It’s Thursday of finals week. I’m done (except for these two blog posts I have to make before tomorrow eventide). I’ve written more this week than probably the rest of the semester. I’ve written 32 handwritten pages in blue books for exams and over 16 typed pages of papers. It was exhausting. But I made it.
Irritatingly enough, my best writing comes at the times in my life when I am cramming. My best friend and I call it our “bs” work. However, we had a conversation a few days ago that changed my perspective on that.
I always get upset at myself for my propensity to wait until the last minute, freak out, and produce “bs” work that I proudly tell my friends about. I genuinely get embarrassed because, what I consider to be my “bs” work is most often the best stuff I write. (This is not to say that waiting until the last minute is ideal. No, not at all.) This is extremely frustrating to me because I often get a better grade on the stuff I cram to finish on time, than on the few assignments I am actually a diligent student on and work on ahead of time.
But the other day, my best friend and I figured out why that is.
As a Writing major in school, everyone assumes that writing papers is a breeze. I understand why people would feel that way, but I wholeheartedly disagree with that assumption. On the contrary, I found writing papers more difficult after I became a writing major. Something changes in your brain once you’re expected to be good at writing. Before, when I was a math education major, it was cool that I actually wrote good papers. Now, as a Writing major, it would be shameful to turn in shoddy written work. And that is intimidating.
Intimidating enough to scare me off from writing at all. I realized that I put off writing papers until the last minute because I’m afraid. I’m terrified that I won’t write well enough. I get too caught up in playing mind games with myself to actually just sit down and do the work.
And that’s were the “bs” comes in. When the paper is 24 hours from being turned in I realize with a start that I best get writing. I open a word document, head the paper, and pause to pen an amazing title. If I get a good title right off, I’m almost guaranteed to have a solid paper. That’s just the way my brain works.
I may procrastinate for a while, but eventually, time forces me to get out of my own way and just write. I necessarily have to get over myself to write anything. I cannot write while wrapped up in myself, worrying over whether the end product will be good.
Even while I’m writing, sometimes I stop and go, “wow, I’ve written 5 pages!” Then I get stuck for a while because I really want to go back and edit it and am also afraid that my brilliance will run out and I won’t have any more words to share.
But that’s not the case. Time and time again, I’ve crammed something to completion, feared it was awful, then turned it in and was surprised with a good grade.
I still hate this cycle. But at least now I know why it happens. Now that I know what is going on in my brain, I can begin strategizing how to avoid waiting until the last minute to start. While the product may be good, the experience is miserable and I’d really like to have the discipline to produce good work in advance.