Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How to Start Writing

By Isabelle Altman

If you're like me, then you're a chronic procrastinator. I have the hardest time getting a head start on my assignments. Something always distracts me, like other assignments or friends or the Internet. Sometimes when I do "start" early, I write half a paragraph and then don't look at the assignment again until the night before it's due. A lot of students have this same issue. Here are some ways to get started on an assignment early and keep going.

  • Turn off the Internet. If you can, turn off your computer and just write on loose leaf paper, but seriously, get off the Internet. If you don't, then every fourth sentence, you will check Twitter. Every time you're not sure what to write next, you will suddenly remember that Susie just broke up with Paul and you have to get on Facebook to see if there have been any developments on that front. But if you allow yourself to not be distracted long enough to get a solid 10 or 15 minutes of writing, then it could easily turn into 30 minutes or an hour, and that is much more solid start than four sentences and a thesis statement.
  • Write down a working thesis statement. Even if it's not the type of assignment that needs a thesis statement, you can still focus your ideas more if you write down a central theme or idea that you want the rest of your ideas to revolve around. It's okay if it's not the world's most solid thesis statement because you're just starting out. You can change it or reword it later. Just find a way to focus your ideas from the beginning. 
  • Start writing your paper in pieces. Writing several paragraphs is a lot less daunting than trying to write a research paper in one sitting. Even if you only plan to write a little bit of the paper at a time, it can still be easier to write several paragraphs separately than trying to add onto what you've already written. If you have a paper on the causes of the Russian Revolution due Friday, then Monday night, write a paragraph about World War I. The next night, write about the inefficiency of the tsar's government before editing the first paragraph. This process doesn't work for everyone, but it's worth a try if you have a hard time getting started and/or organizing your ideas once you do start.
  • DO NOT EDIT! If on the night you sit down, you start panicking about every sentence that sounds bad, you will never get all your ideas down. Write first, edit later. This is why it's best to start early. You want time for your ideas and your editing process.

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