Classwork and Comfortable Seats
So passes what the University of East Anglia refers to as “Do Something Different Week.” In theory, this is a week where no students have class, the professors and lecturers get to go free and happy, and everything is wonderful on campus. Events have been carefully created by the faculty to address student interests in numerous areas, ranging from a stress therapy coloring session in the Faith Centre to an intensive course on making your entrance into the publishing industry (I very much wanted the latter, but unsurprisingly it filled up fast). I suppose it was a nice dream, but the reality is that everyone scatters and goes on vacation for a week, leaving the campus with a skeleton crew and a ghost town vibe. I didn’t mind; London is very nice this time of year. But that’s besides the point. Do Something Different Week is a vacation whether it’s billed as one or not, and as everyone knows, work builds up after vacation. Thus we enter crunch time, and the deadlines are fast approaching. Essay plan for History? Sure. Collection of short works and a writerly appraisal for Poetry? Why not? Complete short fiction and a workshop for Prose? I imagine you get the idea, and I’ve no doubt others had it far worse than I did. So let’s talk survival instead.
The hard thing about doing work isn’t actually the volume of it (unless you’re in a hard science track, of course, in which case feel free to shake your fists and curse my name). It’s sitting down and making yourself actually start the damn assignments, and sometimes that can feel impossible. If you aren’t in a working mood and your brain doesn’t feel like cooperating and giving you some of that sweet, sweet inspiration, you might find yourself in a spot of trouble. Deadline weeks are a lot like swimming in the ocean; while you’re trying desperately to keep your head above water for that first wave, the second one sneaks up on you and all of a sudden you don’t have any air left to breathe. Now add a third, and a fourth, and maybe a fifth if the universe is feeling particularly cruel. You get the idea. So it’s important to find the workarounds, the ways to make yourself actually sit down and write, not just panic and feel guilty about not doing all the work you really need to be doing. It’s different for everyone. I’ve already been over the wonders of coffee and tea, so let’s move onto another strategy: the importance of a categorized space, and a comfy place to plant your butt. These are often one and the same.
Something that happens to me a lot of the time is that I designate places for certain activities, and I can’t then rescind that permission later. Exhibit A: my house back home, and especially that one comfy sofa that I can sprawl horizontally across in the living room. It doesn’t matter if I’ve got work with a strict deadline: if I’m on that sofa, it’s not getting done. I’ve given myself total relaxation rights, and I can’t just tell myself that surfing the internet is no longer allowed because I have work; my brain won’t care. Same goes for over here: my room is nice, it has a bed, comfy stuff, and all the little things I like to entertain myself with. Getting any work done here is near impossible, so I need to find somewhere else to categorize as a “place for working.” Sometimes this is straightforward: the library is always a safe bet, and comes with the added bonus of containing a lot of the research materials you’re likely to need. But it could also be a specific seat in the library that you need. What do you do if that seat is taken? Well, hopefully you have other seats that border on acceptable, but you never know. And sometimes these designated work spaces are a little weirder. I have a particular bench at the edge of a hill at the lawn on my home campus back in Boston that’s just excellent for writing essay outlines, but I couldn’t tell you why it’s so good for that. When I want to write a book with no distractions, I go to a coffee shop. The ambiance and low hum of chatter quiets all the right parts of my brain, and lets my creativity take the front seat. It’s always something different. So find your comfortable seat, plant yourself down, and get working. Your deadlines aren’t going to wait for you.