in which we talk about how to focus

Wandering around clubs fair during Orientation Week often produces an overwhelming adrenaline rush; we grab brochures, freebies and put our names down on a lot of mailing lists. New year. New start. September is the month to try new things. Then October comes and hits you where it hurts with its large selection of assignments, midterms and other anxiety-inducing products. We’ve survived one midterm season and are steadily making our way toward the next maelstrom of due dates. The university experience offers so much besides an academic education: events, resources, clubs, fitness drop-ins, and interest classes…the list goes on and on.There are too many good things out there, we just don’t have enough time. What are we to do? How do we ensure we get the best experience possible? How do we maximize our time here on campus to enjoy and try what is offered? I spend a lot of my time writing poetry. A particular interest of mine is blackout poetry, where you take a piece of text from somewhere, usually a newspaper, and create poems by eliminating words – literally blacking them out.


In many ways, I think the university process is similar to blackout poetry. There are plenty of well established aspects of university life laid out before us, clamouring for our attention at clubs fair, on posters, in emails, or by peers and professors. All of these are like the words on a page I’m about to start blacking out. It isn’t possible to say, “I will do all of this” just as Blackout poetry can’t just present the page as it is, and say, “There. Good.” In my poem writing process, I usually begin by taking a pencil and boxing the words I am going to use. This allows me to get a tentative idea of where the poem is going and what my final message will be. So take a pencil and box what you want to do, identify:
  • Activities where you can find community and belonging.
  • Involvement that allows you to comfortably and confidently be who you want to be.
  • Participation in causes you find worthwhile, or for skill sets you desire to attain.

something a tad more profound

Then I go over the boxed outlines in marker, and begin the process of eliminating the rest of the text in between, careful to avoid accidentally erasing words that I need in my poem. It is the same for our schedules. Once we have all the words we want boxed in, it may be wise to black out the rest as it gives us a chance to focus on what we have decided is important for this particular time, whether it be a semester or a year. By narrowing our vision and settling on key focuses, we streamline our efforts so we can more thoroughly invest in the activities we have chosen. IMG_8592

 every person's real essay writing process.

Part of the university experience is also simply the process of learning how to black out, to figure out how you learn, what you are interested in learning, and what you can contribute because of who you are. Every year can be a new poem. You can change the message of the poem, and the words that are used. You can use a new source text. You can try new clubs, visit different libraries, or even pick two completely different minors. Experiment to your heart's content. Just don’t forget to
  • be willing to try new types of engagement.
  • stay dedicated to what gives you purpose.
  • remember that it is good to learn through experience.

university summarized.

On that note, all blackout poetry in this post was done on campus newspapers. Try it some time!

1 comment on “in which we talk about how to focus

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post. It is insightful, interesting, creative and accurate. When I find a little free time, I’ll try the blackout, with the Chilliwack Progress….should prove interesting.

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