How to write an essay in 14 steps

It is the winter of our discontent, more commonly known as summative season. The nights are drawing in, the air is getting colder and your laptop is definitely overheating – you should really get that fixed.

From one stressed student to another, here is an utterly unhelpful guide to writing that essay from which you are currently procrastinating. Seriously, how did you end up here?

These tips can also be applied to writing a satirical article, governing the country through a pandemic, or deciding on a takeaway with your flat.

Stage 1: Assignment is set

Write “[module] essay” on the appropriate page of your [unnamed Youtuber’s] Academic Planner. Add some stars for emphasis. Close planner.

Stage 2: 3 weeks before

Do nothing. You have loads of time!

Stage 3: 2 weeks before

Create a blank document on your computer. If you have a set title, feel free to add it here. You might also want to consider doing a little research. No pressure, though. Now is also a good time to start complaining to your friends about how busy you are. A good friend will suggest you take a break, and they’re right – you deserve one.

Stage 4: 10 days before

Open up Netflix. With thousands of shows, there is bound to be something vaguely related to your essay topic. Nonetheless, do not fear if you struggle to find anything; you must remember that because every show is a created work just like your essay, there is no such thing as an unhelpful or noneducational Netflix show.

Stage 5: 6 days before

Add a few bullet points to your document, paste in a few quotes. Wow, you are so hard-working. Go take a break.

Stage 6: 5 days before

Make a plan for the next few days. The average person can type around 41 words per minute. You were 100m running champion at your school’s sports day, so you can probably up that to 50wpm. With coffee, you could reach 55. Allowing some time for proofreading and restrained snack breaks, you could get this done in an hour or two. Nap, anyone?

Stage 7: 4 days before

I don’t want to scare you, but it might be helpful to have a think about this essay.

Stage 8: 2 days before

Did you know that a 1995 study by NASA found that a 26-minute nap enhanced performance by 34% and overall alertness by 54%? No, me neither. It’s amazing what you can learn while not doing your essay.

Stage 9: the day before

You haven’t left yourself with many options, but that’s good – one less decision to make. Now is the write time. With a “rain sounds” playlist in the background (as if it doesn’t rain enough in Durham) and your phone in the bin, there is nothing to stop you. Hit the keyboard repeatedly for an extended period of time and, eventually, something valuable is bound to come out. Or it might turn out something like this article. Sorry, we can’t win every time.

Stage 10: midnight

To die, to sleep – To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub,
For in this sleep of death what dreams may come…

Stage 11: 3am, the morning of

Consider your options: is it too late to ask for an extension? What would your reason be? You had a cold a few weeks ago – could that be affecting your brain? Can you blame Boris? Or Dominic Cummings – you are just distraught about Durham’s biggest fan leaving Number 10 so abruptly, right? Oh! You could say you were getting your eyes tested; that’s a foolproof excuse for anything. Thanks, Dominic.

Stage 12: 5am, the morning of

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Bill Bryson Discover is the sun.

Stage 13: one hour before

By George, I think she’s got it! Congratulations; once again you have somehow managed it. Promise yourself that next time you will start earlier. Secretly enjoy that last-minute adrenaline rush.

Stage 14: the submission

&#%!, how do I write a bibliography?

Featured image by Sebastian Wiertz on Flickr.

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