Context

  • Still watching Grey’s, now into the ninth season just after the plane crash. They brought in this new herd of interns probably hoping to keep the series going smoothly with a new cast, probably what ER did, but I don’t think it works. I just really do not care about these new characters. They’re for the most part not compelling or interesting.
  • I just finished Matt McCarthy’s “The Real Doctor Will See You Now” and I loved it. I felt there could have been more to tell about that year of training and living that got buried in trying to keep a narrative going. I understand that personal nonfiction requires an ongoing story in order to make it readable, but in this case it overwhelmed the general idea. At least I thought so.
  • I bought another new book, this one the most recent book of 10 LSATs available, and I plan to start doing those sometime this coming week. I have two games and the three other sections left to go in the last test of my old book of old tests first.
  • My LSAT progress is still disappointing. I’m averaging low 160s still, so I’m plateaued and it’s frustrating as hell. I just want my scores to improve already! I’m consistently scoring 95% or better on the reading comprehension and logic games parts, but the analytical reasoning just isn’t good enough. I’m still reviewing my Logic Games Bible and reading other things online as I come across them and reading answer explanations on Manhattan Prep for each question, but so far it’s not quite good enough. I’m not sure if I need to do more and if I keep doing it, it will eventually just click and sink in, or if I need to go another route. Advice?
  • I’ve spent the last two weeks trapped inside and it’s making me a little nuts. I was sick for the whole week two weeks ago with headaches, exhaustion, and light sensitivity, so even though the weather was great, the kids and I were stuck inside. For this past week it’s been over 90 by noon every day with a bazillion percent humidity, so we’ve been outside all morning until naptime, then trapped in here all afternoon and evening.
  • Only three weeks til our big trip! and I turn thirty… Excited to go be somewhere new with little responsibility and to have the kids spend some time with their grandparents, who are coming to the house to watch them.
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Back at it

I had to take a few days (ok, a week and a half) off because I was getting too stressed about this whole thing. Also, I was sick, but that’s just a convenient coincidence. The sick allowed me to feel fine with the not working. Sick allowed me to forgive myself for not punishing myself for my laziness and fragility (as demonstrated by the panicking). Sick sucks, but it was exactly what I needed.

Now that I’m fewer than 100 days from the test and home from a weekend with my family for a wedding, it’s time to get back at it. It’s time to get back to work and get things done.

I think I’m going to give myself the rest of this week to finish re-reading and highlighting my Logical Reasoning book, then get back to the preptests. I’ll finish the last two or three of the really old ones (1990s tests) I bought earlier this year, then move on to the much newer ones I bought last week, which i think also include the Comparative Reading section.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

Rereading

I’m consistently struggling with the same logical reasoning problem type, so I’ve decided to suck it up and go back over a few chapters in the Logical Reasoning Bible. I’m reading all the text and doing all the exercises so I can get this down pat. I’ve gotten to the point where I can do the Reading Comprehension timed and score over 90% and the Games are getting faster and more accurate as well. It’s just the LR holding be back now and I’m not going to let it. I will win this thing!

Distraction Management

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One of the friends I contacted about my pursuits said that one of the hardest parts of the LSAT was the mental endurance. It’s hard to sustain that kind of focus and intensity for hours, especially when the weight of the outcome is so significant.

I haven’t even gotten to that problem yet. I’m finding that I can barely focus on reading the logical reasoning text or doing a game for more than a few minutes or sentences at a time. This is not good, not just for LSAT purposes, but in general, so I’ve decided to fix it.

Now I use a timer, a free app on my phone (see picture above). I set a timer for 20-30 minutes and read nonstop during that time. I fight all urges to look around, skip ahead in the book, check the time, look at my phone, or think about anything else at all. These 20-30 minutes have already been set aside for this one thing and nothing else matters during this time; nothing else is as important or allowed to intrude. After some reading or studying time I give myself time to do something else, usually read whatever book I’m reading (currently Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir), facebook, pinterest, or lawschoolnumbers.com. I get these breaks and indulgences for exactly 20 minutes, and then it’s time to study some more.

I’m planning to increase the time on work and decrease the treats as time passes, slowly working toward full, timed preptests by the end of summer. For now, I only time the logical reasoning reading and my “free” time, but not the practice logic “games,” which I still try to do daily. I’m not ready for those to be under time constraint yet; I need to be good at doing them period before I try to get good at doing them fast. Hopefully I’ll be ready in time.

I’ve been doing it for about a week and it seems to be working. At first I had a hard time ceding control to the timer and trusting it, but I’m slowly giving over to it. I think I was afraid that I’d get too involved in studying and too much time would pass. The library would close and I’d be stranded in the middle of a difficult section, forcing me to start the whole section over again next time because there’s no way I’d adequately remember or understand the section doing it piecemeal. But I always make sure that I have plenty of time, so I’m learning to let go.

So that’s my new strategy, my new discipline. I hope it works not just for the LSAT, but for school, work, and other things in general.

 

 

A good blog

One of the reasons I do this site is so others can find it when they’re headed down the same or similar path. I’ve found that the few other law student blogs I’ve found, even if they’re rarely updated or abandoned quickly, have been very helpful. I’ve mentioned before that the conversations I’ve had with other lawyers have been very helpful, but I’m looking for more. Not more quality, as the people I’ve talked to have been wonderful, but more quantity. Law school and the process of getting there are a huge investment of nearly every resource (time, money, energy, patience, and so much more) for me and my family, so I want to be as informed as possible. I want to make sure that this is really something I want to do and that I can do. So far, I am confident enough on both counts to continue full steam ahead. But I still keep looking for writings (blogs, books, columns) and asking (friends, classmates, relatives). Recently I was fortunate to discover Jordan at The Second Sunflower.

I read through most of her blog in a few days (which is why I didn’t get as much other things done in that time as I should have), back to just before she began law school, and I love it. Her writing is clear and helpful, her analysis is useful and well though-out, and her general attitude is wonderful.  Her perspective is unique and upbeat without being saccharine or bowdlerized. I think what I appreciate most about her writing, though, is that she admits the limitations of her perspective. She never takes things to the extreme of “my perspective is the only valid one” and admits her privilege while simultaneously not denying her challenges. She is fabulous.

I don’t want to keep writing too much about her blog because doing so about a personal blog quickly becomes more “evaluation of a person,” which is mostly judgment even when it is positive, than “evaluation of writing,” which I don’t particularly care about in this context.

I guess what I love most about it is that I got exactly what I was looking for from her site: a perspective on the law school experience. While she doesn’t update nearly as much as I’d like (so there would be more content and context), what she does post is helpful. For more of her writing, click here to read her posts on Ms. JD. I would like to hear more about her classroom experiences and how she studies and how she gets and seizes the opportunities that she has, and I hope someday she’ll write about that, but for now, what she’s doing is great.

I recommend The Second Sunflower without reservation.

My new book

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I finally got to the library to start on my new book, and it is a challenge.

It’s not a challenge like the first book was; it’s something different. With the logic “games” book, I more or less had no idea what I was doing when I went into it. I had to learn (or re-learn, because I’m pretty sure we did those games in TAG in elementary school) something new. All the processes of getting those things done and done (mostly) right was hard, but after a lot of work I think I was able to do it.

This new section, though, I think I mostly can do. I did well enough on it in my first preptest, probably better than many do on the real thing, but not well enough for what I need.  So I bought the book to help myself out. I need to know an efficient way to tackle this to ensure the best score I can possibly get. This means that although I probably am mostly capable of these things, I still have some work to do and need some help.

The approach to doing these things is not completely foreign to me. I have seen most of the language and logic ideas before in my ethics and religion classes (one of my minors and my major, respectively), but I’ve never applied it to constantly changing brief topics or in a timed setting. With enough study time, if I had nearly unlimited time to do the sections, I think I could do very well on the final test. But I don’t. I have 35 minutes, so I need to be efficient. Therefore, book.

What’s really different about this book is how much reading there is to it. It’s silly that it’s the first thing I noticed when I first opened the book, but there are a lot of words in this thing. The first book was full of diagrams and the pleasant white space around them. There aren’t so many diagrams in this one and nearly every page is grey with text. The writing is dense with complicated ideas spelled out in simple terms, so the going is slow. I appreciate that the writers took the time and words to slowly draw out all these complex ideas in a away that’s easy to follow, but, I know I already said it, it’s slow going.

Ultimately, though,  I think it will be worth it. I’m less than a hundred pages in and I already feel like I’m making progress. I’m getting the sense that I understand the construction of the questions better and by the time I finish I will be able to approach the sections confidently.

Let’s see how this goes.

Choose a book

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I’ve already gone over why I study at the library: To minimize distraction. Part of being a mother, for me, is that I am alert to sounds of my kids’ distress whether I like it or not, whether I need to be or not. Even with my husband caring for them, I can’t tune out their sounds. So I go to the library.

But. I knew that the library itself would be a distraction. I like books, I love reading, and I always have. I have my master’s in library and information science for crying out loud. Books and ideas are a love apparently similar to what I have for my children, or at least nearly equally distracting. This means that being surrounded by books, especially nonfiction, which is what the study carrels are next to at my local library, is a distraction.

I tried not let the shelves get to me, but it didn’t work. As I plodded through page after challenging page of lesson and practice in my book, I couldn’t stop thinking about what might be on those shelves. Since we’ve only lived in our house a little over two years and with new items being added regularly, there’s no way I’ve read through even a tiny portion of what’s there. I can’t keep my mind off the possibilities.

I suppose with time and effort I could train myself to focus and let go of the temptation to wander, but I don’t want to. Just as I don’t want to train myself to be indifferent to the cries of my children in any context (though compartmentalizing this may be a healthy thing to do, I don’t know), I don’t want to become immune to the cries of books.  The desire to respond to these things, to care for my children and to pursue new ideas and perspectives, are good and healthy things. I should be tempted by new information and a broadened worldview, by the expansion of compassion and empathy that should naturally grow from exposure to new information.

Maybe I’m just poetically justifying a distraction, or maybe what I’m saying here is legitimate, I don’t know. But I do know that for today it holds true for me, so when I’m not currently in the midst of a book, I wander the stacks before I sit down to study. I walk up and down the aisles until I’ve found something new or something old I just need to experience again, and I check it out. Once the book is checked out to me and in my bag, I can sit down and focus on today’s work.

Mischief managed.

Motivated

I just finished reading chapter 11 of “1 L of a Ride,” and I am feeling motivated.

The chapter includes a case and some sample briefs, including one by the author with explanatory comments. I didn’t do the exercise where the reader is supposed to read the case and attempt a brief herself because it didn’t seem like a good use of my time when I haven’t even really begun studying for the LSAT yet. However, after reading the case and some short analysis, I was left feeling excited, stimulated, motivated.

As I was reading through the sample briefs, I loved the analysis, the pulling out of facts and setting certain pieces aside as more important than other pieces. It’s a simple, low-level analysis that I’m pretty sure is a part of any good book report, but it felt good to engage in that sort of intellectual activity, even if it is spoon-fed to me.  When I got to the end of the chapter I felt a little sad, like I was at the end of something I wasn’t prepared to be done with yet. I wanted more.

Where yesterday I was full of anxiety about the whole project, today, after reading that chapter, I am eager to begin and excited to try to make a bill-paying career out of this sort of thing. I think the lawyer was right: I love the geek things and am suited to a career that is more or less homework.

I have to try harder, study more (or even get over my fear of failure), and get started. I have to find a way to make this work.