Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Staving Off Laziness In Academic Writing: A Four-Part Rehab Program

Pure, plain, and inexcusable laziness is undoubtedly among the greatest challenges that I face as an academic writer. I love writing witty little poems, or profound commentary, but when it comes to writing an academic paper with research and sources and deliberation, I find an unnecessary burden. Unnecessary, because my primary obstacle is laziness. This laziness is closely linked with the intimidation that I feel when reading over an essay prompt for the first time. Of course, my perennial procrastination compounds this effect of feeling that I am not able to devote enough time and effort to an academic paper, and the rest, as they say, is history. As much as the Writing Center would like to encourage people to bring in any writing, be it fiction, nonfiction, or a scribbled itinerary for some obscure purpose, chances are that most students will be visiting for help on academic papers. This is the stuff that many don’t want to do, which of course means that it’s the stuff that makes you seem famous and intelligent. At any rate, what follows is a list of combating laziness and apathy when it comes to personal writing. Here are my personal tips, and believe me, I’m going to need to use them, myself; I have a thesis due at the end of the semester, and it’s kind of a big deal.

1.     Start writing. There’s a very good essay by Anne Lamott called “Shitty First Drafts,” which expounds upon the cathartic experience of writing, well, shitty first drafts. Say that: A.) you have a thesis, or B.) you are writing an exploratory essay and don’t need a thesis yet, or C.) you have no idea what the hell you’re writing, Just get words onto paper. It doesn’t matter how bad they are, which is a good thing, because they will be bad. Mine are bad. Everyone’s are bad. But "It’s the job that's never started as takes longest to finish, as my gaffer used to say,” said Sam Gamgee. To paraphrase another geeky pop culture character, "Do. There is no do not."

2.     Once more unto the databases, dear friends! Look for sources. Complete an extensive search of surrounding systems. Do not give up until you have found enough scholarly and popular information to fill a few tomes. You don’t have to use it all, nor read it all in full, but if you can avoid piling research near a project’s deadline, you will be doing yourself a favor. This might seem obvious: don’t procrastinate, but instead it is about having the willpower to start writing, to start searching, etc.

3.     Once more unto the beach, dear friends! Relax, everyone! Another way of saying this, other than paraphrasing Henry V for the second time in a row would be that old expression, “Work hard, play hard.” Not necessarily a chronological next step after research, devoting time to leisure is a necessary respite from the difficulties of the project. The only problem is that relaxation can be addictive, and you need to make sure that you return to the task at hand. Which brings me to my next point…

4.     Putting it all together Synthesis, which is my unofficial term for the coherent compilation and combination of research and one’s own opinion, is possibly the most difficult part of writing an essay. It’s not as though this is the absolute last stage of journey; writing is, of course, always an ongoing process. At the same time, this is the time when laziness is the most devious in its effort to infiltrate one’s consciousness. The best way to stave it off, for me, is to take pride in my work and find personal meaning and worth in each assignment. Once you actually have a connection to your writing, you will find that it isn’t just you giving up a weekend to write about something. Instead you are going to be enjoying what you are doing and making your time, and your writing, far more meaningful.

--Peter the Blogcrafter

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