Monday, December 5, 2011

Last Minute Panic

I really need to figure out a way to motivate myself to work harder on big research projects (I'm currently working on three term papers) ahead of time. It's not like I'm just now starting -- I've been doing research for several weeks now -- but it's like I don't actually get serious about bringing all my reading together and figuring out the nuts and bolts of my arguments until I'm facing the looming dread of oncoming deadlines.

Said dread makes me feel entirely inadequate as to the reading and researching I've been doing up 'til now, and so while I really have been at things for a while, I feel like I'm starting fresh. And that brings with it a fresh frustration. (and frankly a hint of terror)

As I "start fresh," the things I love about what I'm doing become mind-numbingly infuriating. Mind-numbing because of the sheer volume of reading and writing that I need to accomplish and infuriating because I'm not able to take the time to go through the process as pausedly and methodically as I'd like.

I really enjoy reading the books and articles that make up the bulk of my current research. Unfortunately, because said reading needs to be done fast, I can't fully enjoy it. The funny thing is, I actually get through the reading at a decent clip. However the hulking shadow of the end of semester deadline makes any pace, no matter how fast, feel like I'm slogging through mud. And it's not just any mud, mind you. It's the smelly, rank, river mud that not only cakes your legs up to your mid-thigh, but is so rancid that the smell causes your eyes to water and your nose hairs to curl up and fall out.

Once the reading is done and I'm fully aware of the academic conversation being had about my topic, there's the actual writing of the paper to deal with. Now, I want to make sure it's understood that I love writing, perhaps even more than I love reading. There are people that need to talk through their ideas and opinions before said ideas and opinions are fully formed and solidified; I'm not one of these people. For me that formation and solidification of my ideas happens through writing. I absolutely adore the writing process. Writing and revising and rewriting and re-revising are "like water for my soul when I get thirsty" (apologies to Matisyahu). This process allows me to really understand concretely what I think and what I want to say. And so it's frustrating when, like the reading, I can't take the time to go through the process as meticulously as I'd like. Instead, I feel so rushed to make a due date, that I can't really enjoy the process.

The worst part of it all is the fact that I've known the due dates since the beginning of the semester. I've known for weeks that if I wanted to avoid the frustration of having to race through sludge the week before finals I would have to get started early. But for some reason I didn't. I can't get myself to really move until I'm at the brink.

What I wouldn't give to be one of those people who is disciplined enough to get to work ahead of time by setting schedules and study plans and such. How nice that must be. *sigh*

But then I wonder how much of my genius is a result of my procrastination-induced, panic-driven writing and research? Maybe the pressure of the situation is requisite for me to come up with the true gems of original thought so highly prized by the world of academia. But if that's the case, is that kind of motivation sustainable? I'm afraid I know the answer to that one. (it's "no" if case you're wondering.) So either way I need to learn how to work on this flaw.

For now, I've just got to keep the end goal in sight. Once I've crossed the finish line and slain the dragon of my first semester in graduate school, I can slip into that blessed two week recuperation filled with blissful, holiday-induced torpor. That time can't come at all too soon.

On a side note, I'm getting to this point of panic-driven terror a full six days ahead of last year. Maybe I'm getting better after all.


  1. Sam... I am right with you tonight.

  2. I had one of those up-late-doing-homework-until-all-hours-of-the-morning-because-things-are-due-tomorrow night last night too. I feel you, I feel you.