Think for yourself

It’s that time of the academic year. Diligent students are putting their heads down, rolling up their sleeves, sharpening their imaginations, shaking the dust off the piles of reference books tottering on the desk next to them, and lazy (or time-challenged) students are turning desperately to Professor Google, in the hope of  finding easy answers to the essay questions they have been set.

In case you’re wondering, I’m aware of this because an increased amount of search terms landing on my blog are searching for clues to the themes in the great classics. Is Shakespeare an absurdist? Is Wuthering Heights a study of melancholia? Did Nietzsche die because of his mustache? (Huh??? Sorry, that intriguing question can wait for a different post.)

For example:

life is but a tale told by an idiot

wuthering heights melancholia

does the place support macbeth there you that life is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and the fury signifying nothing (??? Good luck writing an essay)

What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so that it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies…

it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing how is it existentialist/absurdist?

There’s a fine line between thinking about somebody and thinking about not thinking about somebody but I have the patience and self control to walk….

It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing meaning

existentialism in macbeth’s tomorrow

is oskar’s monologue included in the novel extremely loud and incredibly close

which word completes the quote… is a tale/told by an……, full of sound and fury signifying nothing 

Existentialism? Never heard of it!

Existentialism? What is that shit?

I’m pleased to see that one of my favourites, Macbeth, is still popular on reading lists, and it’s good to see that students are also reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer, (which I wrote about here) and A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan. (which I wrote briefly about here) because I loved both of those books.

Now, my initial tendency is to frown in disapproval, to think these students have not, for whatever reason, read, or taken in, the play or novel in question and are unable to come up with a response for themselves. I feel that they are really missing out. But perhaps I shouldn’t rush to judge them just because they are using Google to search for answers. Perhaps they won’t plagiarise the answers they come across.  Maybe they’ll use the entry on Wikpedia as a springboard to guide their further research, rather than to copy word for word into their essay. Perhaps they are hoping to land on a reference list they can print off and take to the library. Here’s hoping.

I’ve always been grateful that my English Literature teacher in year 12, Mrs McRoberts, forbid us to read any secondary references on the books we had to write about in our final exams. Our ideas had to come from our own interpretations, aided only by lively discussion in class. That Literature class was probably the best and most creatively stimulating class I ever took. (and I have a Bachelor of Fine Art). (Despite that Literature class, it never occurred to me to pursue writing – go figure.)

There is also another, complementary theme to the searches on my blog at the moment – people searching for a painless way to write a 4000 word essay:

4000 word essay

4000 word essay 4 days

4000 words in 3 days is it possible?

Can you write 4000 word essay in one day

How long does it take to write 4000 words?

As it happens (not co-incidentally), I’ve previously written a helpful post on how to write a 4000 word essay, which is the reason all these hapless creatures are landing on my blog. Warning: it’s almost guaranteed that my post on this topic will be no help at all, and in fact, that anyone who takes 4 minutes to read that post will wish they had those 4 minutes back, as they would have been better spent putting a header on their essay. What’s more, they now have only 2 days, 23 hours and 56 minutes to write it in, and are still none the wiser on where to start.

I feel a little bit guilty about that – I didn’t intentionally write that post to waste the time of people who’ve obviously left it till the last minute to start their 4000 word essay and are so panicked that they are hoping the internet can help them do it. Well, why did you write it? I hear you ask. Fair question. As you’ll probably gather if you read it, I wrote purely to waste my own time, when I should have been writing a 4000 word essay.

So I speak from experience, therefore, when I say to the person who asks, can you write a 4000 word essay in one day? – why, yes you can! Don’t waste time Googling the internet to ask if it’s possible, just  start writing!

Of course, your essay will be vastly improved if you have already done some reading on your topic before you start writing (a tip that I really must try to follow myself at some point, here on this blog!). Your essay will also benefit if you can schedule in some time to review what you’ve written and ensure that you have structured the essay in a logical way that leads towards a coherent conclusion. University professors are a fussy bunch, and notoriously picky about people submitting academic essays that start with lines like  “Well, as I was only just saying to my hairdresser the other day”  and end with “as you can see from the above anecdotes, it seems reasonable to suppose that the proposed theory could well be correct.”

This Melbourne University academic has already marked this post as a D- and commented, "no coherent structure to the essay. It appears you have not read the references"

This Melbourne University academic  commented, “no evidence of having read the references, no coherent structure.” and marked my post with a D-

However, don’t panic. Elements such as content, an introduction, a well-thought-out argument, a cohesive structure and a logical conclusion are what we call in the industry*, value-add ons. You asked merely if it was possible to write a 4000 word essay in one day and I answered, yes. A quick calculation will tell you that you just need to blurt out 500 words an hour and you can have it written in 8 hours. An essay written that way probably won’t get you an A+, (or even a C-)but it is possible to do it.

(Not that I would ever attempt it – I’m not a total masochist!)

Fortunately for me, as it happens, I’m writing a blog, and not an academic essay, so if I’m missing an introduction, a cohesive, flowing argument and a logical conclusion that sums up the argument, I’m not going to lose any points, so I reckon I might finish right here.

*the advertising industry

The Beatles – Think For Yourself

Do what you want to do

and go where you’re going to

think for yourself

cos I won’t be there with you

Leave a comment


  1. ahaha! funny to see what search terms people used to land on your blog… I won’t tell mine though… In french a Cul de Sac is a dead end, while Cul alone is a$$, so i let you imagine from there… 😛


    • Ha, there are funnier terms than those (eg, did Nietzsche die because of his mustache???) but I’m saving those for another post!


  1. Gramatical rules for writing profanity, and other things I never thought I’d need to Google. | Alison Lee Author

Blather away!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: