Writing an Essay in One Night, A Play by Play Account

essay one night

It’s not a good idea, but it is a reality for life in college: at some point, every student ends up studying a lot later than they probably should. Tonight, I’m working a graveyard shift at my college’s library services desk, so it seems like a good idea to write my final paper for my foreign policy class at the same time. Follow along with me as I buckle down and write an essay in one night. Foolish I know.

A brief disclaimer: Pulling frequent all-nighters isn’t good for your mental or physical health, and pounding an essay out in one sitting isn’t the way to write a stellar essay. I’m only doing this because I pull all-nighters very infrequently, and I fully intend on editing this essay thoroughly over the next couple days to make sure it’s up to scratch.

11:15 p.m.
I’ve just arrived at the library and checked out a copy of one of the books I need from the Course Readings section. The library cafe is full of people—I’m far from the only person who’s trying to bust out an essay at 11pm on a Wednesday. I can’t say I’m surprised; finals week is a weird time. I’ve also already seen at least one person come into the library with a pillow, so I guess I’m also not the only one who’ll be here until the sun rises. I have my books and pens; it’s time to get down to business.

I have an outline! Or at least a big mind map of all my ideas (and in the corner, some really cute hedgehog doodles).

12:45 a.m.
I have an outline! Or at least a big mind map of all my ideas (and in the corner, some really cute hedgehog doodles). I’m starting my shift at the library in another 15 minutes—crazy to think I haven’t started my shift yet and I won’t be leaving the library for another 5 hours. The next step on the essay is to create an outline of this crazy mind map, and then actually start writing.

On another note, I decided to listen to Kanye West’s entire discography tonight, and I’m not sure how reasonable a decision that was considering I was only planning to be here for seven hours and he has about nine hours of album material. But that’s a problem I’ll deal with at 6 in the morning when I’m finally faced with the prospect of sleep.

1:05 a.m.
Just got settled in at the User Services Desk here in the library. There was a touch of confusion over in the cafe with people thinking we were closing (our normal closing time during the week is 1:00), but the library is still full of people working hard and getting ready for their tests. We’re open 24/7 for the duration of finals (starting tonight and running for another 9 days) so there are a lot of shifts to cover. I’m at one of the computers now checking books in and out for people, but I may be shelving books later in the night—good thing is that means I’ll also get a little study break!

2:03 a.m.
I’ll admit, I’m definitely flagging. I’m on my fourth caffeinated beverage in the last three hours and I’m already waiting for the refuel snack cart to come around and find us. I finished my outline a little while ago but I have yet to start finding the actual quotes for my essay and writing out the main paragraphs. The good news is that the service desk is actually pretty fun, just chatting and hanging out while we work on our own projects and help library users. It should be a pretty calm night.

But really, I don’t want to be writing this essay right now. I’d rather be asleep, but I’m awake at work anyways and I know that come morning I’ll be super happy that I got this done, so onward we go!

Here’s the second wind, whoooosh!

2:28 a.m.
So hype! I’m so excited about this essay. Here’s the second wind, whoooosh, I feel like a million bucks and not at all like I’ve been awake studying for 20 hours!

2:53 a.m.
Hype is depleted. I am so drained. Tell you what, Heidi, right now you’re adding quotes from your books into your outlines. If you can finish that, then you can take a break. How long? Half an hour, at least. What the heck, I’ll give you a full forty-five minutes to do whatever you want, how does that sound? Oh my goodness, fantastic. Thank you Heidi!

I wish I was writing that to be funny but I’m seriously tired enough to be bargaining with myself in the third person.

A kid from my dorm just stopped by the services desk and we had a very tired and confused conversation. It was nice to talk to someone from outside the library even though we both clearly had no idea what we were saying.

Did I forget to add page numbers to the quotes for my essay? I’ll figure it out later, that’s Future Heidi’s problem.

3:17 a.m.
I was just reading an article for my essay and in a footnote I saw a citation for another article I was citing in the essay. I then waved at the computer screen. “Hi Robert Jervis, fancy seeing you over in this PDF!” It was such a weak wave as well, really just my hand flopping around above the keyboard.

This essay has really gotten away from me.

3:50 a.m.
Remember when I thought I was close to being done adding quotes? I was wrong. Still working on it but now I think that I’m almost finished. So that’s nice. I’m going to take a break when I’m done then hopefully bang out a citation page. And honestly? I’m not sure I’ll be able to write this essay tonight. There are only two hours left in my shift at the library and I’m still working on pre-writing.

Also, this essay has really gotten away from me. I’m so excited to write it but it was just supposed to be a short take-home final but it’s already way too long: the final paper is supposed to be five pages double spaced, and the outline alone is six pages single spaced. I’ve also used about triple the number of sources we’re required to use. Wish me luck.

4:45 a.m.
Just finished a sweep of the library, counting every person who’s still out and about studying (or sleeping on couches. Mostly sleeping on couches.) I’m calling it a night on this essay. I still have to do the whole actual writing part, but I’m looking forward to that when I have a fresh brain that isn’t all tuckered out from 6 hours of working on it. I guess I could make the citation page tonight, but that’s realistically not going to happen. I’m a sleepy camper and I’ll be riding out the rest of my shift (wow, do I really have another hour of work after this?) with some casual surfing of the web.

Thanks for following along with my crazy ramblings, Metiza girls. Here are my tallies for the night:
Texts sent to my parents: 12
Texts sent to my friend who’s in the same class: 26
Emails sent to my professor: 1 (at 3:30 in the morning; this email includes a picture of the hedgehog doodle I put on my brainstorming sheet, which reminds me…)
Awesome brainstorming sheets brainstormed: 1 (it’s really like a work of art)
Pages of essay written: 0
Pages of outline written: 6
Pages of outline written, double spaced: 12
Page limit of the essay: 5
Hours worked: 6
Hours slept: 0

And you better believe that when 6:00 clicks over and my shift is done, I will be drifting into some happy happy sleep.