I may be in my fourth year of an Honours degree in political studies but when it comes to paper writing season, like most of my peers, I become a complete mess of half-completed thought processes. I start off with very honourable intentions, allotting a decent amount of time per day to do research and brainstorm, but I inevitably forget to follow this schedule. When it gets down to the last 48 hours and all I have is a lousy 500-word introduction, it becomes increasingly clear that this will be a mad, all-night adrenaline rush. And so, this is what I learnt from writing my very best A+ political theory paper on Friedrick Nietzsche last fall:
Things not to do:
1) Chain smoking. It is never relaxing and it will not help you focus on your subject. In the end, all that this will do is leave you with a headache and no voice for a couple of days.
2) Going for a run. While a good idea in theory, it can quickly become bad, when you run for extended periods of time and exhaust yourself.
3) Eating chocolate chips, skittles, jellybeans or any other kind of sugar/chocolate candy. This will provide you with countless hours of energy to stay awake and write the paper, however, it will leave you with a bellyache and a sugar high, neither of which are conducive to rational thought.
Things that I shouldn’t do, but ultimately, always will:
1) Stay up for days at a time. This is counter-productive. It makes writing the paper harder, because I am too tired to think coherently, but it always seems like a good idea at the time.
2) Going dancing. It may seem like a waste of time when there are deadlines looming, but it is relaxing enough to be worth it, every time.
3) Skipping work. We all do it. The 8 a.m. phone call, after the all night work-a-thon, where you tell the boss, you just aren’t feeling well enough to come into work.
4) Some kind of caffeine. I don’t drink coffee. I haven’t since I was 18 years old, but I do get caffeine in the unusual amounts of chocolate that I consume during paper writing season. While the sugar rush wires me in the short-run, it also causes me to lose focus and often leaves me with a bellyache. (See above)
Things that you should definitely do:
1) Randomly recite lines from your paper in general conversation. While it is annoying to anyone partaking in this general conversation, it is excellent for relieving tension about the subject.
2) Indulge. Actively participate in all the activities that relieve your stress and give you pause to think. During this period of time, I take bubble baths and cuddle up in bed for hours at a time to plan my next move. I find this approach very effective for concentration.
3) Deprive. Ultimately, after I have finished indulging myself, I spend the next several days depriving myself of television, phone calls, friends, sleep and all forms of social interaction.
This is the process that by in large, gets me the best result. Some of it can be harmful, some harmless and some down right indulgent, but they all allow me to perform optimally in print.