And Now: A Word on Procrastination

Bane Procrastination

Don’t do it, kids. It’s like drugs. You’ll try it once, and things will still turn out okay. You’ll feel that high — or rather, that deadline coming crashing down upon you and the anxiety and urgency it creates — and you’ll let out a loud sigh of relief when you submit the assignment with seven minutes to spare.

But it won’t stop there. No, procrastination is like drugs because it’s a slippery slope. You’ll get away with procrastinating on a short reflection paper here and a three-page plot analysis there, but then you’ll get a big head and think you can wait until the last minute to start working on your end-of-semester project. And it will not go well. You’ll be up all night, drinking Monster or thirty cups of coffee or taking Five Hour Energy (or possibly Six Hour Power).

The blank page will mock you. You’ll hang your head in frustration. Your tears will wash over your laptop, causing it to malfunction or blow a circuit or explode or something — whatever laptops do when they get wet. And you’ll wish you hadn’t been ridiculous, that you’d started your not-so-little project at a reasonable juncture. No one will have pity on you, because this is all your fault.

Believe me, I speak from experience. There’s a reason this blog post is going up at 3:45 AM on the last Monday of the semester. Don’t for one second think I haven’t been glancing at the study guide on the coffee table in front of me either. That exam is in less than eight hours and I haven’t studied a thing.

God help me.

I would add a title now, but there’s always later…

I made a claim in one of my blog posts before that I am the queen of procrastination. Now, a lot of people say that they are the worst procrastinator, but here is how bad I have it: in the midst of writing my re-purposing sketch draft, rough draft, this blog post, and reading copious amounts of academic writing, I stopped doing everything to calculate how many papers I have written so far in my college career. The answer is 45. I have written 45 full-blown papers; this is excluding blog posts, Ctools forums posts, or other writing assignments. That means that I have not once, not twice, but on 45 different occasions waited until the night before a paper was due to start writing it (but let’s be honest, it’s more like the morning of).

Why must I do this to myself? You would think that at some point I would have the conversation with myself saying, “Hey Louise, you know you really aren’t doing anything this weekend, maybe you should do some work?” to which I should reply to myself, “Hey self, that’s a phenomenal idea and I am going to do that so I’m not stressed out!”

But then there are these things called Netflix and sleeping that suck me in and hinder me from being productive. While I wish that I were the type of person who could sit down a week before an assignment is due and crank it out, I’m also kind of at peace with my procrastination. And I mean, I only went home for spring break to Grand Rapids, but did I even touch an assignment? No way, man. I sure told myself I would, but I guess I live my academic life by the motto “there is always tomorrow,” which works well until you run out of “tomorrows.”

I honestly am okay with my terrible habits; I’m not looking for sympathy because I knowingly do this to myself every time there is a project to be done or a paper to be written. I actually take great pride in what I am able to pull off. To explain, here is a Facebook status from this past December:Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 2.05.50 AM

While I might sound a little arrogant in this post, I was more amazed at the kind of dark magic that must have been pulsing through my veins during that all-nighter. But it just leaves me asking myself again, why do I do this? I can literally only write when I have a severe time crunch.

I don’t know if other people can relate, but to me, I only have good ideas when I don’t have the time to over think things. I suppose when I write I take the “go big or go home” mentality, and when you only have a couple hours to write a paper, you pull out all the stops. I also think that by having this pressure, I don’t write as stiffly. If I think about something too much when I’m writing, I really lose my voice and personality.

Also, I cannot tell a lie, writing a paper under pressure is sooooo much more fun than having weeks to do it. If there are any How I Met Your Mother Fans out there, I always say “Challenge Accepted” to my teachers who warn, “don’t wait until the night before to start this assignment.” And when I turn that bad boy in after an all-nighter filled with self-loathing, I feel invincible, and like I want to take a nap.

What I’m trying to say is that I do a poor job of being a writer. This whole drafting thing— it’s not really my style, but that’s probably because I never give myself enough time to write a draft if it isn’t required of me. Maybe my writing habits will change when I get older and wiser. And when I say “maybe” I actually mean that there is absolutely no chance that I will ever break the chain of procrastination. At least I’m realistic.

Scrapping the Draft

Keynes made Laissez-faire economic policy seem easy. Somehow he managed to write about it with a certain kind of grace. I, on the other hand, struggled to get a six page draft out on the subject. Yet, even though it wasn’t perfect I looked at that finished draft in the way a dog looks at a scrap from the dinner table.

Then I reread the prompt, only to realize that I had used up the entire page limit to answer one part of a three part question. When I realized that my draft was written on a bed of lies and misinformation I realized that my paper was nothing more than a sad bologna sandwich on wonder bread.

So, I coped in the only way I could: chocolate milk and procrastination.

When incessantly twiddling my thumbs became too much to handle, I took to combing through essays with writers talking about writing in order to figure out what to do next. Luckily, Annie Dillard answered my call (HALLELUJAH). By no means does her book The Writing Life serve as the answer to all my problems–I still don’t know why the sky is blue, or if there was a shooter on the grassy knoll–but I did learn that sometimes you have to ditch the draft.

I chose to read the Dillard piece because it was the first file I opened. I chose to write about it because it managed to relate to the struggle I am currently facing with another writing assignment. I find it two parts poetic, and one part eery that I chose a piece that discussed the process of throwing out a draft, while trying to figure out how to throw out a draft.

She describes it as knocking out a load bearing wall in a house. Taking the part of the paper that currently makes it work, and shoving it down into the deep dark depths of your garbage disposal. It’s a hard process to come to terms with. You build it up, word by word, until you have something complete; something that can stand on its own.

It’s tough. You look for those sentences that you can save, only to realize that Dillard was right when she says you are going to have to start over.

I open a new document, and stare at the blinking cursor. Trying to find a way to thread your needle so that the string of words I am about to lay down will eventually turn into a final draft. In these final moments before I start writing again, I struggle with deleting my work. Dillard describes this as some kind of bizarre form of courage, but I claim ownership to these words. They are mine, and the way I put them down on paper is unique.

I ran out of chocolate milk. Now back to writing. 

451 Degrees Fahrenheit is actually the temperature it takes for paper to ignite without being exposed to a flame.

 

#procrastination

Things I have done in the last hour and a half:

1. Planned a barn dance.

2. Hacked into my friends facebook while he was getting coffee.

3. Walked around every floor of the ugli and talked to everyone and anyone I could find. #thUGLIfe.

4. Took a photograph in a library so I could photo edit it.

5. Painted my nails…in the library.

 

Things I need to do:

1. Revise two essays.

2. Write an essay.

3. Read two whole books. Yes that’s right.  Not one, but two.

4. Respond to my emails.

5. Finish my application for a steering committee.

 

The art of procrastination is  a perfected skill in the writing process.  The most brilliant moments in the writing process come between 2AM and 5AM after consuming a five-hour energy and six cups of coffee right?  Your delusional insight that happens in the middle of the night is more profound that Plato and Aristotle.

The most difficult part of writing is actually starting.  My repurposing essay is open on my screen, I promise.  It’s just hidden behind twitter, facebook, my pandora station, and Nordstrom’s shoes…pumps to be precise.

Michigan students pride ourselves on our ability to work under pressure and excel in the toughest times.  The funny part is that we seem to procrastinate so badly that we end up always working under pressure.  Every one of us says:

“Today is the day.  I will conquer my book.  I will work for 8 hours. #michigandifference.” 

Lies. Lies. Lies. This works for about 4 minutes.  There are just so many more fun things to do.  Go on a walk, eat some food, clean.  That’s right.  I think most of us would rather clean than actually start writing a paper.  Only under the influence of pressure do we actually start things.  What in the world happened to us all?

Dear High School Paige,

Don’t forget your ability to start assignments on they day they are given and two weeks before the deadline.  Your ability to be responsibly and proactive is a precious, precious gift.

Love,

Your Collegiate Counterpart

PS: Don’t start drinking coffee.  Believe it or not, you will be capable of drinking at least two pots a day.

 

I think we should change our position on procrastination.  We should pride ourselves in our ability to overcome obstacles (sleep) and work under pressure (3 hours, 5 minutes, and 12 seconds until my cTools assignment closes).  Writers: do not be defeated!  Conquer your biggest enemy…yourself.

 

Procrastination at it's finest. Facebook, Twitter, and Food. (Taken by Paige Szymanski)