Brain Cells


It seems these days that every available brain cell I have goes to work and school. There isn’t much left over for anything else. The same goes for energy, which leaves me torn about a decision I have to make very soon.

Next week we are supposed to register for summer classes. My husband thinks I’m crazy for even thinking about it. He’s seen how burned out I am, and he’s worried about me. I get it. I do, but it’s only one class. And there are some classes that are only available in the summer. There’s also the fact I can’t take more than two classes in a regular semester because of work/books and I don’t want to be in grad school for four years. :)

Right now, I’m so bogged down with end of semester projects and book deadlines, that I can’t think straight. So I’m asking for your help. What would you do? Would you take the summer off and regroup? Or would you forge ahead, and try to take the easiest class possible? I need some objective opinions.


About Candace Havens

Bestselling author Candace Havens has written six novels for Berkley including, Charmed & Dangerous, Charmed & Ready, Charmed & Deadly, Like A Charm, The Demon King and I and Dragons Prefer Blondes. Her new venture is writing for the Blaze line of Harlequin. Those books include Take Me If You Dare, She Who Dares, Wins, Truth and Dare, and The Model Marine. She is also in the anthology Spirited, and the proceeds go to help literacy. Her books have received nominations for the RITA's, Holt Medallion and Write Touch Reader Awards. She is the author of the biography Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy and a contributor to several anthologies. She is also one of the nation's leading entertainment journalists and has interviewed countless celebrities including Tom Hanks, Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, George Clooney and many more. Her entertainment columns can be read in more than 600 newspapers across the country. Candace also runs a free online writing workshop for more than 1800 writers, and teaches comprehensive writing class. She does film reviews with the Dorsey Gang on New Country 96.3, and is the President of the Television Critics Association.

16 responses »

  1. summer

    Candace, do take the summer off. I know from whence I speak — I have 2 MAs and I was in academia for 12 years as an instructor. I saw people who worked nonstop, and the quality of their work doesn’t improve if they push too hard, and you know, life is too short. What’s the race? IMO, if you are this burnt out already, you aren’t do a service to your studies, your family, your writing or yourself by pushing even harder. Why take the easiest classes just to get them over with? That seems to communicate the wrong motivation for study to me… take your time, and really absorb what you’re learning, and enjoy it, otherwise all you end up with really is just a piece of paper.



  2. You have to think about your health, hon.

    Sure, no one wants to be in grad school too long, but if you’re already burning out it could start to show in those things you take pride in professionally and personally. If I were you (and it’s only my opinion as a fellow overachiever) I’d *want* to take the summer off–I mean, you’re planning to go to RWA, etc, right–so off’s not really “off” anyhow) but would probably take the easiest summer class available. Here’s a question to ask yourself–is the easiest summer class available ONLY available in summer? If so, *maybe* you should take it (again, consider your health, mentally and physically). But if it is not–don’t do it. Regroup, refresh, re-energize and you’ll be more ready to attack Fall.


  3. brain cells

    Whenever I have things to accomplish, as tempting as it may be to take a break, I’d rather get it done as quickly as possible and then take the break. That way there isn’t anything hanging over my head to do; that just makes the break less enjoyable. I always preferred to work later in the night to get an assignment done or lesson plans or whatever, because I’d sleep better that way. But my workload was never, never as busy as yours. So, my opinion is to go for it and have an extra cup of tea or a spa treatment – whatever relaxes you best – a couple of times as a mini break for yourself.

  4. For me, Summer was always the most challenging, and rewarding of the sessions. In Ohio, it was the shortest session, split into two parts, so I would take a class that was usually 11 weeks long in 6 weeks. I am a work under pressure type and excelled during this session. I would take the classes I thought I would dislike the most (thinking I would get it over quicker) and end up loving them instead. Unfortunately, I never got to finish my college goals. I used the excuse of being a single parent of two young girls, working full time, and trying to keep a minimum three quarters hours schedule in order to receive much needed grants as being too taxing and not just burning me out, but flaming. When I look back on that time, when I was much younger than today, I wish I had pushed myself. I had more energy then than I do now, and am sure I would have lasted out to the end just fine. I was just a coward. If I tried to do that now, at my current age, married, and with only one young’un at home while working full time, I may have the mental fortitude to do it, but I don’t think I would have the physical. Here is my point; it won’t do you much good if you ‘fry’ yourself out physically. Think about your health. I am positive mentally you could conquer summer with ease, but can you physically handle the stress that can bring on ailments for another session or do you need to take a break for that reason? Classes will still be there, and it may take you four years to complete, but is it not better to have those four years and enjoy them than not if your physical well being is currently struggling?

    Love ya Candy,

    I have a pretty good idea of what you already have on your plate, kiddo. And I know you are dealing with some health issues that aren’t improved by overdoing and pushing yourself to the mx–and beyond.

    I know whereof I speak. Years ago, I was a “push until you fall over, achieve your goals no matter what,” kinda girl. Then I got seriously ill and lost 17 years of my life. Yes, you read that right. SEVENTEEN YEARS. When I would not stop myself, my body stopped me. Cold.

    I don’t want to see that happen to you. ‘Cause of that whole “I love and adore you” thing :-)

    Spend some time with your husband and kids having fun this summer. Grad school will still be there in the fall, and the fall after that. We all want you to be, too.

    Don’t make me come over there…

  6. When you’re talking ‘easiest class possible’, what does that mean? Is it a class that’s so easy and fun and awesome that you’ll get a huge kick out of it and it will relieve stress instead of cause it? Summer classes can actually be harder than regular sessions because they have presumably the same amount of info stuffed into less time. At least, it was like that when I was teaching.

    But saving yourself an extra year in grad school, doing things you presumably love anyway, isn’t worth overworking yourself now and getting sick. Unless there’s some big reward connected to graduating faster, like the winning lotto numbers :)

  7. I don’t like summer classes because I don’t like the compressed format, but I’ll take the other side here — if this is a class you want or need and it’s only offered in the summer, well, there it is. I’m taking one this summer because it’s offered infrequently and I can’t be sure it will be offered again during my time in the program.

    May I ask what degree you’re pursuing?

      • I’m working on a Master’s in Interdisciplinary Studies (concentrations in English and Writing) from Western New Mexico University. Very inexpensive. ;-) I don’t actually need the whole degree, just want at least 18 grad credits in English/Writing to be able to teach it at the community college where I’m a librarian.

  8. There is no reason you can’t do both, is there? Regrouping is very important, though forging ahead is, also: but sometimes, just sometimes, you need to cut yourself a bit of slack. It depends on the easiest class possible too, of course.

    • I think Sam, above, pegged it pretty well, actually. Maybe, if you’re stressed out enough to have to ask this question, then it’s a good sign that you know you need to step back for a breather. Academia waits, always: but sometimes, you need a good breather.

  9. Busy, busy girl.

    It seems to me that you asking this question is possibly an attempt to justify an answer you’ve already decided on. If you go to school this summer, you know you’ll be stressed, you’ll be wore out, you won’t have as much time with the fam, you’ll still be working on your books and the interviews, traveling, the whole shebang. But you’ll be a couple credits closer to finishing.

    And if you take the summer off, you’ll still have all those deadlines, you’ll still have the travel, the interviews, you’ll feel guilty about not taking as much time with the fam, so you’ll cram a lot more of that in, too. You’ll still end up wore out, stressed out and in need of a break.

    So really, I suppose the question is which scenario do you want to wear you out more? Because taking a summer off, for you, is not truly a break. And I think you know that already. :)

    • Re: Busy, busy girl.

      Who is this? You know me way too well. LOL. I think I need a mental break and school is really, really hard. So I’m leaning toward a real break, which of course will give me more time to work on books. ;)

      • Re: Busy, busy girl.

        I think that sounds like an excellent plan. :) Real break, more time for books, more time to visit with family and friends, maybe have a few margarita nights. I think you’ll be happier for taking a real break.

  10. hum,

    I could have written that last anonymous one but I did not. All those years for degrees your dear cousin has will say: I went to school year round. I was actually required to. I also had pertussis, GERD, and various other lovely issues. I do not think it is wise to go to school year round. Everyone needs a real break but I doubt you will take one so I do wonder. Health can try to force a break.

    I think you have to decide if you think you will put off school restarting for you for a long time if you do take the summer off, or if you will start up again. If you might quit, suck it up and keep going, even though I think that is a bad decision for you to go to school over the summer. Make it a game. Take this summer off, and if you want those awesome classes next summer then you have to be doing well. If it is a once in a life time class then take it. But really, many once in a life time things come around.

    You have to be alive to take the opportunity.

    So what if it takes you 4 years? Where will you be in 4 years anyway? Dead or graduated, that is where. If it took 10 years, same answer, although you do eventually have to think about the max amount of time allowed for your degree. Most master’s level degrees within 5 years is ok.

    Take the time off. for goodness sake your DH actually opened his mouth about this. That means he and the boys are worried, and you perhaps should listen. Don’t make me fly down there. You know how I dislike coming when it is boiling, and Mr. Pancreatic Cancer and his diabetes have me busy enough.

  11. The easiest class would be one you would show up for, do all the work/discussion in class (and NO homework even considered), and get an A for it. Is it that kind of class? If not it seems from your post like you really don’t have time, or energy/stamina to take a class.

    What does your advisor say about taking summer classes? Lay it all out for him/her and see what that person says.

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