We get it. There’s a sizable portion of students who are never going to be persuaded to start writing a paper until the night before it’s due. For the diehard procrastinators, waiting until the last minute–when no number of Youtube videos, Facebook updates, or snack breaks can distract you from the fact that this has to get done NOW–is a fail-proof way to stay focused. Some people insist that the adrenaline rush that accompanies an all-nighter actually helps improve their writing. Others have just accepted the fact that there’s no better motivation than an impending deadline hanging over their heads. Who knows, there are probably a scattered few as well who won’t give up the dream of a last minute disaster, and who keep telling themselves that, were Armaggedon to come tomorrow, at least they’ll know they hadn’t wasted their time writing a paper for a class that doesn’t even exist anymore.
So, with midterms right around the corner, we know better than to try and convert anybody to the early start camp (although we’ll never stop insisting that bringing a draft to the Writing Workshop is always a good idea). But even if you’re nowhere near ready to start thinking about topic sentences, conclusion paragraphs, and citations, there’s a lot of prep work you can start doing now. Then, when the time inevitably comes when you’re forced to confront that blank Word document, you can skip the blind panic phase and get to the part where you dazzle your professor with your last-minute–but still well thought-out–argument.
Re-read Your Notes
Somewhere amongst the doodles and to-do lists, you’ve probably been keeping track of what your professor has been talking about in class. It’s okay if your notes aren’t super fastidious, or even if there are big chunks of information missing from when you didn’t show up or got lost in a trance whatever was on your mind that seemed more urgent than the class material. Aside from being a useful refresher, going back and looking at what you DID decide was important or interesting enough to take note of is a great way of gaging your own response to different topics and themes that have come up so far in the semester. The stuff you payed extra attention to can be a great place to start from once you start narrowing down your paper’s focus.
Pick a Topic
Now that you know what it is you’d like to think more about, well, start thinking more about it. Figure out the best way to apply the themes you’re interested in to the material you’ve been reading or watching in class, and then decide on a solid topic. Stick to it. It’ll save you the several hours of false starts and indecision that can prevent you from being able to start writing when the time comes.
Visit Your Professor
You know that little note at the top of your syllabus, where various days of the weeks and times are written? Those are your professor’s office hours, when they’d be more than happy to have a conversation with you about what you’ve been thinking about writing and what they’ve been thinking about their grading policy. Even if you only have vague ideas for now, they can help steer you in the right direction. A few weeks later, when they’re reading your completed paper, they’ll remember who you are and what you were trying to do, giving you a head start before they even get to your thesis statement.
Come Chat with a Writing Tutor
If you come into the Writing Workshop without any actual writing, we promise we won’t kick you out. The tutors are ready and able to help you get started. Sometimes, just talking through what exactly it is that the prompt is asking you to do can be helpful.