Roll Up Your Sleeves, Spit On Your Hands, and Finish That Term Paper

Jim LaBate
4 min readNov 29, 2022
Photo Provided by Jim LaBate

A while back, my dad was helping me install a 12-by-20-foot carpet in our living room. We had already installed the padding underneath the carpet, and we had the new rug pretty close to where we wanted it, but we were struggling to move it just a few more inches, so it would lie perfectly up against the walls. That’s when my dad — a retired, 82-year-old plumber-steamfitter — got serious.

He rolled up his sleeves, spit on his hands, rubbed them together to get a good grip on the carpet, and said, “Let’s move this thing.” Sure enough, within seconds, we had the carpet exactly where it belonged, and we were ready to trim it and secure it by installing the baseboards. Fortunately, that blue-collar, get-serious-about-your-work mentality can also help you with your term paper.

Writing a term paper can be a long, arduous process, but some parts of the process are so much easier than others. Choosing a topic, for example, and researching that topic can be fun and exciting. You’re reading, you’re learning, you’re asking questions, and you’re answering them. Usually, too, you’re doing these things early in the semester, so you’re not worried or nervous yet about due dates or deadlines. Then, at some point, you’re ready to write your first draft.

Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

The first draft is also exciting because so much is possible. You can play with words, with ideas, with organizational patterns; essentially, you can write anything you want because you know you’re going to go back and revise everything later. This is usually the surprise stage of the process because as you write, new thoughts and phrases might come tumbling out, thoughts and phrases that you weren’t even aware of earlier. Then, once that first draft is completed, you can share it with someone: a friend, a family member, a significant other. You can be like a little kid again, saying “Mommy! Daddy! Look what I made.” Then, you and your reader can discuss your paper’s strengths and weaknesses, and you can move on to your final draft.

Unfortunately, the final draft is the heavy lifting of the writing process. That’s when you have to go…

Jim LaBate

Jim LaBate works as a writing specialist in The Writing Center at Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in Troy, New York.