I have 2 x 5,000 word module essays to complete. At this very moment I have 3245 words of one, and precisely 0 of the other. I am enjoying a good bit of Taylor Swift at full volume – along with dramatic singing and interpretive dance moves obviously – and a nice cup of coffee. I have YouTube, Facebook, and Tumblr tabs open. I’m signed into AIM. All of these things are bad, very very bad, and yet I will never learn. I will never learn the skill of being able to complete shut myself off from everything and everyone distracting in order to get down to some proper hard graft. I just can’t do it.
So instead I come on WordPress to whine about it, yes.
I don’t know what it is about essay writing but past experience dictates I really will never learn better working habits. And as these module essays are 2 out of only 5 extended written pieces I will write for my MA (along with a portfolio of research methodology activities but let’s not go there), there aren’t many opportunities left to actually learn from this and adjust my behaviour. Many a time I have tried to get to the bottom of this procrastinating.
Is it pure laziness? It’s something I’ve considered. If left to my own devices I can be horrifically lazy. Things will get done… eventually, if one day I had a sudden burst of DO ALL THE THINGS style energy in which I whacked out 1000 words in one sitting and then crashed again. But waiting around for this sudden burst of productivity is a dangerous trap I fall into. If I just am not ‘feeling it’ on a particular day, I will say, for the sake of my own sanity, take a step back and come back to it when you are in the right mind-set. This is good, probably, for the sake of mental health. But for the sake of actually completing a degree? Not so much.
So what is it? I honestly think it’s partly down to fear. It’s fear that as your fingers start flying over those computer keys, you realise that you don’t have a point to argue in your essay. You might have found a text extremely interesting and want to talk about it to people but, ultimately, your opinion is much the same as other people’s and therefore you don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute. Someone else has already said it. Your voice, ultimately, is worthless.
And falling into this mind set is horrible and debilitating and I honestly believe it contributes to my own attitude about essay writing. I’m not hedging here I truly believe it’s a factor in this procrastination – because the longer you put off actually getting down to writing your supposed-to-be-brilliant essay, the longer you put off the realisation that your entire opinion is just a bit ‘meh’.
It’s silly, I know, because I am firmly a member of the ‘everyone’s voice is worthwhile’ club. Everyone brings a slightly different life story to a text, a different set of experiences, a different set of favourite books and films and music, a different set of personal priorities, different political and ideological influences, everyone reads a text in their own way. Sure, you may agree with the mainstream on a lot of it, but your reading experience will (I promise) be, even if only ever-so-slightly , different to the next person’s. I know this, I believe this, I am a big proponent of the EVERYONE HAS A VOICE PLEASE USE IT mindset… and yet… and yet… why can’t I count myself in this number?
In the end, something’s gotta give and I usually do, come hell or high water, write something substantial. It may be caffeine-fuelled and arguably sloppy with an unhealthy dose of self-doubt latent in argument, but I will hand in something resembling an essay. It happens. And I’m hereby promising myself that it will happen this time around too. I’ve just got to somehow try to be kind to myself and say ‘Emma, your voice is worth something, don’t think it isn’t. Take your own advice, use your voice!’.
But, as ever, giving advice is a lot easier than truly taking it.