Most people really — REALLY — don’t like writing essays.
But this year?
It’s gonna be tough, folks.
EssaySnark is of course going to be right along with you, but we just wanted to have a little get-real talk with you right now.
You’re sitting here in June.
You’re feeling whatever level of anxiety, restlessness, frustration, irritation, or possibly depression based on what’s happening in the world. Depending on the impact of coronavirus on your day-to-day life, you might have more time on your hands than usual, or, some of you, much less, depending on how your job has adapted or what other obligations you have. Maybe you’re dealing with the cooped-up stress of 24/7 existence with your partner — someone you love, but who is driving you bonkers these days. Maybe you’ve had to basically timeshare your living room so that each of you get to have use of the good computer and use all the internet for blocks of time to get your respective jobs done. Maybe you’re starting to feel like a slug because your workout routine got disrupted and nobody told you that you should be socially distancing from your fridge. The corona pounds are packing on. You’re not feeling your best.
It’s tough to write essays in a “normal” year. Finding the mental space for this project might seem truly overwhelming.
Or, maybe you’re feeling motivated to tackle this project, yet every time you sit down to look at some essay questions, you end up spacing out for five minutes and then you wander over to Facebook, and two hours later, rouse yourself from your fugue with the realization that it’s happened again. The internet is like a drug; it numbs us out so we can go into denial around all the crazy crap that’s going on right now. It can be tough to break that habit.
It’s especially tough to break it when you are attempting to do so by beginning a very big mentally difficult task that you might feel unprepared for. (Shameless plug: The Countdown is still in its earlier weeks — now would be an excellent time to jump on that train to get you to Round 1!)
Plus, there’s this whole thing called the “planning fallacy” which you undoubtedly have fallen prey to before. It goes like this: You’re at the beginning of a new project, maybe one you’re even excited about. Your boss asks you to map out how long it’s going to take. You’re reasonably proficient in the domain, you add in buffers here and there, you pad the schedule and your planning process spits out a date.
The project ends up taking almost double that time.
The planning fallacy is a bias that has been studied and researched , and it happens to all of us. We get overoptimistic about how long things actually will take.
So now there are two things working against you:
One is that you’re not going to want to do this task.
Two is that your brain may underestimate the difficulties, and you might be operating under the assumption that it won’t be that hard to complete.
Good essays simply take time to develop — not literal time in cranking out 500 words, which actually isn’t that hard once you know what you’re going to say.
The time-intensive part of this task is because most people have no clue what to say, and so there tends to be a lot of spinning, and false starts, and missteps, and ripped-up drafts and do-overs before those 500 words come together.
It also takes time to get to a good draft because it’s essentially a creative process, and the way the mind works to generate the golden ideas for most of us who are not named Michelangelo is that it has to chunk through some active processing time, of sitting with the problem and consciously working on it, and then the brain needs to put that content onto its metaphorical back burner, where you’re not consciously pondering the prompt that your school has devised, but a part of you is still mulling it over in the background. Then, you come back and stare at your screen with your pencil in your mouth, still totally lost and uncertain… and then two days later when you’re on your bike thinking about nothing, it hits you, and you practically fall over in your excitement about the awesome idea that came.
Then, it’s easy to write 500 words, because your brain has done its job: It’s worked through many available scenarios based on your unique life experiences and values, and it’s served up something useful that you then get the hammer into shape.
It’s very very rare that someone comes up with a great topic for an essay on the first go, and they end up with that topic in their final draft that gets submitted, and it turns into an essay that wins. For most BSers, the process is that they come up with a topic that they try, and they try, and they keep trying to make work, until finally surrendering the loss and dropping it, and then they go back to the drawing board and start over. Maybe a few times, until settling on a direction that resonates.
Not a trivial exercise.
So this post is just a warning: We’re in prime time to start actually writing essays!
And, your brain will likely prefer that you don’t. Because this process is challenging and the illusions will fool you into believing that it’ll be fine to dither along for longer and you don’t have to get serious about anything yet.
There will be many ways that this experience could be more painful, and harder. One sure way to make it at least somewhat easier, and decidedly less stressful, is to truly get started today.
(Oh hey look — we have a package of support services available to help you do exactly that!)