or the lack of some innate quality.

This also makes me uncomfortable. By not doing more to help these new members, am I actively choosing to perpetuate the cycle that almost made me quit quizbowl? Am I guilty of my own crime?

I try to tell the new members “It’s okay if it’s tough. It’s always a difficult transition.”  in hopes that it will help. But I really doubt that’s enough to get them through the months it takes to realize that yes, Quizbowl  indeed only tests a finite list of topics, that yes, you can still have fun even if you’re barely answering any questions and that yes, it’s definitely worth staying.  What if they become systematically desensitized and developed a feeling of learned helplessness, like I been so close to? Until I had more friends join the team my sophomore year, I wouldn’t have had many qualms about dropping out.

* * *

It’s weird that I chose to focus on Quizbowl here–it’s been neither the most influential nor distinctive feature of high school for me, not by a long shot. But it’s something I’ve been involved with for a long time, something with easily quantifiable metrics, an activity in which I’ve felt both superior and inferior.

In fact, it’s a lot like school, though doing well in school has been an ego boost for me more often than not. What can it be like for the other half?

This weekend, I heard a former district superintendent talk about dismal literacy rates in my county. (Spoiler: two-thirds of students can’t read on grade level.)

At its heart, he said, not knowing how to read is a form of emotional abuse. Not even considering the social and economic implications of illiteracy, constantly being evaluated by your ability to take tests that you can’t even understand is emotionally devastating.

This bothers me. I didn’t grow up with parents who spoke English, I certainly wasn’t a hardworking preschooler (if that even exists), and I learned to read just fine. But for a myriad of other smaller, more subtle reasons, this isn’t a reality for the majority of my peers who grew up in the same community as me, and I can only imagine what their attitude towards school must be. 1

Ignoring that inferiority complex that we all possess in some form is just going to result in more and more insecurity, more jealousy, that constant feeling of not being good enough, or worst (and perhaps the most logical conclusion), simply not caring anymore. Affirming someone’s feelings goes a lot further than denying that they exist. We’re naturally hardwired to connect with one another, and ignoring emotional and biological feedback is rarely a good idea.

With that, I present…

Amy’s list of self-reminders:

  1. Find pleasure in what you’re learning/doing
  2. Find private, intrinsic, quiet pleasure in what you’re learning/doing. No one can take that away from you.
  3. Practice every day.
  4. Silence the outside voices and competition
  5. You’re not the best. Don’t get cocky.
  6. You’re not the best. It’s okay.
  7. Most of the journey is going to be done on your own. Be prepared.
  8. Other people are important. Find a good support system.
  9. Other people are important. Find a good system of people to support.
  10. Worst case scenario: Things don’t go your way, and you learn a bunch in the process.
  11. It’s okay.
  12. Get enough sleep .

Anything to add?

 * * *

Reading:


  1. To be fair though, one of the first things I did after learning to read was to pull a handle on a bright red box with the words “pull”. The fire alarm. Whoops. 

Givology: Give to learn. Learn to give.

So apparently there’s a online platform that’s funded education for more than 200 students and partnered with 60 organizations? And they’ve raised more than $400,000 in 5 years? And donors get to choose where their money goes and keep up with the student after their donation? And they were featured in Forbes 30 under 30 for education?

And anyone can help by donating, whether it be with time, money, or resources?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. It’s called Givology, and I’m excited to be working with them this summer.  I first heard Givology mentioned at the end of Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof, a book about women’s rights in the developing world. (Definitely recommend.) Reading about all the atrocities that women faced in places that weren’t first world countries gave me an obligation to do something about the cause. My guilt lasted for perhaps half a day, and then I moved on with my middle school life. I mean, I had no money or resources, and I was still depending on my parents for stuff. I would make an impact when I had all those things.

Now, a few years later, I’m still living at home, and I still don’t have an income, but I do have an Internet connection, 10 hours a week to give, and the willingness to help. Which was all I needed to get an internship with Givology.

I want to start making my mark on the organization as soon as possible, but as part of their onboarding program, I first have to read a book written by the team, #GiveInspiration: How to Give Effectively. No complaints, since it’s a fascinating book.

The book is split into two parts, the first sharing advice on how to start a successful social enterprise and how to evaluate impact, and the second featuring 28 stories of Givology partners and sharing their successes (and failures). I’m still working my way through the second half, but throughout what I’ve read, I’ve noticed some distinguishing features of Givology.

1) Everyone is treated equally.

“Volunteering” has cynically been described as “doing the work that no one wants to get paid to do.” However, at Givology, no one gets paid, not even the founders. How does this dynamic play out then? That’s right. It doesn’t.

Being driven by 100% volunteer efforts creates a completely different (virtual) culture where everyone genuinely wants to contribute, and everyone’s ideas are considered, regardless of age or educational level. Givology is made up of high school students, college students, and professionals working in their free time to keep Givology running. Since no one works at Givology full time, everyone understands that life sometimes gets in the way, and I think it’s remarkable that they’ve made it this far.

2) Good intentions are not enough!

This is literally the title of the first chapter of How to Give Effectively. And I love it. As an organization that has seen hundreds of thousands of dollars pass through its hands, Givology rigorously selects and evaluates its partner organizations on a regular basis. The process isn’t always glamorous and it often involves rejecting potential partners, but it’s necessary in order to maximize their impact. Givology emphasizes that even with good intentions, our actions can often have a negative impact, which is something important to admit.

3) Money is not the (only) problem. 

Students can’t be sent to school and projects can’t be completed without the proper funds, but there are many more aspects of a philanthropic venture to consider to ensure that the expected outcome is reached.

For instance, students dropping out of school is a real issue, even in third world countries and even when their tuition is paid:

“[N]early half of rural children and youth in China drop out of formal education not because they cannot afford to attend school but because they feel that schooling is a hopeless and painful experience. Factors such as test-centered teaching, lack of exposure to the real world outside of a few textbooks, and crowded, prison-like school environments stifle individuality, independent thinking, and well-rounded development. This leaves many intelligent and curiosity-filled children directionless and under-educated during or after middle school.”

#GiveInspiration: How to Give EffectivelyGivology

I’ve heard American schools described the exact same way and also leading to high dropout rates. Making learning interesting and engaging isn’t only a first world problem. It’s an entire world problem. Givology also has an emphasis on microphilanthropy, harnessing the power of small donations to collectively make a big difference.

“We always ask the question, “What’s the difference between one one-million dollar donation compared to one-million one dollar donations?” We recognize that the latter is much more difficult to manage as a process, but we believe in the idealistic value of democratized philanthropy- that every dollar counts and no matter the size of your contribution, that you deserve equal rights to choice and transparent reporting about project details and update #GiveInspiration: How to Give EffectivelyGivology

Speaking of money, Givology somehow manages to run with only $400 in operational costs each year, most of which is spend on website hosting. This is insane. With social media accounting for most of their publicity and running the entire organization virtually, they have cut overhead costs to the bare minimum, focusing on the donations that actually make an impact instead.

4) Transparency and open communication.

Even as an intern, I see the messages going on within the group via a listserve, and I can access all of Givology’s organizational documents on an intranet. The group communicates every week during a conference call, where members share their progress on their projects. Even though the volunteers are from all around the world and Givology has no physical office, everyone still feels connected to the organization.

Givology also updates donors on the students they supported after their donation via their website and through emails , so donors can see exactly where their money is going and the impact of their donation, unlike with more traditional models, where one writes a check to an organization and the charity decides how to allocate the money.

Having this level of transparency and allowing donors to choose where their money goes is a relatively new concept, also exemplified with other microlending platforms like Kiva and Global Giving. All made possible because of the lovely Internet.


This is all stuff I noticed about Givology before I’ve officially started. Let’s see what the rest of the summer will bring.

Amazon link to #GiveInspiration: How to Give Effectively

Givology websiteFacebook pageTwitter

Google Keep and Fringe Thoughts

Whenever my life gets too busy, the first thing I always neglect is this blog. Blog posts can easily be delayed a few weeks without much impact, but turning in a school assignment or studying for a test a few days too late can make the difference between passing and failing a class. 

But just because I don’t have the time to write long-format posts doesn’t mean I don’t get hit with non-epiphanies throughout the day. I’ve been looking for a way to keep track and remember them, and Google save the day with Google Keep, an service that creates an attractive pin-board with all my (colored!) notes, perfect for recording fringe thoughts.

keep

I may or may not have hidden some of the more incriminating stuff. And rearranged the notes so there were more colors. Ugh and now I realize the typo. WHATEVER. 

I had been using Twitter as a link/outburst dump, but Google Keep was better for private thoughts, and I wasn’t restricted 140 characters.It’s been a little over a month since I first started using Google Keep, and I’ve already created more than 100 notes. What was life ever like without all these colorful stickies. 

Among this board of pretty letters I’ve recorded some blog-worthy ideas, but most of them were quickly typed out in a burst of inspiration and aren’t long enough to justify an entire post. Which is why I’m dumping them below. 


In reverse chronological order:

#cool2bsmart 

For some reason, HISD thinks the best way to reward students for taking challenging courses is by spending 30k on a celebration that basically tells us that luck and reality-TV show esque games are the ways to get rich. That your ability to guess heads and tails correctly is more important than passing an AP test, because, oh, simply being EXPOSED and TAKING AP classes should prepare you to college so much better. The results don’t matter, simply the input does.

“HISD students took over 23,000 AP tests this year. Over 8,000 of them received a 3 or higher.”

*loud applause*

That’s worse than the national average. Why are we proud of this. 

Related: Amanda Ripley’s book The Smartest Kids in the World states that the two major physical differences between schools around the world, even the successful ones, were the non-glamorous school buildings and the lack of technology in the classroom.. Guess what HISD’s promoting the most right now? That’s right, new school buildings and laptops. What. The. Actual. Heck.

Sometime before the World History AP exam 

I can explain pretty well the laws of science and figure out idealistic math problems that have little real-world applicability, but ask me to explain the messy world of history and the patterns of rise and fall, and I fail miserably. 

Talking to people I don’t know well

When given the chance to talk with a new group of people or people I know, I almost go for the new group. Even if I’m only able to build shallow relationships with these people, I still feel the need to connect with more people and talk to them.. 

[insert private details of day]

Maybe I’m so deprived of social interaction that any conversation seems magical to me, but I feel more…alive after talking to these people. 

OH MY GOSH THIS ARTICLE

My Inner Perfectionist

Back in elementary add middle school, my friends were perfectionists in everything they did. Flawless handwriting that could pass for typography, projects that looked like they were designed by computers, fussing about every detail simply because they could. I was the more awkward and messy one, so I didn’t quite relate with them and rather sat back and laughed at their OCD tendencies. 

I think I’ve figured it out now. Although I may just be less refined than them, I just didn’t see the point in trying so hard for something that had little meaning after the teacher graded it. Give me a challenging assignment that actually has some impact, make me write a blog post, and I’ll work just as hard to perfect it as anyone else. 

Scientific Learning

Even if we found the best method of learning, would we use it? Breaking down learning into a science seems to dehumanize the process of learning, and in a society where we’re trying to cherish the meaning of living, I can’t picture this happening. 

Living Life “Right”

I used to think that other people were “living life right,” that they were the ones who knew how to be popular, that they had some fundamental truth of living that I had missed out on. However, as I grew up, I realized that I knew more than most people realized, and most people knew less than I thought. I had to be careful with this type of thinking though, as it could quickly become dangerous.

I came from a middle school that even I knew was renowned for its nerdiness, and I loved it. (It’s not like I had known any other place). I entered high school with the perception that I’d be less popular than everyone else. That wasn’t a problem for me, and it still isn’t. However, now I’ve realized that they were less popular than I thought they were and that they weren’t actually living life better than me. I just thought they were because of the high school myth of popularity. We’re as lost as the others. 

Just because I don’t profess my love for my friends doesn’t mean that I don’t have any. Just because I …yeah I should stop.

Sophomore Year 

If anything, sophomore year has made me more detached from life. I’ve started talking in more of a monotone, and I have to make an active effort to interact with people.

I’m still confused as to whether I’m an introvert or extrovert. I like talking to people, but organized social events aren’t that appealing to me, and I don’t have any natural charisma. However, according to music an piano, I definitely get all my energy from the crazier, faster-paced songs. And whenever I try to impress someone around me, I get obnoxiously loud in hopes that they’ll noticed me.

I could possibly be an extrovert who’s hidden by all my awkwardness, or maybe I’m just an ambivert.

On Listening 

People generally don’t listen to authority because they respect what people have to say, they shut up because that’s what they’ve been told to do. We’ve never really been taught how to listen, more on how to obey authority. 

Humor

Some things are only funny in the context of a conversation–that type of funny is relatively easy to create (but hard to think up in the midst of a conversation) That’s why inside jokes with friends are funny at the time, but don’t make sense to anyone not there.

Comedians have it more difficult because they have to make funny stuff without a common connection with the audience. That’s why they resort to using the news or other things that draw national attention. 

Why monotonic people are the best writers

The generic writing advice is that people should write how they speak. However, the problem with this is that with speaking, most people can get away with saying stuff without much substance because their emotion can cover up. Another improvement is saying “write an idealized form of how you speak.” But even with that, there’s still the problem of using inflection to cover up. This is where monotonic people come in. Their entire life, they have not had to rely on body language to convey their message, which could be seen as a disadvantage, but when it comes to writing, it allows their message to come across through their words. [Insert relevant Paul Graham quote] [here]

On competition 

At the higher levels of competition, everyone has put in an astronomical amount of effort and everyone is trying their hardest. There’s no points for “doing your best” and everything is dependent on your results 

Moar rejecting the system

I used to be under the impression that the reason to try hard in school was because school allowed one to be able to learn more efficiently. However, as I went more and more into the system, this seemed to be less true, as completion grades replaced actual grades and grades seemed to be equated with learning. Now, I’ve come to the conclusion that learning something by intrinsic motivation is the most efficient and the best way to learn. 

Attempting to be objective

Heck I don’t learn about the importance of triangles in circles because I have a passion for Stewart’s Theorem. I learn about it so I can solve more geometry problem. I don’t want to learn how to draw or write better because I have an important deep philosophical message to convey to the world. I want to learn to draw and write because art and writing reveals the spatial and ideological misperceptions that we have, and it’s important to recognize them. (While I’m making the comparisons here, math reveals all the logical fallacies we make.)

Creating bureaucracies

Sometimes actually doing anything gets lost in the bureaucracies. Instead of doing work, it’s all reporting and paperwork

(cough Stuco) When there’s not much work to do, delegating all the work to other people just makes the system more complicated

I like to think of debate as a bureaucracy, because people have created such a huge circuit and had people devote their entire lives and travel across the nation. To do what? Talk about a couple of topics that have no real world impacts.

When creating a new system, a bureaucracy often seems like the only way because there’s just so much to be done, but more modern designs are often more efficient.

…I think I’ve just had bad experiences with complicated systems.

Pretty handwriting 

I used to marvel at the beautiful calligraphy that the founding fathers used to write in, the tall majestic cursive that contained words that would still be reveled by a nation for over 2 centuries. Then I realized that their handwriting was how they got the respect of others. Sure, it wasn’t indicative of their leadership skills, but people were at least impressed by their penmanship.

This is why I’m wary of typed papers. They look all professional and formatted, making it hard to detect how much the presentation affects the role of it. (See Paul Graham’s Copy What You Like)


Somehow this adds up to be 1500+ words. Guess I haven’t been not writing for this past month. Goodnight.

Thought Cluster: The Future

The idea that the people I’m surrounding myself with will most likely be on different parts of the country 10 years from now scares me. That the test I’m worrying about right now will have absolutely no meaning in the future. That of the thousands of hours I spend working the education system perhaps only taught me how to follow directions (Of course that’s not true, but let’s just pretend we’re all robots.) No one looks back on their past favorably.  What will survive the test of time?

Did you know that for pretty much the entire history of the human species, the average life span was less than thirty years? You could count on ten years or so of real adulthood, right? There was no planning for retirement, There was no planning for a career. There was no planning. No time for planning. No time for a future. But then the life spans started getting longer, and people started having more and more future. And now life has become the future. Every moment of your life is lived for the future–you go to high school so you can go to college so you can get a good job so you can get a nice house so you can afford to send your kids to college so they can get a good job so they can get a nice house so they can afford to send their kids to college.”
― John GreenPaper Towns

I always hear that it’s worth it to work hard now because it pays off in the future. However, the way I see it, either you enjoy life now and pay for it later or you work hard now and reap the benefits. Either way, you’re going to have to work; it’s just a matter of when. For now, I don’t exactly know how to enjoy life to its fullest, so the latter seems like the better decision.

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen?”

The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”

The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast. How long then?”

Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.”

“But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student.

“Thirty years,” replied the Master.

“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student, “at each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?”

Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

-From Valedictorian Speaks out Against Schooling

As the youth of this generation, we have the responsibility to create, not simply live, the future. This is as big of a burden as it sounds.  And I have no idea how it’s going to be done yet. (Then again, if someone could forsee the future, they would literally be superhuman.) 

“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. (…) You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.”

― John GreenLooking for Alaska

Nab Lop Omo

Wait, that’s not where the spaces go? Oh right, tis NaBloPoMo, aka National Blog Posting Month.

A spinoff of NaNoWriMo, NaBloPoMo is a month-long event where bloggers write a post everyday during November.

That’s right. 30 posts, 30 days. And I’m going to try and accomplish this for the first time. Ugh.

NaBloPoMo November 2013

The official badge for NaBloPoMo. Yay for visuals.

Perhaps I’m crazy for taking on this challenge, especially with a full load of schoolwork and sleep to worry about, but I think it’s going to be fun (“fun”) pushing myself through 30 days of continuous blogging, assuming I don’t collapse before then.

At best, NaBloPoMo will produce an insightful collection of posts as well as a well-deserved dosage of stress. At worst, it will cause my blog to spiral downwards into a vortex of poorly written posts, pictures, and book quotes. (Let’s not consider the possibility that I don’t finish.) Most likely, it’ll be somewhere in between, considering that I’ll need to start writing posts much faster while in a much sleepier mood. I may lift my 300 word minimum limit that I’ve been imposing on all my posts so far, but that’s a decision to make later.

Thank goodness NaBloPoMo starts on a Friday, (although I’m writing this on a Thursday night) so I have a weekend to get warmed up to this schedule before the blast of school consumes any spare time I have.

A couple things:

  • The day isn’t over until I declare it so. Depending on the situation, the day may start from midnight (like today), or it may be defined by when I go to sleep. Yes, that means if I pull an all-nighter and sleep the next day at midnight, that may count as only one day. Although I really really hope that doesn’t happen.
  • Because I’m probably going to be writing about whatever comes to mind, some posts may be password protected. My main reason for doing this is to know specifically who’s reading each post, (sucks for all you silent lurkers out there) and maybe I’ll tell you the password if you like, ask?
  • Motivation comes to me very sporadically. That means that even though I may be motivated today for NaBloPoMo, that state may not hold a few weeks from today. A little extrinsic motivation would be nice, ahem ahem.

…And thus commences NaBloPoMo. On y va!

#StuVoice

When I mentioned the post I wrote for StuVoice.org last week, I felt like there was so much more to the Student Voice movement than just a 300 word article I wrote, so here’s a more through explanation of how the organization works and how it’s influenced me.

The mission of Student Voice is to get youth involved in education policy discussions, since students are the largest influencers of their learning and deserve to have their voices heard. Started by Zak Malamed, Student Voice was originally a Twitter chat where people would tweet about educated related issues with the hashtag #StudentVoice, later shortened to #StuVoice due to #140charprobs.

I first heard of StuVoice through a Huffington Post article after they had set up their website, StuVoice.org. At the time, StuVoice seemed like a great initiative, but I was  unsure of how to get involved since I hadn’t created a Twitter yet, so I just let it sit in the back of my head. A few months later, I signed up for Twitter and rediscovered StuVoice through yet another HuffPost article, and I decided to check out a Twitter chat.

One Monday night in March, I nervously sent out a tweet hashtagged #StuVoice and hoped for the best. Immediately, people replied, welcoming me to the chat and favoriting my tweet. This was a huge deal for me. I was still learning the ropes of Twitter, and strangers were already interacting with me and giving me support. I decided to stay.

Everything continued going uphill from there. For the next hour, we bounced ideas off each other about education in 140 character bites, all appended with #StuVoice at the end. A single question would lead to a flood of responses and keep a discussion going for 20 minutes, often with chains going more than 10 tweets deep. I was immersed in a virtual world of people passionate about education.

When the hour (which passed by extremely quickly) was over, I had sent out nearly 50 tweets responding to peoples’ ideas and contributing my own questions to the chat. Not to mention that I had gained a few followers and numerous favorites and retweets.

For the next few months, I set aside Monday nights for #StuVoice chats no matter how much homework I had. It was the one time every week where I could discuss education seriously with a group of people, keeping multiple lines of conversation going at the same time. With the exception of a few people I know, nearly all my followers on Twitter have come from these chats.

However, I would often be left with a sense of emptiness after #StuVoice chats, since we were always discussing such great ideas, yet nothing was being done in real life. I felt uncomfortable bringing up StuVoice among people I knew, especially teachers, since education reform involves pointing out the problems with school, and we had already complained enough about school. I still wanted to start something at my school though.

Unsure of what to do next, I reached out to someone I met during a chat who started an organization at her school called Student’s Say and asked her how she got everything started. After a few back and forths, I felt like my biggest challenge was still informing people about StuVoice. I decided to write a blog post for the StuVoice website and share it on Facebook to see how it would be received.

A few scrapped ideas later, I drafted a brief article about motivation and sent it in to be edited. And for the first time since middle school, an adult actually looked over my writing and suggested a few improvements, collaborating over Google Docs. I have to admit, watching someone point out problems with my writing live was a little embarrassing, even if it was with good intentions. Nevertheless, I was extremely grateful for the feedback, and this was definitely one of the best parts about being published elsewhere.

There was a long gap between editing and publishing, but in the middle of the first week of school, I got a message from Jilly saying the post was finally up, brightening my day. At first, I was scared to read something I had written nearly a month ago on a site other than my blog, but I eventually went over and looked at it again. The post was pretty much as I remembered it, which was a relief, but now it was time to share it onto social media and have people judge me.

This wasn’t like my other posts where I would write about whatever ideas came to my head–this was meant to be a serious post, and I wasn’t sure how it’d be taken. Eventually, I got the courage to post the link onto my timeline with a description and immediately closed Facebook afterwards so I wouldn’t have to deal with any notifications. In general, people were more impressed with the fact that I was published than the actual StuVoice movement, but at least they weren’t bashing me down. I call that an accomplishment.

So what’s next? I’m not too sure  I have an idea that’s brewing in my head, but I’m not ready to share that here yet. For now, please join the #StuVoice Twitter chats. They’re an inspiring experience that makes you think about education differently, and it’d be nice to have more people I know take part.  Join us on Monday nights at 8:30 EST! (Have fun converting time zones.) Go #StuVoice!

Sophomore Year: Week 1 (+I’M PUBLISHED)

Sophomore year has a lot more work than I was expecting, especially on the first week. Heck, I had time to make this first week of freshman year. This week, I’ve been (almost) working consistently from the time I get home until I sleep, and I’m already sleeping near midnight daily. What is this.

Even before school started, I’ve been telling people that this year is going to suck, according to last year’s sophomores and according to my own calculations that every single core class is going to be significantly harder than it was last year. I’m only taking 2 AP classes, which is slightly over-achiever-ish, but not as crazy as the people taking three. (obviously.)

One of the better parts of being a sophomore is that we’re not the youngest in the school anymore. Sorry to the freshman, but I’m glad I’m not them anymore. :)

Also, I QUIT DEBATE. I have mixed feelings about this decision, since I know that debate is an activity that really stretches your mind and definitely has benefits in terms of speaking skills, but ugh. I just didn’t have the motivation to do it well. It’s known as a GPA boost class, and it seemed kind of stupid to game the system.  Dropping debate has been slightly symbolic for me, a tiny refusal to play within the system.

(Yes, I use Twitter. Follow me!)

Debate’s really time consuming as well. Not just in the sense that tournaments take a huge chunk out of your weekend (I want to be able to sleep 8 hours on a Friday night, ok?) but also the fact that debate is an extra hour of class every single day. This week, I’ve been spending my nonexistent 8th period in the library doing homework, and it’s been pretty productive.

I’ve been thinking about spending the time that I would have been at a debate tournament (basically, starting from Friday afterschool to Saturday noon-ish) doing sometime I deem “productive.” Writing blog posts falls under that category. So does homework, but that’s something I’d rather not think about for now.

Right, my ultimate writing practice this year. English class. Sophomore year at my school is kind of notorious for something called “syntax,” basically writing 12 sentences every day with vocabulary words with a specific structure relating to literature, history, or pop culture. Supposedly, it gets easier, but for now, it’s been taking me about an hour to finish every day. However, I feel like after a year of this conditioning, my writing will honestly improve.

On the brighter side, I’M FINALLY PUBLISHED ELSEWHERE. Over the summer, I submitted a piece to StuVoice.org expressing the role motivation plays in education, and it was put up Thursday. (read it here.) The feeling of being published elsewhere actually makes me more uncomfortable than writing posts for my blog. At least here, I have the option of changing anything that I think looks weird, but there, people are judging every word I write without my knowledge. Either way, I’m pretty proud of the article itself. It’s a lot harder to write a serious post than to simply rant about life (heh. heh.)

My work ethic hasn’t faltered so far, and I’ve been able to focus on things pretty well. Then again, that’s not saying much for the first week. Let’s see how it is right before winter break.

That’s it for now. Honestly, this post is more for me to use as a reference later on than for whoever’s reading this, but yeah. C’est la vie.

One year, fifty posts, and my old diaries.

Ignore the fact that my second post was a month later and that some of these posts aren’t written by me or are extremely short. I’ve still published 50 posts, and it’s still been a year.

One thing I can say is that it doesn’t feel like I’ve written 50 posts. I see my blog as a collection of individual times where I wanted to write a post, not as a greater whole. Similar to my post about time where I say that time is made up of a series of  “now”‘s and that we actually aren’t aware of time passing. (It doesn’t feel like a year either by the way.)

In terms of the blog, aside from switching from Blogspot to WordPress and multiple theme changes, not much has changed. Maybe I’ve gained a few followers, and I’ve written more about my own ideas and philosophies than other things, and I’ve stopped using as many pictures, and I’m starting to write slightly shorter posts, and I’ve gotten in a habit of making sure I have at least 2 posts published per month, and I’ve learned what’s popular and what’s not in terms of content and how to obsess over statistics. (I hope all those commas are placed correctly.) Yeah, other than that, not much.

And since we’re on the topic of one year, I’ll share another weirdly relevant part of my life.

 

The three and a half notebooks I filled in order from left to right (last one's still half empty) Unfortunately, I couldn't weave strings in through the loops after the second notebook.

The three and a half notebooks I filled in order from left to right (last one’s still half empty) Unfortunately, I couldn’t weave strings in through the loops after the second notebook.

For most of middle school, I kept a diary, which I wrote in religiously almost every day. I slacked a little in 8th grade and over the summer, but I have a near-complete record for 2011. Whenever I’m bored,  I look through my old diaries to see what happened “today”  a few years ago. I have an entry for 2010 “today” as well, but the 2011 one is slightly more interesting. Here it is.

Background information: This was the summer between 7th and 8th grade, and I was taking a few summer school classes for fun. The class I’m referring to here was about puzzles and basic cryptology. The bit about Mathcounts was referring to the state competition, the first time I was alone with friends overnight, and we made a bed fort. Never mind the fact that we placed the next day and beat our rival. The bed fort was the best part. These were the same people in the partitions and the quadratic equation story, and that affair happened exactly a week before the competition. Ok, I’ll shut up about Mathcounts now. Names are changed. Most of them. [Comments in brackets]

7/8/2011 Billy

I got to talk to him today. He’s…Billy-like…over-achieverish, energetic…

Like today. We were doing transposition ciphers, and Billy insisted on having me do this one (it turned out to be something like cotton candy pencil box…O.o) He was frantically grabbing my arm and like “SOLVE THIS!!!”

[kind of stalker info that probably shouldn’t be shared]

Just finished chatting with Emily…we were remeniscing [whoa I can’t spell] over Mathcounts. I miss it SO much.. we’re going back just for the bed fort. XD

Right…[something I don’t want to include] But now I feel bad for Emily…it’s not like it hurt me in anyway.  I feel so teenager-like right now…it’s obvious with my reaction with [something else I don’t want to include] Sigh…should I email [person] too? I lost my chain with Soma [LOLOL. Not true, I was just impatient waiting for the response] I MISS YOU [person]!!! “

Honestly, the entry is a little cringe-worthy and I’m not sure what was going on in the end, but I did write all of it.

This really makes me wonder how I’ll view my blog a few years from now. Will it seem shallow and teenager-y and an fail attempt for me to be cool, or will it just be something I did, no opinions attached?

Writing in a journal is different than a blog though, since I can edit a blog post as many times as I want, but once I handwrite something, it can’t be easily changed. All I can say is,  I’ve haven’t looked back on many things favorably before. Except for maybe that bed fort.

That’s all I have to say for now. Here’s to another year of blogging!