While I rushed to complete the required amount of blog posts in the week before they were due, I found myself wondering why it had taken me the entire semester to finish the assignment, and Dr. McCoy prompted me to think about this even deeper. Why do I procrastinate? Why do I repeatedly box myself into stressful time constraints? Why do I find myself projecting the frustration that this procrastination creates onto the class itself—especially when it’s one like this, that I actually enjoy? If I start with my earliest memories of procrastination, I find that my abilities for time management have not improved very much at all. I’ve always been one to keep my parents and sister waiting when it’s time to go somewhere, and I’ve always been one to put off work to the last possible moment. There are at least three years in a row that I remember finishing summer work for high school English classes in the early morning hours of our first day back. It didn’t only make my work of a lesser quality than I had the ability to provide, but it made me tired for my first day of school, and thus was probably detrimental to first impressions with my new teachers.
Likewise, it seems that I’ve always had trouble sticking with decisions that I’ve made. Much like people who form New Year’s resolutions and find their determination petering out by the end of January, I often find myself second-guessing, and ultimately changing my mind. For example, I came into Geneseo as a biology major and music minor on the pre-veterinary track, hoping to eventually make my way into Cornell. But by the end of my first semester, I found myself wondering whether this was really the path I was meant to be on. From the age of five, I’ve always had an intense love for animals (although I’m pretty allergic to almost all of the furry ones), and I always thought that being a veterinarian was the best way for me to maintain a connection to them while also helping them. By my sophomore year of college, however, I had switched not only my major and left the veterinary track, but I had also switched my minor. While reflecting on all of this, I find myself asking: What caused my change to the English major and to the sociology minor? And what made me give up a lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian? On another note, how do I combat the habitual behavior of poor time management? And what’s the reasoning for my constant procrastination-stress cycle, anyway?
My first blog post of the semester was back at the very beginning of October. In it, I discussed H.P. Lovecraft, whom we learned was problematic in his racism and anti-semitism, and his contrast to Jemisin. I also discussed Roland Barthe’s concept of “Death of the Author,” and how this could and should be considered differently with respect to each writer. I had an interest in the topic and the meanings that might be implied by forgetting the background of an artist or a creator. My actual execution, however, now that I’ve looked back at the work I’ve done, didn’t quite live up to the ideas that I had floating around in my head. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t so confident in my grasp of the blog posts and the form that they should take, or perhaps it’s because I was pressuring myself to get something actually finished and posted, as I had already let an entire month slip by without drafting even a single post. Whatever the reason, I wrote the entire thing in one sitting, barely took a chance to read through what I’d created, and certainly didn’t leave myself any time for revising. Consequently, my grade reflected the sparse amount of work that I put into that piece of writing. My ideas were not as fleshed out as they should have been, and they therefore suffered in their presentation.
The next piece of writing that I created for this course was my midterm “thinkING” essay. While you may not have access to the entire piece, I can attempt to summarize it here. In my essay, for which the 101 level students were prompted to explore the interdisciplinary nature of this class, I discussed how other areas of my Geneseo education had been useful in my understanding and analysis of The Broken Earth trilogy. Specifically, I brought up my sociology minor and the psychology courses I’ve taken (when I thought that I might be more interested in psychology than in sociology and considered it for a minor; more indecision??), and how they have helped me make connections in the books that I might not have been able to find otherwise. I had a little bit of fun writing the essay, especially when I was able to find valuable ways in which my education was truly teaching me and was shaping my views of the world around me. The fact that I could use different areas of what I’ve learned to examine something like a sci-fi/fantasy trilogy was beyond exciting to me. The trouble was that I was so excited to discuss the many connections I was finding that I forgot to actually flesh out any single one of those connections. Instead, I only scratched the surface. Once again, my problem was likely the limited time that I allowed myself while writing the essay. Did I have to discuss both the psychological and the sociological concepts that I found within the books? Certainly not. Some of them could have been turned into blog posts, and the space that these removals would have created might have allowed for more in-depth analyses of the ones that I had left. (I did end up attempting to flesh out the idea of blockbusting, but that doesn’t really help after the fact.)
Where I really saw a change in my writing and how I approached it was the collaborative blog post that we created (This was only my second blog post of the semester. Whoops. But I eventually revisited and expanded on the topic in my ninth post.). Here, in conversation with the other members of my group, I was able to better grasp the idea of reflection and rewriting. We couldn’t necessarily just copy and paste everything onto the blog site because we had rambled on to each other in the original document so much; we had wandered into so many areas and scrapped so many ideas and tangents that the post would have been a conglomeration of absolute nonsense. But that experience and the way that we decided to actually create the post meant that the finished product came out so much more conversational than anything that I had written previously. I realized that I had been going about my own work in completely the wrong way. My very first blog post had not lived up to the standards I set for myself in this class, perhaps because it was too much like trying to support a thesis and too little like trying to figure out the bones and bases of a thought. The group blog post, I’ve also realized, came out so successfully perhaps because I wasn’t allowed the time to procrastinate that I had become accustomed to. The floating deadlines had given me freedom that I clung to out of comfort, thinking (falsely) that I had all the time in the world to complete the assignment, but I hadn’t the responsibility and confidence to get the posts done in a timely manner. Being accountable to other people, though, really helped me to figure out that I needed to just do the work. Something that I’ve only just realized while thinking about this post is the fact that I was still doubting myself during this process. My “nOW I DON’T KNOW HOW TO CONNECT SOUP” is quite a funny comment (if I do say so myself), especially out of context, but I think I was truly doubting my ability to make these connections. “Should i just delete soup?” I ask in another spot on our Google document. My group members, however, still saw the connection, even when I couldn’t see it myself. By this point, they had already posted our work on the blog and closed out of the document. In essence, their ability to see the value in my work when I couldn’t see it myself taught me something about writing and about the blog posts that I had yet to write. I immediately began brainstorming ideas for finishing the assignment.
With the time window I had left to finish my ten blog posts quickly shrinking and my pacing grade surely already shot, I found an immense amount of motivation to make my remaining posts the best that they could be in the week leading up to the posting deadline. I had no time to twiddle my thumbs and wonder what to write about. I assigned topics to each of the posts I had to write, and the process of doing this helped me realize that much of what had kept me from making progress on the assignment was my confidence in what I was choosing to write about. There were multiple times earlier in the semester that I sat down to write a post, decided halfway through that the idea was stupid and that I wasn’t exploring it well enough, and then deleted everything I had written. It was self-doubt, not necessarily of my ability to write, but of my ideas. I had trouble following through once I picked a topic. Without the ability to keep deleting entire pages of writing because of the time crunch, however, I found myself pushing through the doubt, and the resulting blog posts are pieces that I’m actually quite proud of.
The posts that I ended up crafting are mostly derivative. The idea for only one of them (this post about world-building) was sparked by something outside of class. The rest were inspired by or building directly off of other posts or class material. For example, I was interested in the class where we learned about the concept of Solarpunk, and decided to delve more deeply into the idea of Syl Anagist as a Solarpunk city. I even started crafting from my own previous posts, as you can see in this post, which analyzes the parallels between Essun and Nassun, and was inspired by my older post about the importance of parents to the plot of Jemisin’s trilogy. (Or this one, where I get into more of the specifics of world-building and analyze Jemisin’s magic system.) I let my interests truly guide me in my writing, as Dr. McCoy suggested we should in the syllabus, and I really liked the results. I was even able to analyze the process of the collaborative blog post that my group created and relate it to the very books that we were writing about (here). I actually had a good time (what?) writing those last few blog posts, and Dr. McCoy seemed to like how my writing had shifted, too. So, what took me so long? The doubt that I unearthed (Jemisin pun?) in my reflection on the collaborative post seemed to be the source of my procrastination, and ultimately of the resulting stress. The discovery of these roots will certainly be helpful in attempting to pull them like a weed, and now begins the process of doing just that.