No, I do not advocate procrastination. Yes, I am fully aware that writing a clear, effective essay takes time. But let's face it- most of us have found ourselves in situations where we are too busy to spend weeks upon weeks plotting and crafting the perfect paper. Whether or not we like it, there are times when it's going to get written the night before it's due. If this is the case, don't panic! There are some things you can do to make sure the final product is not a mushy pile of nonsense. 

 -Calm down.

Stress is a dangerous enemy to the writing process. When I have a million thoughts and anxieties running through my head, there is no way I can accomplish anything. This problem is especially acute when I don't have much time to work with. To drive away stress, I suggest taking a few minutes to relax before you even consider putting pen to paper. Even if you feel like you are wasting time, it will pay off in the end. 

 -Just write.

I cannot count the number of times that I have sat in front of a computer screen for hours, typing and erasing the same words over and over again. This is not only unproductive, but also incredibly frustrating. After a while, I begin to think that I am no longer capable of forming a single coherent sentence, let alone enough of them to fill an entire paper. Recently, I have employed a new tactic. I force myself to write. Even if nothing I say makes any sense, my motivation is boosted tenfold when I see that I am making process. More often than not, the result is much better than expected, and only a few changes are needed at the end. 

 -Keep it simple.

If you're planning on pounding out a last-minute paper, chances are that you won't have much time to revise and rewrite. For this reason, it is best to organize it in the simplest way possible. Although the finished product may not be as creative as you would like, you will have a much better chance of not changing your mind and starting from scratch at the last minute. Use your instincts and group your ideas together in the way that makes the most sense to you. Save more complex, subtle styles of organization for essays you have plenty of time to finish. 

 -Thesis, thesis, thesis

Your thesis is the most important part of your paper, and even if you are in a hurry, it deserves some significant time. Personally, if I can manage to think of a really strong thesis, my paper tends to write itself. On the other hand, if I settle for a sub-par thesis, writing the paper is an excruciating experience. So even if you only have a few hours to write a paper, take as much time as you need thinking up a convincing thesis. Then, all you have to do is stick with it and relate all of your points back to it. 

While these tips may help you complete an assignment or two satisfactorily, remember that writing is a process. That means that it should not be accomplished in one night. Try as much as you can to budget your time so that you can fully embrace this process. Now get back to work, I know you're procrastinating!

Kelsey Clodfelter is a sophomore Writing Center tutor.

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