For so many reasons, the literal and symbolic pencil with which I write can feel too big, too heavy to wield right now. To be sure, many of us are struggling with that lift – the cumulative physical, emotional, and cognitive lift of this unusual pandemic semester.
If you are like me and the fifteen-year-old with whom I live, your brain and body are sometimes – and unpredictably – operating differently than they have before. Perhaps you cannot maintain focus for typical lengths of time and get easily distracted by low-priority activities, or perhaps you get tired more quickly and become irritated more easily when you are wrestling with a new or complex challenge, or perhaps you lack the will to start or finish a task. Rest assured, we three are not alone.
Now returned from a two-week instructional break, though, we have a unique opportunity to hit the refresh button and to plan and strategically to compose a successful semester conclusion. Consider reading and sharing Dr. Deborah J. Cohan’s recent Psychology Today article, “Ending the Pandemic Semester Successfully: A professor offers advice for students.” Dr. Cohan’s kind and encouraging tone is soothing, motivating, even emboldening, especially when coupled with her pragmatic advice about the kind of perspective necessary to cross this extraordinary semester’s finish line. Consider here her final paragraph:
A pandemic semester is different than a regular semester because it's less about the sprint to the finish line in a marathon. This is more like an ultra marathon requiring different stamina, surrender, resilience, humor, grace and a sense of the world as so much larger than we are. It's one grade at a time. It's one class at a time. It's one semester at a time. As I tell my own students, it's not about the grade you earn that you will remember in years to come; it's the process you'll remember and what you learned about yourself and the world around you. Tomorrow is a new day.
To complement Dr. Cohan’s piece, I have recast her advice to more directly target the needs and realities of writers, Cornell First-Year Writing Seminar students in particular. The resulting “ProTips for Writing through a Pandemic” offer a series of recommended activities – together with links to campus and online resources – that can help you hold strong that pencil as you complete final writing assignments in your FWS and beyond.
ProTips for Writing through a Pandemic
- Prepare A Physical Space – Where can you best work and write, and what do you need around you to be productive, comfortable, inspired?
- Plan Out Your Time/Establish A Routine – What aspects of your schedule are working so far this semester and what needs to change? When do you read, think, and write best? Are you most productive at certain times of day? When are you building in breaks – to eat, move, rest, refresh, sleep?
- Reflect On Your Writing And Yourself As A Writer | How can you take stock of and celebrate what you have learned this semester? How can you set reasonable goals and expectations for final writing projects?
- Writing Project P/Reflection: A Writer’s Twelve Values | Knight Institute@Cornell
- Writer’s Self-Assessment Rubric | Knight Institute@Cornell
- Watch “Writing During a Pandemic?!? Writing Tips from the Graduate Writing Service”
- Consult Digital Writing Resources – What devices/digital tools and technologies can help you make the most of every draft?
- Use Campus Writing Resources – What kinds of tutoring and mentoring can help you answer your questions about writing or specific writing assignments and drafts?
- Cornell Writing Centers | Tutoring for all Cornell Writers at any stage of the writing process. Appointment@CWC
- Graduate Writing Service | Teaching Consultations for Instructors of Writing. Appointment@GWS
- Cornell’s Learning Strategies Center | Tutoring and course support. Tutoring@LSC
- Cornell University Libraries | Research Consultations with librarians. Ask a Librarian
- Join/Establish a Writing Community | How can peer collaboration keep you on track and maximize your learning experience?
- Contact your FWS instructor for help connecting with classmates
- Sign up to work with students in other classes working on similar research and writing projects | Studying Together Program (Cornell’s Learning Strategies Center)
WELLNESS & HAPPINESS
- Make Your Writing Meaningful | How can your current writing assignments help you work toward for long-term goals and aspirations?
- Connect with Peers and Faculty | How can you participate in remote campus activities and events that provide inspiration – direct or indirect – for writing projects?
- Take Care of Yourself | What can you do to relieve stress and bring joy?
- Cornell Health | Support and maintain your mental health and emotional wellbeing with self-care tips, resilience courses, and meditation platforms. Resources for Coping During COVID-19
- Schedule an appointment with a College Advising Dean or Faculty Advisor to make plans for next semester and beyond!