I live in an area full of quintessential Americana: covered bridges, picket fences, lawns and main streets ready for bunting and parades. Monday is the Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, holiday in America. It marks the unofficial beginning of summer and is often observed with some ceremony commemorating its roots in the American Civil War. More frequently it is observed with picnics, barbeques, and other outdoor activities. For me, the anticipation of summer and the sensation of release from routine responsibilities helps to gain some objectivity about the academic year just passed and think about how I would like to use the summer days ahead.
Using summer time for some rest and relaxation sounds like a good idea but I am a compulsive planner and would not dream of letting a 3 month block of time pass without a plan. Besides, summer rushes past very quickly when there is another academic adventure ahead in the autumn. Today a friend who is currently a graduate student in counseling and holds a BA in Comparative Literature and I compared our processes and organization methods. We talked about our academic experience, our summer study plans and writing goals.
One important thing we noticed is how similar our organizational processes and needs are. She writes detailed research papers, which I also like to do, and she also organizes with a series of binders like I do. Her stroke of genius is a master outline of her research stored in a separate binder that allows her to easily access specific pieces of information from her notes over a year-long course of study. I adore her master outline; it feels like the missing link in my plan.
This new link in my organization plan will help me produce more detailed work this year. It is a concern of mine and has received much thought about organization and approach to writing and texts. Ann and I also talked about the most common obstacles to students’ success. Time management, precise writing, forming relationships and seeking mentors are all top factors affecting academic success. Even though exams are over and summer is calling I found it very rewarding and inspiring to spend some time with a fellow student discussing our recent academic experience and outlining our next step.
My next step is to think about the depth of knowledge I want to achieve in my research papers and the kind of academic and creative writing I want to do this summer. My friend and I are both writing children’s books and made a pact to encourage one another to finish our manuscripts this summer. Creative writing really helps me with text analysis; the kind of questions I learned to ask in critical reading are very helpful with creative writing.
Writing and reading is fun for us; I appreciate talking a friend about our experience and goals and how we will use our luxurious summer. I am starting summer this weekend with a performance of Ives’ ‘New England Holiday;’ a symphony full of quotations and allusion about holidays like Decoration Day. It is appropriately literary, invigorating, and refreshing just like the season, inspiring friends, and a good plan.