My Writing

College Papers: Expectations vs. Reality

Sample chapter from a WIP, tales from my college days + spin of humor.

“College Papers” (12/8/15)

I’m a writer, ya’ll. It’s what I do. It’s my passion. I do it for fun. I do it when I’m scared or sad, or angry. I do it so I know what I think. Kids’ stories, novels, fan fictions, even research is fun sometimes.

But college has seriously tested my abilities to write a comprehensible paper – on anything. A multi-source synthesis essay, which depending on the class is normally 4-8 pages, with a minimum 8-12 sources? Ok, sure; that’s the most common thing you will come across in college. Annotated bibliography? Annoying, but again, common and do-able. Compare and contrast? Easy-peasy. Narrative essay? Sure they have you asking the most understandable, “When am I going to use this in life?” ever, but you go with the flow and get it done. Advertisement essays will probably have you questioning whether you’re in a writing class or a psyche ward, but again, just go with the flow, even if the flow is a long, winding stream of B.S.

But then there are the papers that make even the most confident students shudder and shake. For me, it was English 222 – necessary to my degree, helpful to my future career in writing, and one major pain in the butt. It took me three semesters and two instructors to pass. On average, you start the semester with about 20 people in the class. Normally only 10 of those people make it to the end, and maybe 7 of those 10 will pass. We all know the people who simply don’t put enough time into the class and therefore they fail. Some of those people you can spot on the first day and just think, “Nope, you’re not going to make it.” But after three rounds of this class, I can easily say it isn’t that we don’t try our best; rather it’s that our best is not prepared. What I mean is, up until that class, most of us think 2 hours a day of research, writing, outlining, and organizing our papers will get us through. It worked for all those muti-source essays. Thing is, this is Eng. 222. You write on a subject connected to your field of study and the final paper is roughly 20-30 pages long. Whoa! What? Did I say 20 to 30 pages?! Yes. Yes, I did. So now your “best” is going to boot camp. Let’s try working 4-8 hours a day on that paper. Let’s forget about taking other classes at the same time, because that’s just not going to work out. Let’s devote a whole semester to passing this thing. This is the class where my anxiety hit a new high and I introduced myself to stress eating, anxiety energy built up inside and looking for a way out, and some major talking to myself.

Like I said, I am a writer. But during my first two rounds of this soul-eating class, I always hit “that point”. You know what it is. You’re going along, writing your paper, everything looks good, and you’re making sense and following your outline perfectly, when all of a sudden, wham! You have hit “that point”. Suddenly your line of thought is making no sense whatsoever. You’re rambling; your point now looks something like this: “Oh, right. The poison. The poison for Kuzco. The poison specifically chosen to kill Kuzco. Kuzco’s poison.”

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On and on you go, until you realize you have totally lost…whatever you lost and it’s not coming back. Oh, and you still have 18 pages to go.

And it’s not like we all go into it having no idea what we’re doing; even the people who hate to write and put things off way too long have some vague idea of what they have to do to get the job done.

Speaking of putting it off way too long: how many times have you heard, “This isn’t the kind of paper that can be done the last week of class or the night before class.” Take it from me, yes it can. Ok, so procrastinating really is not a good habit to get into. But sometimes life gets in your way sometimes and you end up sitting in your room at 3a.m. with a laptop, sixteen articles, three books, a pot of coffee or a liter of Coke in front of you with the tunes blasting, writing that horrible something the night before class. It can be done when need be. Even if that “need” be more of a “my roommates wanted to build a snowman and watch Disney at midnight and now here I am giving up my sleep hours to write an 8-page history paper,” rather than, “I had a family emergency and couldn’t get to the paper any sooner.” Or, you simply decide to have a life – go to dance with your friends, go to a movie with your best buddy, go for a walk in the dead of night – just something to relieve the inevitable pressure building up from what you thought was just another day of college. Truth is, if you don’t get away from the homework now and then, you will go crazy. And if the punishment is staying up all night to write a paper that you could have had done three weeks ago, so be it. Just take a breath, turn up the tunes, and write. You can do this. As long as you get the motivation going and focus yourself, you can get this thing done. Take it from a person who is writing a college memoir the night before a final exam.

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