Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Last Minute

Over the last few days, more so than in the last few years, I've had many students lament to me about the arduous nature of an academic life and the pain of getting things done in the last minute. It's a curious thing, that.

Why?

Because life, by its nature, whether from a chemical, social, physical, emotional or economic (or indeed, any other) perspective is arduous. If it weren't, it wouldn't be life; it would just be existence.

And everything, by definition, is accomplished at the last minute.

That's not to say you can't spread the work out or do some things that will make it feel better. I've realised that when a student pulls an all-nighter with the aid of 1,3,5-trimethylxanthine, that student sometimes really means the work has all been done in that night alone: reading, thought, writing, everything. That's madness.

For me, a last-minute job, even a theobromine- or caffeine-assisted one, normally starts earlier. It's the writing that is completed by that time; the reading and thinking started much earlier. I have the memory of one horrible occasion in which a project gestated for five years of part-time study and the bulk of it was written up (all 60,000 words of it) in four nights. That was my Master's thesis. Heh.

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