As I take class after class in college, my writing habits don’t really change (though not for lack of trying). Despite promising myself every semester that “next time I won’t procrastinate,” I somehow almost always find myself with an entire paper to write the night before it is due. To top it off, I’m usually so stressed about having that much work to do in one night that I will put it off even further! As a result, I have enjoyed many many nights where I get to start my paper at midnight and hand it in at noon. I know that’s not the sort of thing that teachers want to hear, but it’s the unfortunate truth.
However, I somehow always finish my papers on time (*knock on wood*). They’re not all prize-worthy, but they’re turned in on time. This path to completion is always quite nerve-wracking and uncertain, and I’ve handed in papers at 11:59 on quite a few occasions. But that got me to thinking, how does the timing work so often? I’ve stretched four-page papers over 12 hours, and I’ve ripped through ten-page papers in six hours, both situations bringing me to the dropbox with seconds to spare. In some cases, the amount of time I need depends on what type of paper I’m writing, but the habit is too common, the timing too exact to be a fluke. It’s as though my brain recognizes the timeframe and doles out calculated amounts of creativity and inspiration in order to custom fit the paper to the session. If I were given an essay to write and 16 hours to do it in, I would finish it in about fifteen hours and fifty-five minutes. If I were given the same essay to write, but only four hours to do it in, I would finish it in about three hours and fifty-five minutes.
Like many other writers, I go back and forth between periods of just staring at the cursor as if I could will it to write, and periods where I tear through two pages in fifteen minutes. When time is crunched, I cycle through more quickly, and have fewer periods of writer’s block. I think it probably has to do with rising stress levels as the deadline gets closer, and how my mind responds to it. I realize that this is not exactly the most responsible way to get my work done, but somehow I convince myself every time that I don’t need to start that paper quite yet, I can do it a bit later. After I eat, after I shower, after one game of pool, after one more episode of South Park. It’s incredibly frustrating, because despite not being organized and punctual, I am very conscientious about getting things done on time. As a result, I pull a ridiculous amount of all-nighters, and sometimes my work suffers.
Any other sufferers of chronic LMS (Last Minute Syndrome)? If not, what does your writing timeframe look like? Do you spread it out over a few days or do you knock it out in one go? Ever missed a deadline?