It took Stephen King many years before completing "The Dark Tower" series. He was a prolific author, so it didn't take him THAT long to write the draft. He didn't submit it to his publisher right away, as he shelved it. He came back after some time, which gave him a different perspective. His fans could think of many guesses.
King was a huge fan of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which inspired him to come up with his own version of Middle-earth, was also a huge fan of Arthurian literature. As a matter of fact, Roland Deschain was the last of the gunslingers, a knightly order from a feudal society known as the Mid-World. He was searching for the Dark Tower, which was believed to be the nexus of all universes. You would suspect Mid-World as King's version of Asgard, which the native of Portland, Maine could have been thinking when he was looking through his draft. The first chapter, which included a seemingly Gothic description of the desert, was an illustration of the fusion of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. And the parched landscape was the only indication otherwise.
King's journey could be similar to a college student attempting to finish an essay assignment. It should take days, if not a week at the most. Some college students thrive on the organic process of paper writing, unable to type the first paragraph until the sudden burst of creative energy. They are done with the task in a few hours or less. The latter seems hard to believe, but it can happen if you're truly a writer. You go through the same path whether you do it the hard way or not.
You Won't Miss Anything if You Do the Following
Think about the questions before you start writing your paper. You must have chosen a topic from a short list that your professor prepare for you, if not you have come up with your own topic (with approval). You won't open your laptop right away, as the topic needs clarifications. You're doing this assignment on a limited time, so you must come up with a set of questions in half an hour or less. If you're unable to do it, then ask your professor if it's possible to set up an appointment to discuss those questions.
Recall the written text if you have read it. You have a slight advantage if you happen to read the text, but you won't recall the details unless it's one of your favorite works. If you have a copy, then look through the chapters that capture your attention. If you're imagining something, then write down the details. It can be a nice addition to your paper.
Take a look at the author's background if you haven't read it. There's no need to be bummed if you don't know the text. Take note of the author. Do an online research on the biography (and read it). Remember the years that mark his (or her) lifetime, and check out for any significant political (or economic) happenings. You can pen a few pages based on your finding.
Read the first half of the book (if it's a novel). You still need to read the book. The first half of the novel is the most challenging part of the reading process, as you don't have an idea if you would like the story or not. If you do, then there's a good chance that you can finish the rest. If not, then it's better to browse the succeeding chapters. Read the last chapter or two carefully, looking back if a part of the storyline confuses you.
You need to read a poem thrice. It takes a few minutes to read a poem, a minute if it consists of several stanzas. You're required to analyze it, though. Read it slowly the next time, trying your best to understand each line. If you still don't have the slightest idea, then read the author's background and then look at the poem one more time.
Distract yourself if you're experiencing writer's block. This is the best time to bring out your inner child. If you have a ball somewhere, then get off your seat and play with it. (You need to be careful about dribbling, as one careless move can create a mess. And you don't have time for cleaning it up.) You might try to play a game or two, but don't play one more time. You can get hooked on it before you even know it.
Read the news if you need a catchy opening. You wish your first sentence (or paragraph) will impress your professor. This could be the reason why you're stuck in your seat for more than an hour. Go to an online newspaper and look at the headlines. Browse at the opening paragraphs. You'll get the idea afterward.
Browse the dictionary (or thesaurus). Enumerate the words (or phrases) that you use frequently. Look it up for its synonyms and antonyms. Make sure that you really understand the meaning of using it. And don't repeat the same word (or phrase).
Chips and pizza must be within your reach. An empty stomach can cause problems, but don't eat fast. Don't eat too much food.
Focus on the deadline. You have another assignment. You also have an examination. This one can't wait for long.
Write Profusely, Proofread Later
If you're about to write an eight-page essay, then don't think about the number of pages. There's no stopping once you start on writing about the assigned text. Take a break if you stumble on your thoughts, but don't be away for too long. You need to proofread your draft, and it can take quite some time.
Read this post again if you miss anything. If you don't have any questions, then do your assignment right away.