When I teach writing, I build assignments in such a way so that my students will not become victimized by their own tendencies to procrastinate. The point isn't that they will be able to stop procrastinating completely, but rather that they won't be left entirely to their own devices, which then means that when they procrastinate (because as far as I'm concerned all but the weirdest of people procrastinate at some time or another) it won't put them so far behind that they force themselves into writer's block or panic attacks.
The problem, of course, is that nobody "builds assignments" for professors. Nobody hands us a sheet with relevant deadlines; nobody fleshes out the ideas with us or provides us with sample structures for how we might lay out our ideas. I know what you're thinking: we're professors! We are the experts at this! We should be able to do this for ourselves.
Well, yes, we should. And, we can. The problem, however, is my above assertion that all but weirdos procrastinate. And an additional problem is that in order to be model scholars, we'd need to be perfectly self-motivated at all times, and self-motivation can be mighty hard to come by, even for the most ambitious of us.
I am an ambitious(ish) person. Here is my "process" on this current article. Here is how I've gotten to this point:
September 2003 - Colleague asks me to submit a paper to a panel that she is organizing. I figure, "Why not? Sure I've never written a thing on Author X before, but I've always wanted to! And so what if this is a conference entirely focused on Author X and I'm a novice - I'll also submit a proposal on Author X for another small conference that would give me a chance to do a run-through of some of my ideas without all of the experts on Author X there."
February 2004 - I present my paper on Author X at what was supposed to be my "dry run" attempt at the smaller non-Author-X-focused conference. Problematically, the dry-run turned out to be sort of the real thing, as the president of Author X's society was in the audience. She loved it! Not only did we become friendly, not only did she say how much she looked forward to my paper at the Author X conference, but also she encouraged me to submit a proposal for an MLA panel on Author X. (This is the point at which, if it's possible to pinpoint, I'd say I became a total fraud and misrepresented myself as being an Author X scholar.)
May 2004 - I present my paper on Author X at the Author X conference, and it is a resounding success (even though it was a piece of crap, as I now realize). I am encouraged to submit the paper for potential publication in the Author X mini-journal and/or for a collection of papers to come out of the conference. Of course, I do this. Love the lovely mentors in the Author X society.
February 2005 - I am informed that the conference paper has been accepted for a collection from the conference on Author X, but I will need to expand it to be the standard length for an article now. That means I need to turn my 8 pages of garbage into 20-25 pages of solid, tight prose. Oh criminy. Of course, I don't have time to worry about this now, because after my MLA paper was a hit, an editor from Fancy Journal in my specialty solicited me to turn that into a full-length article. No matter. I have loads of time before I'd need to worry about turning that conference paper from the conference on Author X into an article for the collection. They don't even have a publisher yet.
Fall 2005 - Holy crap. They've got an interested publisher. A pretty good one. But I've got an MLA paper to write, and I don't really have time to worry about the essay on Author X until after that's done. Oh, and also, have I mentioned that I'm a fraud and so I've got a ton of research to do related to this article? But I've got reassigned time in the spring and so I'm sure I'll be able to get everything done in a timely fashion. Sure I will.
The Present Day - The article is due on Mar. 30. I've started making many notes. It's got to be in Chicago Style, to make this even more painful. Oh, and did I mention that I'm a fraud? And that as a fraud I became an officer in the Author X society this year? Love the lovely mentoring of my colleagues, though. That said, to quote my students, "I work best under pressure."
2 years ago