Monthly Archives: March 2013

How I Wrote a Final Paper in 11 Hours

I saw something like this, somewhere. I don’t recall where, now, but I thought it’d be fun (or at least, interesting) to chronicle my progress as I beat this paper into submission. Due to a combination of an even bigger paper, Ad Astra, and exams, this paper basically needs to get written today. Preferably before 10:00 pm.

7:36 am – Crawl out of bed. I’ve been semi-conscious for about an hour, having spent most of the night tossing and turning and dreaming of far too many people demanding beer tastings.

9:17 am – Apparently checking library hours would’ve been a good thing. My usual haunt doesn’t open for another hour, so I’ve relocated. I’m ok with that. Thanks to my ability to bike one-handed, I have a travel mug of coffee at my left. There’s no outlet nearby, so we’re going on battery power. And the essay starts now.


Honestly, it could be worse.

10:41 am – We’ve relocated again, as my usual library is now open and my battery died. Now I have a proper carrel and outlet. Essay is approximately 1.5 pages long…I got distracted by reading the news, and also by a friend’s editing job that seemed much more interesting and pressing than St. John.

11:11 am – I wish I could be done this essay.

12:02 pm – Essay is four pages long and has two pretty pictures. In one of nature’s cruel jokes, I feel both low-blood-sugar-y and nauseous. I need to eat, but I can think of only a few things less appealing right now. Braving the dining hall to see if I can stomach anything.

12:20 pm – An English muffin and hot chocolate with a side of awkwardness. Awesome. So glad to know I’m putting my few remaining free meals to good use. In other news, I think my stomach hates me. Oh well. Back to St. John.

12:27 pm – Screw it. My body really hates me. Calling a short break to mindlessly surf the web and wait for it to stop this nonsense.

3:06 pm – Closing in on 8 pages done. This is the first time in my university career that I have included pictures in an essay, and I like it. However, I am thirsty.



3:38 pm – The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Going home to rest. Will resume soon.

5:40 pm – I slept. There was also dinner. Bracing myself for another attack.

8:07 pm – Ok, so I got distracted. BUT I AM WRITING THE CONCLUSION NOW. FEAR ME, ESSAY! (Side note: Saint John is the patron saint of theologians, writers, and people at risk of burns. I am sometimes all of these things, so he’s totally got my back on this. Right?)

8:19 pm – DONE THE CONCLUSION. But…I still need a bibliography.

8:43 pm – DONE DONE I AM DONE!!! At 3661 words, four pictures, and 52 footnotes, we are done! Haha! Now I only have one giant paper to go!

But first…baking pretzels!


Spring is Springing

I was just looking out the window, wondering if I could summon the energy to write something, anything, when I noticed:

There’s a tree outside with buds on it.

That, friends, warms the cockles of my heart.

Spring is coming, for which I am incredibly grateful. Partly because I missed spring last year: I left Canada in the middle of winter, arrived in NZ at the start of autumn, spent winter down there, arrived back in Canada at the end of summer, and have since gone through another fall and winter.

It reminds me of the Monty Python Holy Grail line: “And winter gave spring and summer a miss and went straight on into autumn.”

Ironically, considering the tendency towards pathetic fallacy in my writing, it really has been a long, hard winter. The last few weeks especially, things have been so heavy, cold, and grey.

With a few exceptions, of course…

But spring is coming. It’s almost like I still have seasonal jetlag, as though once the snow melts and the sun shines, once there’s that fresh scent on the breeze and you can practically feel things sprouting and taking root…then, it’ll be like a reset button that gets me on a more even keel. Not that I think warmer weather is the answer to everything, but it can only help.

The signs are there. I worked last week (which, coming in the middle of the Essay Apocalypse, was both highly necessary for my own sanity and also a terrible idea), and even though it snowed, when the wind shifted just right, you knew.

We’re well into Easter music at choir, and after four years, Easter hymns are triggering the same seasonal expectations in me that Christmas carols do in December. They feel like spring. They feel like things coming back to life, things rejuvenating (and yes, I do appreciate the symbolism there).

For the first time since a very lonely night somewhere in the South Island, I wrote a poem.

The days are growing longer and warmer. The ice is melting. There’s still a ways to go, but maybe, hopefully, soon, it will be patio weather.

First round’s on me.

Words to Live By

People like quotations and mottoes. If you Google almost any emotional or heavy subject, a suggestion for “quotes” pops up (although as my grade ten English teacher drilled into us, “quote” is a verb, “quotation” is a noun).

“Being confused quotes”

“Friendship quotes”

“Grief quotes”

“Personal growth quotes”

I think sometimes we like to see our emotions articulated and expressed eloquently by someone else. It makes messy, abstract emotions concrete.  If someone else felt similar enough to write a relatable statement, clearly, we’re not alone in that feeling, which is hugely comforting.

The thing I’ve found about quotations, mottoes, even song lyrics, is that we tend to relate them to us. We bring our own meaning to the (usually somewhat vague and generalized) words. In any creative endeavour, it takes two to make meaning: artist and audience. Hence why everyone’s experience of a particular piece is different.

Same idea here.

I’ve had a very, very rough two months. Last week in particular was really bad—I’ve been much quieter, online and in real life. But for the past few weeks, a few phrases have been coming to mind more and more.

The opening line of the best-known Māori haka:

Ka mate, ka mate; ka ora, ka ora.

I die, I die; I live, I live.

And a really old hymn.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Where there is love, God is there.

Again, fairly generalized phrases, but imbued with my own meaning into a sort of combined security blanket, prayer, and good luck charm.

Ka mate, ka mate; ka ora, ka ora.

Even when things suck, I’m still here. Even when I’m down, I’m still moving. Even when it seems like there is no end to this, there’s still some incredibly awesome things out there.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Anyone who’s read Hapax knows that I’m interested in theology, but I keep my own personal views fairly close to the vest. Still, the idea here seems right to me. Clearly, lack of sleep has made me into a complete and utter sap, but nevertheless…

Through all of this, there has been love.

I don’t have much patience with corporate-style mottoes or “mission statements.” They always seem fake—imposing meaning on the audience, rather than being vessels through which people find their own meaning. They express what someone wants you to feel, rather than reflecting the emotion you’ve discovered in yourself. A motto you stick with—the words that seem to play out in the background of life, over and over—means something to you.

All writing is symbiosis between writer and reader, even if the only reader is the writer. And maybe that’s why we like quotations so much. In a very concentrated, very personal way, our feelings and experiences are in dialogue with someone else’s.

Ubi caritas continues thusly:

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est,

Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor,

Exsultemus et in ipso jucundemur.

With the loose-but-pretty translation:

Where there is love, God is there,

Love has brought us here,

Let us rejoice and be glad.