As I prepare myself for yet another late night of work, I open up a Word document and get the obligatory parts of the assignment out of the way. Times New Roman. 12-point font. Double spacing. I start to toss name, date, and class in the top left corner out of habit. The line under the header, after centering the font, I write "Creative Title." I'll get that done later, I think as I find myself in the same mindset that got me into this mess.
With a turn of my wrist, I glance at my watch. It's 7:00 p.m. A typical essay will take me about five or six hours in total. If I get to work now, focus without any breaks, and write what naturally comes to me, I can be done by midnight, get some decent sleep, and turn the paper in tomorrow morning. Now that I have a plan in mind, I settle into a sense of comfort. A feeling that I know what needs to be done and how to get it done.
So what do I do? Not that. YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, Reddit, and a plethora of other distractions—no, recreational priorities—demand my attention. And I give in. After all, if I know what to do, there's no need to stress! Just relax and everything will come together when it needs to. Like it always does. Even if it takes a mental, physical, and spiritual toll on me.
When I happen to be conscious for a moment while floating in the zero gravity of digital media, I check the time again. A sudden sense of gravity brings me plummeting back down to reality. It's almost 10:00. Regardless of how I've ended up here, now is the time to grind. Time to put my money where my mouth is. Time to get the ball rolling. Time to put the pedal to the medal. It's time…for me to stop thinking of expressions and start typing. I blink a couple times, shake my head, stretch my back and legs out, place my hands on the keyboard to begin typing, and…I've got nothing. I know my topic and focus, but what's the right way to start? Maybe a quaint little story could draw the reader into the narrative. Or perhaps a few vast generalizations to lull them into a sense of security and agreement that get tossed aside with a twist to propel the hidden message forward. And also, how do I want to end it? Do I want to end with a pun that provides some levity and wraps up the argument like a bow would for a gift? I should probably have one of those serious endings that leave the reader unsettled and aloof in their own thoughts.
A quick flick of the wrist reveals it's now 10:30. No more thinking. Just writing. I snag scraps of ideas gliding on the surface of my sewage of thoughts and try to clean them up and put them into words. The fragmented scraps slowly get polished and come together. Sometimes I pick out a scrap only to toss it back in and find another to take its place. It's at this point—the point when the words and the ideas seem to start flowing—that the 'recreational priorities' start to knock on your door unannounced like a distant relative. There's a meme from a friend to whom I quickly respond "Haha nice." Then a Facebook notification that I dismiss. A message for a different class puts me in a paralyzing disarray. I turn my phone over as I tend to do later in the night.
My joints ache, my eyes burn, my legs tighten, and my back slouches, and even though I feel like I've lost myself like Eminem's character in "8 Mile," I continue. Soon enough, everything comes together into a cohesive product. A flawed product that could certainly use further polishing, but a product nonetheless. I look at my watch but don't register how long I've been working. The passage of time no longer fazes me. All that's left is to write the conclusion, proofread, and turn in the paper.
But I can do that tomorrow, right? I already know what I have to essay.