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In defence of all-nighters

Writing an essay in one night may seem like penance to some: overwhelmingly stressful with a high-risk element. However, to others the all-nighter is the only way to go. I find that leaving things to the last minute gives me the needed adrenaline rush to produce decent quality work. Additionally, I like to argue that the skills gained in all-nighters can be easily applied to any high-pressure job… or maybe that is stretching it a little. Whilst I choose to write in this style, I understand that for some this is not a choice, but a predicament caused by the madness of deadlines. As a seasoned all-nighter, I would like to share my tips for successfully writing an essay in a single night:

1. Fuel
For this, pick your (caffeinated) poison. Coffee is the clear winner, but if it’s not your flavour, Pepsi has more caffeine than Coke. In terms of snacks, have a variety of sweet and savoury. Staying up all night is already unhealthy, so you might as well commit to it.

2. Plan
For those who prefer writing without a plan, this stage is completely optional. However, for me this is the most vital stage of an all-nighter. I prefer doing my plan in the early stages so that if my friends are still awake they can help me if needs be. Start with a basic plan with the general gist of where your essay is going, before fleshing it out with quotes, analysis, and critics to support your points if required. This stage takes most of the evening/early night shift, as it almost eliminates the dreaded early morning writer’s block, and it generally speeds up the process of writing the actual essay. If you are a planner, I would recommend starting this part as early as possible. If you do get writer’s block, simply type away to get the words flowing, and highlight it for review once you’ve finished. Time is of the essence!

3. Set goals
You might not stick to them exactly, but this is OK. They will help you to structure the night, and give you something to aim for at 3am when you’re questioning whether you actually need a degree. Something like having the plan finished by 12am, and writing 500 words by 1:30am, etc. Make sure they’re realistic!

4. Reference as you go along
This is important, as in the early hours of the morning it is often the little things such as referencing that will trip you up. I usually write my bibliography after I’ve finished the plan, but before I start the actual essay. In the long run, this will also speed up your writing.

5. Move around
Sitting in one place for an extended period of time can make this experience feel worse than it already is. Moving work stations can help to clear your mind and reset your thoughts. Fresh air and walking around will ease the process and will help you stay more awake.

6. Take breaks
It’s 5:37am and you’re only 500 words in. You’re shaking with a tummy ache and you think you’re going a little bit crazy. Don’t panic! This is just the crippling stress resulting from the combination of caffeine overdose and sleep deprivation. You’re only human. Indulge yourself a little bit. Have some breaks every hour or so where you have a snack or a cigarette.

The sun rises, and you’ve finally finished your essay. Maybe you’re older and wiser, or perhaps diamonds are made under pressure. Either way, producing a large body of work in the space of one night is undeniably an art form.

Tags: all-nighters, deadlines, essay, Manchester, sleep, student, university

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