I have had an epiphany.
I have this MA chapter due for submission by the 13th, so 6 days from now I need to have finished writing it. This is because it was originally due today but my supervisor had mercy upon me and gave me a week’s extension. I have done some work on it, but the more work I’ve done the more I feel like I’m just not getting it. Which is frustrating. When you don’t get your own argument, what’s the chance anybody else will? But such is the way of academia, at this level at least: it takes a while to nut everything out.
The problem is that “taking a while” is very much my MO, a habit I learnt in the same way that you learn to jaywalk: it’s not safe, but it also tends to work out fine, and it requires less concerted effort than intentionally going out of your way to, for example, cross at an actual crossing, or start writing more than two hours before the assignment is due. Instead, I have cultivated a habit of waiting until the very last moment, where I forfeit all agency and allow myself to be propelled along by a combination of fury and panic, much in the way that the ancient Greeks would get smashed in order to allow the god of wine, Dionysus, to possess them and use them as his vessels.
But unlike the ancient Greeks, the all-nighters that this habit forces me to undertake are anything but full of revelry and carnal delights. I also swore an oath to myself, after my last all-nighter, that I would never pull an all-nighter again. And despite having been granted an extension, it has felt like I’ve done nothing but delay the inevitable all-nighter that forever dominates my destiny.
When I actually woke up in the morning, which I used to do for a fair bit of last year and appreciated doing again today, and had this thought:
I hate all-nighters because they feel horrible. They feel horrible because they are full of stress and panic, and even though a lot of my best ideas and idea-wrangling occurs during these frenetic rites, a lot of much-needed pruning and wider perspective is not really possible. As such, there will be a lot of good ideas combined with shoddy delivery, and while this is all revision and revision is allowed to be messy, I’d rather have a mess with a coherent narrative throughline.
But it is undeniable that I do have a lot of my best ideas when and only when I pull an all-nighter. The cocktail of stress, determination and frantic searching of my brain for ways to extend bridges between isolated idea-islands tends to result in some pretty amazing material, and I only wish that there was a way to get those ideas without having to pull it out of the mire of pain and misery that is the all-nighter.
And there is.
And it’s so obvious that I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner.
Instead of pulling an all-nighter the day before my chapter is due, I’m pulling an all-nighter tonight.
Here’s my logic: my brain is like the Large Hadron Collider. The particles that it sends hurtling towards each other at impossible speeds are my ideas. And that’s where the analogy breaks down, because unlike the LHC, I can’t just switch on my brain and have it automatically resolve in an inevitable exciting result. I have to power this thing manually. To get these ideas to smash into each other and create interested quantum results, I have to expend my own energy to turn it on, and keep it turned on.
In other words, I have to manually push these particles towards each other, transferring my own energy into them by running at impossible speeds myself. Which, in this analogy, is me writing.
My brain is a Large Hadron Collider powered by a dude on a treadmill. And that dude is me.
And the theory is that, by Colliding my Large Hadrons now as opposed to the night before this chapter is due, I will benefit from the interesting sub-atomic explosion data without also having to deal with the potential of creating a black hole that will swallow the universe.
If I write fast and furious enough right now, instead of when it risks being too late, I might find a way to take the good parts of the all-nighter while avoiding the bad ones.
I might have just created my very own life-hack.
But of course that is dependent on whether or not it works, and boy howdy do I have a plan for testing it. My plan is to spend the next hour working furiously on this thesis, and then when that hour is up or I’ve written 1k words, whichever takes longer, I’m going to run old WOW raids for gold so that I can continue to feed my toxic, toxic habit of continuing to play WOW.
… and then once I’m done with that I go back to writing intensely, and then run another set of raids on another one of my 4 max-level characters, dear god what is my life …
And just do that, over and over again, until I’m out of raids to run I guess. Depending on how late I wanna go I might find other things to do – other games to play, like maybe finally getting around to continuing with The Last of Us. Though maybe not in the middle of the night, but you get the picture.
Because there is another side to this plan – I won’t say half because it’s not that big a part of why I’m doing this to begin with – which is that I have a desire to start making myself enjoy myself when I have the opportunity to, instead of spending my time not spent working on my thesis or fulfilling various other social and literal contracts sulking and angsting about how unproductive and lazy I’m being. So combining hard, intense work with playing videogames sounds like a pretty decent plan to me.
Let’s see if I’m right.