Hammering away at the keyboard of your laptop, you glance at the clock as it strikes one o’clock in your darling tie-dye tee paired with your cozy sweatpants. Every hour, minute, and second marks an instant closer to the impending deadline of your assignment. As your roommate rests peacefully, you realize that your sole companion is the indie music blaring from your iPod. Working hard all evening, you feel alone and exhausted, evident from the bags under your eyes along with the brightly-colored heap of empty Sour Patch Kids bags.

You deserve a break. Relaxation is an essential yet often overlooked component of the writing process. Not only does leisure time reduce stress and emotional buildup, but it also allows you time to fluidly develop your thoughts as well as create objectivity with your paper.

Because it can be a daunting and painstaking activity, writing a paper is in many ways similar to operating on a patient. As the writer, you are the surgeon. In turn, your composition is the patient. The surgeon must remain calm in order to appease the patient. If you are tired and stressed, your fatigue and frustration will be evident in your writing. Because your essay is the product of your emotional state, it is extremely vital that you remain replenished, restful, and composed throughout your writing process. By giving yourself time away from your paper, you will become calmer, happier, and more prepared to write.

Whether you realize it or not, you will provide your mind with the opportunity to think clearer, permitting it to rest and recuperate from those hours of intense concentration. In addition to peace of mind and clarity, impartiality will develop as you return to your essay with a new pair of eyes. This fresh look at your writing will provide you with the ability to strengthen your assertions, recognize ambiguous and awkward word choices, as well as correct grammatical errors. If a good surgeon would never operate on a patient when she is worn out, why would writing your paper be any different?

When you are incapable of focusing on your paper any longer, it is time for you to unwind. Several helpful ways in which you could relax include:

  1. Taking a twenty-minute nap or going to sleep if you are exhausted! A tired brain cannot write.
  2. Drinking a glass of water or a cup of hot tea. Chai, anyone?
  3. Speaking with a friend about a topic other than your assignment.
  4. Watching a favorite television show or movie, preferably a lighthearted comedy with a simple plot, depending on the amount of time you have until the deadline.
  5. Exercising. Working out is an amazingly effective way to blow off steam. Try lacing up your sneakers and jogging on a treadmill for thirty minutes or watching the latest yoga instructional video with those tricky poses you have been dying to try.
Although as a Writing Center tutor I do not encourage pulling an all-nighter, if it becomes your last resort, I would suggest completing your paper in a space with other students to keep you company. Notably during finals week, a number of students can be found in the Center for Writing and Speaking (CWS) engaging in an assortment of activities from working on their essays to revamping their Facebook profile pages. Nevertheless, with any luck, you will prevent this vexing episode by visiting the CWS sooner rather than later. When you feel your eyes blurring or shedding a tear, come up for air and take a deep breath. Good luck and happy writing!


Dani Adamson is a sophomore and a tutor at the Agnes Scott College Writing Center.
Imagine this.

You are sitting in the front row of your last class of the day listening to your professor drone on and on about another dead white guy who wrote some other great classic that you have yet to get your hands on. You could care less about the book. After all you’re still having trouble grasping the meaning of the word, dilettante, a word this dead guy decided to use eight times within the first four pages of his epic novel. 

To keep yourself from dozing off in front of your professor you decide to put your I-phone in your book so that you can secretly text your friend about how bored you are as your peers turn the pages of the arduous novel. Immersed in conversation with your friend (she’s just revealed to you that there’s a sneak peek of the new Michael Jackson movie at the AMC down the street in two hours and Michael has been the object of your every desire since Thriller; you never left his side even through the rumors, you knew the real MJ), you miss the thirty minutes your professor uses to explain to your classmates that a dilettante is a person who loves fine art. 

Frustrated with the last text your friend has sent you (the MJ tickets sold out to the sneak peek within in five minutes of it being announced) you slam your book on your desk, dropping your phone on the floor. Your professor glances at you with a questioning stare. You don’t mind him, he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know that you know it was Michael’s fair-weather fans that bought up all the tickets. Those fans weren’t around when Michael was on trial, as a matter of fact they were the ones screaming he was guilty. You weren’t like them, though. You knew he was innocent.

Bending down to pick up your phone you hear your professor announce that you have to write a fifteen page essay on the significance of the main character of the novel being a dilettante. Not only do you need to describe this significance but your professor also wants you to relate this to the dead white guy who wrote the book that is now causing you such grief. 

You panic.

You’re behind on your reading, you could care less what a dilettante is much less do you feel like looking up the meaning, and you have no idea how to begin this paper. What now?

You glance at your classmate next to you who is vigorously writing in her notebook. She looks up at you and smiles, telling you how excited she is about this assignment. She’s been taking copious notes during your class discussions writing down not only comments made by the professor but also comments by your peers. Not only has she done this, but to further help herself she reveals to you that while reading the book for class she wrote down quotes she found interesting and looked up words she was having difficulty understanding. Because she has done all of this preliminary research for the assignment she can’t wait to start her paper.

You grunt at her. She’ll probably get the first draft of her paper done within an hour or two. You like the fact that your own process usually begins seven at night and ends with the sun rising the next morning.

You decide to go stand outside the sneak preview of the new MJ movie to see if you can dupe someone into giving you their tickets. You need to be at this showing, you are his biggest fan, his truest fan. At the same time you’re on your quest, your classmate is in her dorm room happily typing her paper. 

Have you learned your lesson? Not yet. But two weeks later, you’ll be searching your brain for some inspiration that just might have come to you faster if you had paid attention. Perhaps the next time your class meets, you will take notes so that you, too, can be excited when your professor doles out an extensive assignment.


Jeanine Pounds is a junior at Agnes Scott College with a major in English Literature Creative Writing and a minor in Classics. She's a tutor at the Writing Center
Sitting in the big
squishy chair, drinking something
hot, I am writing  

some senior sem thing.
It's pretty awful, you know.
But maybe I can  

get it tutored in
the next ten hours? 
Because it is 3 am.


Caro Simpkins is a senior English Literature and Women's Studies double major at Agnes Scott College. She is a Student Coordinator at the Center for Writing and Speaking.
Pasiones began with a welcome address by Susana Martinez '12, President of Latinas Unidas. She expressed her excitement at how big of an event Pasiones had become after only two years and thanked us all for being there. As people trickled in from the snacks table which was piled high with flan, a cheese platter and fruit, Ana Christina Archilla '13 led the lineup with Poema 20 by Pablo Neruda. She was followed by several students, faculty and staff members who read work in either Spanish or English from various Latino/a authors and poets including Sandra Cisneros, Jorge Debravo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Reinaldo Arenas. 
Being that I am a proud member of the Rafael Ocasio fan club, (we need more members. Join now!) once I peeked in the program and saw that he was going to be presenting, I knew that it was going to be a great evening. However, what makes an event like Pasiones so worthwhile is that it provides an avenue for the budding writers we have on campus to showcase their talents.  Aniceta Kalena Williams '11  read from her own original work titled, Tell Me Your Story. Before she started reading Kalena said, "I'm about to get real deep on y'all" as the short non-fiction piece gave us a glimpse into her Afro-Mexican heritage and explored the tenuous relationship between old world and new.

There were some laughs (albeit, bittersweet) as Carolyn Mahoney '12 read Las Girlfriends by Sandra Cisneros which  details the lives of a group of feisty women who've "been to hell and back."
Disappointed you missed it? Well, regret no more! The Paper Chase blog will soon upload photos and audio recordings of the piece(s) that were read. You will be able to download them to your computer and listen to the passionate readings from Pasiones.

Pasiones: Latinos in Writing & Speaking is an annual event that is cosponsored by Latinas Unidas, the Hispanic/ Latino(a) student union at Agnes Scott, and the The Center for Writing and Speaking.


Jennifer Sefa-Boakye is a Writing Center tutor and a member of the class 2010. She's a creative writing major and a proud member of the Rafael Ocasio fan club.