I acquired a nasty habit in college: procrastination. However, I’ve started retraining myself not to wait until the last minute to write. I used to say “Oh, I write better under pressure,” except that writing under pressure meant writing a day or two before the paper was due, late at night, hyped up on coffee, and delirious from the computer.
When you have a professor return a paper which you wrote at midnight while watching Netflix with a note that says, “Please proofread next time. This is a messy paper. Rewrite,” you start to realize that waiting until the night before something is due isn’t really the best choice. Neither is being distracted by Netflix, but that’s another topic.
I realized at that moment that it was time to figure out how to avoid the procrastination trap from there on out. I knew that if I tried to type the paper all at once, the writing would get worse the more tired I got.
I decided that I would write one section of a paper at a time (or less if the section was really long) and work it out so that I had enough time each day about a week or so before it was due to work on it and proofread. This was quite the change for me, but it really made a difference in my writing. I was more organized, articulate, and less repetitive. My grammar was better and I used more research. As annoying as it was to sit down and write a little bit each day, the grade I got on my graduate capstone made it worth the effort. And yes, I waited until my capstone project to learn this. Learn from my mistakes and write early and often!
Virtual Writing Center
This piece was originally published in the May VWC Newsletter