I have never been a big believer in procrastination. Even though I do spend time procrastinating, I do not take pride in doing so. I think it is a waste of time and shows a person’s weakness of character and lack of self-control. However it sometimes does some good to rest the mind to get some creativity back. This semester, I’ve learned that unlike in math or physics, you cannot beat inspiration out of yourself. My number one productivity-killer is music. I have an unhealthy addiction to the band Jamiroquai. I could spend hours on end singing and dancing around to their songs instead of writing my paper. I feel as though music is a big problem for a lot of people too. However listening to music while doing work is not necessarily a bad thing: it will block out outside distractions, but you cannot spend the whole time listening, singing and dancing or you will not get anything done. The solution I have found is to listen to songs without lyrics. More specifically songs that you enjoy but that are not your favorite and will serve as good background music. I personally recommend some old jazz for that.
Something that I was never able to experience before coming to Duke was interacting closely with my professors. I come from a French school in Monaco. Back home when a paper was due, it was out of the question to send the draft to the teacher to get feedback. We didn’t even come to our mind of asking — and to be honest, most teachers wouldn’t have been too enthusiastic with the idea either… But at Duke the professors are always willing to help and give highly valuable help. At the beginning of the semester I did not go to anyone for help. Having French and Danish parents doesn’t help either because they could not give me help on the language. When my second paper was due, I had visited the Writing Studio, and by the time the final paper was due, I would have live Google Docs chats with my professor, Dr. Odendahl-James, discussing ideas and paragraphs of my draft. I gained so much insight from going to the professor for help. I couldn’t recommend it enough.
As a more scientifically minded student, I am not very good at developing ideas. And that is only one problem I have: on top of not being very good at developing, I will only write things if they sound perfect in my head. As a result I don’t write. My advice is to just write things down as they pour out of your mind. Don’t try to make it sound good in the first draft. Get the ideas written down and you can fix the form later. Now when you have all the ideas written down as they came out of your head, you will probably have a very disorganized paper. The cure to this is what my Writing Studio tutor called “backwards outlining”. In essence it is the process of looking at all the paragraphs you have and finding what you were talking about in the form of a topic sentence. Then try to find a guiding line with all of the topic sentences and restructure the paper accordingly.