If those trips down to the demos in Westminster have left you behind schedule for your end-of-term assignment, you may well be forced to write in the small hours this week. Here's how to pull it off safely and successfully.
12am: Get as far away from your bed as possible
Before you begin, avoid warmth and soft furnishings. Propped up on pillows in the glow of a laptop may feel like savvy ergonomics, but your keyboard will start to look pillow-like by midnight, and 418 pages of the word "gf64444444444444444444" will detract from the force of your argument. You could try the kitchen. Or Krakow. But your industrially lit 24-hour campus library should do the trick.
12:25am: Take a catnap
Thomas Edison used to catnap through the night with a steel ball in his hand. As he relaxed and the ball dropped, he would wake up, usually with fresh ideas. "Caffeine and a short nap make a very effective combination," says Jim Horne, director of the Loughborough Sleep Research Centre. "Have the coffee first. This takes about 20 minutes to work, so take a 15-minute nap. Use an alarm to wake up and avoid deep sleep kicking in. Do this twice throughout the night."
12.56am: Reduce your internet options
Temporarily block Twitter, Spotify, Group Hug, YouTube, 4od and anything else that distracts you. Constantly updating your word count on Facebook may feel like fun, but to everyone else you'll look like you're constantly updating your word count on Facebook.
1-3am: Now write your essay. No, really
You've widened your margins, subtly enlarged your font and filled your bibliography with references of such profound obscurity that no one will notice you're missing 3,000 words. It's time to brainstorm, outline, carve words, followed by more words, into that milk-white oblivion that taunts you. Speed-read articles. Key-word Google Books. Remember texts you love and draw comparisons. Reword. Expound. Invent. Neologise. Get excited. Find a problem you can relish and keep writing. While others flit from point to point, your impassioned and meticulous analysis of a single contention is music to a marker's eyes.
3-5am: Get lost in your analysis, your characters, your world Write like you're trying to convince the most stubborn grammarian about truth, or heartless alien invaders about love. Don't overload with examples – be creative with the ones you have. Detail will save your life, but don't waste time perfecting sentences – get the bulk down first and clean up later. "The progress of any writer," said Ted Hughes, "is marked by those moments when he manages to outwit his own inner police system." Outwit your own inner police system. Expect progress. Ted says so.
5:01am: Don't cheat
It's about now that websites such as easyessay.co.uk will start to look tempting. And you may sleep easier knowing that a dubiously accredited Italian yoga instructor is writing about Joyce instead of you. But the guilt will keep you up between now and results day. And you'll toss and turn the night before graduation, job interviews, promotions, dinner parties, children's birthdays, family funerals . . . you get the idea.
5.17am: Don't die
Sounds obvious, but dying at your computer is definitely trending. And however uncool it may seem to "pass on" during a five-day stint at World of Warcraft, it will be much more embarrassing to die explaining perspectivism to no one in particular. So be careful. Stay hydrated. Blink occasionally. And keep writing.
5.45am: Eat something simple
"There are no foods that are particularly good at promoting alertness," says Horne. "But avoid heavy and fatty meals in the small hours. Avoid very sugary drinks that don't contain caffeine, too. Sugar is not very effective in combating sleepiness." Fun fact: an apple provides you with more energy than a cup of coffee. Now stick the kettle on.
5.46am: Delight in being a piece of living research
If you happen to be "fatigue resistant" you should now be enjoying the enhanced concentration, creative upwelling and euphoric oneness that sleep deprivation can bring. If not, try talking yourself into it. "Conversation keeps you awake," says Horne. "So talk to a friend or even to yourself – no one will hear you."
6am: Console yourself with lists of writers who stuck it out
Robert Frost was acquainted with the night. Dumas, Kafka, Dickens, Coleridge, Sartre, Poe and Breton night-walked and trance-wrote their way to literary distinction. John and Paul wrote A Hard Day's Night in the small hours. Herman the Recluse, atoning for broken monastic vows, is said to have written the Codex Gigas on 320 sheets of calfskin during a single night in 1229. True, he'd sold his soul to the Devil, but you're missing out on a live Twitter feed, so it's swings and roundabouts.
7am: Remember – art is never finished, only abandoned
Once you accept there's no more you can do, print it off and get to the submissions office quick. Horne: "You're not fit to drive if you've had less than five hours sleep, so don't risk it. Grab some exercise." Pop it in with the breeziness that comes from being top of your marker's pile. Back home, unblock Facebook and start buffering The Inbetweeners. And then sleep. Get as near to your bed as you can. Euphoric oneness doesn't come close.
Matt Shoard teaches creative writing at the University of Kent.
Under no circumstance do I recommend you to write 5000 words every 24 hours on a long-term basis because it leads to serious ailments like carpal tunnel syndrome and a loss of interest.
As a writer myself, I do realize the need for meeting deadlines and if you are in a ‘fix’, use my personal tried and tested strategy to write 5000 words in 24 hours but don’t practice it daily.
You don’t need any apps or software to do this. Just plain old time management and common sense is enough.
Here you go:
1. No Emailing or Facebook!
Don’t check emails or log in to social networks for the next 24 hours. They are a BIG distraction.
If it’s a must, answer emails and check updates before starting work and that too within 30 minutes or less.
2. Divide & Arrange Topics
You have a bunch of topics to write. Divide the topics into separate categories. For instance, 5 articles may be on health, 2 on social media and so on.
Dividing the topics make it easier because thoughts and concepts flow fluidly and you type faster.
3. Research Online
Research is time consuming. Take each category / topic and keep the research material ready in advance.
If you use Google Chrome browser, use the One Tab extension. The application converts all the open tabs in a list. When you need them again, it either restores the whole list or any particular link.
Once done, keep the necessary tabs open and go off the Internet completely. Alternately, if your work entails reading eBooks and whitepapers, download them on the system and switch off Internet.
Do not go online unless all the work is done or something really urgent comes up.
4. Time the Articles
Since you want to write 5000 words in 24 hours, I am assuming that you do have good typing speed.
All you need to do is time the articles. With good typing speed, it won’t take more than an hour to research and write 500 words.
Therefore, you can write 5000 words in 10 hours flat. Don’t bother to edit and proofread them as of now.
5. Take Breaks
Take a 15 minute break every 2 hours or a 10 minute break every hour. It is a must. You should not write at a stretch for long. You will stress out sooner.
Once you have completed writing 5000 words, switch off the computer and take break for an hour.
6. Return to Edit / Proofread
Depending on your writing skills, you will do either of the two. Take 10-15 minutes to edit or proofread every batch of 500 words.
7. Zip it!
Once done, zip it or attach individually and email them.
Did you actually Write 5000 Words?
Yes, you did.
- Checking emails and social updates – 30 minutes
- Online research – 60 minutes
- 10 x 500 words @ 1 post per hour = 10 hours
- 10-minute break every hour = 100 minutes
- 15 minutes x 10 @ 500 words each = 150 minutes
Total time spent equals 940 minutes or 16 hours approx. You still have 8 hours left.
Unless there is any urgency, I repeat again, do not try to write 5000 words daily.
What are your thoughts?
These tips come strongly recommended from me and my business associate Jitendra Vaswani, the Founder of Digiexe.com, a SEO training institute in Jaipur.
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