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How writing poetry helped me get a 90+ ATAR

Friday 12th, August 2022

ATAR Notes

For clarity, I'm not saying that you should write poetry, or that poetry directly contributed to my ATAR. But I ended up with a 99+ ATAR, and I strongly believe writing poetry - or, at least, giving myself time to write poetry - was a big contributor to that.

Here's what I mean.

How poetry helped me

I don't think I'm a very good poet - it was all very elementary, and I'm sure it was suspect on a technical level. But, from about Year 10, I enjoyed writing poetry; it gave me a creative outlet, and a different way of expressing how I was feeling on any given day, about any given topic.

When Year 12 rolled around, I felt more pressure to do well - and to study more. I think this is natural; for a lot of us, Year 12 is build up as a big thing - the year - for a long time, and there's always a sense of uncertainty about it. For that reason, there were parts of my that felt like I should be studying all the time.

But I made a concerted effort early in the year to not completely give up things I enjoyed, and I think that paid off in the end. When writing - usually by myself at a cafe with a juice or a coffee - I was completely present. I wasn't really thinking about school, or tests, or homework. Or, if those things were on my mind, they were only taking up mental energy insofar as I was trying to incorporate those concepts into my writing.

And when I finished writing, I felt refreshed and ready to move on to whatever I was doing next.

The idea of trying to do too much

I think the main benefit was that when I then went to study later that day (typically I would write in the mornings on weekends, for example), my mind wasn't unnecessarily cluttered by a million swirling thoughts. Because I had already written about whatever was on my mind at the time, I found I could then better concentrate on the maths questions, or the English essay, or the definitions - or whatever I was trying to study.

When I didn't have this same clarity - so usually when I hadn't given myself the time to take a step back from everything and write about what was on my mind - things felt a lot more internally cluttered. I couldn't concentrate as easily, and my mind more easily drifted to other things, sometimes leading to anxiety or a sense of being overwhelmed.

Looking back, in those times I think I was trying to do - or at least think about - too much at once. Ultimately, it meant that when I was studying, I was more completely studying. And when I wasn't, I wasn't thinking about all the work I needed to be doing.

So - what's your poetry?

Of course, I'm not saying you should start to write poetry. It might be worth a try if it sounds like something you might find interesting, but I'm sure writing won't work for everybody. But I do think it's important to have your equivalent: something you can do - guilt-free - that can take your mind away from your subjects, and help you freshen up before you try to study again.

Perhaps it's sport. Perhaps it's knitting. I don't think it really matters what it is - just that there's something.

My view - and this is only my personal view - is that there's a point where studying too much becomes counter-productive. I also think the same is true for thinking about studying. If you're constantly worrying about your subjects and the things you need to revise, that is surely taking up a heap of mental energy. If you can more clearly define "study times" and "non-study times" (like my poetry times), you might find study becomes a little easier when you actually do sit down and open your books!

That all sounds very easy, of course - but it's not. Distractions are everywhere, and distractions are also probably more accessible than ever (I got a news update on my phone at time of writing, and it took me a couple of attempts to even finish writing this sentence!). But, at least based on my own experiences, I really think it's worth giving a go.

Good luck!

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