By Stewart Matzek
Imagine that it’s finals crunch-time. You’ve waited too long on an essay. You said you’d write it tomorrow, and now it’s the night before the paper is due and you’re scrambling. Like many other students in this situation, you rush to the campus library. Proceeding to the downstairs computer lab, you find one open computer—sweet! But as you sit down and begin to write, you realize this maybe wasn’t a blessing after all; to your left, two freshman boys excitedly talk about some video game involving a league of legendary champions, and to your right, a girl blasts Kendrick Lamar louder than humanly possible. You’re beginning to realize that maybe this environment wasn’t the greatest choice, but you look at the clock, and the unblinking white “9:45” glares up at you as a testament to your procrastination.
Students often put a lot of thought into the words that go into their papers, but many students don’t consider their surroundings while writing. I see a lot of students at the Writing Center who tell me they wrote the paper last night, and that it’s due in an hour. This is frustrating for me not because their appointment is really tough, but because these students very rarely do their best writing when rushed. While students are quick to say that they are just “bad writers,” I think some of this self-proclaimed “bad writing” is the problem of the student’s writing environment.
Sometimes the library seems to be the best place to go during finals, especially when you need to marathon that long essay. The library is also the most crowded place during finals, which naturally means that the outside distractions become even more present. Places like this are Loud Rooms, where the normal murmur and hum of conversation instead becomes a full-blown hurricane of words and laughs, sounding more like a basketball game than a library.
Try to avoid Loud Rooms. While the general conversational atmosphere of the non-finals library isn’t too disruptive, when the library becomes a Loud Room your ability to concentrate will naturally be lowered with each subsequent distraction. This is not the ideal environment for writing, and it’s not conducive to you getting your work done.
I have a few friends who can’t help but write essays while they’re sitting up in their bed, cozy and warm, sometimes with coffee or hot chocolate, and they complain about falling asleep during the writing process. I usually stay quiet, as I value their friendship, but the writer inside me is screaming at them not to write the Bed Essay.
Think about it this way: your body falls into patterns easily. You wake up, brush your teeth, take a shower, comb your hair, and so on until you climb into your bed and fall asleep. While many patterns are broken by random occurrences, a person’s sleep regimen is fairly consistent, and a person’s “sleeping cycle” is hard to break out of. So why would you ever write an essay in the place where you do the most patterned sleeping? Writing the Bed Essay is a poor idea because of your body’s rigorous application of patterns and cycles—even if you don’t actually fall asleep, you may be drowsy or nod off while writing.
Here’s the thing: social media is here for good, and I like it a lot. But if there’s one thing that poses a substantial threat to your ability to write a good paper (especially at the last minute), it’s when the beast of Media Temptation rears its head.
This last one is a personal fault of mine, and I’m trying to change it. My home computer is my base of operations and a place of leisure, which also means that it’s a place of little productivity. At any point during writing a paper, it’s so easy to click over to Tumblr or Twitter and check my feed without realizing how much time I’ve wasted. If you are a habitual social media user and have fallen for the trap of Media Temptation, perhaps trying to work in a more media-sterile environment will help you focus on writing. If all else fails, pulling the Ethernet plug and limiting your access to the internet might not be a bad idea.
Procrastination will happen. It’s a natural part of being a student, especially when you’re a younger student. While grades might be higher if procrastination weren’t such a problem, there are ways to minimize procrastination’s negative effects, and one of them is choosing your “writing environment” wisely.