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Back in high school, I had a brief knack for writing poetry. Not your normal teenage angst poetry, or so I like to believe, but free-verse imagery based in memories, my love of color, or something that was on my mind.

And I was good at it.  It flowed through my pencil like something was writing through me, leaving me drained but elated when it was done.  That gift left me a while ago, though it’s made one or two reappearances.  I choose to think it’s not gone gone but just buried, hibernating until it’s needed again.

I bring this up because I remember my one attempt at a funny poem, back in senior year of high school. My English teacher assigned us to all write a collection of poems, and by the end of it I was so exhausted that all I could think to write was a poem about how my muse was MIA.  Maybe it ran off to Hawaii, I speculated.

I’m in essay hell this week, with two writing assignments due and nowhere near enough time. Sanctimonious types will tell me that I’ve known about these assignments for a while, and that’s true. But I’ll defend myself by reminding you all that not only do I have other homework that’s relatively time-consuming, I have other needs, like exercise, social contact, and other kinds of recreation.  That’s how I manage my crazy – I schedule in down time every day, to craft, walk around outside, or just lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling.

On Tuesday I spent thirteen hours trying to write a 1500-word essay.  It wasn’t impossibly difficult or on a topic about which I knew nothing. Quite simply, there was nothing inside my head. That thrice-cursed muse ran off again, leaving me in the lurch with all of my term projects left to write. By 9pm, hour eleven of this essay, I was slowly typing with one hand while the other arm was curled around my small stuffed toy Snuffleupagus (from Sesame Street), desperately trying not to cry from sheer exhaustion and frustration.  Spending such a ridiculous amount of time on such a short writing assignment – most of my Best Picture Project posts have been around 1000 words – made me feel like a grad student failure.  Surely by now I should be able to crank these things out as easily as breathing.  I used to wish that my head would empty of noise, that it would slow down and just let me have non-thinking quiet for a little while.

Be careful what you wish for – these days it feels hard for me to get my mind going. It seems like it’s always empty.  It’s a thick kind of emptiness, like a dense fog rather than an empty room.  A strange feeling for a person whose mind used to be so full that it felt like the skull was too small.

I’m kind of apprehensive about the coming three days.  My term paper for Preservation is due Monday morning and it’s just sitting there, lurking menacingly. Me being me, I managed to choose a topic for which there isn’t much official literature, so I’m having to patchwork an argument from articles that are sort of related but not exactly on my topic – which was already approved by the prof, and it’s too late to switch anyways.

I’m going to be very happy when I get to Monday afternoon.