Yesterday morning I had an outline in the form of a mindmap, 4 scenes selected for discussion from the set books (Swallows and Amazons and Northern Lights) and a number of appropriate quotes underlined in the critical essays, all ready to use to either back up my points or, in some cases, to argue against. I wrote the whole 2000 word essay in one day.
Now why couldn't I have done that 3 or 4 days ago? Why do I always leave it until the very last day?
Actually, I do know at least part of the answer. My marks had been good for the first two but dropped by 12% for the last essay. I had (as I thought) tried to provide in essay #3 what the tutor wanted in response to the feedback on essays #1 and #2 and instead did much worse. So at least part of the problem was a crisis of confidence. I felt that my essay writing skills had deserted me and I was on a downward slide. I could only screw up the determination to write the thing when I had reached the very last day and had no choice but to do what I could in the time available and submit it. This is classic procrastinator behaviour, as described in Neil Fiore's book The Now Habit. (A book I highly recommend, by the way. He's the only person I've seen who explains so clearly why procrastination does actually work to relieve feelings of stress, even though in the long term it is not a good strategy.)
However, I am cautiously optimistic about this essay. I think I did stick to the point more than in the last one. The trick, it seems, is not to get enthusiastic about the books because this leads to reading too much around the subject and then not being able to condense my thoughts into 2000 words. Instead I need to cherry pick a few scenes and choice quotes from the critics and run with those. It also worked better writing from the bottom up rather than top down.
Now, if I can replicate this method next time, but get it in with a day or so to spare, I really will be making progress!
[Cross-posted from Dreamwidth by way of a backup http://heleninwales.dreamwidth.org/30992.html. If you want to leave a comment, please use whichever site you find most convenient. Comments so far: .]