Why I can’t procrastinate

Posted: November 6, 2007 in meta

I’ve never been a procrastinator. When I was in college I had a friend start reading the book that we had a 8-10 page paper due the next morning for at 10pm. How he finished I will never know (I’ve always secretly believed that he was posturing and had read the book already). I had a girlfriend who would put everything off until the day before it was due, then panic and spend all night writing a paper.

Me? I finish papers at least a week before they’re due. Sometimes more. I used to use Thanksgiving break to write all my final papers, so that the last two weeks of school were easy for me, low stress.

But I never really stopped to think about why I do it. Yesterday, the answer came to me. To explain it, I have to first give a bit of backstory.

Remember that draft I wrote a bit ago? The one I said was worthless not usable? Well, I found that I was very upset that the paper wasn’t well received. It dispirited me, depressed me, and made me angry. But when I think back to a paper I wrote last semester, one that was no better, and that scraped out the grade it barely deserved, I wasn’t bothered. The professor was right on every count; I HAD been lazy, my tone WAS aggressive. I made all the mistakes that I yell at my students for.

So why doesn’t it bother me?

It doesn’t bother me because I wrote the paper two weeks before it was due. I had someone else look at it, rewrote it, and still had a week to spare before it was actually due. More to the point, I didn’t get the paper back until several months later. This paper I just wrote? I knew it was a draft (so did my adviser) and I fired it off to him literally minutes after finishing it.

Which is the answer. I wasn’t upset with the old paper because I had time to let it go. I was upset with this one because I didn’t. I’m apparently very attached to my writing (not surprising, when I think about it), and need some time to distance myself from it before I hand it in.

So that’s why I don’t procrastinate. It’s not that I’m a great student (though I like to think I am) and it’s not that I’m brilliant and prolific (ditto). The bottom line is that I don’t procrastinate because I need time to let writing go before it gets graded.

Otherwise, I take things personally.

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