Deadlines and Procrastinating

One of the principles that we emphasize in the writing program that I work for is the importance of the writing process. Most inexperienced writers (often undergraduate students) are either ignorant of this process or lack the motivation to engage this process, cf. “writing a paper” at 2:00 a.m. the night before it’s due.

One way that we try to get around this happening in our writing classes is to mandate drafts. That is, we require students to turn in at least one draft prior to the final paper is due. That way, if the 2:00 a.m. thing is the first attempt, they’ll get some constructive feedback from their TA, and the student (hopefully) re-considers and seriously revises the 2:00 a.m. thing (at least) one more time before the final paper is due.

As a professional procrastinator, I have written many, many “papers” at this hour and even later. Thankfully, through luck and happenstance, this has worked out fairly well for me, though I cringe at the thought of the majority of writing I’ve turned in. Even at this professional level, I still need requirements and deadlines to encourage my engagement with the writing process… like right now. I’m presenting at a conference next weekend. It’s a (serious) revision of a paper I’ve presented previously, so a percentage of the work has already been done… but there’s still quite a bit to do.

And so, I’d like to take this time to thank the panel moderator for requesting a copy of the paper in advance. Even though the moderator asked to have the paper earlier this week, at least they’ll have it more than a week in advance, and now I won’t be spending time on the plane trying to make serious revisions to the paper.*

*However, it’s highly likely I will be obsessively tweaking the paper the entire time leading up to the presentation.


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