Worldwide Writing Against Procrastination. How Writing Centers Connect to Make Our Work Visible, Support Writers and Have Fun

It was in 2010 when a student in our writing center complained about her procrastination habits: “For me, you should open at night, because this is when I eventually get started and would need a writing center”. This student’s comment came up at our next team meeting, and suddenly an idea took shape: “A Long Night against Procrastination”. “Long Nights” are very popular in Germany. We have “Long Nights of Museums”, “Long Nights of Science” or “Long Nights of Sports”, all designed to attract attention through offering events at unusual times.

TV team in the writing center

TV team in the writing center

Obviously this idea works, because shortly after we announced our Long Night, the writing center’s phone began to ring and wouldn’t stop until our event started. All of the important German newspapers suddenly wanted to report about our writing center and its Long Night. A TV team occupied our rooms, and radio reporters were everywhere, so that we had to hold a press conference. The press conference provided us the unique opportunity to talk about writing center work in detail, and several reporters stayed all night long to experience what we had claimed: that we would provide a serious work atmosphere, profound writing consulting and, nevertheless, a fun event. The newspaper “Der Spiegel” later wrote that the night was reminiscent of a pajama party but was a serious event at the same time.

Students writing all night long

Students writing all night long

So why did this event work so well?

First of all, procrastination is a phenomenon that we, as writers, all know too well. Therefore, every opportunity to fight postponing and procrastination is more than welcome. Second, writing is too often associated with lonely suffering. In writing centers we know that writers need a community of writers. Events like the Long Night make this visible to students, who, as novice writers, might not be aware of this. And third, writing is something we all can enjoy at times. If we manage to get into a flow, to experience our creativity and to feel the success of a convincingly expressed argument, then writing can be a joy. Writing can have hedonistic functions. In our university contexts, this aspect too often gets lost under the burden of assignments,

Stretching to survive a night of writing

Stretching to survive a night of writing

deadlines and the pressure of grading. The Long Night opens academic writing up to more joyful aspects through company, conversations and healthy and relaxing interruptions, like office yoga or night walks.

In 2011 we expanded the idea to a countrywide event. Six German writing centers participated this time and not only attracted the press again, but also attracted hundreds of students all over the country. In 2012 the event grew bigger and became international, with two writing centers in the United States and 13 centers in Germany participating. It also became somewhat professional, with live-conferences between the centers, a common homepage and a twitter wall to keep the centers updated. Nearly 2000 students participated.

As a result, this event not only supports student writers, but also makes writing center work visible. It is a good way to create an image that makes writing centers attractive to students and desirable for universities. An even greater success is that writing centers are now working together across borders and even

Students from Puget Sound skyping with German night writers

Students from Puget Sound skyping with German night writers

across the Atlantic. What a valuable sign of international collaboration! The writing center at the University of Puget Sound, directed by Julie Nelson Christoph (a UW-Madison writing center alum) even offered German treats as a visible sign of solidarity while students declared in public their will to stop procrastination. A major German radio program reporting on the Long Night included Christoph in an interview with a group of German writing center directors.“We are feeling the enthusiasm coming from Germany”, she said, commenting that her center will offer more nights against procrastination.

Hopefully, this event will continue to grow and become a well-known global event that will help to make the public aware of our everyday work that offersthe value of a community of writers.

Healthy interruption: Night walk

Healthy interruption: Night walk

Writing centers interested in participating next year can contact me: girgensohn[at]europa-uni.de

8 thoughts on “Worldwide Writing Against Procrastination. How Writing Centers Connect to Make Our Work Visible, Support Writers and Have Fun

  1. Now that the “Long Night AgainstProcrastination” (Twitter: #lndah) has gone international, I believe it would be a good idea to let students know about that fact. This could be achieved by intensifying transatlantic co-operation using social media in the event. “Live-conferences” held via resource hungry prorietary software solutions should be supplemented by “social media” (I don’t particularly like this term, because it is not primarily the social aspect of web 2.0-technology that is interesting but the chances these technologies offer to improve learning and to enable students to become “deep” and “lifelong” learners of their own accord).

    If we want writing center work to be more visible, social media can be used at relatively low cost and they are far less demanding on IT infrastructure. Unfortunately it was only after the event that I realized I had a student here in Hamburg, GER who wrote about genetically manipulated rice, while another one was working on genetically modified trees. What a great opportunity it would have been to connect these to brains at the event via social media! Unfortunately, neither the students nor the educators seem to be ready to bring in the harvest of serendipity.

    In the conversations I had with students I realized that the questions they bring to the “Long Night…” are not only limited to writing. The students I spoke to also seek support in knowledge management, digital literacies, information and media literacy and communication and often they to not know where to turn to with such questions on campus. Many of them could therefore benefit if the focus of this event were broad enough to include International Literacy Management.

    Social media are more than a fun pastime, they can help to get things done and the sooner students get to know that the sooner they’ll abandon a shallow Facebook attitude and start using ed tech to solve real world problems.

    This year’s #lndah was my first one and I can only congratulate the inventors on this format. It’s an excellent way to make the demand for writing and literacy support visible. It was great to see students set realistic goals for the night and strive to achieve them.
    I am looking forward to an intensifying transatlantic co-operation in this matter, and so, I believe, are many students.

  2. The Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors at Grand Valley State University just completed its first Long Night Against Procrastination event on March 15th and it was a huge success. We shortened the name to the Night Against Procrastination, because our staff was amused by the NAP acronym and we selected the later date because we wanted to encourage students to get working on their projects and assignments after spring break. However, we were inspired by every aspect of the international community of writing centers and were excited to include desk yoga and night walks. We also promoted the event as “Big in Germany!” in the campus newspaper and we encouraged faculty to announce the event in their classes. We had over 120 attendees and did over 40 writing consultations during our NAP. Afterwards, we had several requests to offer it again during finals or every semester. Thank you for encouraging other centers to be part of this event, it is posed to become a new school tradition.

  3. I think our staff at Illinois College will love this idea. We have an Up All Night” of fun at the college earlier in the year, and this would be a terric way to build on that later in March. I don ‘t know if we’ll do it March 1st or another night in March but it sounds like fun!

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  5. At the Writing Center I enjoy the immediate interaction with student writers. While exploring ideas with the students, I enjoy learning about all the interesting subjects they are studying. I find the friendly, open-minded, and encouraging atmosphere to be productive for everyone.

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