Isabella Carrigan / Daily Nexus

I haven’t attended class since day one and I don’t know what to write, let alone how to write. When is my midterm essay due?

It’s not a question of “when,” but an issue of “what.” 

I acknowledge that writer’s block is a nasty beast. Perhaps your midterm essay is a blank page, the cursor flashing like illegal fireworks over the 67 block of DP on a Friday night. Once you figure out what you want to write about, some angle to your professor’s tired old prompt that sparks inspiration, the essay will begin to write itself. 

In order to defeat writer’s block, you must change your perspective. Don’t passively accept what those before you have delineated as an “essay.” What is an essay, truly? If you wish to awe your professor, or, let’s be honest, your overworked and underpaid TA, you must innovate. Thesis? No, perform an interpretive dance phrase that embodies your theme. Body paragraphs? Knit a capsule wardrobe of hair collected from the communal shower drains. Works cited page? Staple a half-eaten chartreuse crayon to a $20 bill instead. Allowing your mind to wander opens up a world of possibilities. 

However, I don’t endorse this approach if you don’t have a comprehensive dental plan. Crayon is pretty hard to floss away — or so I’ve heard. Instead, try brainstorming or thinking your way through any and every potential idea in bullet points or by recording yourself talking. From there, you can narrow down your ideas, following the most interesting points to add relevant examples or details. If writing is getting you down, try a text-to-speech software. Just make sure to dictate your essay in private, or your housemates might be sending in an inquiry about you next week.

Your essay is due tomorrow, by the way.

How do I tell my roommate that they howl in their sleep every night at 3 a.m.?

When it comes to howling, honesty is the best policy. For all you know, you might be one conversation away from securing yourself the newest, coolest werewolf best friend. Or at least a werewolf within a human body. 

But first, you need to determine that your roommate is actually the one howling, or if you are the howler. If the former reveals itself to be true, proceed. Keep in mind that while potentially disruptive, sleep talkers are often unable to control their nightly howls. Ensure the conversation is good-natured and supportive.

If your roommate has always been a howler, it might be time to invest in some Loop Earplugs (not sponsored) to muffle the noise. Is there a compromise you can make? Perhaps obtaining some sound-proof material to wrap around their head before bed is a good investment. 

On the other hand, it might be worth checking in regarding their mental health, particularly if their howls are a new development and particularly agitated. Journaling, meditation, acting out wolf behaviors and somatic grounding exercises are all potential ways of easing the transition to sleep. Offer your support and perhaps you’ll both realize you’ve found a true pack. AwOooooOOOo

How do I wake up on time for my 8 a.m. class?

Don’t. The early bird troupe was invented to support capitalism. 

By waking up early, you are simply giving them what they want. Think of the poor worms. 

What is your go-to Rec Cen workout routine?

If you truly knew me, dear reader, you would know that I have never set foot in that God-forsaken place. However, please grant me the following space to spin an elaborate exercise tale. 

Like Gretel and her little bitch brother Hansel, I leave a trail of protein powder through the dark woods (the path behind the tennis courts), else I need to make a quick escape from the loogie-hocking gym bros doing lunges. In one hand I clutch an extra large gym towel. In the other, a dinosaur sippy cup. I fold up my Spider-Man Razor scooter and side it across the front desk. “Keep her running,” I wink, as I stroll past the StairMasters and ellipticals. I christen the Rec Cen bathrooms to assert my dominance. My pre-workout is donated to those lifting any less than 400 pounds; they clearly need the help more than me. 

Exercising is more about consistency than anything else. Workout routines and gyms work for some people and not for others. Walk to campus, play frisbee around the seniors napping on the Chem Lawn or take an after-dinner stroll down to Sands Beach. Plan a new hike with your roommates every Sunday, or every other week, depending on how hungover you are. 

Please email if you are a qualified pickler (piccolo player) interested in joining a Division 1 pickleball team.

AJ, as a famous newspaper columnist and jack-of-all-trades extraordinaire, how do you find work-life balance?

Reader, you flatter me. Please keep the compliments coming.

Even if you love every single club or organization that you are part of, recognize that you are still expending energy. The most important thing that’s helped me is realizing that I don’t have to be productive every single second of the day. Give yourself space to simply do nothing, to honor your emotional limits, make mistakes, eat a protein bar, watch “Psych” or stare at the sky. Especially as midterms approach, figure out a schedule that incorporates nutrition, hygiene and quiet time. If you’re cramming in the library, take a walk outside to experience your first breath of fresh air all day. Even the busiest people can take a moment to create and appreciate stillness.

A version of this article appeared on pg. 12 of the Feb. 2, 2023 edition of the Daily Nexus.


AJ is the advice guru of the Daily Nexus. Multiple writers contribute to Ask AJ. If you know who they are, keep it to yourself. Remember, snitches get stitches.