Essays are coming. I have two essays coming up in about two weeks and I am determined not to leave them for the last two days. Nevertheless I don’t want to start doing them too early either; I have tried it once and it didn’t really work out well, which is quite weird regarding the fact we, students, are always encouraged to start the essays way before the deadline. But what if the problem is not that you don’t have enough time for them but that you have too much time?
This year there was an essay which I decided to start writing so early that I won’t even reveal it because I would be regarded as a complete freak. Anyway, I chose my topic, selected my readings and made a draft, as usual. Then, I changed my topic, selected another chunk of readings and made another draft. And then I changed and updated the draft again and again… As I had plenty of time, I just couldn’t make a real progress. When finally I started the actual writing of the main body of the essay, I felt quite proud of myself for being ahead of time. But as days went by and I had other things to do, I started to struggle with picking up where I left off my essay previously and started to get lost in the details. I only dealt with the essay every second day or so and it wasn’t enough; I wasn’t really in it. Instead of making progress, I always re-read the already existing paragraphs and felt like they needed some modifications so I usually ended up re-arranging the sentences thus making the text more and more confusing. When I did the proof reading at the end of this (very) long process, I was really tired of the whole thing. My final version had literally nothing to do with the original text. And that’s the problem. If you have a draft, you should stick to it, right?
So what’s the lesson of this experience? Maybe other students already know it; maybe there is a good reason for most of the students leaving the essays for the last week or last few days (besides the reason called laziness.) But I just realized it for real: intense work is better than stretching the process and getting lost in it. Sure, it may not be like this for everyone, but in general, I think it is true.
Of course, last-minute panic is quite a terrible feeling, too. So what’s the best amount of time to leave for an essay? There is no straight answer because it always depends on so many things: the topic and the amount of reading it requires, the length of the essay, the so called free time that is available etc. However I would say that in general, a week or a week and a half are fine. And no more. And certainly no less than five days. Been there, done that, too…
I actually like the idea of regarding an essay as a positive challenge. New year, new chances to improve my essay writing skills and my time managment skills, as well!