October 7, 2016

WEISSMANN | How Not to Write an Essay

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First, notice that you classmates are asking the professor a lot of questions about the big paper that was due in the middle of the semester. They must be getting a crazy head start, the sycophants. Check Blackboard (it’s probably not due) and realize that the big paper is due in two days. Feel your heart momentarily stop. When exactly did it become October? You don’t remember.

Decide that the thing to do is to write the whole paper tonight and then spend tomorrow editing. Fifteen pages isn’t too bad, right? Read over the assignment on Blackboard. Walk to Jason’s and buy two Hershey’s bars and microwave popcorn, for sustenance. Read over the assignment again. Okay. Ready. Except, maybe you’d feel more ready to work if you took a break first. Just a short Netflix break. You’re on the third season of House of Cards, and that’s a very intellectual show, all those governmental loopholes and advanced vocabulary. Watching one episode would almost prepare you to write. It certainly couldn’t hurt to watch one, could it?

Watch that first episode. Watch another. Watch a third and fourth and after the fifth episode, notice the clock. My God, it’s nearly ten. Decide that you need a change of scenery. Head to Olin. Hope there’s still a decent seat left, one next to an outlet and nowhere near anybody coughing or sniffing or showing any symptoms of the perpetual plague going on around here. Browse Facebook. Scroll through the Humans of New York page until you forget that you’re supposed to finding sources. Wonder why Wikipedia doesn’t count as a source; you’re certainly going to use it anyway. Google “why can’t I use Wikipedia?” and get … oh look, Wikipedia. Run into a friend at the library who’s walking back to their apartment. You’re tired; you might as well go with them. Go home and set your alarm for six in the morning. You know you can get up then, when the world is quiet, and bang out at least half the essay, easy peasy.

Wake up what seems like minutes later to a shrill beeping noise. Who in the world set their phone to make that ungodly noise in the middle of the night? The sun isn’t even up yet. Realize that Midnight You thought Early Morning You would happily write this paper. Curse Midnight You — that idiot. Rationalize your decision to hit snooze by resolving to work on the essay during your first class, a move that will no doubt inhibit your ability to write the essay for that class. Go back to sleep.

Exhausted, finish classes in the afternoon. Decide that you can take a little nap — after all, you’ve got all night to write the darn thing. Wake up three hours later with the imprint of your spiral notebook on your cheek. You’ve missed three messages; your friends want to get dinner. You certainly can’t bail on them, and Thai food waits for no school paper. Return home with around twelve hours left to write the paper. Daydream about submitting this godforsaken assignment and instruct your roommate to whack you with their calculus notes if they see you on social media. Walk down to Jason’s for more chocolate and popcorn — you still need sustenance. Make the popcorn and realize you can’t type and eat popcorn at the same time, that would be insane. Popcorn is for television purposes. Just one episode…

Look up at the right hand corner of your computer and realize it’s midnight. Okay, it might be time to start this thing. Type furiously, half-asleep, until three in the morning. Take no breaks. There. There is it, all 15 pages and a works cited, with a few hours to spare. It’s not half bad, either. Submit the essay to Blackboard. Take that, Ivy League education system. Bask in the glory of your success. Enjoy your satisfaction – that is, until the grades come back.

Ruth Weissmann is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at raw287@cornell.edu. A Word to the Weiss appears alternate Fridays this semester.

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