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There will be time, if you make it: An explanation of the value of planning with some help from T. S. Eliot

June 23, 2016

By: Cramer Lewis

T. S. Eliot’s famous poem “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock,” is commonly associated with existential feelings of yearning fragmentation when it comes to communication. However, a short excerpt from the poem actually highlights the useful and simple truth of the value of planning pieces of writing within the academic setting: there will be time. Making the time to plan out a piece of writing is making the time for several important aspects of the writing process to take place.

The writing process is never ending, from the moment you receive an assignment on. If writers in the academic setting wish to turn in strong “final drafts,” they should allow themselves an ample amount of time to plan. Planning does not look the same for everybody and it certainly has no rules, except to think– and think critically– about the issues at hand. If you allow yourself an adequate amount of planning time, you will likely be amazed by the positive effects.



Planning isn’t getting ahead in the game, but it is an appropriate response to the complexity of crafting arguments and papers. Taking the time to plan means, as the poem goes, that “there will be time” for many important things that naturally take place through planning: time to deeply consider the prompt or research question, to properly orient yourself rhetorically, to have ideas and to replace those ideas with better ones, and to experience the vastness of the writing process.

Now, Eliot, in drafting his famous poem, almost positively wasn’t writing about the writing process or the importance of planning out your personal narrative or rhetorical analysis, but hey it’s 2016, and T. S. Eliot has been both physically and theoretically dead since the late 1960s (Barthes’ The Death of the Author was published in 1967: two years after Eliot’s death). And a quick excerpt from his poem is just a perfect bit of advice to all those would-be literary geniuses who’d like to try and crank out an entire paper in one night without planning or even researching for that matter.

Leaving yourself time to plan will give you time to do so much more. Taking time to think critically about the issues at hand in the prompt and to write down and organize your own ideas helps you to attack the problem with a broader scope of understanding; to try more ideas out, sifting for those golden nuggets; and to properly move around your ideas until they become cohesive enough for a draft. Planning saves time and frustration when it comes to drafting as well.

A short excerpt from the poem helps to explain the positive returns related to allotting time for planning. Let’s just suspend reality and pretend that Eliot may have been talking to future college students about planning their papers when drafting his poem (he just left out the bold part).

If you give yourself time to plan your paper,

“There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions…”


Allow me to explicate:


“a question on your plate”

When writers take the time to plan, there will be time to consider the question or prompt or research topic at hand. Planning can take large chunks of distance out of issues that seem impassable.


“To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”

When writers take the time to plan, there will be time for them to situate themselves rhetorically. They have the time to prepare their paper to meet the demands of their audience and specific situation.


“To murder and create”

When writers take the time to plan, they leave themselves room for improvement. Planning comes with a sense of freedom to try different ideas out and see how they function together. You can always destroy these ideas and replace them with better thoughts as you explore your topic.


“And time yet for a hundred indecisions,/ And for a hundred visions and revisions”

This quote works well with the last. When writers take time to plan, they allow themselves the freedom to experiment with hundreds of different visions. Ultimately, they expand their creative field of options for handling the assignment.


Finally, planning simply helps writers create better writing. Taking the time to plan also allows for writers to gain an expanded perspective of the immensity of the writing process. There are always literally hundreds of rhetorical options for each sentence, each word even, of an assignment. Skipping out on planning often leads to severe frustration during the drafting process, since writers face these infinite rhetorical options all at once as they try and make them communicate a singular idea or thesis. I’ve seen and felt this frustration first hand as a tutor and as a writer. Yes, planning leads to some great outcomes. Planning can ultimately help writers gain new perspectives on writing and the entire process. But if you are unimpressed by poetic thoughts about writing or the writing process, just remember simply that planning your writing will cut down on stress and ultimately make those impossible or complex writing assignments totally manageable.


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