Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Stupid all-nighters

Am I still in college? I remember when the prospect of writing a five-page paper about, say, A Passage to India automatically meant a sleepless night of frenzy fueled by coffee, cigarettes and despair. At most I would grab a catnap of 20 minutes or so. The papers generally turned out OK, but I never seemed to find actual, working inspiration until things started to look particularly grim, typically just hours before the deadline. Then I would write manically and finish in precisely the amount of time I had left. I never developed good writing habits in college, or in grad school, for that matter. Part of me liked the drama.

Now that I write for pay, my methods have gotten a little better--a little. I rarely pull a true all-nighter anymore, though they do still happen. And much else is the same: the worrying, the pacing, the bargaining ("I'll read just one more newspaper article, and then I'll start").

Take my most recent deadline (please), when the day I should have been writing, the whole day, I instead was glumly playing the 1982 arcade game Bagman on my computer. And fretting about not writing. Then I decided I was too hungry to write, so I had dinner. Then I was too sleepy, so I went to bed. Then I got up at 4:00 a.m. and wrote the thing in a desperate burst of activity.

By the way, if you've ever gotten past the first level in Bagman, I want to talk to you.

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