When I was in college, and then grad school, the most stressful, as well as most useful, periods were the paper times. They were usually due the week of midterms and finals. My strategy was generally to wait until the last minute possible to write the paper although I read and researched early on and up until the last minute. Then, I would pull an all-nighter with one page per one hour. The long papers, those that were 20 pages or over in length, required at least a couple of nights.
What does it say about my geekiness that I miss paper writing? I have neither the time nor the leisure to research a novel thoroughly now. The paper writing process forced me, as a student, to try to coalesce impressions, thoughts, ideas about a book, a writer, and the time period. I've done a few reviews but I don't find it as satisfying. There's the length limitation as well as the fact that book reviews, if they are to be published in most formats, are generally about contemporary writers.
Right now, I am not thinking much about specific contemporary writers. My head is floating amidst canonical writers such as Henry James, Shakespeare, Proust, the Ancient Greeks, and some philosophers. Most of all, I would like to write about Henry James, to think about Henry James in writing about him and his books. I am reminded again of Colm Toibin's tremendous novel about James. James' genius of writing, but even more importantly, his understanding of human beings are unparalleled. There is the important French influence: Flaubert, Balzac, Maupaussant. As with the French Naturalists, James is not sentimental. However, there is a generosity.
It's something to think about, that generosity and how that is different than sentimentality.