The Way I Write Now

I was up late last night making some requested edits to an article about using digital tools to guide and encourage student reflection. About 10:15pm, I hit a wall. I was tempted to attach the file to an email and hurl it into the electronic ether. But, instead, I printed out the paper and started editing, catching a few silly mistakes and elaborating to fill in some holes. Feeling relatively happy with the article, I submitted it a day ahead of the deadline.

My Klingenstein Institute room this summer looked a lot like my college dorm room

Writing Then

None of last night’s events would be particularly remarkable, except for the departure that they represent from how I wrote for so long.

During college, my strategy was to leave papers until the last conceivable hour and then write them in a flurry of David Gray and clementine-fueled panic. The deadline would come. I would email or print the paper and collapse. The attraction of this strategy was that it always gave me an out. If I didn’t feel pleased with the work (often the case) or received a lower grade than I’d hoped, I had an easy excuse- if I’d just had more time, the work would have been better.

Grad school wasn’t any better. I printed out my master’s thesis and slid it under my advisor’s door 10 minutes before the deadline. It was short of the length requirement, and I have never been so embarrassed to submit a paper. I still cringe a little when I think about it. All my agonizing and procrastinating was cover for the anxiety I wouldn’t articulate, even to myself. I wasn’t sure more time would allow me to improve my writing. I didn’t know if I could write it better.

Writing Now

The writing I do now is more often of my own choosing. I often still get to a place in writing where I’m ready to chuck it. When that point hits I have the luxury of putting something aside for  a week or two and then coming back to it if I care about it. I still have deadlines, but they’re usually farther out and feel more chosen than foist upon me.

I’ve started sending pieces to others- friends, colleagues, teachers who follow me on Twitter. They graciously read early drafts, ask questions, suggest changes, and reassure me that whatever I’ve written usually isn’t as awful as I imagine it. Having people willing to read these early drafts gives me the release I need and some direction in editing. That’s not to say I don’t still procrastinate, but my anxiety level around writing seems lower than it once was.


2 thoughts on “The Way I Write Now

  1. Your college writing habits sound a lot like my general writing habits except that the sort of procrastination and anxiety you describe seems to apply to large chunks of my life rather than just the writing part. It’s a constant challenge for me to devote the deserved time to a task such as writing. I love it but I often do it at the expense of another task I should actually be dealing with at the moment.

    Is it about discipline or is there something deeper at work? Would love to get to where you are right now.

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