Outside, Looking In

Outside, Looking In

Since actually participating in theatre turned out to be overwhelming in terms of time and energy required, I decided to take a different approach to participating in student life by … observing it. Which doesn’t necessarily sound like a form of participation, but it is. Hear me out.

I discovered that by signing up to review student productions, I could get free tickets to various theatre things. This is a win-win scenario: I get to enjoy an evening out without having to pay any money, and I also get the experience that comes from writing reviews for a student newspaper, namely meeting deadlines and writing to spec. The hardest part is keeping my reviews below 450 words, to be honest…

Okay, so I’m making it sound like I’m slightly more established at this than I am. I’ve only written one review so far, for The Cambridge Student, which was about an improv show. But it’s a start. It’s the second article I’ve written for TCS, the first being about ‘guilty term-time pleasures’ when it comes to TV. Netflix and I are far too well acquainted, so I didn’t find that one too hard to write. (That’s unfortunately not on the website, so I can’t link to it.)

After writing these two articles it occurred to me that this could be a thing I do. I’ve been blogging since 2009 — how different is it, really, to write for a paper? The readership’s not the same, and I can’t see people’s reactions in the same way, but it’s essentially the same sort of medium. Writing book reviews, even if they’ve been sparse lately due to a total lack of time for reading fiction, gives me the experience I need to review theatre, and being involved in a few shows in the past means I have some idea what I’m looking for…

Maybe it isn’t so much the stereotypical student experience where you throw yourself in, heart and soul. Maybe my Facebook page won’t be filled with pictures of me in costume with the cast and crew of a dozen shows, looking delighted and exhausted to be on stage. But I’m not sure that’s really the life for me anyway. Writing reviews is at least a chance to contribute something to the student community, and get to watch shows for free as a bonus.

I say this, but tomorrow I’m auditioning for the Cambridge Ballet Club’s production of Romeo and Juliet, which I’m way too excited about — gender blind casting means this could end up being a super interesting production, and I’m also thrilled at the idea of ballet with swords. Dancing and swords are two of my favourite things: combining them is even better.

Still, I’m supposed to do ballet because my physio says it’s good for me, so its not quite the same.

Also, I'm apparently enough of a masochist to want to destroy my feet even more.
Also, I’m apparently enough of a masochist to want to destroy my feet even more. (I’m the one at the end on the right, if you were wondering.)

The Cambridge Student isn’t exactly a prestigious newspaper, but I’m still excited every time I see my name in print there. (Yes, with my surname… I debated asking them to credit me as Miriam Joy but figured it didn’t matter, in the long run.) I’ve taken to cutting out the articles I write and sticking them in my journal as a reminder that I might not be making a living as a writer yet, contrary to my thirteen-year-old self’s plans, but at least I’m working on it.

Every review I write is another little bit of experience I’ve got under my belt. I met a late-night deadline! I wrote an article on a topic chosen by somebody else! I kept my wordcount to a certain level! Maybe one day, that’ll be the experience I take to a publisher and say, “Hey, look, you should totally sign me. I’m committed to this and I know what I’m doing.”

In the meantime, though, I’ve got another deadline to meet. Monday, 2pm: Assess the impact of Church reform in Ireland and Scotland in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. I’m not sure it’s going to happen, with the ballet auditions tomorrow, my mum visiting on Sunday, and a physio appointment on Monday morning, but we’ll see how much I can do while waiting for my supervisor to get back to me about moving the deadline.

If you are or have been a student, how do you get involved in student life without getting totally overwhelmed or struggling to complete your work? Do you have any advice for me on trying to balance health issues, a heavy workload, and the social side of things that are supposed to make these three years so great?

6 thoughts on “Outside, Looking In

  1. I’m the editor of the newspaper at my highschool, and it’s something I adore. For one thing, I love writing editorials, which is very opinion based, like blogging (and I did theatre reviews before I became editor, too) I also love editing other peoples work. Sometimes it’s very painful (let me just tell you, it is never okay to describe food as relevant and comma’s haunt my nightmares) but I love the way you can make the writing better. And deciding on the layout- what will be on the front page, how we’re organising the paper, is very fun too. I get way too overcommittied- I’m making costumes for a theatre production, helping with a Model United Nations, doing Av (sound/light/computer stuff) newspaper and an oral history project with a teacher on top of work and blogging. I procrastinate and I try to do my best and get enough sleep. I guess my one piece of advice is to do regular exercise (like ballet- I run) because it helps me concentrate, and to put aside time for healthy relaxation, like reading and blogging. Thanks for sharing, Miriam!

    1. Wow, you sound like a busy person! I used to do loads of extra-curricular stuff at school, before I hurt my wrists in 2013 — I was in a number of bands and orchestras, for a start, which accounted for a lot of it. But I got out of the habit in year thirteen and now my health doesn’t seem to want me to try again… :(

  2. I made extra time while doing my postgrad by not going home between course and evening societies; instead I went to the library to work, then had an early packed supper near wherever the evening event was.

    I also remembered the fact that beyond a certain amount of time working on something without a break, adding extra time actually reduces your output. So, however much I felt like I needed to do 50 hours in a week, I didn’t because it wasn’t actually doing as much good as working 40 hours and having a couple of evenings doing something else.

    1. I am definitely not doing 40 hours a week. Or even 20, probably. Heh. And I can see why cutting out travel would help, but I live less than five minutes’ walk from my department, so travel time is negligible. If I work in a library, it’s usually the college one rather than the department one, because it’s prettier. :)

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